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Why Am I Craving Carbs, Sugar?

If you feel like you’re addicted to sugar, craving carbs, you can learn why and make peace with all foods by learning Intuitive Eating.

Have you tried to solve this “problem” by restricting these foods? Perhaps you’ve tried a 30-day sugar detox or a “healthy lifestyle” eating plan “to fix” your cravings for carbohydrates, sweets. And maybe it felt like it “worked” but then after, your cravings returned. 😬

Consider your relationship with simple carbs like breads and cookies. What feelings come up? Maybe…Guilt. Shame. Stressed. Worried.

I too once had a fraught relationship with carbs stemming from the low carb trend that said bread and sugar are “bad.”

I used to follow a “healthy lifestyle diet” that restricted grains, added sugar and even the amount of natural sugars in whole foods.

  • I avoided sandwiches and was “good” when I had a salad instead. And if I had a sandwich, I would avoid other carbs that day.
  • I viewed sweets as “bad.” ( I mean everybody knows this is true, right?)
  • I could have berries but not a banana (because some sneaky diets out there say they’re too high in sugar and don’t care if your banana contains fiber that slows down how you metabolize the sugar.) Yikes.

I was “so good,” until for a variety of reasons (which I’m going to share with you below), I ended up overeating them and even bingeing on them. I’m talking to you entire bread basket and six-pack of cupcakes. Then I felt horrible both physically and emotionally – beating myself up, worrying about my health (and if I’m honest – my weight).

But after working for over a decade in nutrition, eating psychology, Intuitive Eating and body image, I learned that if healthy eating doesn’t include a healthy relationship with food, where all foods could fit, it wasn’t truly healthy eating.

healthy relationship with food

Here are four reasons why you may crave carbs, sugars and the solutions so you can finally have a healthy relationship with all foods and your body.

4 reasons you crave carbs, sugar and what to do about it

# 1 You crave carbs because you’re not eating enough food (and/or eating when hunger is “gentle”)

One of the number one reasons we crave carbohydrates is because we’re not getting enough food. Period. If you’re not honoring your unique biological hunger needs (which change every day according to your energy needs), your body will drive you to eat.

And guess what it will drive you to eat more? Yup, you guessed it – carbohydrates, sugars. Why? Because carbohydrates give you energy quickly – like kindling on a fire.

Have you heard of Neuropeptide Y?

Neuropeptide Y is a chemical produced by the brain that triggers your drive to eat carbohydrates, the body’s primary and preferred source of energy. NPY production is increased by food deprivation, under-eating and during stress. Eating carbohydrates produces serotonin which turns off production of NPY.

And did you know…

When your body is not getting enough of its preferred fuel source (glucose), it will break down protein mainly from muscle to convert it to glucose through a process called gluconeogenesis. This process comes at a high cost, as protein is then used as expensive fuel source instead of what it’s supposed to be used for: repair, maintains and builds muscle, hormones, enzymes and cells in the body.

It’s like using batteries in your toaster instead of plugging it in to use electricity – not efficient and potentially harmful.

When people lose weight on low carb diets it can be caused by losing muscle tissue – which is NOT what we want to be doing. Muscle tissue is your most metabolically active tissue (calorie burning tissue)!

KEY POINT: The more you deny your true hunger and fight your natural biology, the stronger and more intense food cravings and obsessions become. Furthermore, honoring hunger is foundational to being able to honor comfortable fullness (yes, read that again if you feel like you’re an over-eater).

Barriers to honoring hunger include:

✅ Diet culture rules: it’s not time (intermittent fasting), skipping meals to “save” calories, not eating after __ pm (even if you’re biologically hungry), diet plan says you can only eat __ calories, certain portion sizes, restricts carbs – so you feel hungry. You ignore hunger or at least try to using your “willpower.”

✅ Chaotic life: you’re too busy, over-scheduled. You can’t (your job doesn’t allow you to) or won’t stop and give yourself the gift of time to nourish yourself. Then by time you eat, you’re ravenous, hangry and might even feel “out of control” with your eating, or beat yourself up for craving sugar.

💡THE SOLUTION: Make sure you’re biologically fed with adequate energy and yes, carbohydrates. Ditch the diet mentality and its rules that take you further away from being able to tune and honor your true biological needs (Principle 1 of Intuitive Eating). Practice honoring your hunger when it’s gentle so that you can make conscious eating decisions and avoid triggering a primal drive to overeat (what you learn and practice in Principle 2 of Intuitive Eating).

# 2 You crave carbs when you’re feeling emotional, stressed.

First, nothing will make you feel more emotional than not getting your energy needs met (read that again). Thus dieting, restricting food (both physically and mentally!) is a stress on the body and can feel very much like emotional eating.

Also recall from above, that when you’re struggling with stress of any kind, such as an out of balance life, your body will produce Neuropeptide Y and trigger your drive to eat carbohydrates: your body’s primary fuel source.

Third, we are all emotional eaters to some degree because we’ve learned to equate food with love and comfort since infancy when we were held, loved and fed.

Anxiety, loneliness, boredom, and anger are emotions we all experience throughout life. Each has its own trigger, and each has its own appeasement. Food won’t fix any of these feelings. It may comfort for the short term, distract from the pain, or even numb you. But food won’t solve the problem. If anything, eating for an emotional hunger may only make you feel worse in the long run. You’ll ultimately have to deal with the source of the emotion. – Evelyn Tribole, Elyse Resch – Intuitive Eating

💡 THE SOLUTION: Cope with your emotions with kindness. These are skills that you will learn and practice in Principle 7 of Intuitive Eating.

# 3 You crave carbs and sugars because you have food rules that forbid them.

Humans don’t like to be told what to do period and that includes with food. We want autonomy over our food choices and nothing amplifies a craving like restriction. If we make something “off limits” – we will want it even more.

Nothing amplifies a craving like restriction

For example if you tell a toddler that he can’t have a special toy that his friend his playing with, guess what, he’ll want that special toy even if other toys are available.

Thus because of dieting, restricting or forbidding foods (physically or mentally not allowing them due to food rules) you’ve made certain foods “special” or off-limits.

A non-dieter that allows all foods in her diet has a completely different relationship with a pan of brownies. She may eat one or more and move on versus a dieter who is fixated on the plate of brownies and feels like he can’t have them in the house as he’ll eat the whole pan. Restriction and food rules cause the physical and or mental seeking – the obsession with forbidden foods.

And let me ask you, when you eat your “forbidden” foods, do you eat them consciously, slowly, truly savoring them? Or do you eat this food fast and distracted, trying to “get rid of the evidence?” In order to feel fully satisfied with any food, we need to slow down and bring presence to our plates. So many of my clients don’t really eat the brownie when eating the brownie. Satisfaction is a key piece of your nourishment.

💡 THE SOLUTION: You learn to make peace with food through a science-backed strategy called habituation and challenge the food police (Principles 3 and 4) by practicing removing all or nothing thinking (such as it’s either 100% bad or good) about carbs, sugars. Do you remember a time when eating an ice cream cone or having a sandwich with 2 slices a bread wasn’t surrounded by the food police? You can return!

# 4 You crave carbs because your meals and snacks are unbalanced.

Like I mentioned above, carbohydrates give you quick energy. But also like kindling on a fire, the energy we get from them burns out quickly.

💡THE SOLUTION: Build meals and snacks, in general, by including all three macronutrients – protein, healthy fat and carbohydrates. There’s no need for perfection – as that’s black and white thinking and, it’s not necessary to be healthy. Read more about building balanced “campfire meals” here.

And remember that carbohydrates include whole foods such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains and beans!

♡♡♡

It will take time to re-establish a rational relationship with carbs, sugars or your forbidden foods. But with consistent practice, over time, your body will learn to trust that you’re not going to put it on another self-imposed famine and/or forbid certain foods, either physically or mentally. Bagels and sweets will just be another food – nothing special.

Don’t let diet culture steal your life. Life is too short to waste another day struggling with food and your body.

So my lovely friend, I’ll be 100% honest with you. I’ve been teaching Intuitive Eating for years and have found that sure you can read the book, but if you would ♡ to get to where you want to go much easier and much faster, reach out for private coaching or join my next group coaching class!

P.S. If you’re not quite ready for coaching but want support, grab my free guide: 5 Steps to Stop Feeling Crappy in Your Body and Make Eating Easy and join my community to receive my free newsletter, Redefining Wellness! ♡ Tanya

Reject dieting and learn Intuitive Eating

Maybe you’ve heard that diets don’t work and believe that diet culture’s “thin(er) is better” messaging is toxic. Yet you, like millions of other Americans, still want to lose weight.

You find yourself wanting a healthy relationship with food but you’re bombarded by the “New Year, New You” pressure to transform your body.

That makes perfect sense. And I get it because I too, as a former fitness expert and “eat this, not that” nutrition professional, fell prey to the “wellness” marketing that says you must, “look good to feel good.” Who doesn’t want to feel good about themselves? But remember, it’s diet culture that masquerades as “wellness” that convinces you that only one body type is “healthy” and to tie your self-worth to your looks.

Every January the mental berating in your head goes something like this – “Why can’t I just eat well without needing a “plan” to follow? Why don’t I have the discipline to sustain “success” after 30 days?”

Following the rules of “healthy eating” and restricting your favorite foods is exhausting. You feel guilty for ordering a Domino’s pizza or enjoying a Ghirardelli chocolate square after dinner; it’s only ok to eat these “bad” foods on a “cheat day.”

You’re “good” when you control your portion sizes, yet you’re hungry in an hour. But now it’s after 7pm and you “shouldn’t” eat because the “kitchen is closed.” “How can I possibly be hungry? I just ate.”

Or maybe you “can’t” eat because you’re still within your 16-hour intermittent fasting window. The negative self-talk in your head is loud, rigid, and lacking self-compassion. You wish you could stop thinking about food and your body all day, every day.

Does this sound like wellness? No.

What’s creating all this food drama? Diets.

Learn Intuitive Eating and reject dieting

Diets teach us to follow food rules that restrict or ban foods rather than listen to our own body’s food and self-care needs. Many of us believe that “dieting” is healthy eating and good nutrition. It’s not. Eating healthy includes having a healthy relationship with food. It’s approached gently and respects biodiversity – different bodies, have different needs.

The ✨ good news ✨ is that you can:

Ditch diets and learn how to eat intuitively

Dietitians, Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch created Intuitive Eating in 1995, as an anti-diet, a response to the failure of “diet” plans. Intuitive Eating is a self-care eating framework with 10 principles designed to guide you back to attunement or body awareness – listening for and responding to your individual body’s needs for nourishment – physical, emotional, and psychological.

You were born knowing how to eat. As an infant, you cried when you were hungry and turned your head, refusing to eat, when you were full. But over time, you can lose this natural ability to honor hunger and fullness because external forces interfered.

  • Maybe you had to “clean your plate” even if you were full.
  • Or you were served portioned plates and not allowed to have a second helping despite being physically hungry.
  • Perhaps you weren’t allowed to have dessert unless you ate your vegetables.
  • And cookies or chips were forbidden foods in your home so when available you “binged” on them.
  • Or you learned that you “shouldn’t” trust your body’s signals when you first dieted.

So how do you return to eating intuitively?

“The first thing you do in Intuitive Eating is reject that diet mentality – meaning we’re not getting back on that diet this new year, we’re going to reject those juice cleanses and intense programs and start eating food when we’re hungry, we’re going to start making peace with all food,” says clinical mental health counselor and Therapy Thoughts podcast host, Tiffany Roe.

Interviewed on CBS News this month, Roe discussed Intuitive Eating as the antidote to dieting.

“The difference between a really healthy relationship with food and dieting is you feel connected to your body, you feel satisfied, you enjoy variety, you enjoy life, and you can listen and respond to all your bodies cues. Dieting doesn’t give us that result. Dieting is about restriction, obsession, fixation. And its short-term results never stick. We get stuck in this cycle of depending on dieting” says Roe.

So what if you want to eat pizza tonight and feel you shouldn’t?

“What I am going to say is going to go against everything we’ve learned in diet culture. Eat the pizza,” advises Roe.

“The dieting rules trigger an inner rebellion, because they’re an assault on your personal autonomy and boundaries” says Tribole and Resch. A 2012 research study “Dieting and Food Craving” by Massey and Hill provides evidence that dieters experience stronger cravings for the foods restricted on their plans compared to non-dieters.

Learn to eat intuitively and beat sugar cravings

A healthy relationship with food could be enjoying a green smoothie, because you like it – and pizza. Intuitive Eating takes an all foods fit approach to gentle nutrition where pizza isn’t “bad.”

Instead of restricting and banning foods, Intuitive Eating gently guides you back inside your body asking:

What do you need?

♡ Are you honoring your individual hunger and fullness?
♡ Which foods give you pleasure and make you feel good?
♡ And if not food, what are you hungering for in life – making a difference, more pleasure, connection?

You might have one big question:

Will Intuitive Eating make me thinner?

When your mind is stuck on your weight – the goal of diets, it interferes with the foundational concept of Intuitive Eating – body awareness – listening to the physical cues coming from your own body without diet culture “shoulds” and “shouldnts” getting in the way.

Intuitive Eating is an empowerment tool that guides you to trust your body to settle where it’s healthiest, not where diet and “wellness” culture says it “should” be.

Liberate yourself from diet culture and weight obsession in 2022. Reject dieting and eat intuitively. You are the expert of your own body.

To your happiness and health,

  • Tanya

Ready to transform your relationship to food and your body? Get started!

You might also enjoy Intuitive Eating: Do you need to relearn how to eat?

Sugar Isn’t Evil

Sugar and Its Effects

It seems like sugar-bashing is all the rage lately. Sugar-less diets and detoxes are everywhere, but I want to tell you something: Sugar isn’t evil. And trying to quit it 100% by using willpower can be super stressful and isn’t necessary.

Phew! Right?

Having said that, let’s look deeper at sugar and its effects on our bodies.

Consuming excessive sugar, natural or not, is not good for your health. Yet we have a taste bud for sweet so we were designed for sweet things. What happens, though, is that we humans tend to eat far too much sugar. What it boils down to is that how much matters.

The American Heart Association recommends 32 g or less for men, and 24 g or less for women of added sugars. If you look at coconut water (something that depending on the brand can be quite healthy), you’ll see that one tall can contain 24 g of added sugar! If you were to drink that entire can, you’d have your daily allotment of sugar gone already. Sugar can be sneaky so it is best that you’re informed.

Instead of white-knuckling it to quit sugar, these are my favorite tips to have a better relationship with sweet.

My top 5 tips to reduce sugar intake:

  1. Read food labels. How much added sugar does this product contain per a serving and how many servings are you consuming? Be aware.
  2. Build Campfire Meals to balance your blood sugar levels to help prevent physical sugar cravings
  3. Avoid artificial sugars. These artificial sweeteners can actually cause you to crave even more sugar and can cause a cascade of negative metabolic effects in your body.
  4. Look Deeper. What’s going on when you crave certain foods?
    Is there an emotional need you’re trying to fill? Notice if you crave sugar when you need more “sweetness” in your life. Next time you find yourself in the midst of a sugar craving, pause for a moment and bring more awareness to this craving. What are you feeling? What was going on in your day before this craving hit? The “pause strategy” can help you gain insight and begin to break the emotional need for sugar. My ultimate goal with clients is to find new ways to fulfill this emotion besides food, drink, excess shopping or whatever you tend to lean on. We all need a variety of coping mechanisms in our toolbox.
  5. Feeling badly about eating sugar and 100% restricting it is not the answer. It could be causing your cravings. Nothing intensifies a craving like restriction. When we practice the above tools, and re-learn how to Eat Intuitively, by listening to the physical sensations coming from our body instead of outside diet culture rules, we can have a healthy and happy relationship with food and our bodies.

Want to go deeper in exploring your cravings? Grab my free 5 page CURB YOUR CRAVINGS CONSCIOUSLY Tip Sheet.

The main takeaways

  • In general, be aware of the recommended levels of sugar for adults. Eat balanced meals and snacks in which something sweet can absolutely be included!
  • It’s completely OK and natural to enjoy dessert. Remember that sometimes restriction can make us want it more. And stressing about sugar can be worse for our health than anything on our plates.
  • We were designed with a sweet taste bud and we’re meant to have sweetness in our lives. Ask yourself: Are you getting enough sweetness out of life that has nothing to do with food?
  • You’re human (and life is too dang short) to avoid sweets completely. Relax, slow down, savor your ice cream cone, your birthday cake! All foods can fit in a healthy diet. Healthy eating isn’t “perfect” eating. It’s about what you eat for the most part, over time.

The key is to be mindful of the amount and quality of of sugars you’re generally consuming and how food choices or emotions may be driving your cravings.

Have a question about sugar, need help getting to the root cause of your sugar cravings?Reach out!

  • Tanya

Curb Your Cravings with Campfire Meals

Fatigue. Cravings. Mood swings.

These are three common complaints that can be avoided by building healthy balanced meals. One of the most important strategies to improve your nutritional and overall health is to learn how to create meals that stabilize your blood sugar.

When Your Blood Sugar is Stable

  • You will feel stable
  • You will feel more energized
  • You will feel mentally grounded
  • And your cravings will diminish

Many of us gravitate towards meals that are carbohydrate and sugar dense with minimal protein and healthy fat, especially at breakfast. When we start our days with this type of meal, we put ourselves on the blood sugar roller coaster of energy, mood and craving highs and lows.

Let me explain how protein, fats and carbohydrates work in the body to create a steady fuel source throughout the day. Making stabilizing meals is like building a campfire:

PROTEIN

Quality protein provides the structure of your meal. It’s like the teepee at your campfire. Each meal should include enough protein to create satiety, that feeling of fullness. To learn more about protein timing and to calculate your individual needs per a meal, read my blog post, All About Protein.

FATS

Quality healthy fats provide sustainable energy. It’s the log on your campfire. How do logs burn? Slowly and for long periods of time.

CARBOHYDRATES

Carbohydrates provide quick energy. Quick energy is perfect for when you need it but it burns out quickly, like kindling on the fire. It gets your energy revved up, but doesn’t last long. If you eat a breakfast that’s mostly carbohydrates and sugars, you may find yourself craving more food within a few hours because your blood sugar has crashed and along with it your energy and mood.

Building campfire meals is one of many steps you can take if you struggle with cravings for carbs, sugars. Here’s what else you can do: