Did you know we crave what we’re allergic to? Or to put it another way, we can become addicted to what we are sensitive to.
Do you really have a binge eating disorder or an emotional eating problem OR are you simply addicted to carbohydrates? In my work, the most common “addiction” I see is to carbohydrates and it looks very much like emotional eating. Can you relate to these?
- I feel I have to eat carbs in the morning. According to psychotherapist Dr. Mike Dow, the desire to eat “bad” carbs within 1 hour of waking is a strong sign that you are a carb addict. (This same assessment tool is used to diagnose drug addictions and alcoholism.)
- I get tired or feel foggy in the afternoon.
- I find myself searching for a sugar, starch or caffeine fix in the afternoon.
- I have a hard time stopping once I start eating my favourite carb foods (starches, sweets, snacks, soft drinks including diet).
- When I feel stressed, my first response is to want to eat something. I use foods to fill an emotional need.
- I can’t live without my favourite carb foods
- I have a tendency to binge
- I frequently crave high-carb foods (sweets, pasta, bread, etc.) or alternatively diet soft drinks
- I am a compulsive eater. I wish I could control my eating.
- I experience carbohydrate withdrawal symptoms including headaches, irritability, mood swings, trouble sleeping and anxiety.
- After eating a full breakfast, are you hungrier before it’s time for lunch, than you would be if you only had time for a cup of coffee?
There’s no doubt that the more carb sensitive you are, the more prone you are to carb addiction. And addiction to carbs is actually a reflection of an insulin imbalance, specifically reduced insulin sensitivity, which raises insulin.
But regardless of your current state of carb sensitivity, my bet is that 99 per cent of you could use some help to deal with an appetite stuck in overdrive, carb cravings or stress-related eating.
Many of you may even consider yourself a full-blown carb addict, in need of an intervention to break your food obsession. Some sources say 75 to 85 per cent of overweight adults identify themselves as carbohydrate addicts. Since at least 60 to 70 per cent of adults are in fact overweight, this is a problem that is affecting a large portion of our population.
What’s the difference between a craving and an addiction?
Let’s begin by distinguishing between a craving and an addiction. While a craving denotes something you feel you want once in a while, an addiction reflects a need to have carbs to allow you to feel “normal.” With a carb addiction, just like any other drug addiction, you may also eventually notice that you need more and more to get the same results or that you have withdrawal symptoms when you don’t get your carbs.
Breaking this addiction will be part of the key to curbing your sensitivity to carbs, as well as to lasting weight loss and hormonal balance. Focus on attaining your carbs from vegetables, nuts and small amounts of low-glycemic fruit like berries.
- Minimising your grain and sugar intake will certainly help to break the cycle of addiction and is the first half of the equation. What does that mean?
- avoiding bread
- swapping pasta for quinoa or sweet potato
- having salads instead of sandwiches
- avoiding crumbed foods
- increasing your protein containing foods like meat, fish, eggs, nuts or seeds
- Increasing your healthy fats such as coconut oil, avocado, organic butter and flaxseed oil
- The second half of the equation, which most programs miss, is the need to optimise digestive function. Gluten, found in grains, is known to cause inflammation to the gut wall. Sugar feeds the wrong bacteria in our gut causing all kinds of digestive discomfort and compromised absorption of nutrients. It’s essential to fix the gut. Some ideas for doing that are:
- Adding small amounts of fermented food to your plate eg pickles, pickled ginger or lemon, sauerkraut, etc
- Eating high quality plain yoghurt
- Making bone broths and using it for soup stocks or simply to drink hot
- Drinking apple cider vinegar before each meal (make up a drink with raw honey, lemon juice and water)
There are also many products in the practitioner’s dispensary to assist with gut healing. So, if you’re inclined head to a naturopath.
When it comes to helping people improve their diet, I preach evolution rather than revolution. This means that transitioning to a healthy diet should be a slow process as you learn how to prepare, cook and have onhand healthy food at all times. The exception to this rule is processed, addictive food like refined grains, sugar and artificial sweeteners. The best way is cold turkey. Get rid of them out of your life. You’ll be amazed at what it will do for your body and your mind.