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What to do about those vicious post-Christmas carb cravings

Spinach Salad with Beets and Goat’s Cheese.


Cara Busson-Clark - published on 12/26/17

Believe it or not, it really is possible to curb the binges on sweets and carbs!

A reader recently asked me: Do you have any tips for overcoming sugar cravings and carb cravings like pizza, bread and pasta?

As a matter of fact I do. And what better time to talk about it than Christmas week, when we’re all still stuffing ourselves with Christmas cookies and rich food and drink? I’m excited to share some ways you can avoid the downward spiral known as the “carbohydrate binge cycle.” Believe it or not, whether it’s the holidays or a party or vacation, it really is possible to stay on track.

I’ve worked with thousands of people over the course of my career, and in my experience, the number one reason people binge on carbohydrates is because they aren’t eating enough of them. What!? Yes, it’s shocking, I know! Many people seem to think the easiest way to lose weight is to restrict calories — but this honestly doesn’t work after you hit age 30 or so. This old cycle of eating less to weigh less only works temporarily and the after-effect for someone after 30 is usually an uncontrollable downward spiral that tends to undo any progress made. Not only that, it tends to lead to even more weight gain, meaning a crash diet could lead to higher numbers on the scale than ever before. So, in my book, the best way to avoid the carbohydrate and sugar cravings is to be sure you’re eating the right amount of carbs.

There is no one size fits all formula, but the average size woman who is moderately active needs around 1,600 calories a day. There are many different ways to determine the correct amount of calories you need, so seeking help from a nutritionist, or a reliable online program, may be your first stop.

The second greatest cause of cravings is hormonal shifts. (I know, ladies… it just isn’t fair, but it’s life and we have to find better ways to cope.) During the highs and lows of our regular cycles, it’s extremely important to give our bodies and minds proper nutrients and activity. Light exercise is best for hormonal shifts: yoga stretches, pilates, a light jog. All of this movement improves cravings and makes our food more satisfying. When you’re craving some carbs, like pasta, be sure to use a whole grain option with a low sugar sauce and combine the carbs with fat and protein, like oil and lean turkey.

The same goes for bread or bagels or whatever carbs you’re craving. Eating a better option will satisfy your urge, but also provide some nutritional value to your body.

As for sweets, allow yourself to indulge in some dark chocolate or a homemade treat. The more you nourish your body, the better you feel, and the better you feel, the better choices you make.

The third most common reason we have cravings is nutrient imbalance. This balance could be as technical as a vitamin or mineral deficiency or as simple as not enough water or an imbalance of macronutrients (your fats and proteins in ratio to your carbohydrates). Again, it’s a good idea to get evaluated by a dietitian or nutritionist to determine what the setback may be.

Generally, most people don’t quite understand that they should be eating various colors of fruits and vegetables every day. I advise my clients to eat at least five different colors a day because each color represents different nutrients. A good multi-vitamin is helpful for cravings, too.

As far as balancing your fats, proteins, and carbs, it’s as simple as combining them every time you eat. Often, we think we’re doing ourselves a favor by eating a piece of fruit, which is a carb — and a very healthy carb. But eating the fruit alone can cause a sugar spike. Once your body has sugar spikes, it craves more sugar spikes because that’s how addicting sugar is to our brains. So next time you eat a piece of fruit, be sure to have some nuts or cheese with it, since they’ll balance out the meal and create a stable blood sugar. Simply put, stable blood sugar is the key to avoiding bad carb cravings.

So now that you know how to avoid cravings, all you have to do is implement it. Easier said than done, right? Knowledge is power, but man, being a human is hard. We’re always going back to our old ways. Let’s change that in 2018!


Read more:
How to practice intuitive eating and say goodbye to diets

FoodHealth and Wellness
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