Balancing Your Body and Mind

Q&A – Solutions for Fat and Carb Cravings

Hey guys!

[Matt here] Recently someone asked this question on our facebook page:

“When I get stressed, I crave fatty foods, mainly peanut butter and nuts… sometimes carbs too, like breads and cereal grains. I guess these are my comfort foods. I exercise, and take time for relaxation(I am even getting massages at school right now), but I can’t seem to beat these cravings. Do you have any suggestions on how to curb these cravings?”

carbs_fats_cravings1Definately ūüôā ¬†First and foremost, and I know many people don’t like admitting it, but it’s probably the most valuable virtue you can have: self control. ¬†I like to frame self control a bit differently: ¬†“delayed gratification”. ¬†(keep in mind TOO long of a delay is bad too). ¬†If you think about it, ¬†most have a sufficient level of self control, BUT depending on stress and tensions in your life and how you manage them, they can create urges and cravings too strong for a regular level of self control to handle and additional strategies may be needed. ¬†Relaxation practices are great tools to lower stress (and diminish cravings), but if the cause of your tensions is an ongoing pattern, massage’s will ease cravings temporarily, but as our bodies (and thoughts) reproduce the pattern soon after, relaxation can lose the longer battle for vitality.¬†Okay, that said, there are some tricks beyond relaxing¬†to control these common cravings.

A Perspective on Cravings

Typically, most cravings result from the body reacting to what it consumed beforehand. ¬†The last meal or snack a few hours ago, even a meal the day before. ¬†In other words, foods we eat start domino effects (health or unhealthy) of chemistry changes in our bodies, and most of us do not actively pay attention to it. ¬†We are too distracted by everything else. ¬†We feel what we feel in the moment, rather than measuring and adjusting this chain of reactions that led up to a craving. ¬†Your cravings are the ‘effect’ of an prior ’cause’. ¬†If you want to control cravings, take a look into your recent past.

Cravings for Fats

The reason you “crave” fats, is because of a fat imbalance inside you. ¬†Your body definitely needs fats, actually more than you think. So the problem isn’t eating fats, it’s the type of fats and the amount.

omega3_oilThis is a huge subject and there isn’t enough time to get into all the details now, so here’s a VERY basic breakdown: fats are split into 3 main categories. ¬†Short (omega 3), medium (omega 6) and long chain (omega 9 and higher) fatty acids. ¬†“Chain” stands for the amount of atoms linked and attached to the glycerol molecule. ¬†So without going too in-depth, here’s an easy way to look at it. ¬†The longer the chain, the harder it is for your body to break down and assimilate, thus they can create problems and imbalances if you consume too much of them. ¬†This doesn’t mean you should avoid all long chain fats like the plague, just learn about their consequences and choose them wisely, and in moderation.

Medium and short chains are the only fats you should focus on. ¬†The trick with them is getting the right ratio. ¬†You ideally want a 3:1 ratio of omega6 to omega3 in your daily diet. ¬†Most people get to many omega 6’s & 9’s (from too many nuts, nut butters, vegetable oils like canola, butter, the list goes on). ¬†The problem is not enough people are getting omega 3’s (some nuts, fatty fish, fish oils like cod liver oil, linseed, hempseed, chiaseed, flaxseed oil, and many others) to balance the ratio to what it should be. ¬†Omega3’s are the fats you want to add to your diet or get supplements of.

Note: ¬†When buying omega-3 supplements, make sure you check the ratio of 3’s, 6’s and 9’s on the back. ¬†6’s and 9’s are cheaper and many of these supplements market themselves as omega-3, but there’s hardly any in them compared to the 6’s and 9’s. ¬†Always check the label!

Establishing this ratio, in many cases, eliminates cravings for fat. ¬†Automatically, no self control needed. ¬†You will find that you don’t desire peanut butter or other nuts as much. ¬†You might crave sweets or carbs still, but your body will begin to regulate it’s fat needs by itself. ¬†Sometimes these supplements are expensive, but it’s money WELL spent, well invested. (btw, as your body gets more omega 3’s, you will start losing any stored fat you might have, wait and see!) ¬†Try it out for a few weeks and let us know ūüôā

Carbohydrate Cravings

Okay, carb cravings are a bit different. ¬†These particular cravings still result from what was eaten prior. ¬†For example, if you wake up and have sugar as part of your first meal, you will likely crave sugar the rest of the day. ¬†Sugar notoriously upsets the body’s homeostasis (biological balance) and can lead to countless health problems (look into Nancy Appleton’s research). ¬†But let’s focus on breads and cereals, these are some of the most common culprits leading to unwanted fat gain, turbulent mood swings and perpetual cravings. ¬†I mean let’s face it, if we all craved broccoli, spinach or kale, I wouldn’t be writing this article!

It’s pretty common knowledge that carbohydrates (simple and complex) create glucose in the blood which our cells use as energy to function. ¬†But, if you consume excess carbs, it will create excess energy, and if that energy isn’t utilized (if it goes beyond the amount your total cells require) the rest of it will be stored in fat cells. ¬†So why does the body “crave” carbohydrates? ¬†First of all, carbs are very heavy and filling. ¬†When you fill up enough, it triggers a hormone called “leptin”, which tells your appetite to relax because it’s now satisfied. ¬†It also creates relaxed effect which your body wants if it is stressed. ¬†However, the imbalance that produces¬†carb cravings can be found in your digestion. ¬†If you do not digest enough nutrients, after an hour or so, your body will produce the hormone “ghrelin”, which basically let’s you know you need to eat again (even though you might not need to). ¬†This is where the problem lies. ¬†Insufficient digestion.

The first advice I give for digestive problems is “chew more” before swallowing. ¬†Digestion starts in the mouth, not in the stomach. ¬†Chewing ¬†each mouthful let’s the body analyze the composition (type)¬†of food, which tells the stomach and other initial digestive organs how to best breakdown what will soon be swallowed. ¬†I never knew this until recently. The body is amazing. ¬†Chewing let’s your body know to adjust its acid/alkaline levels accordingly. ¬†If you swallow too soon, digestive organs will not know how to process the food the best way. ¬†

Chewing also saturates the food with enzymes as your teeth grind it down. ¬†These enzymes create the first phase ¬†of digestion before it reaches the lower processes. ¬†If swallowed too soon, it will not break down and get assimilated the right way. ¬†¬†Some of it will pass right through you, or stagnate in your intestines (which happens alot with meat). Even if you aren’t gluten intolerant, eating too many carbs with gluten can inhibit (clog) your intestines from absorbing nutrients which disrupts the digestive process. Imagine gluten being a sticky, difficult to move paste, collecting and caking along your intestinal walls. This can also add to cravings arising more than normal.

Note: ¬†most breakfast cereals are so processed, hardly any nutritional density is left. ¬†We wouldn’t even qualify them as food. ¬†More like “food-like substances”.

The lesson is, chew more, and you will digest more, which will balance the roles of leptin and ghrelin. ¬†The last thing you want, is chronic imbalance which can lead to leptin insensitivity, which leaves you feeling constantly hungry. ¬†Another tip is to add digestive enzyme supplements or add certain fermented foods with digestive enzymes and healthy bacteria into your diet. ¬†These will help an imbalanced digestive system get back on track. ¬†And don’t think that by adding these enzymes, it will weaken your body’s natural process for absorbing nutrients. ¬†The point is, your cravings indicate an weakened system already.

So to review, add more omega 3 fats into your diet, and cut back on long chain fatty acids to get a healthy 3:1 ratio.  Chew your food more in order to digest more nutrients which will lessen cravings later on.

Ever heard the phrase, eat slowly and you won’t be hungry later. ¬†Very true statement.

Okay, that’s it for now. ¬†Let us know if you have any questions down below, or on the Vitality Advocate facebook page!

To your Vitality!

Matt & Katya