|by Chris Mason|
KAPOW! Goodbye cake! PATOW! See ya ice cream!
I might be an ass-kicking super slayer, but I still fall prey to the same vices all of you do! There is nothing worse than choosing to be on a diet and then being rewarded with cravings galore for everything you promised yourself you'd eschew. As much as it sucks, it's inevitable that once you stop feeding your body things it's used to, your brain will start firing signals the you miss that chemical, be it sugar, dairy, or gluten.
"I'm hungry!" Your brain will shout even though you've just eaten eggs with mushroom, peppers, and ground beef.
"Ok, what do you want?" I ask it.
"Ice cream and cake. OH! OH! A donut!" Your brain pleads.
Just no, people. If you are actually hungry, you need to eat real food. This kind of signal from your brain is just a need to keep putting junk in your face hole because you're going into withdrawal from chemicals that it's used to getting.
Sadly, the only to stop those signals from firing is to do the hard thing and deprive yourself of those chemicals for long enough for your body to stop insisting that it needs them to go about your day to do. You might want to try a cleanse to get the ball rolling and then start a regular diet plan that leaves out the things you crave the most except on very special occasions.
My biggest vice is gluten. I'm might not be intolerant, but I'm certainly addicted to bread and sugar. Gluten fires pleasure signals in the brain that are so intense, they can compare to the pleasure signals you get from doing a drug like cocaine. I was doing a great job on avoiding bread products, but after my vacation, I just couldn't stop. It wasn't like I was binging like I used to at my heaviest, but I absolutely couldn't get through the day without at least a serving of bread.
The biggest issue with ridding yourself of gluten and therefor easy access to carbs, is that your body is trained to use carbs to generate energy primarily and protein secondarily. When you remove carbs from your diet, you get headaches as your body struggles to break its addiction to gluten and you get fatigued because your body isn't used to focusing on protein as a primary source of energy. This generally lasts a few days dependent on how poorly you were eating before you changed your diet. In my experience, things really turn around after day five.
Another thing that's important when it comes to cravings is understanding what you can have and what your body needs. I learned this the hard way. On my Whole30. Usually when you're on a restrictive diet, there's a lot of "no this/no that" or you can only eat this many calories. Whole30 asks for no processed food, no gluten/grains, no dairy, no legumes, and no sweeteners just to make something more yummy. Nothing should be sweet unless it's naturally so on it's own. It's basically a stricter form of Paleo meant to cleanse the body of toxins for a month. Well I sort of adjusted my Whole30 starting out. I decided to severely limit fruit because I was trying to kick my sugar addiction and that became eating no fruit. I also didn't realize that the body needs sodium to survive so I didn't add any to anything I made for 5 days thinking that low sodium was good, so no sodium was probably better, right?
First of all, I got sick in the first few days like I was describing before. I attributed my dizziness to my body going through the withdrawal and energy redirection process. Turns out it just couldn't function because my blood sugar dropped down as did my sodium. After five days of the diet, I got to work on Friday and after about 30-40 minutes of standing and doing physical work activities where I couldn't sit down every 20 minutes or so, I fainted. So yeah. I should have done a little more research and realized that there's a reason the things I'm not supposed to eat are on the don't eat list and the things I AM supposed to eat are on the EAT THEM NOW OR ELSE YOU DIE list. My cravings for sugar during the fatigue phase probably wouldn't have been as bad if I hadn't forgone fruit after the first day and I probably wouldn't have had that incident at work. When you start on a plan or a cleanse, make sure you are following it to the letter. The people who developed it did so in a specific way because they understand the science of how it's supposed to work.
I'm only 8 days into my Whole30, but I can tell you right now that not only is my overwhelming craving for bread and sugar gone, but my appetite is just less overwhelming overall. I definitely get hungry but I don't need to eat as much to feel full.
The last tip I have is misdirection. If you're having a craving, it's always best to do something rather than doing nothing. If you just let it sink in with you without acting, it might get the better of you eventually. If you can distract yourself by doing something else, it can sometimes trick the brain into being satisfied because you acted to prevent the temptation from taking hold. For instance, you could go for a 20 minute walk. You could play with a pet. You could drink a big glass of water. You could eat some fruit. You could even play a video game. Do anything that's mentally or physically active that requires that part of the brain that was just yowling at you to give it what it wants to get a life and do something productive with itself.
How do you handle your cravings? Do you give in and get it out of your system or do you have other things you do to get past the dancing candy unicorns dancing in your brain? Please share any tips you have with your fellow Slayers in the comments!