Are you having problems with overwhelming carb cravings? If so, here are 10 ways to help you break your processed carb addiction.
Understand What Causes Carb Addiction
You can’t fix a problem if you don’t know what causes it. Carb addiction has many causes both physical and psychological. Not only is it caused by hormone fluctuations, but it also messes with the pleasure center of the brain and the neurotransmitters that are responsible for that feel-good feeling. And let’s not forget the emotional connection to food most of us have.
Treat the Problem – Not the Symptom
Get to the root of the problem. Don’t try to fix the symptoms. If you’re craving carbs, don’t just substitute sugar for artificial sweeteners. That does nothing for your problem. You still have a carb addiction, you’ve just found a different way to manage the symptoms.
Cut Out Processed Foods
If you want to break your addiction, you need to start phasing out processed foods. That might seem obvious and easier said than done, but it’s necessary. Processed foods quickly raise blood sugar levels, and send insulin through the roof. They cause feel-good chemicals to be released, making you want more.
While some people can stop smoking by slowly cutting back, a big majority need to stop cold turkey to get over their addiction. Carb addiction is no different. Remove the problem from your lifestyle. You can look at adding them back in later after you’ve learned better self-control.
Be Patient at the Beginning
As with breaking any bad habits, you will need to be patient at the beginning. It’s the hardest to do at the start. It’s one of the reasons why most diets fail in the first 48 hours. I can tell you this though, if you can be patient and strong, and make it through the first few days, things will only get easier. Make it a week, and it gets even easier. A month? Suddenly you’ve forgotten why you craved processed carbs in the first place.
Break Old Eating Habits
Is it nighttime and you want carbs? Have you made nighttime carb eating into a lifestyle habit? How likely are you to want some kind of snack food when you plop down in front of the TV? Many times we get in the habit of doing things just because we’ve been doing it that way for a long time.
Your brain creates new neural pathways in response to lifestyle habits. What’s the first thing you do when you wake up? Is it a habit? Your brain has connected these two tasks together. Given enough time and persistence, you can create new neural pathways that connect your life with healthy choices.
Lower Your Carb Intake
If you eat a high carb diet, your body will up-regulate the enzymes necessary for carbohydrate metabolism. It will start to become dependent on glucose and carbs for fuel. Carbohydrates are quickly metabolized for energy in just a few hours – meaning your body is going to tell you to eat more when the time comes.
If you’re eating in excess of 50-60% carbs, and you aren’t highly active, lowering your carb intake (I don’t mean low carb, just lower) helps you become more efficient at using fat for fuel. If you can lower your body’s reliance on carbohydrates, you will in effect lower your body’s desire for them too.
Increase Your Insulin Sensitivity
Successful weight loss and improved health have a lot to do with your insulin sensitivity. Insulin resistance means your body is resistant to the effects of insulin – requiring more and more of it to store the glucose in your blood. You can do a lot to improve your insulin sensitivity by simply cutting out processed foods from your diet and adding in resistance exercise. The reduced insulin levels will help modulate neurotransmitters in the brain that control cravings.
Don’t Eat for Happiness
Have you ever asked yourself why you want to eat processed carbs? Is it because you’re happy? Depressed? It’s no secret that processed foods are comfort foods. If you are ever going to break your carb addiction, you are going to need to find other ways to make yourself happy other than eating. Be happy – then eat. Don’t eat to be happy.
Have a Cheat Meal
A well-planned cheat meal can have a positive effect on your carb addiction. For some though, it can cause a negative spiral that keeps you from getting results. It’s important to be honest with yourself and ask if you are able to handle the occasional planned cheat meal.
That means being able to jump right back on a no-processed, whole foods diet until it’s time for your next cheat meal. If you can do that, then cheat meals can be very psychologically satisfying. Knowing you can still eat the carbs you enjoy helps keep you on track during the week.
Meet Your Nutritional Needs
If you don’t give your body its essential nutrients, it will send signals to continue eating. Many people will say that they are craving carbs, but in reality, you are craving nutrients. Then, when faced with your food choices, you choose the one that will leave you with a “food high”.
If you don’t eat your essential fatty acids, your body will tell you to eat until you do. If you don’t get enough protein, your body will tell you to eat until you do. Get in all your required vitamins, minerals, essential fats and proteins, and I guarantee you will experience a reduction in your carb cravings.
This article is part of the 10 Ways to a Better Body blog series. Be sure to check out the rest of the series!