Tuesday, Sept 4, 2012
USING A LOW CARB (LCHF) DIET PLAN TO STOP CRAVING SUGAR AND CARBS
There’s a doughnut shop a couple of blocks from my house that makes the most wonderful iced doughnuts with coconut on top. In the past, before I stopped and ended my sugar addiction, that little shop would drive me crazy. Every time I went by, I’d think about one of those doughnuts – and I had a habit of getting one or two regularly, to celebrate almost any insignificant event – like it being Saturday – stupid stuff like that! Now, with a low carb diet plan, or LCHF (low carb high fat) Diet as they call it in Sweden, I no longer have that problem, and rarely stop at the doughnut shop.
I am a very happy man, now that I have finally learned how to stop craving sugar. I not only don’t have those strong emotional needs for donuts (and other sweets) but also don’t have a physical need – a strong hunger so powerful I feel almost weak and trembling. I’ve also lost weight, can fit in my old jeans, and according to my doctor am healthier than I’ve been in a decade. The purpose of this blog is to pass on what I’ve learned about carbohydrates – what they do to us, why they have that impact on us, and what our options are in gaining control over this addiction to sugar and carbohydrates.
First, I’d like to define what I mean by “craving sugar”. It obviously means the addictive acts of eating too many sweets because we crave them. You’ll notice that I refer to sugar and carbs together. They are in fact the same thing. Sugar is a simple carbohydrate (in that it is digested quickly), whereas other carbs (called complex carbs) are digested more slowly but can have the same impact as simple carbs if too many are consumed. The concept of craving for sugar also includes craving carbs and, has a powerfully negative impact of metabolizing sugar and carbs (digesting them and converting them to energy or fat) when we do so in excess. This negative impact is much broader and extensive than most people imagine. To drive home this last statement, if you think that you crave sugar mostly because you lack the motivation to stop, you are totally wrong. Sugar and carbs have such a strong influence on your whole body, that getting off them is rarely possible by just having the will to do so. Many parts of your body will scream to keep on eating sugar and carbs when you try to stop. To stop, you have to understand what these factors are and how to “stack the deck” so you can use willpower plus knowledge to finally stop your craving for sugar.
Sugar and the refined carbohydrates such as pasta and bread we eat today are a relatively new food for humans. Our bodies, in fact, are still better equipped to live off of primarily animal products and a few nuts that our paleolithic ancestors grew adapted to. In other words, since these sugars and carbs are relatively new to our human systems, we are still not quite handling them correctly. That is, in a nutshell, why we are getting fatter and fatter, the obesity rates are rising, and we are having more and more problems with staying away from sugar. We are like a kid in a candy store – this wonderfully sweet stuff is just too much for us.
The purpose of this blog is to provide useful information and guidance on these issues so that you can take the correct actions to rid yourself of sugar or carbs, if they are impacting your life negatively. In the following sections, I’ll cover in more detail the health risks associated with sugar and carbs, why sugar does this to us, methods you can use to gain control of sugar and carbs in your diet, and information on the types of diets available.
THE HEALTH RISKS OF SUGAR AND CARB ADDICTION
Our bodies aren’t supposed to consume much sugar or carbohydrates. A small amount of blood sugar (glucose) is needed in the blood stream for various reasons, which can be produced from foods other than sugar or carbs, so you can get by with no sugar or carbs at all. If too much glucose shows up in the bloodstream (as will happen with eating too much sugar), the glucose damages fine blood vessels in various tissues in the body leading to very serious health problems over time. To avoid these, in the long-run lethal, concentrations of glucose in the blood, a hormone called insulin is secreted by the pancreas into the bloodstream to stimulate metabolism of the glucose by body tissues and, for high levels of glucose, conversion of the glucose into body fat. This is only a short term protective mechanism, however, and breaks down over time if sugar or carbs are consumed in too great a quantity. Overconsumption of sugar or carbs leads to the following health risks which are all related to glucose and insulin.
- Overeating Leading to Weight Gain: Overeating foods high in sugars or carbs raises glucose levels in the blood stream which can lead to sugar highs (a high-energy euphoria) and lows (hunger and weakness). A sugar high occurs just after the food is eaten. Within an hour or so, a sugar low occurs because the insulin has over-reacted to the food by converting too much of the glucose into fat. This leads to overeating and weight gain.
- Metabolic Syndrome: If assessment of a patient’s current condition results in the following 5 results, Doctors may use the term, Metabolic Syndrome, to describe the patient’s overall risk for future health problems. All of these assessments relate in some way to weight gain (which is caused by sugar and carbs). Overweight patients tend to suffer from these issues.
- Elevated triglycerides: Equal to or greater than 150 mg/dL
- Elevated waist circumference:
- Men — Equal to or greater than 40 inches
- Women — Equal to or greater than 35 inches
- Reduced HDL (“good”) cholesterol:
- Men — Less than 40 mg/dL
- Women — Less than 50 mg/dL
- Elevated fasting glucose: Equal to or greater than 100 mg/dL or use of medication for hyperglycemia
- Elevated blood pressure: Equal to or greater than 130/85 mm Hg or use of medication for hypertension
- Diabetes: Type 2 Diabetes (adult onset Diabetes) tends to occur in overweight patients. Since this condition is essentially an intolerance to carbohydrates and sugar, the link between these foods, weight gain, and this condition are well recognized.
- Heart Disease and Alzheimer’s Disease: These conditions are more and more being recognized as being related to overconsumption of carbs and sugar.
WHY SUGAR ADDICTION LEADS TO THESE HEALTH RISKS
Craving Sugar is a symptom of sugar addiction. If you avoid sugar altogether, you will over time, not crave sugar anymore. So if you’re craving too much sugar, you are no doubt eating too much of it – or eating too many carbs. The reason why sugar and carbs in a diet lead to all the health risks mentioned above is the protective mechanism of the body, which attempts to limit the levels of glucose in the bloodstream, as explained below:
- Sugar Highs and Lows: When you eat too much sugar, it drives the glucose levels high enough in the bloodstream to drive up the amount of insulin secreted into the bloodstream to reduce the glucose levels. Since sugar levels like this are so high, the insulin response, for many people, becomes so excessive that almost all the glucose in the bloodstream is converted to fat, leaving the blood stream with hardly any glucose left. This leads to hunger, trembling, weakness, and an overpowering desire to eat something sweet. The insulin has done its job in keeping the glucose levels low in the blood stream, but the net result is overeating – and weight gain.
- Insulin Resistance: The role of insulin is to stimulate absorption of glucose by bodily tissues (like muscle and brain tissue) which then burn it for energy. At high levels of insulin, (which occur when glucose levels are high) the body accelerates glucose absorption by storing the glucose as fat. When insulin levels are high for a period of months and years, however, body tissues develop a tolerance to it. In other words, the tissues react less to the insulin – it takes more insulin to achieve the same result. This is called Insulin Resistance. Insulin resistance is associated with many health risks, as it accelerates weight gain, causes insulin levels to rise, and is associated with many health risks.
- Sugar Addiction: Sugar highs and lows accelerate the consumption of sweets, leading to a preference in taste to sweets, more consumption, and a spiraling weight gain.
- Economics: The demand for sugar and carbohydrates in our stores and restaurants has led over time to the development of cheap products and foodstuffs that are loaded with sugar and carbs. This has reached the point now that it is much cheaper to eat meals that are high in sugar and carbs than to eat a healthy, low carb meals.
- Withdrawal Symptoms: Excessive amounts of carbs eaten over years leads to a dependence on these foods that truly will cause adverse withdrawal symptoms if sugar and carb consumption is stopped.
HOW TO STOP
There are definitely ways to get off of sugar and carbs. In fact there are different approaches to suit how different people may want to approach this. The following are some approaches you may want to consider:
- Gradual Lifestyle Change: Gradually changing your diet to remove sugar and carbs is the most effective and least disruptive approach to getting off of sugar. The problem with this approach however is that it is very difficult to stick with such changes over the months and years it takes. The presence of sugar in the diet encourages its consumption, requiring a great deal of will power to, day after day, ignore the attraction of sugar.
- Cold Turkey diet restrictions: This is the stop eating sugar now approach. Most diets you purchase online or read about in books effectively pull you off sugar immediately.
- Sugar Detox: Programs of this nature take you off sugar and make it easier to tolerate by suggesting foods and eating patterns that make the transition to a non-sugar lifestyle easier to handle.
- Prepared Meal Dieting: These are diets that rely on special diet shakes, bars, or specially prepared meals. They have the advantage of rendering the diet easy to follow – just eat the meals prescribed for the diet. The downside however is that once the weight is lost, the dieter doesn’t know how to eat normal food in a way that will maintain the weight loss achieved by the diet. So after these diets are over, the dieters often regain the weight lost – and are back again going on the diet. It’s a wonderful business model for these diet companies!!
NUTRITIONAL CHOICES TO CONSIDER FOR A DIET
Diet programs vary in how much sugar is allowed and in the nutritional approach, with the purpose of making the diet as easy to tolerate as possible. All of them restrict carbohydrates in one way or another to achieve weight loss and it is often difficult to sort out the differences between them. They fall roughly into the following categories. If you are looking into how to stop cravings for sugar and end your own battle with sugar addiction, I recommend you use only the Low Carb Diet Plan or the Paleo Diet.
- Low Carb (LCHF) Diet Plan: With this diet, carbs are restricted and the dieter is encouraged to eat as much dietary fat as possible with a moderate amount of meat. This is the winning diet, from what I have read, because the dietary fat provides needed energy, keeping the dieter energized and not hungry in between meals and snacks. It is also the healthiest diet.
- Low Fat Diet: The Low Fat diet restricts dietary fat in particular, allowing modest amounts of meat and carbohydrates. It is difficult to follow because the lack of both carbs and fats makes the dieter hungry in-between meals.
- Low Calorie Diet: This diet restricts calories in both carbohydrates and fats and like the low fat diet, leaves the dieter hungry in-between meals, rendering it difficult to follow.
- Paleo Diet: The Paleo, or Caveman Diet, limits the dieter to the types of foods available to our paleolithic ancestors 10,000 years ago. It doesn’t allow carbs or grains and is generally limited to meats, some vegetables and nuts. It is effective and healthy, but has the disadvantage only for those few who don’t like to prepare their own meals according to Paleo Diet recipes.
Be careful with Supplements. You’ll run into them either as standalone dietary supplements you use (without changing your eating habits) to lose weight or as a suggested or required component of a diet program. Consider asking yourself the following questions before spending your hard-earned money on them – as follows:
- What is the proof that this supplement works? There should be some solid clinical studies to support its use. Don’t accept studies of generic nutrients, like fiber. They should be able to prove how well their specific (often expensive) supplement works.
- If the supplement is used with a diet program:
- How do you know if the supplement is helping? In other words, if the diet suggested is a low carb diet, the success of the program may be solely due to the diet, not the supplement sold with it.
- When did you find out about the supplement? Some diet programs don’t say much about supplements until you are somewhat engaged. Then they tell you that the diet doesn’t work without the supplements and, by the way, it will cost you hundreds of dollars a month for them. Ask yourself whether this is their business model – selling you supplements.
- What are the supplement costs? In some cases, these companies will tout the benefits of a fiber supplement for instance and provide you with all kinds of studies on the value of fiber in the diet. They then insist that their particular fiber supplement is the best or has proprietary ingredients. Look up the cost of similar supplements on the internet. Make up your own mind whether they have proven to you that their supplement is worth the extra cost.
How does the Low Carb Diet work? Rather than get into a serious (and long) discussion here, view Tom Naughton’s humorous film on developing a healthy skepticism about what people tell you about nutrition and his view, which I share, on how the Low Carb Diet works. It’s an entertaining and excellent introduction to carbohydrate restriction nutrition. Click on the image to see it free on Hulu.
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I’m here to help, so let me know if I can help with your low carb diet plan or getting off of sugar in any way. Contact me at Joe AT CravingSugar DOT net. If you like what you see here – Share It at the top of the post!!