10/31/2012 06:01 pm ET Updated Dec 31, 2012

Can't Stop Craving Carbs?


Let's continue our exploration of cravings. In my last post, we discussed how stress causes us to crave carbs. I also mentioned that sometimes, simply being hungry will do the same since carbs readily convert to glucose.

Here's the thing. All foods eventually get broken down into glucose; it's just a question of how difficult that conversion is. When the process is more difficult and takes longer, the effect on your blood sugar is far more stable. If you are trying to maintain an even keel throughout the day, it's a good idea to keep your blood sugar in a stable range because you will feel better, have more energy and mental clarity, and will ultimately stress your body less.

If your craving is due to stress like I discussed in the last post, then managing stress is key to gaining control over what you eat. In this case, what you eat at the time of your craving also matters. It's really important to give your body food that provides energy and has as many nutrients per calorie as possible. This means that when you are hungry, a slice of bread is the last thing you want to have! Literally!

When you eat, a whole host of really cool processes occur in your body. When your mouth tastes something sweet (bread, cake, cookies, candy, pasta), it tells your body to get ready to digest carbs. It also signals the pancreas to release insulin to deal with the glucose produced by digesting those carbs. Immediately, your blood sugar spikes from the carb load, then plummets due to the effect of the insulin.

Now, if you eat something that contains protein, and it is the first thing that goes into your mouth before any carbohydrate, a whole host of different responses occur. As your body prepares to deal with protein (any meat, shellfish, nuts, bean, soy), insulin also gets released, but not to the same extent. Your blood sugar still rises during the digestion process, but not as high or as quickly. Because it takes your body longer to digest these foods, you remain satisfied for longer periods.

If your blood sugar is stable, you no longer have wild swings or experience as many cravings because your body doesn't feel like it is starving.

To play devil's advocate, there may still be times when you experience a craving. We'll explore more on cravings next time, since you can solve many of the problems. The important thing to remember is not to lose hope. Rome wasn't built in a day. Sometimes you will forget to wear your new lifestyle shoes, but they'll be waiting for you when you get home!

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