Wanna curb your sugar cravings in a flash?

Wanna curb your sugar cravings in a flash?

I talk to my clients a lot about listening to their bodies and letting their instincts tell them what they want and need to eat, how to move, and so on. Often the noise of our lives makes it hard to hear what our bodies are saying. Here’s a story about me forgetting one of the basic tenets of my own food philosophy. !!

Dave left town for a three-week tour. Though I’d much rather have him around, when he’s gone one of the things I enjoy is eating on my own schedule – dinner is usually earlier than we eat when he’s home. I also tend to eat lighter when he’s gone.

So. He’s gone, and I’m eating early and eating light. I had started a sugar fast as well. It’s going great and I’m feeling good….

Until.

A week into my sugar fast I’m noticing that I’m craving sugar. This is weird – usually after three days I don’t notice it at all. No big deal – made myself a mashed sweet potato with toasted pecans and maple syrup. Cured that.

But then, a couple of days later I’m craving sugar again, powerfully. Low energy, cranky too. And hungry, despite the fact that I’ve been eating pretty well (or so I thought). Towards the evening I start spiraling downward and feel about as bad as I’ve felt in a long time. Trying, trying to figure out what the problem is.

Suddenly it dawns on me: I’ve eaten almost no protein at all in a week! When I finished a bean soup and some lentil bolognese I’d made, I didn’t think about it again. I had vegetables and grains – what else did I need?

Uh…Protein!

I bought a piece of chicken and some pork from Whole Foods and ate it practically cave man style, with no vegetables or anything. It took a couple of hours to return to normal but eventually I did. I vowed to pay more attention to my body, which I had been neglecting in the rush to complete some projects. And of course I thought “I should write about this.”

The moral of this story is that we need protein on a regular basis. In addition to giving us energy, protein plays many roles in the healthy function of the body – building and maintaining muscle tissue, digestion, immunity. Hormonal balance.

Like many people, when I’m not getting enough protein I crave sugar. I’m not a scientist, but I suspect it has to do with levels of the hormones insulin and glucagon getting out of whack. Whatever the reason, it happens and I know it. I shouda/woulda/coulda seen it coming this time but I didn’t, and ended up eating in a completely uncharacteristic way. If I had been paying attention, I would have been supplementing the grains and veggies with my usual plant-based sources of protein and some occasional meat, and would have had no problems at all.

Of course, everyone’s protein needs are different. If you crave sugar, you may not be getting enough. If you’re not eating some protein at least once a day, experiment with increasing the amount to see what happens to your cravings.

On the other hand, too much protein can harm the kidneys or cause your bones to leech calcium, not to mention the effects you already know of eating too much high-fat meat. Here’s another thing – eating too much meat can also cause you to crave sugar!

Frustrating, right? So what’s a person to do?

You gotta find the right amount of protein for your body and lifestyle. If you eat a lot of meat, experiment with plant-based sources of protein like beans, high-protein grains, tempeh and tofu. If you don’t eat meat, make sure you’re getting enough protein for your lifestyle and activity level from that same list. Ladies, I’m talking to you – if you exercise every day, eating cereal (or nothing) for breakfast and a salad for lunch ain’t gonna cut it. If you crave sugar, you probably need more protein.

Couple more things:

  • Stay away from those fake meats with the ingredients lists as long as your arm.
  • If/when you do eat meat, be sure to eat it with lots of vegetables.
  • Protein bars aren’t food.

So, how about you? Do you eat meat? Do you not? Do you crave sugar? What do you notice about your body’s protein needs? I want to hear from you! Leave a comment below. And, if you think this speaks to someone you know, please share it.

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