Do you find yourself racing for a cookie or soft drink every time your blood sugar drops? This is a common occurrence for many people . . . so if you do it, you're definitely not alone.
Becoming a creature of habit doesn’t have to be a bad thing. While the initial steps to maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle can be tough, the end result will prove to be worth the effort. And since you’ll be feeling so energetic, focused, and happy, you’ll want to continue to nurture your healthy habits.
But diet advice encourages us to dive into a new way of eating without serious thought or sufficient preparation, right? No wonder it’s difficult to continue to "diet" when essential ingredients are missing from our shopping lists and our cupboards are full of foods that should be avoided.
And anyone who has been on a diet before will agree that the most difficult part of weight management is keeping the weight off. This article may help you to achieve long-term weight maintenance with suggestions on how to curb your cravings . . . and modify daily eating patterns to encourage a happier and healthier lifestyle, so keep reading . . .
Most of us have lost control and ate way too much at one time or another, only to regret it later. Who hasn't felt way too full after at least one holiday dinner? So why do so many people habitually succumb to food cravings and binge on sugar, despite intense feelings of guilt and a serious desire to lose weight?
Biologically speaking, it has to do with excessive insulin levels that are provoked by highly processed sugar and bad carbohydrates, which cause fat cells to suck up too many calories, leaving too few calories in the right places. When the bloodstream runs low on calories, the brain triggers an alarm, leading to false hunger a.k.a. cravings.
We specifically crave highly processed carbohydrates and sugar—chips, crackers, macaroni and cheese, cookies, soda pop, candy, and the like—for one simple reason: They make us feel better right away. The problem is, they make us feel worse afterward . . . setting up the next addictive cycle. In a sense, processed, sugary food is akin to cocaine or heroin, whose fast absorption rates increase addictiveness.
Cravings, unlike hunger, stem from the brain. And when we satisfy our cravings, our brain rewards us with opioids (the feel good chemicals that bring us feelings of pleasure.)
The same pathways and receptors in the brain that are stimulated during drug use or sex are also stimulated when a craving is satisfied. When put into the context of a weight loss program, that can spell disaster.
To lose weight naturally, a very simple scientific formula applies: Energy intake must be controlled and output increased in the form of activity. The part of weight management that's often open to debate concerns the amount and ideal proportions of marconutrients (good carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fat) that should be consumed in the diet.
Traditionally, increasing carbohydrate foods was encouraged to add bulk and satisfy hunger; however, the effect of unhealthy carbohydrates of blood fat levels and insulin response is better understood, and a diet that is a lower in processed carbohydrate intake and balanced nicely with protein, good fat (omega-3 fatty acids), and fiber is recommended by many nutritionists.
Eating a high protein, healthy fat, unprocessed (or minimally processed) carb diet that's high in fiber is just as good as other energy controlling diets in reducing weight. The difference is is that this way of eating is more effective in improving body composition. In other words, it enhances the loss of fat while retaining the muscle that's often reduced when losing weight.
In the New York Times best-selling book, The Virgin Diet, nutrition and fitness expert JJ Virgin explains that if you’re eating the foods that help balance blood sugar and hormone levels, you'll no longer have your junk food cravings, mood swings, or fatigue.
Ready to maintain stable blood sugar levels and lose weight naturally? Here are the 3 helpful, healthy habit forming tips gathered from nutrition expert, JJ Virgin.
You can easily develop new, healthy habits by eating a well-balanced combination of protein, fiber, and healthy fat. And according to Virgin, you can reduce cravings for sugar when your meals contain this trifecta. Eating this way leads to stable blood sugar, a healthy gut, and a happy mind.
Including a combination of protein, fiber, and healthy fat in your breakfast, lunch, and dinner may help you lose weight, too. The beauty is, protein and fiber can make you feel fuller with fewer calories, so you can start to burn off your stubborn fat without having to starve yourself or go on any kind of special diet.
Now for the fat part. Are you still not sold on eating foods rich in good fat? Although it may seem counterintuitive to eat more fat when you’re trying to lose fat, our bodies need healthy fats to function. The fats in healthy food are concentrated sources of energy. These fats are essential for health, and including the right type of fat is just as important as reducing the amount of saturated fats.
Omega-3 fatty acids are the ones you want to eat. These super fats reduce the stickiness of the blood so blood clots are less likely to block arteries. They also reduce the level of triglycerides in the blood, which are a major risk factor for heart disease. Omega-3 fats help the heart to beat regularly . . . they're the fats to choose for a healthy heart. And recent evidence has shown that omega-3s may also lower the risk of developing some forms of cancer.
The “low-fat” craze of the 1980s and 90s caused some significant damage. When health officials decided that low-fat was the key to health and longevity, problems surfaced. We replaced healthy fat with quick burning carbs and sugars, which caused many Americans to gain excess weight (some to the point of morbid obesity).
But thankfully, that way of thinking is beginning to shift. Researchers now realize that people who enjoy a high-fat diet are among the healthiest in the world. So if you want to satiate your appetite for junk food and lower your blood sugar, be sure to eat more healthy fat. Doing so will make it easier to avoid the quick-carbs and sugar, which makes long-term weight loss easier to maintain. The key is in choosing the healthy fats.
Here are some great healthy (omega-3) fat options:
The goal here is to take control of cravings and decrease your unhealthy food intake, but it’s important to give your body (and mind) time to adjust to new ways of eating and being. Take your time; introduce new foods and lifestyle changes slowly. Doing it all at once will likely leave you feeling burned out.
Start with simple food swaps such as trading white or whole wheat bread for almond bread. Opt for an organic corn or coconut tortilla instead of the flour. And in replace of regular pasta, go for some shirataki noodles or squash.
And if your sweet tooth remains relentless, try this delicious cacao bar recipe to curb your cookie cravings:
1 c. rolled oats 1/4 c. raw cacao powder
1/2 c. pumpkin seeds 2 tbsp. chia seeds
1/2 c. cranberries 2 tbsp. flax seeds
1/4 c. sunflower seeds 1 c. brown rice syrup
1/4 c. walnut pieces 1/4 c. pure maple syrup
Combine all ingredients in bowl and mix well, until sticky and evenly coated. Line 9x13 baking pan with parchment paper. Pour mixture into pan, and pat down firmly. Cover with foil, and refrigerate overnight. Cut in to squares. Enjoy!
Just as you can reprogram your brain for optimal health, you can retrain your taste buds as well. It may take some convincing, but set the intention to train your taste buds to savor some different flavors. You can do this by introducing more spice into your life, favoring sour over sweet, and increasing the heat.
After you begin to make better choices about what you eat and drink, practicing long-term maintenance is crucial as you transition to a healthier lifestyle. Once you have created new eating habits, don’t let your hard work go to waste! This sort of upkeep can be as easy as drinking a daily green juice or energizing smoothie. Most importantly, be gentle with yourself and listen to your body’s inner wisdom.
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NeuroGym Team: NeuroGym’s Team of experts consists of neuroscientists, researchers, and staff who are enthusiasts in their fields. The team is committed to making a difference in the lives of others by sharing the latest scientific findings to help you change your life by understanding and using the mindset, skill set and action set to change your brain.