Friday, February 20, 2009

Sugar cravings - how can you beat them?

Everyone has sugar cravings, but they seem magnified when you have type 2 diabetes - or at that's how it seems to me. I have managed to maintain my weight around 175 pounds after I lost 30 pounds in April - May of last year. This is a big accomplishment for me. I have lost weight before, but it came back quickly. I also had to exercise constantly or starve myself to keep it off. I am doing neither of those now.

I think part of my success is due to including raw dark green leafy greens in dishes and in juices. This gives my body needed nutrients and cuts cravings. I also think some success is due to some deep thinking and a mental flip I had to go through. Together these things have helped keep my food cravings at bay.

Sometimes it feels like I have two people inside me. There is the good person who says, "I need to lose weight," "I shouldn't eat that," "I should exercise." Those words will even come out of my own mouth or I'll type them or make resolutions.

Then there is a soft yet persistent bad voice that says, "give in to your sugar cravings and eat that. It's okay. Just do it." Sometimes that soft little voice works some magic and makes me forget about the other voice or my goals. Then after it's gone down the hatch, I remember my resolutions and feel guilty. I'm sure Freud has a name for this, but I don't know what it is. Some people would even say it's the devil, and I could totally see that! Totally.

What a lot of people don't know is that when you have diabetes, carb and sugar cravings can be much worse than a "normal" person. Have you ever taken a sleeping pill and felt the effects of those chemicals on your body? It's really hard, if not impossible to fight off sleep. Imagine being given a pill that makes you crave sugar or carbs. That happens in diabetic bodies everyday and I'll explain why. Once you understand, it's easier to resist with practice and trying to put some mind over the matter.

We all know many people with type 2 diabetes have bellies - but there are many who don't who are slender. What we all likely have in common is some intra-abdominal visceral fat. Intra ab-what? This is a special kind of fat, it gets in around the internal organs and grows and becomes an entity unto itself. It becomes a little monster. And it sends out signals to your brain and chemicals to the rest of your hormonal system to signal for behavior that will cause it to survive and grow.

So this little monster has a lot to do with the frequency and intensity of that second bad voice. It will talk to you like it's your friend - "just have a little more cake, it's okay, you deserve it" - but it doesn't care about you at all. It's wholly self-serving. It causes feelings of discomfort and stress if it doesn't get what it wants. It really doesn't care if you live or die.

What I do before I go to sleep or find myself in a quiet state is think about these two conflicting voices. I realize and envision that first good voice. That is the beautiful, healthy me. The REAL me. I love that me. The second voice is literally an ugly disgusting little monster inside my belly. It is NOT me. I get a picture of it in my mind...what I would look and feel like if I let it have it's way.

Another way to look at it, if you have kids or pets, is those times they bug and pester for something they cannot have. You have to stick to your guns out of love for them. Eventually the pestering stops or they can be distracted. It's the same thing.

Something else that many people don't know is that when you have diabetes you have excess insulin circulating in your body due to insulin resistance. Oral meds often increase insulin in your system, and of course injecting insulin adds more. Most of us know that insulin helps to escort sugar into cells to be burned for energy. However, insulin has other duties. Insulin signals for carb cravings, fat storage, and sends signals telling the body to not release fat for energy.

What can you do about this? First of all, knowledge is power. This is where your brain comes in. You have to pay attention to what are real cravings and what aren't. Sometimes you really may crave something because your body is wanting those vitamins or you really are hungry. You will crave something familiar that has those vitamins...but doesn't necessarily have a concentrated amount of them so you over-indulge to satisfy the need. You have to be mindful. Of course you still must eat, but pay attention to what you are putting into your body and what your body is asking for. Starving yourself is asking for failure.

If you suddenly have a very strong craving for carbs or sugar, then you can assume you are low on energy or it's your little belly monster. If you start to crave something specific like fried sweet potatoes or a can of cranberries - look up what the major nutrients are. Maybe your body is needing those and you can find a healthier alternative that provides those nutrients.

I try to look at what I'm about to eat and ask myself, "Is this enough to sustain me for the next three hours?" I think about what "real" serving sizes are and what was considered a serving size for my grandparents or great-grandparents when they were younger. When I do that, I often find myself cutting my portion in half or adding something that is more nutrient dense and less calorie-filled. It's okay to have a grumbly stomach a few hours later...and to feed that stomach as well. It's a balancing act. I've come to welcome my little grumblings a few hours later and take them as a good sign. At first I was really uncomfortable with it, but now I enjoy it.

Another thing to remember is when you do eat carbs or sugar, they will cause more cravings. So if you try to cut down or eliminate white sugar or white flour, you can cut down your sugar cravings a lot. Many people will say (and I've experienced this myself) that when you cut those things out, sometimes the cravings for those things go away. You go through withdrawal at first, but then they are gone.

There are times people give in to cravings because the food in question is something special, or something they don't usually get to have. They want to have that treat now for fear they won't get another chance. Nobody wants to feel deprived. There is no reason why you can't have it if you can fit it into your diet plan.

If you can't have it now, write it down. I have a friend who religiously keeps a little notebook and pencil with her. When she sees or craves something and she's already eaten or she's trying to have a good food day, she'll write it down. When she can have a treat, she'll remember and won't feel deprived. In her diet, she is really good during the week and has treats on the weekends. So often I'll see her enjoying something with that notebook open in front of her, haha. For her it works, she is one beautiful skinny biatch.

People often say eating raw food is easy because you don't have write anything down if you follow the rules. As a diabetic who tries to be "mostly raw," I have to write down when I've eaten something outside the rules. It's too easy to forget that I had some meat yesterday morning, some roasted nuts, or some bread with dinner last night. So I write it down. That way I can really keep track of what percentage of raw I'm eating. Also, I still try to pay attention to total carbs, protein, and fat.

There is a really great website for analyzing foods - a great resource for beating sugar cravings. If you have never used that site, I highly suggest trying it out. It is really interesting to see graphical representations of the make-ups of different foods. You can put in what you ate for the day and see how nutritionally complete it was.

You CAN get a handle on those cravings, and you CAN beat down that little monster. YOU ARE NOT ALONE. As you lose weight and exercise you won't have insulin interfering as much. Remember you deserve health and happiness more than you deserve that brief pleasure from over-indulging in that chocolate cake and the detrimental effects it will cause later.

This won't happen overnight either, and you'll slip. The little belly monster will make you forget everything I've written here. When it happens, remember, it's not your fault. Forget about the mishap and move on, keep trying. Try to get into the habit of being mindful when you eat or are hungry.

YOU ARE NOT ALONE. When you start to feel down because of the struggle, remember someone over here in Arizona is going through the same thing and is sending you good vibes, wishes, and encouragement.

Need to vent? Even if you aren't "mostly raw" feel free to make use of the "Venting" folder in my Rawbetes forum: We'll listen and understand. :)

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