Sugar Blues and Food Cravings

The food you eat can be either the safest and most powerful form of medicine, or the slowest form of poison.
— Ann Wigmore, Holistic Health Practioner, Founder of the Ann Wigmore Natural Health Institute

From trick-or-treating, Thanksgiving pies, holiday cocktails, Christmas cookies, and seasonal lattes, we are now quickly approaching Valentine's Day sweets, and then Easter candy will be well on it's way. It seems like there is always a reason to indulge, and let's be honest: sugar is EVERYWHERE! 

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For most of us, at this point in the year- also, our New Year, hello! the time of renewal and refreshment- we're left in this weird funk, feeling blah, and wondering if we'll ever be able to feel good again. "Like, where'd that summertime confidence go?" Am I right?

If you're saying to yourself, "yep, sugar has absolutely zero chill", and are feeling like your bod needs a breather from the sweet stuff, you could be experiencing a touch of the Sugar Blues... 

Because let's be real: we'd like to think that sugar's only in the sweet stuff, but it's also found in our sandwich breads, crackers, coffee creamers, salad dressings, ketchup, mustard, deli meats, breakfast sausage, cheeses, canned veggies, peanut butter, tomato sauce, cereals, and even in our sweet little baby's food!  

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So, let's break a few things down: 

  1. Our lives turn out completely different when we're eating well & when we understand food, because (real talk) what we eat changes everything. 
  2. Our food goes into our stomachs and as it's digested, it begins to enter into our blood stream. 
  3. Our blood is what creates our cells, our tissues, our organs...heck, even our thoughts! (We think differently when we have a cake doughnut for breakfast compared to when we make ourselves some eggs and veggies, no?)
  4. We also feel differently when we drink coffee or alcohol...or when we eat sugar. 

So, now that we're all on the same page here, this is an excellent opportunity to get a handle on what we eat and drink. Not through willpower or discipline, and definitely not through restriction, but by understanding what causes those crazy, uncontrollable cravings and knowing that you can reduce them naturally over time, by crowding them out of your diet.

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Why Do We Experience Cravings? 

Once we can take note that our bodies are these magnificent bio-computers that never make mistakes, it's easier for us to conclude that cravings are these critical pieces of information that can help us understand what our bodies are needing. 

Firstly, balance is key. Our bodies are constantly striving for equilibrium. And likewise, my professor always says, given half the chance, the human body will heal itself by itself. 

Going back to Ann Wigmore's wise words, the most powerful way to maintain this "energetic balance" within our body, is through nutritional therapy, or healing with food.

So to break it down even further, there are two different types of foods: yin foods, and, (you guessed it!) yang foods

Our yin foods are our expanding foods. They're predominantly high in refined sugars giving us a sense of lightness and elevation in mood, releasing us from stagnation and blockages. So, fruits, veggies, greens, etc.

Our yang foods are our contracting foods, typically heavier foods like animal meats, cheese, eggs, etc. These foods are high in protein, giving us strength, increased mental and physical power and aggressiveness. 

Eating too much of either of these types of foods will cause our bodies to feel imbalanced. It's also common to experience bloating, lethargy, and you may start to feel mentally slow. We'll then start to crave the opposite type of foods to maintain that energetic equilibrium.

This is where ya gotta dig deep, folks! I'm talking deep like it's blazing hot, you're in the middle of the toughest, sweatiest hot yoga class, if your teacher makes you do one more chaturanga you may never come back up, and you finally realize that the absolute only way you're going to make it through to savasana without embarrassingly passing out on your mat in front of the super cute yogi practicing shirtless next to you, is by listening to your breath!

In other words, your diet should be based on you (the super cool individual!) not the theory (social media trends, pop sugary health articles, or what your grandma used to eat at your age). What feels right for the most important Y-O-U. 

Variables that can contribute to cravings:  

  • Dehydration
  • Lifestyle (dissatisfaction, boredom, lacking a spiritual practice, etc.)
  • Seasonal (try eating more in accordance with the seasons... see what happens!)
  • Lack of nutrients (inadequate mineral levels can lead to cravings for salty stuff, poor overall nutrition can lead to wanting that quick caffeine fix)
  • Hormones (when testosterone and estrogen levels are in flux, funny unique cravings can hit you like a tidal wave!)
  • Ancestral/childhood foods (comforting foods that we ate as a child can still bring us temporary comfort in challenging times) 
  • Yin/yang imbalance
  • And the sneakiest of them all: De-evolution (when life couldn't get better, sometimes self-sabotage happens, craving foods that throw us off, which then leads to craving other foods to get us back in balance. Can you say low blood sugar and crazy mood swings? yikes.)
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Craving sweets? Hop on this train:

  • Eat fruit to get a naturally sweet taste
  • Eat sweet vegetables, such as sweet potatoes, carrots or squash
  • Drink kombucha, seltzer, or filtered water with a splash of juice, instead of soda
  • Bake your own sweet treats using natural sweetners
  • Eat more grains. Chewing well will release their natural sweetness
  • Pull out the blender and make a green smoothie using frozen mango, banana, or pineapple

Five Ways to Reduce Sugar Consumption:

  1. Swap out sugar-covered cereals with an item that has five ingredients or less- trying to keep it under 10 grams or less of sugar per serving (and only eating that single serving!)
  2. Focus on whole grains, vegetables and fruit
  3. Replace sugary sport drinks, soda and juices with naturally sweetened water, teas or milk
  4. Crowd out ice cream with icy snacks like homemade frozen sorbets and yogurts, and one of my favorites: frozen banana "nice cream"
  5. Crowd out candies, cookies and cakes with wholesome, satisfying snacks like:
  • apples and peanut butter
  • peaches and plain yogurt 
  • whole wheat crackers and cheese, etc. 
  • homemade granola with nut milk
  • homemade popcorn with olive oil, nutritional yeast, salt and pepper

Other information that your cravings are trying to tell you: 

Flavors: 

If you're craving...

  • Salty foods = mineral deficiency
  • Sweet foods = (feed your fix with the ideas above)
  • Bitter foods = your bod is asking for nutritious foods
  • Pungent foods = healing; enhances organ function 
  • Spicy foods = weak circulation; your organs and extremities are cool

Textures:

If you're craving...

  • Creamy = stagnation/ dryness
  • Crunchy = you're probably not chewing enough; chewing enhances natural sweetness in foods, and digestion
  • Liquids = excess of salty or dry foods; baked goods
  • Crisp/ dry = too many liquids
  • Light/heavy foods = fats/ oils, salads/raw foods

Non food cravings: 

  • Entertainment
  • Creativity
  • Movement
  • Hugs; touch; sex
  • Social engagement 
  • Personal time
  • Education 

The Many Names of Sugar:

  • Brown sugar
  • Confectioners, or powdered  sugar
  • High fructose corn syrup
  • Dextrose, or glucose
  • Honey
  • Invert sugar (mix of glucose and fructose) 
  • Lactose (milk sugar)
  • Levulose, or fructose
  • Raw sugar
  • Sorbitol, mannitol, maltitol, and xylitol (sugar alcohols)
  • Sucrose, or table sugar
  • Turbinado

Last but not least: If you take anything away from this post! Know that your body loves you unconditionally and will always try to maintain energetic balance.

It is our job to feed it the right foods and activities! 

In health and happiness, 

Molly