Some experts consider carbohydrate craving and addiction as something more of the body than of the mind, meaning biological factors are generally considered to be the main trigger for carb cravings. These cravings are described as a compelling craving, or desire for carbohydrate-rich foods; an escalating, recurring need or drive for starches, snack foods, junk food, or sweets.
This is where the cycle of carbohydrates and cravings start. High-sugar, refined starch, convenience and comfort foods feed the addiction like a drug. This results in high blood sugar and insulin levels which results in more cravings. The situation also results in higher levels of serotonon – a brain chemical that acts like Prozac. People eat sweets to get the sugar ‘high’.
Another contributing factor to overeating and sweet craving is stress. When we are tense, the adrenal gland produces more of the hormone cortisol. Cortisol stimulates production of a brain chemical called ‘neuropeptide Y’.
This is kind of a carbohydrate craving switch. Aside from this, neuropeptide Y also makes the body hang on to the new body fat we produce. In other words, tension not only triggers carbohydrate cravings, it also makes it more difficult to lose any additional weight. Cortisol also stimulates insulin, which leads to blood sugar dips and fat storage.
It’s a vicious cycle that feeds on itself, over and over.
Food is not just a biological need; there is also an emotional element to it. Something in our emotional state, particularly a negative one evokes an urge for ‘comfort’ food. By dealing with the issue behind the cravings, it produces emotional relief that can reduce or even eliminate the urge to overeat.
All in all, most experts agree that by eating enough wholesome foods at meals and by having a healthy afternoon snack, people can minimize their cravings for sweets.
Here are recommendations to curb carbo cravings.
1. Eat less but more often. Eat small meals or snacks containing some PROTEIN every few hours to keep blood-sugar levels steady.
Skipping meals causes blood sugar levels to drop, which leaves you yearning for processed carbohydrates and sweets for energy.
2. Be selective about the carbohydrates you eat. Avoid nutrient-stripped foods made of white flour, white rice, refined sugar and highly concentrated sweeteners. Look for foods rich in fiber such as fresh vegetables and fruits, which level off blood sugar.
3. Don’t skimp on protein to ‘make room’ for large amounts of carbohydrates. Protein gives the body extended energy, helps balance blood sugar and keeps cravings at bay.
4. Limit your intake of alcohol, fruit juice and caffeinated drinks. These cause abrupt blood-sugar highs followed by troublesome blood-sugar lows, leaving you starved for energy.
5. Eat small portions of seasonal goodies AFTER protein-containing meals or snacks, if at all. If you eat sweets on an empty stomach, you’ll experience blood-sugar lows that trigger the desire for more sweets.
6. Avoid becoming famished during shopping trips and while traveling. Carry protein-rich snacks such as nuts, hard-boiled eggs, nutrient-balanced energy bars or “vegetable green” tablets like those listed. These high-power foods are great when you feel your energy drop.
7. Get enough sleep. When the body and mind are well-rested, cravings for carbohydrates often vanish.
The techniques found in Maximize Your Metabolism and the diet tips found in The Living Health Weight Loss Audio emphasize using a nutritional lifestyle instead of carbohydrate as a source of energy. This avoids falling into the carbohydrate craving cycle. It also counters hunger as a possible source of sweet craving as the feeling full last longer with a protein-fat meal than a carbohydrate one.