Updated: Apr 7, 2020
Welcome to today's episode. I am Dr. Alison with Little Black Bag Medicine, and today we are talking about managing your cravings. This is really important because cravings are a sign that something else is going on with your body and we need to really be able to address it and figure out why you're having cravings, what to do about them, and why you need to eat the foods that you're craving.
Most of my patients who are experiencing pretty significant cravings, I would say wake up in the morning and they are not hungry and they're super cranky and they're exhausted because they haven't been sleeping all night. They usually go for a cup of coffee, maybe a muffin as they go through the drive-through, right? Get the kids breakfast, get them out the door, get their day started, and they're probably too busy. Most of the time they're too busy, they forget to eat, they put themselves last.
They are either too over-scheduled or too busy or even not hungry. They skip lunch and then all of a sudden around two o'clock they realize, Oh my God, I need to eat, and then maybe they binge on something like potato chips or sugar. They go for another coffee or another soda cause they're so tired, even though they haven't eaten all day. They go for something quick and then around four o'clock, boom, crashed on the floor, exhausted, can't function. Brain's not working. They're forgetting to pick up the kids after school or from sports and they can't make dinner. They're toasted, they're done.
And then usually they overeat at dinner. They binge on ice cream at night because they're starving and they're hungry and they just want energy. They get that second wind. And that's usually when fruit snacks come in.
No judgment telling you my personal story right there. And maybe you have a glass of wine or a beer and you're like, Oh man, I'm hungry now it's 11 o'clock. And then I'll try to go sleep. And you can't fall asleep. You can't stay asleep. You toss and turn, get up the next morning.
The cycle continues. I'm exhausted, I grab coffee, I grab a muffin or a piece of fruit. I don't eat until two o'clock in the afternoon. I've been get dinner or go out or eat. I'm healthy, can't sleep all night.
You see the cycle really, really starts to develop and it's easy to get in there, and it can be difficult to get out of the cycle.
What does this have to do with cravings? It has everything to do with cravings because this cycle is all about blood sugar. Crashing is all about food and nutritional deficiencies. It's about boredom and having bad habits. It's about hormone patterns. So that's what we're going to talk about today and really how to manage those things so that way you can correct your daily cycle.
Over time we're going to balance all of those things. And the cravings start to take the edge off. Okay, so let's start with blood sugar because to me, in my opinion, that's the most important. Especially because blood sugar regulates the brain, regulates liver and regulates the adrenals and it's going to mess with your hormones. If you can get those align, the rest of your physiology will fall into place and then you won't have as many issues. Right? So that's wonderful.
The story I told you is really the one about reactive hypoglycemia where the blood sugar is going up and down. We're spiking it with a muffin or fruit.
We're not giving it protein and then it's coming down and then we have caffeine. So we're really affecting our adrenals going up and down. And these cravings that we get are to fulfill your brain's need for quick energy so you can really stay awake, stay alive, keep thinking, keep functioning.
The first number one most important thing is to eat consistently throughout the day. That's where I want you to start. And I know that when you wake up in the morning, you are not hungry and you don't care. But if you can eat a little bit of food, mostly protein, you're going to start resetting your metabolism. Ooh, that's the key word. Because now we're talking about weight and weight loss and you're going to start feeding your brain and feeding your adrenals.
That way throughout the rest of the day, you're not going to be craving.
You're actually going to be hungry on a legitimate level. Eat breakfast even if you're not hungry. What I have a lot of my people do is dust. Have half of a protein bar, half of a protein shake, one boiled egg. It doesn't have to be a full sit down breakfast. It can be something small. And then an hour and a half later, drink the rest of the protein shake. Eat the rest of the bar, grab another egg or something small that you can keep in your desk at work or in your purse if you're out with the kids or if you're at home. So split it up, keep it on the counter set timers so you remember to eat consistently because we need your blood sugar managed.
Then with the blood sugar being consistent is going to help your brain have more fuel, is going to support your liver and it's going to take the pressure off your adrenals because your adrenals won't be forced to put out cortisol and up enough and is going to be calmed down because you're actually using sugar, fat, and protein for fuel.
The other thing is that if you're struggling with anxiety in your night eating and your adrenals are constantly being told to pump out cortisol, epinephrine, norepinephrine, it's going to make your heart race. It's going to make you feel like you're panicky, is going make you feel jittery and nervous, and you say, Oh my gosh, my anxiety, my anxiety. And really it's because you're not eating enough.
You're not eating consistently and your blood sugar's crashing all of the time.
The story is different with those who have insulin resistance, diabetes issues, but the story is still kind of the same that you still need to eat consistently. If you can test at home with diabetes, for your blood sugar, please continue to monitor that. But what I'd really like to do is as you're, you're eating more, you're eating more consistently to add any wider variety of foods of vegetables, eat the same thing every day.
So really your focus becomes protein and greens is really important. Add a green shake. So if you're really abhorrent at the thought of having more vegetables right now, start simple and get a green shake. I love the one from doTERRA. It's a great supplement to food. Have vegetables in your omelet. Find those sneaky little ways, like treat yourself like a five year old kid.
How did you get vegetables into your diet if you were five, right?
That's why like what is it the SpaghettiOs commercials like, Oh, we, we put vegetables in there and the mom's like, don't tell them we put vegetables in it, but really is, that's how we have to treat ourselves when we're starting this process. And as you start opening yourself up to new foods, you're going to find that you're fulfilling those deficiencies and you're not missing out on as much.
Let's talk a little bit more about deficiencies. Because there are all kinds of charts. I'll put one up here and on Pinterest as well for food cravings. But you know, most people say, Oh, if you crave chocolate, you need magnesium. If you're craving salt, you need trace minerals. If you're craving red meat, you need iron or you need B12. If you're craving sweets, you need chromium and zinc and all these other things.
And that's, that's absolutely true. And I think that you can supplement with those things, but I don't think it's necessarily going to take the cravings away. So if you start eating a lot of red meat, does that mean it's going to fulfill your iron needs? Maybe, you know, blood testing is really important when it comes to iron. And then really why, why do you have a B12 deficiency?
Is it something that's coming from your liver? Is it because you have an autoimmune condition with your stomach and you can't process it be 12? Is that a genetic issue? With MTHFR, we can list a million things with B12.
Just because you have a craving doesn't automatically mean that as a deficiency for a food or a micronutrient. It means that there's something going on. So you can, you can go out, you can try it. But also be aware that symptoms and cravings doesn't automatically mean that eating those things is going to fulfill it. Or taking a supplement is going to fulfill that.
On the other side of that, I always like to talk about red meat with us because if you're repulsed by meat and meat makes you sick and makes you gassy and makes you bloated, you probably have low stomach acid. You probably do have a zinc and B 12 deficiency. So that is something I take very seriously and my practice when someone says, Oh I don't eat red meat, you know, we really, really go into that because we want to make sure that the stomach is functioning properly, the liver and the gallbladder are functioning properly, that the gut is able to digest clearly. And that is not just an ethical preference, which is fine.
I want to make sure that the body is healthy because if you're not digesting, you're having all these issues because of red meat. We to check that out.
Next try trading in your snacks for like a different version two as well. So if you really like pretzels, try gluten-free pretzels. If you really like muffins, try a high protein mix like Kodiak cakes are really great as well. And then of course, you know, just simple things like trading milk, chocolate for dark chocolate can help with those cravings.
All right, so let's talk about boredom and habits because this is really where I'm, in my opinion, the Mombie attack comes in because you're just kind of roaming around the house, grabbing fruit, snacks, the kids, juice boxes, things that are available because we're really not thinking, we're not really not just taking care of ourselves on a really deep level. So first, if you find that you're eating because you're bored or it's a habit, try and you're not sure if it's hunger or you feel like, Oh, I'm hungry. I need to eat. Eat a small portion.
Get a chocolate bar, right? And have one little square and then take a break and see, okay, was that a craving? Was it hunger? Am I bored? And if you still feel hungry, you can, you know, keep eating. Eating is a good thing. Hunger is a good thing, but we need to make sure that you're eating because you're having that instinct to eat and your blood sugar is balanced, not because you're bored.
Another trick I like to do is, Hey, I'm really craving the super unhealthy thing. I'm going to have one small healthy snack first to satisfy the hunger. And if I still really, really, really need that thing, I will go ahead and have it an indulgence. So like have an apple, have carrots and hummus, a small to pre to help see if it's a hunger issue or boredom issue or craving issue. And that way you'll know, okay, well, all right, I had my carrots and hummus and man, I still want my ice cream. So okay. Have a little bit of it and really focus on the serving sizes as well. Look at the boxes, look at what you're doing, look at what you're eating because you can really manage how much you're eating and you can really open your eyes to, okay, I'm eating just a little bit.
This is perfect. I'm not overindulging or oops, I ate the whole box of ice cream or girl scout cookies or something like that. And you can really dive in and see what's going on with your brain. And then get out your journal.
If it's a boredom thing, start free writing about, all right, I'm really craving ice cream. I really, really need it. I feel like if I don't have it, I'm not going to feel good or my body's going to feel like that or I'm not going to be able to handle the stress without my ice cream because this is what I have to do. This is how I manage my stress and start diving into it and see what comes out on the other side. How can you manage your stress, your emotions without going for that food or without going for as much of that food.
So, okay, so you journaling, you think about it, you're like, all right, I'll have a quarter cup of ice cream and it's not a lot, right? It's just enough to satiate that feeling and then go back to your journaling and say, all right, well, I had this, I feel awesome. I feel great. I have enough sugar to like calm that craving. My brain's doing good or it's not enough. I need more. I need to eat the whole thing. What's going on and really just start taking a deep look at that.
And now if it's a habit thing really, you know, do something different. Shake your routine up, shake up your brain. And if you find that like you're halfway through the carton of ice cream or the bag of chips and you look down and you're like, Oh my goodness, what did I do? This is a bad habit.
Put it down. Don't judge yourself, right? You're in this learning process and that's when you can go, okay, I'm going to do like 30 seconds of hit or I'm going to go read a book or I'm going to go for a walk. Like do something different to change up your habits so that way you start recognizing when are these things happening.
A couple of other like small tricks I like to do, like peppermint is actually proven to help with cravings. So you know, you can smell it, you can have like a peppermint pizza, candy. I love the essential oil of it. I also like to use gymnema, which is an herb to help manage blood sugar. And it also helps with sugar cravings. So if you need to like stop yourself, you know, smile something, use an ERV that supports blood sugar, go do something else.
Really start tracking when your cravings are hitting. When is it during the day? Is it a stressful time at work or a stressful time at home? Is it right before dinner? Is it right before bed? What activities are you doing? What is your stress level? What are you experiencing? So that way as you keep going through your days, you know how to manage it. You know when it's coming. And it's not this big surprise like, Oh my gosh, I really, really should have known that I was gonna eat this bag of chips with lunch because I had this meeting or because I had, I'm not prepared because my kids were at swim lessons and now I like feel lost and I don't know what to eat and I don't know what to do.
When you're going through these things, really focus on what are different ways that you can manage your stress.
What different ways can you plan for your day so you're not lost, you're not confused.
If you're having trouble knowing what to eat, you can message me as well. And that's what we do in functional medicine is help you make a customized plan based on what you're experiencing, how your body is reacting and responding to what you're doing and how to help it function better through functional medicine. So you can feel like yourself again. So as always, I always offer a free 30 minute consultation for you to chat with me, get to understand what's going on with you, what's going on with your body, what have you tried, what hasn't worked, what has worked, and really make a plan with testing a customized plan for your lifestyle so you can feel like yourself. Again, thank you for tuning in today and we'll see you on the next episode.