If you're finding yourself in a sugar stupor, riding the roller coaster of ups and downs, the four steps I'll discuss in this post are for you.
I know it can feel so very frustrating to feel stuck. Logically, you know you should do better, but every time it comes time to say 'no,' you don't have the resolve to follow through.
This was something I felt in my own life in the first 4-6 months of my postpartum experience. Although I was eating 90% Power Foods Lifestyle moderate carb method, I still CRAVED and WANTED that extra sugar.
Sure, let's give me grace (and you, too, for any mommas who've been in my shoes).
I wasn't sleeping through the night. Most nights were 6 hours--total. My baby was never a great sleeper, in spite of doing sleep training programs. I was nursing (requires more carbohydrates and, thus, cravings can happen when our intake drops too low). I was stressed out as my work began to pick up beyond what I had intended while I was pregnant (I wasn't too good at setting work boundaries yet).
All of these factors compounded to provide compelling reasons to explain my sugar cravings, but still, I didn't necessarily love the feelings of a) holding onto extra body fat due to my little sugar fixes, b) bloating and gassiness that ensued when eating these higher carb/sugar foods, and c) the lack of highest self esteem that resulted in my psyche. This, I knew, resulted from a lack of alignment from what I believed about nutrition and had set forth as my values, but then deviating from it in my behavior. Lack of alignment in any of us brings about a lowered self esteem.
I knew it had hit an all-time bad place when family and friends had learned my specific dance and song I'd created to describe this sugar craving:
I did a swaying side-step-together and side-step-together while swinging my arms left to right, ending with a snap on the beat. "It's suuuuuuga time! It's sugaaaaaa time!" I would sing with a silly look on my face.
Inevitably, it made these loved ones laugh because they've known the more disciplined Kristy for the past 8 years. "Hey! It's so nice to have you be like the rest of us!" I heard declared more than once.
I share this because I want to validate what you may be going through as you work to beat your sugar cravings.
And the reasons behind them vary extensively from person to person.
But just as I slowly and gradually stepped out of the snare of this sugar cravings monster, I believe you can too. Below are four steps that will help you begin taking control back.
Remember it's a journey, and your main goal is to do a little better than you did the day before.
Just walk forward, not backward.
1. Get Enough Protein At Each Meal
If you are not intentional about it, getting enough protein at each meal is a simple contributor to your sugar cravings. For the majority of women, using a .8-1.2 grams per pound of bodyweight rule-of-thumb helps you find a good ballpark. The majority of women I've coached thrived on between 100-140 grams of protein per day. That number should be broken up as evenly as possible between the number of meals you eat per day.
If eating 5-6 smaller meals, using the PFL peak range of 15-30 grams of protein at each meal will help you achieve this. If eating fewer meals than this, your range of protein needs at that meal will increase.
When a meal has enough protein, you help anchor your blood sugar. It does not vacillate in the highs and lows nearly as much as without enough protein. When blood sugar crashes (without enough protein), your body will naturally turn on sugar cravings for carbs to get that blood sugar back up.
Check out one of my earliest podcast episodes about prepping protein here.
2. Find the Right Ballpark Carb Intake for your Body, Goals, and Activity Needs
Your carbohydrate needs are not the same as your mom's, your sister's, or your best friend's. It is so important that you learn what your body needs for your height, weight, body composition goals, activity, and even your digestive response.
While it is always best to be guided to these answers in a personal coaching session, I've outlined a few helpful tips below:
If you are sedentary, meaning you sit the majority of the day and have no active workout habit, your carbs will be best in the range of low carb.
If you easily hit between 5,000 and 10,000 steps per day, yet have 15+ lb. to lose, your carbs would be best in the range of low carb.
If you have an autoimmune condition, IBS, other digestive issues, arthritis, headaches, or any other intolerances, going very low carb or low carb may be the best place to start for you.
Now with all that said, you may think I ONLY advocate for low carb or very low carb, That's not true at all. You may easily be able to lose weight and feel better following a moderate carb diet. The key is that you're tracking, aware, and eating in a caloric deficit. If you can do that, you can easily succeed while still "eating carbs."
The key is to "know thyself," as I always tell my clients.
Once you know what YOU need, what triggers your wants psychologically, and how your body responds physiologically, you will know! And knowing is the prerequisite to following, and reaping the rewards of compliant behavior in your eating.
These carb thresholds are outlined very specifically in this blog post:
Very low-carbohydrate (<35 grams of carbohydrates per day)
Low-carbohydrate (36-100 grams of carbohydrates per day)
Moderate-carbohydrate (101-170 grams of carbohydrates per day)
High-carbohydrate (171 grams of carbohydrates per day)
Plan your Meal Times to Stay Ahead of Hunger
As a new mom, my baby became priority. For the first time in my life, I found myself skipping breakfast, forgetting about lunch, and then eating whatever I could get my hands on in the afternoon.
What?! I would think. THIS ISN'T ME!
Once I was able to get a grip on the fact that my lack of intention and focus on myself wasn't working out, I stepped back into Coach Kristy mode to find some solutions.
I needed to plan my meal times, set alarms in my phone, have some quick meal ideas I could easily prep and eat, and go from there.
It worked like a charm! After only a week of practicing this, I found I didn't need my alarms any more. The habit had kicked in, and all I needed was the jump start.
Do you need to set alarms in your phone and have SIMPLE meal/snack ideas ready to go? Tune into this podcast episode where I give you some ideas of what to do.
Intentionally Create OTHER Dopamine Hits For Your Needs
This is a deep topic that I will only touch on briefly here.
Dopamine is a feel-good chemical in your brain that you may have heard about. There are many things in life that can give us a 'dopamine hit' that results in pleasurable, happy feelings. For many of us, certain foods can absolutely smash that dopamine button.
When you crave sugary foods, your brain is telling you it needs a dopamine hit for one reason or another. Your job is to start figuring out what is lacking in your life, or what emotion is triggering your brain's response mechanism to help you feel better.
Are you exhausted?
Not sleeping well?
Stressed out about work?
Stressed out about money?
Stressed out about kids?
Stressed out about your partner?
Feeling lost and forgotten?
**or a bazillion other feelings that belong in this list**
It's amazing just how vast our emotional fieldhouse is, and what can bring our state down to the point our brain wants to step in to help.
SUGARY DONUT? OKAY! THAT WILL MAKE IT BETTER!
THOSE CRUNCHY, SALTY CHIPS? OH YEAH, LIFE WILL BE BETTER THEN!
THAT CHEWY, WARM BAGEL? HECK YES, WE WILL BE OKAY!
Once you start to become more mindful and aware of how your emotional barometer is from minute to minute and hour to hour, you can stop and ask yourself what you ACTUALLY need to get a different dopamine hit. While this list can often enter the wheelhouse or your local therapist (like getting marriage or grief counseling or meeting) or meeting with a debt repair specialist to find solutions, sometimes the answer is quite simple:
* take a walk
* get a drink of cold water
* go to the bathroom
* focus on your breath for 1 minute
* take a bath
* call a friend for a pick-me-up conversation
* hit a workout
* get out in nature
They key is that YOU ask yourself: What is it I actually need? and seek to find the solution rather than letting someone else tell you what the answer is.
** end of four steps**
I hope these four simple steps give you a plan of action, and something to feel confident about applying immediately. The answer to most of our nutrition and health dilemmas is more planning, intentional meals through preparation, and being mindful and aware of our emotions. These are easy to know, but they're another ball game to apply.
If I can provide any guidance to you that would help you navigate the complexities of your own life in applying these principles, I would love to see you inside one of my coaching sessions. Learn more at www.PowerFoodsLifestyle.com/coaching as sometimes, it's just one session you need to get clear on the best approach for you!
Keep going! Keep your chin up! I'm cheering for you!
#PowerYourBody one meal, one workout, one day at a time!
~Coach Kristy Jo
p.s. check out some of my delicious snacks and desserts recipes that totally meet that sweet tooth in my recipe books here.