Low blood sugar can turn an Alpha male into a weakling in 2.5 seconds, derailing any nutrition game plan faster than you can say Cinnabon. Cravings strike in the late evening, unable to think straight, I crawl out of bed and drive to the 24 hour donut shop, barefoot…no time for shoes. I order 4 or 5 while swallowing pools of saliva that form under my tongue. The clerk tongs them into bags at what seems to be a glacial pace. I tear into the bags shoving the sugary dough into my face, regrettably, and then finish the job in bed before passing out. The sugar addiction is real!
Related to Paleo
Humans are not built to consume large amounts of sugar, from a metabolic or neurological perspective. Our Paleolithic bodies were designed to perform best in a sugar poor environment. Our ancestors consumed sugar as fruit or honey occasionally, but not at every meal throughout the year. Paleolithic man went entire seasons without access to sugary foods because they weren’t available. Consuming copious amounts of fruit during warm seasons would have increased body fat quickly, which would benefit survival during sparse winter months. During winter, stored fat could be mobilized for energy and heat. We had a good balance going on. From an evolutionary standpoint, craving sugar intensely while it was available was beneficial to our species. We possess an inborn hypersensitivity to sweet foods and receptors to generate reward responses, similar to that of an addictive drug like cocaine. These parts of our biology are overwhelmed by the sugar content of the standard American diet. Today we have the same biological bodies, to a large degree, but our food has changed drastically. Food manufacturers figured out how to exploit our primal sweet tooth by adding ungodly amounts of sugar to processed foods, creating addicts out of Americans. The symptoms of this drug are obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
Here’s an interesting study involving rats, sugar and COCAINE!
I have an addictive personality...I like to party. I know what it’s like to crave all sorts of substances. The only difference I see between recreational drugs and sugar is the fact that sugar is totally acceptable. Sugar may not ruin one’s life as quickly as cocaine but consumed ad libitum it will surely destroy one’s health. I gave my little sister a churro at Mission Viejo Lake and she turned into a crack head. This health concern is right in front of us.
Managing Sugar Withdrawals
Recognizing sugar as a potential disaster you might ask what we can do about it. I’ve prepared a list of several techniques I practice.
Primary foods are not “foods” in the traditional sense of the word, but they do feed us and we need them to thrive. Primary foods are relationships, spirituality, creativity, healthy finances, career goals, physical activity, home environment, whatever makes YOU come alive. When we are lacking in these areas common to crave actual food, especially those that trigger reward systems. We know how to self sooth. When I’m bored I’m at risk of turning into the Cookie monster. But when im lost in a project or conversation I can go a long time without food or water. Examine your primary foods, specifically the ones you neglect. Are you really hungry or do you need to act on something that means more than food? Are you wasting talent? Avoiding goals? U need a hug Bro?
Eat more fat
Replace sugar with healthy fats. Sugar is a fuel source, if you remove it, you must get your fuel from fat...So eat more of it. Its very simple. Protein is not a source of fuel. Protein is a building block used to maintain your lean mass. If you're beginning a low carb or low sugar diet, I recomend using MCT oil or powder to offset the sugar cravings. MCT's are fats that our bodies can convert into energy rapidly. When I ditched sugars and carbs I was eating large chunks of cheese with butter on top every time I has a craving. Dont be shy. Dont fear fat.
My most effective strategy in crushing cravings takes advantage of the finite capacity of our stomachs. The trick here is to Jedi mind trick your body into satisfaction by eating healthful foods at the first sign of a craving and before the craving reaches critical mass, otherwise known as Donut-hut. Wait 5 minutes and if the craving isn’t gone eat more healthy food, repeating until the craving’s gone. It might take a few but if you can resolve to not cave into an unhealthy craving it seems to disappear within 15 to 20 minutes. You’re literally crowding bad food out of your body with healthy foods. At some point there’s just no room in your stomach and the body responds by feeling full and satiated.
Sometimes I simply won’t settle for a plate of broccoli when I want chocolate chip cookies. Having a whole food alternative that’s sweet and contains a minimal amount of sugar might be just as effective in silencing a craving. Get good at finding sweet alternatives that fit the mold, so to speak, of what you’re craving. Last night I had a huge bowl of frozen blueberries and a banana instead of ice cream. Demolishing 10 spoons of almond butter and raw honey is another one of my go-tos. It’s not perfect but it’s a hell of a lot better than brownies.
This one is simple and similar to the crowding out technique. Interpreting dehydration as hunger is very common. Pounding a glass or two of water can shut up a craving by triggering stretch receptors in the stomach that tell our brain we’re full…another Jedi mind trick. The key here is to actually reach for the water first, then wait a few minutes after drinking it before giving in. It’s that crucial 5 minutes that allows the body to respond. Make it past that threshold and you can continue with your day like a champion.
The salt tooth
If I crave salty chips, beef jerky or sunflower seeds I take it as a sign to add more salt to my meals or add a few pinches into my water bottle. We crave salt because our bodies need it, yet we're salt-phobic as a culture. Throughout history salt was valued as a precious resource driving the development of trade routes and militaries even paid their soldiers with it. In modern times salt has been wrongly demonized.
I was saddened to learn that my grandpa’s doctor told him to remove salt from his diet. This type of archaic thinking is hurting us from a health standpoint. We are uneducated on the nuances of salt and I’ll try to shed some light on this topic. Common table salt served in restaurants and what’s kept in most homes is NOT REAL SALT. It’s a synthetic, processed chemical called sodium chloride made in a factory. I agree that eating sodium chloride alone is not really healthy and is most likely to blame for the claims of salt causing high blood pressure. REAL salt does not come from an industrialized factory, it’s not pure white and it has upwards of 90 other trace minerals essential to our health. One fun fact I learned while researching the salt industry is that American salt manufacturers actually remove these awesome minerals from the salt and then sell them. I’m like “Um, hello, we need that.”
Try pink Himalayan, or Celtic sea salt. It tastes way better anyway.
If you could overcome cravings, would you be in a better place with your health? Is the source of your craving even food related? Do you simply need more options in your nutritional toolkit to turn to? I challenge you to examine these ideas and as always if you would like to talk more about this you can schedule a complimentary consultation.