In the past, you may have tried to kill your appetite with pills, powders, or the magic bullet. As you discovered, it didn’t work for long. Beating yourself up about your lack of willpower isn’t a solution to your food cravings. More discipline or more restraint won’t tame your food cravings either.
Why We Experience Food Cravings
Food cravings are a message from your body that something needs your attention. I know this is counterintuitive to everything you might have been told before, but this is a simple truth. This is why more mental strength is not the solution.
This cycle of yo-yo dieting happens because our cravings are messages that our body is sending us. When we suppress our cravings by using discipline and willpower, we often end up with short-term weight loss success. However, over the long term, these cravings will typically come back, and this is where we start that cycle of losing 20 pounds and gaining back 25.
In my clinical experience, I have observed one main causes of physical food cravings: blood sugar disregulation.
Blood Sugar Disregulation
This bodily imbalance is one of the strongest driving forces for our sugar cravings and possibly the biggest saboteur of weight loss efforts. When we eat large amounts of sugary foods or carbohydrate-dense foods, we start a cycle of blood sugar spikes and crashes, due to the release of certain hormones which are designed to keep our blood sugar highly regulated.
When we experience a sugar crash, we end up craving sugary treats and sweets to bring our blood sugar back to a normal level.
A little about of the basis of metabolic nutrition: All forms of sugar (white sugar, honey, high fructose corn syrup, etc.) are part of the family of macronutrient carbohydrates. Other forms of carbohydrates are grains (rice, quinoa, pasta), bread of all kinds, crackers, cookies, cakes etc. Last but not least, all vegetables and fruit mainly contain carbohydrates.
All carbohydrates are metabolized by your body into a form of sugar called glucose. When you eat a piece of cake, a bowl of brown rice, or some spinach, all of it will be transformed into glucose by your body. This glucose is then used by our body as fuel. Think of it as gas for your car.
Once the body processes carbohydrates into glucose, it will then move the glucose from our blood into the cells in our body to act as fuel. In order for our cells to absorb glucose, the hormone insulin must be present. Insulin is what regulates our blood sugar level. The inability to produce proper levels of insulin is a medical condition called diabetes.
The Sugar Roller Coaster
As you see in the graphic, when our blood sugar gets too high (yellow zone), based on the quantity and quality of the carbohydrate we consume, we release insulin in an attempt to bring back our blood sugar level in the green zone. Too often, our blood sugar gets so high that it drives our body into a state of panic. It releases too much insulin and causes our blood sugar level to drop too low (red zone). When our low blood sugar is too low, our body will react by creating a food craving in an attempt to bring back our blood sugar to the green zone. Think of the green zone as the state of homeostasis.
The food cravings due to blood sugar disregulation are by far the main cause of food cravings, particularly sugar cravings.
The Solution To Regulate Blood Sugar
In order for us to eliminate or beat these types of food cravings, we need to make sure that our blood sugar is at a healthy level. We can ensure that our blood sugar is neither too high nor too low by reducing our overall intake of carbohydrate and by focusing on low sugar/ carbohydrate food.