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~Seek first to understand, then be understood~
If you're looking for information on a particular topic, type that word in the search box below. If I have written about that subject, a list of posts will appear. If no posts come up, I haven't written about it...yet. Emails, and questions in the comments section for possible posts, are welcome.
I have a "friend" who shows up once a month. She turns my world upside down, over and over again.
I am a good person, caring and sweet, but when she comes to visit, I could rip off your head.
She takes no prisoners, foul words she does spout, I try to keep the words in, she lets them come out.
People don't understand me, or what this is about, to have this creature inside my head.
I despise who I am, half of the time, I feel sorry for my daughter, family and friends.
There's no way to describe it, for those who don't know, it's a living nightmare, she really needs to go.
~Neysia Manor, Rest in Peace

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Food Cravings Have Nothing to Do With Willpower!

I've struggled for most of my life with food cravings. While trying to figure out the reason my New Year's resolution to lose some weight worked so well the first three months and then....just stopped...I came across this article from a wonderful site on women's health, called Women to Women.

I'd like to share it here so you don't beat yourself up for not losing weight when you've been trying everything you can think of to shed some pounds. For more information and the entire article, go here. The sections in bold print are lighbulb moments for me, especially since--after I hit a plateau on losing weight with Weight Watchers--I was determined to kick it up a notch. For three months straight I went to the Y five times a week and did 45 minutes of cardio. Didn't lose a pound. Upped it to 45 minutes of cardio and 15 minutes of walking for an added boost. No change. Signed up for a walking challenge and walked 200 miles in 100 days. Didn't lose a pound. (But things did tighten up and shift around a little, which was nice :)) Switched it around again to a more balanced two miles of cardio and two miles of walking in one hour, five times a week and....still nothing.

But those cravings, they still come around like clockwork, so here goes...

Cravings have nothing to do with willpower! (This, I thought, was fantastic news!)

An enormous percentage of women crave sugar, carbohydrates, or alcohol. In most cases, these food cravings are not true eating disorders, but instead are signs of hormonal imbalance caused by a lack of healthy nutrition.

Your personal issue may be the afternoon snack (often chocolate or candy or a food that’s also heavy in carbohydrates), too many potato chips, the extra glass of wine at night, or a hundred other variations. But the underlying mechanism, and the way to curb cravings, is the same. And it has nothing to do with willpower, or your lack thereof!

Food cravings mean that the body has its signals mixed up. When we are exhausted or blue, we have low blood sugar and/or low serotonin, and the body signals the brain that it needs a pick-me-up. This signal causes a sugar craving or carbohydrate craving.

Serotonin is our basic feel-good hormone. If serotonin is low, we feel sad or depressed. And hormonal imbalance or weak digestion can lead to low serotonin. Unfortunately, sugars and simple carbohydrates release a short burst of serotonin — we feel good for a moment, but soon return to our low-serotonin state — then crave more sugar and simple carbohydrates. It’s a downward spiral.

If you eat a low-fat diet in the hope of losing weight, you unintentionally make the problem worse. If, like millions of women, you have eaten a low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet for many years, or followed fad diets, the odds are good that you have become at least partially insulin resistant. Insulin is responsible for maintaining stable blood sugar levels by telling the body’s cells when to absorb glucose from the bloodstream. Being insulin resistant means your body stops responding to insulin, and instead grabs every calorie it can and deposits it as fat.

So no matter how little you eat, you will gradually gain weight. At the same time, your cells cannot absorb the glucose they need, so they signal your brain that you need more carbohydrates or sugars. The result is persistent food cravings.

Even worse, insulin resistance leads directly to obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. Many experts believe it is the root cause of the epidemic of those diseases in America today. And a low-fat diet makes it far more likely you will suffer from this condition.

Millions of American women are now trying the Atkins Diet or the South Beach Diet. While these diets are an improvement over the conventional low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet, they can worsen your metabolic problems, because dieting itself is stressful to the body. So many women need to heal their metabolism first before even considering weight loss. (This is what I have been working on ever since I gave up dieting, and actually, it's going well. Haven't lost a pound yet, but my overall energy and feelings of well-being have improved considerably, and when the PMDD episodes come, they're often much milder, and always much shorter than they used to be.)

Another cause of food cravings is adrenal fatigue. If you are under a great deal of stress, or suffer from insomnia or sleep deprivation, you are probably exhausted much of the time. This leads to adrenal fatigue or outright adrenal exhaustion, which in turn signals the body it needs a pick-me-up. You may resort to sugar or carbohydrate snacks or coffee during the day and carbohydrates or alcohol at night, all of which exacerbate the problem. (For more info on this, please read my things a PMDD woman needs to avoid posts.)

How to curb cravings

Women who blame themselves for their food cravings only worsen their mood and increase their need for serotonin. That’s when a pattern of emotional eating can develop. Remember, there are biological causes for sugar cravings, and your carbohydrate craving is rarely just a behavioral problem. The root problem is more likely inadequate nutrition.

How to break this vicious cycle? To reduce food cravings, the body needs real support — and lots of it. We have seen over and over that eating healthy foods, adding pharmaceutical–grade nutritional supplements and moderate exercise can almost miraculously curb cravings. Your metabolism will heal itself when provided with the necessary nutritional support. If it has been damaged, the process can take some time, but it will happen. The good news is — you don’t have to give up chocolate!

(As an aside, I have discovered this wonderful mocha chocolate drink that satisfies my chocolate cravings, while being very healthy. It's called Mocha Cappucino, from Bolthouse Farms, and comes in the refrigerator section (usually near the produce) in your grocery store. When only solid food will do, I find that two Dove Dark Bites does the trick. Often, it's only a taste of what we crave that will satisfy the craving.

So stop blaming yourself, start eating healthier foods, find a way to get more rest (essential for a PMDD woman) and exercise, (I've taken up Qigong, which is basically slow range of motion exercises and deep breathing). Any kind of exercise will do, but I've found walking helps me the most. Last, but not least, get yourself some really good pharmeceutical grade nutritional supplements. I know they're not cheap, but girlfriend, you're worth it.

And if you don't take care of you, nobody else is going to do it for you.


  1. Thanks for writing this. It helped me identify some issues in my diet.

  2. You don't have to eat or drink substitution-"healthy"-things-that-taste-like-craving-treat either. You can actually have the real treat. It just has to be in moderation, and you still need to do all the metabolism fixing stuff, but nobody has to give up treats forever. I mean, that's how we start binging on the stuff. Trying to do that is bad for your psychology and body alike.