Why do we crave carbs?
Have you ever felt this intense, sometimes uncontrollable, craving for pizza, pasta or a gigantic piece of chocolate cake? Yes? Well, this is an all too common occurrence when our body is trained to eat carbs for energy. When we eat carbohydrates, we experience a spike in our blood sugar levels. This makes us feel full and satisfied, and frankly just plain happy.
We need it:
Sugar, or glucose, is used by the brain as a fuel source to promote regular brain functions like thinking, memory and learning. Glucose is necessary for human survival. However, in today’s American diet, we eat way too much of it.
We need to refuel more often:
Sugars from simple carbohydrates are quickly metabolized and create a very quick spike in energy, commonly referred to as a “sugar high”. These types of sugars, however, are as quick to energize, as they are to leave us feeling the “crash”. When insulin is released to bring the glucose in our bloods to our cells, our blood sugar becomes low. When our blood sugar levels are low, we can experience side effects such as fatigue, hunger, and irritability, or the dreaded combo of the later “hangry”. Because we digest simple carbohydrates so quickly, we need to refuel more often.
Sugar = Reward:
According to some studies, sugar releases dopamine, a chemical that signals to our brains that we are being rewarded positively. Whenever starting a diet, have you ever looked forward to your “cheat day”? Or told yourself that if you eat really healthy this week, you can allow yourself to have a couple of your favourite chocolate chip cookies? Or salivated at the sight of one of The Rock’s Instagram posts about his syrup covered french toast smothered in peanut butter? Yes? We have effectively conditioned ourselves to reward our good behaviour with the exact behaviour we are trying to eliminate.
It makes us feel better when we are sad:
Because sugary and carby foods make us feel happy when we eat them, many of us have developed a coping mechanism whereby we use candy bars and sodas to help us deal with emotional strife. And so instead of dealing with our issues through counseling, meditation or conversations with loved ones, we dive into the freezer for that Klondike Ice-Cream Sandwich. It’s quicker, less work and sometimes we’d prefer to revert to the flight option.
It’s an ADDICTION!
More and more studies are concluding that excessive sugar intake can in fact lead to sugar addiction. Sugar releases dopamine, a neurotransmitter that stimulates reward-motivated behaviours and behaviour reinforcement. Substances that reinforce self-administration can cause dependence. In other words, sugar makes us feel rewarded and happy, and we want to keep eating it so that we can keep feeling rewarded and happy.
Do you ever feel anxious and irritable anytime you stop eating sugar? Something completely takes over your self-control and you can’t stop yourself from reaching for that candy bar. When we begin to restrict our daily carbs and deprive our bodies of its regular sugar intake, we begin to enter a state of withdrawal. Our bodies begin to become unbalanced and we can begin to feel anxious, irritable and even depressed. Here are some additional symptoms of withdrawal:
- Fatigue, lethargy and weakness
- Difficulty focusing
- Body aches
These symptoms are also similar to those that come with the keto flu.
For some of us fighting with decades-long sugar addiction, it can seem like an impossible mission. Here are X ways to help ease the pain:
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