Wednesday October 21st 2020

The craving within – don't blame lack of willpower

Our recent article on how to curb food cravings raised a lot of discussion. We’ve had requests from several readers asking for more information, plus tons of interest in our Real Women’s Diet.

It seems that the will to diet is frequently blamed on our mental inability to ‘stick with the programme’.  We’re just weak, baby! But, my regular WomenToWomen newsletter carried a thought-provoking piece today on the truth behind cravings. Apart from making you feel better  (and less guilty) about battling temptation, it helps to understand the science behind a snack attack.

Here’s what www.womentowomen.com had to say :

Cravings have nothing to do with willpower!An enormous percentage of women crave sugar, carbohydrates, or alcohol. In most cases, these food cravings are not true eating disorders, but instead are signs of hormonal imbalance caused by a lack of healthy nutrition.

Your personal issue may be the afternoon snack (often chocolate or candy or a food that’s also heavy in carbohydrates), too many potato chips, the extra glass of wine at night, or a hundred other variations. But the underlying mechanism, and the way to curb cravings, is the same. And it has nothing to do with willpower, or your lack thereof!

Food cravings mean that the body has its signals mixed up. When we are exhausted or blue, we have low blood sugar and/or low serotonin, and the body signals the brain that it needs a pick-me-up. This signal causes a sugar craving or carbohydrate craving.

Serotonin is our basic feel-good hormone. If serotonin is low, we feel sad or depressed. And hormonal imbalance or weak digestion can lead to low serotonin. Unfortunately, sugars and simple carbohydrates release a short burst of serotonin — we feel good for a moment, but soon return to our low-serotonin state — then crave more sugar and simple carbohydrates. It’s a downward spiral.

If you eat a low-fat diet in the hope of losing weight, you unintentionally make the problem worse. If, like millions of women, you have eaten a low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet for many years, or followed fad diets, the odds are good that you have become at least partially insulin resistant.

Insulin is responsible for maintaining stable blood sugar levels by telling the body’s cells when to absorb glucose from the bloodstream. Being insulin resistant means your body stops responding to insulin, and instead grabs every calorie it can and deposits it as fat. So no matter how little you eat, you will gradually gain weight.

At the same time, your cells cannot absorb the glucose they need, so they signal your brain that you need more carbohydrates or sugars. The result is persistent food cravings.

Even worse, insulin resistance leads directly to obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. Many experts believe it is the root cause of the epidemic of those diseases in America today. And a low-fat diet makes it far more likely you will suffer from this condition.

Millions of American women are now trying the Atkins Diet or the South Beach Diet. While these diets are an improvement over the conventional low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet, they can worsen your metabolic problems, because dieting itself is stressful to the body. So many women need to heal their metabolism first before even considering weight loss.

Another cause of food cravings is adrenal fatigue. If you are under a great deal of stress, or suffer from insomnia or sleep deprivation, you are probably exhausted much of the time. This leads to adrenal fatigue or outright adrenal exhaustion, which in turn signals the body it needs a pick-me-up. You may resort to sugar or carbohydrate snacks or coffee during the day and carbohydrates or alcohol at night, all of which exacerbate the problem.

How to curb cravings

Women who blame themselves for their food cravings only worsen their mood and increase their need for serotonin. That’s when a pattern of emotional eating can develop. Remember, there are biological causes of sugar cravings, and your carbohydrate craving is rarely just a behavioral problem. The root problem is more likely inadequate nutrition.

How to break this vicious cycle? To reduce food cravings, the body needs real support — and lots of it. We have seen over and over that eating healthy foods, adding pharmaceutical–grade nutritional supplements and moderate exercise can almost miraculously curb cravings. Your metabolism will heal itself when provided with the necessary nutritional support. If it has been damaged, the process can take some time, but it will happen. The good news is — you don’t have to give up chocolate!