Carb cravings are not a diagnostic criteria for feeling that life is getting a little crazy, but they can absolutely make you feel like you are losing control and the carbs are in charge and running the show.
Carb cravings are sneaky, because you can be ‘ good’ all day, eating healthy, nurturing and supporting your health nicely though all those great food choices you make, only to undo it all in one fell swoop.
You can be sitting quite happily, minding your own business, getting on with stuff and then the cravings strike. Those cravings that make you want to eat anything and everything that’s available: the entire box of biscuits, a whole jar of peanut butter, the leftovers you were carefully saving for tomorrow’s dinner. Nothing is safe. Once those cravings take a hold, anything goes, the sweeter the better.
And then the fun starts, because once you’ve eaten all that lot, the guilt sets in. Oh no, I shouldn’t have, I should know better, I’ve been trying to lose weight and now all my good work is for nothing.
Do you recognise any of this?!
Then comes the guilt, the shame and wondering why your will power is so feeble. Because you had such good intentions. Because you decided last night that you wouldn’t do this anymore. Because you took all the biscuits out of the house, and still found yourself going to the corner shop for a ‘few essentials’.
We make it mean that we have no willpower, no moral fibre, no self-control. We convince ourselves that we are impulsive, weak and ridiculous. We can feel helpless and pathetic, because how on earth are we going to get out of this?
Before we move onto how to get out of this ‘crazy’ place, just stop and listen for one second.
Can you hear your inner voice giving you a really hard time?
Can you hear just how much you are beating yourself up?
Can you hear how harsh you are being to yourself?
Let me put it this way, if you spoke like this to someone else, you’d think you were being rude, harsh and insensitive, right? And yet, somehow, speaking to ourselves like this is ok? NO!!
So let’s get this turned around.
The real cause of carb cravings
The first thing is to get clear on the real cause of those carb cravings. Once you understand what is actually causing those cravings, and you get to work on that stuff, then the cravings will naturally lose their power over you.
It’s a long list so let me share with you some of the highlights.
- Chronic stress
- Lack of sleep
- High intensity lifestyle
- Lack of optimal hydration
- High sugar, high carb diet
- Low serotonin
- Gut health issues
- Being bored
- Some medications eg steroids
So the first thing is to always look for the real reason behind why you struggle with those carb cravings.
Let me explain a couple of the items on this list a bit more.
Cortisol is your ‘chronic stress’ hormone, which means that when your body thinks it is under continuous ongoing stress, no matter the nature of the stress your body will automatically pump out more cortisol.
So someone who always worries about money, or someone who is constantly terrified of catching the coronavirus will trigger the same chronic stress response as the mother of a newborn baby who is getting very little sleep. To your body, these are all forms of ‘chronic stress’ and will trigger the ‘chronic stress response’.
What this means that your adrenal glands are busy pumping out the ‘chronic stress hormone’ cortisol day in day out. This state of elevated cortisol levels has all sorts of impacts on the body, one of which is carb cravings.
You can read more about this right here.
Some of us are great at drinking plenty of fluids throughout the day and keeping our bodies in tip top super hydrated condition. But some of us don’t have these practices. Instead we only drink when we ‘feel thirsty’.
Your sense of thirst is surprisingly insensitive – in fact you can be ‘mildly dehydrated’ before your body will ever send you the signal: ‘please drink more because I’m running low here’. And when we walk about in this slightly ‘dehydrated’ state, your body can give you the carb craving signals.
So one of the first things to do when you are faced with overwhelming carb cravings is to drink a couple of glasses of water, then wait 20 minutes, and see if you still need to eat! You might want to distract yourself for those 20 minutes so you are nowhere near the fridge!
You can find out more about boosting your fluid intake right here.
Gut health and serotonin production
90% of your serotonin is made in the digestive tract and so it stands to reason that if your digestive tract health is not all that it could be, then your serotonin production will go down.
Low serotonin levels are associated with carb cravings, so if you are someone who struggles with eg IBS, constipation, diarrhoea, indigestion or heartburn, all these health issues could mean that your serotonin levels are reasonable for your carb cravings.
Ask the right question
So when you are faced with those carb cravings, ask the right questions. Here is a little list to get you going:
Am I hungry?
Am I bored?
Am I angry?
Am I lacking proper sleep?
Am I stressed?
Am I super hydrated?
Am I worried, anxious, fearful or scared?
Do I need to get my gut health sorted out instead of putting up with it?
Carb cravings with compassion
So don’t let those carb cravings drive you crazy!
Have a little grace, kindness and compassion for yourself. Your body really is trying to do its very best for you! Think of it as your very best ally and friend, rather than the enemy that has to be ‘beaten’.
Understand what is really driving those cravings and learn to ask the right questions!