One of the biggest concerns of women is that they eat emotionally. In other words, there are times when all they think about is food, and that desire for a particular item becomes so intense that great lengths are taken to satisfy cravings.
Picture this: You really want a particular brand and flavour of ice cream. But it’s not an ordinary brand and you drive from store to store looking for exactly the flavour which will fill that void for high sugar or high fat food. It’s amazing how far we’ll go for what we desire at that time, but we wouldn’t cross the kitchen floor for a stalk of celery because it doesn’t have the same satisfying effect.
And there’s a good reason for that. The general consensus among experts is that emotional and hormonal issues are typical contributing factors to food cravings. In fact, hormonal changes tied into the menstrual cycle of women will often trigger such experiences, as estrogen and brain serotonin (feel good hormones) levels drop. Quite often this contributes to a feeling of tiredness and lethargy, as well as depression.
The downside of these drops is a signal from the brain to eat. Because the body feels tired, the natural response is to reach for those foods we know will give a quick pick-me-up, such as a simple sugars, processed starches or junk foods.
Women may not overtly recognize this signal, but they instinctively respond to it. Regardless, the effects are always the same: cravings lead to eating foods such as cookies, ice cream or donuts and the body responds with a rapid increase in serotonin levels, making you feel good temporarily.
Refined, carbohydrate rich foods or sugars are converted to glucose, giving quick energy. However, this little pick up is short-lived, while the crash is long and ugly because of low blood sugar levels. And these are often exasperated by eating too little during the day, or consuming too few calories.
There is a vast difference between refined and whole grain carbohydrates. The refined variety is processed, meaning it is stripped of nutritional value, inducing sugar spikes. Therefore it is extremely important to consume complex carbohydrates in smaller amounts, even when trying to lose weight. This is because glucose provides fuel for the cells, especially the brain cells.
What about stress?
Stress can trigger food cravings in the form of refined sugars or junk foods, so it’s not always a matter of willpower. These deceiving “fixes” make you feel temporarily good, but like a drug, once the high leaves, you feel miserable about the entire experience.
It’s a vicious cycle because the urge to indulge is strong; perhaps more so than feelings of guilt. You know you can feel good again anytime, if you just indulge. You’ll feel guilty, but it’s so good, right?
Women have different body chemistry, some with stronger, some with weaker hormonal and emotional ups and downs. But one thing is for certain: all can benefit from smaller portions of wholesome, unrefined foods spaced evenly throughout the day (5-6 portions). If you get a craving, try a cup of green tea, some plain yogurt with peaches, or an apple with natural peanut butter. It’s amazing what the calming effect these foods have.
Too many are on calorie restricted, or high protein, low carb diets which MUST end in spectacular crashes and subsequent weight gain. Remember, you’re in this game for life and short-term diets have no part in this. Complex carbohydrates regulate blood sugar and help you think clearly and without anxiety. Some examples include:
**Oatmeal or any cereal that you have to cook
As you eat your meals throughout the day, make sure to include a couple of small portions of healthy fats such as Olive or Coconut oil to slow down carbohydrate digestion. And eat more protein and vegetable as part of a healthy and diversified attack on food cravings.
Exercise also is an integral part of your new lifestyle plan because it is a great way to control cravings through the release of endorphins. That means you get the same sort of high as reaching for an extra cookie or ice cream, believe it or not.
You need to avoid turning to junk foods as a coping mechanism. They may feel good, but they WON’T help. Learn to re-train your brain to spot the triggers to unhealthy, emotional eating: having the blues, being extremely tired, enduring cramps or period induced mood swings. Even a hard day at the office or enduring a stressful argument with a spouse may lead you down the wrong path.
Then try the tips given throughout this article for a healthier and proven approach to emotional eating. I’ve tried it on hundreds of clients with great success and I know you can do it also.