10.5 weeks: Cravings and taming the savage beast within.

Triple burger challenge many years ago.

Triple burger challenge many years ago.

One of the greatest things that I’ve been handed down from the genetic pool is an amazing metabolism.  I can put just about anything in this body with little visible effect.  I also realize that just because I won’t gain an ounce of fat from inhaling a week of fast food doesn’t mean that I won’t develop chronic health conditions like diabetes and cardiovascular disease when I eat poorly.  I choose to eat healthy because I like it.  I don’t have cheat days or meals because I don’t think we should reward ourselves for doing something by doing something horrible to it.  I’m not a dog, so I’m not going to reward myself with a treat every time I sit and play nice.  It’s not that I don’t crave anything sweet or salty, I just don’t romanticize and obsess about it like a person that’s about to peel back the cover and start reading 50 Shakes of Grey.  I learn to own my cravings instead of letting them control me.

We’re lead to believe that our cravings for refined sugars and simple carbohydrates are carnal.  They’re like beasts lurking in the shadows waiting to pounce on us in a moment of our weakness.  A bowl of chips or a piece of candy acts like a piece of bait luring us into a trap forcing us down this spiralling pit of despair.  At the bottom of that pit we find ourselves filthy and covered in crumbs and wrappers.

I’ve been asked a few times about my vices, what’s my weakness that would potentially derail all of the progress?  I usually reply that I don’t have any anymore.  It’s entirely true.  I’ve learned that vices and cravings are usually outlets for stress, both physical and mental.

Part of the reason why we crave simple carbs like candy and chips is because our bodies need an immediate source of energy due to stress.  Both physical and mental stress force our bodies to want to store energy for immediate access.  The most basic form of energy are carbohydrates that store into fats.  Our 2013 brains have been wired over time to crave carbohydrates in the form of refined sugars and processed foods.  Likewise, those “comfort foods” that we crave have also been modified to enhance these flavours and emotional associations.  When we make statements like “I’m a stress eater” or “I love chocolate” we’re really creating this self-fulfilling prophecy where when we’re stressed our brains will immediately want these things.  We need to own our cravings instead of letting them control our bodies and minds.  But how do we rewire our brains to think this way?

1) Identify the cravings: one of the biggest things we need to do is stop keeping unhealthy foods at very accessible locations.  A big bowl of M&M’s on the kitchen counter gets eaten because we grab a handful every time we walk past the counter.  We don’t notice the habit until we see it in our bulging waistline.  When we can identify a craving we stop and understand how we are feeling in the moment.  We own that moment and the craving.  We identify whether or not we’re stressed and find ressources to deal with it aside from food.  If you chose to indulge then do it mindfully and savour a small piece of the treat.

2) Eat often and eat healthy composite meals: our bodies need to process healthy meals that are well rounded containing carbohydrates, fats, proteins, fruits and vegetables.  If we cut out the carbs for prolonged periods of time like some of the diets suggest, then our bodies will eventually crave these things.  Most diets that function on calorie restriction are detrimental to our cravings because we aren’t supplying our bodies with the right amount of nutrition.  When we crave something it’s because our bodies need the nutrients that are found in the treats but in low amounts.  Eating proper amounts of calories for our bodies ensures that we crave less.

3) Change your thought process: stop calling it a craving, or a cheat meal, or whatever cute name that’s in the nutrition lingo.  Call it what it is: it’s life.  These words all have negative connotations behind them.  They wire our brains to think of food as this epic battle between good and bad in our bodies.  Our minds think that when we cheat or grab something that’s not as healthy, evil has conquered over us and we need to climb our way back to good.  Savour what you eat and enjoy it mindfully.  I say I don’t cheat because I know that the one piece of chocolate that I may eat every few weeks won’t actually derail my nutrition.

Tame your inner beast and take responsibility for your actions!

About Chris Tse

I’m a scientist turned owner of Blitz Conditioning, a Fitness Columnist at CBC Radio on Thursdays at 8:20 am, and owner of Tse Social Strategy. Follow me on Twitter or Read my full bio.

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