With the start of the New Year millions of Americans have opted to start living healthier lives. People vowed to get fit. The gyms are full to capacity. With the decision to get fit in 2014 millions have also decided to eat healthy. It is thrilling that so many people understand the concept of healthy eating in association with a fitness program and weight loss plan. My gym is doing a 7 day Cleanse Challenge. Members were challenged to detox the body of unhealthy foods and substances in 7 days. This requires dedication to clean eating. The members were all thrilled to participate. There was so much excitement. But why is it so hard, even after only a few days?
It is not because you lack self-discipline, motivation, and dedication. It is not because you are weak and a failure. I am here to help you understand why you have those cravings. I am here to explain why healthy eating is so difficult, but I am also here to provide you a solution to help you get through cravings. I am here to help you be the BOSS!
The concept of “clean eating” is hot right now. For one it is effective. For another it is in your bodies best interest to eat clean. Clean eating means eating food as natural as possible. Eating clean requires omitting all processed foods, foods with added chemicals, and products. Generally these products added to foods give the food flavor. It is the yummy stuff. Eating clean illuminates these flavorful items from you diet. Don’t get me wrong, clean eating is yummy too, it just doesn’t have the other products added to give extra flavor. Think of clean eating as not having to do much cooking. With clean eating you simply heat (by baking, broiling, grilling, warming, etc) the food because you will not have to add any additional products. So there is another perk of clean eating, it is simple!
So many people that dedicated to eat healthy started the journey with excitement. They bought delicious whole foods. They searched recipes and meal planned. The first few days of a clean diet are easy and exciting. However, clean eating becomes difficult generally about days 3-5. This is why such a large number of people abandon their healthy eating goals after only 14 days. Are we unmotivated, undedicated, and weak? Not necessarily.
If you are not accustomed to clean eating you have been consuming foods that can be addictive. Your body is addicted to food. Your body is most likely addicted to 3 types of foods.
- Sugar – That sugary, sweetness changes your brain. Sherry Pagoto in Shrink noted that your body craves sugar because chemicals in your brain change. These brain chemicals tell you, you want sugar. You can probably guess which foods contain sugar, but there are foods you may have been eating that also contained sugar. Foods like bread, pasta sauce, salad dressings (even the low-fat, low calorie kinds), protein/health bars, and canned fruit. You may have been eating some of these foods thinking you were making healthier options, but the amount of sugar in them cause your body to want more sugar.
- Sodium – According to CBN News sodium triggers a chemical in your brain, called dopamine. This brain chemical makes you feel happy. When we feel happy our body and brain want to continue feeling happy, so our body will crave more sodium. Sodium also makes you want to consume more sugar. Foods that contain sodium are salad dressing, soups, bacon (even my beloved turkey bacon), cheese (yep, even the lower fat kind), and popcorn.
- Fat – Fat, also triggers your happy brain chemicals. We also crave fat foods because brain chemicals are triggered that support a feeling of comfort and saity. (Are you getting the point our brain just wants to feel good and it will do whatever it can to feel that way?) Fat does not satisfy for long, therefore we are left lacking and hungry for more. Foods with fat that you may not have been avoiding are popcorn, crackers, vegetable shortening, margarine, and many frozen foods.
When you start clean eating you detox your body. Your body functions as it should and it clears the processed, unnecessary chemicals out of the body. This is the goal. But 3-5 days after not receiving the addictive foods they body starts to miss them. The body yearns for it. The body craves it. The body screams loudly that you NEED to eat something that you have been restricting. Your body wants sugar, salt, and fat.
This is why most diets fail. The same chemicals that receive the food in your stomach are also in your brain. Serotonin, another brain chemical responsible for mood, is also in your gut! Not only that but the nerves in the brain that transmit brain chemicals are also in the gut! Don’t believe me?!? When you feel anxious, nervous, upset you probably get that fluttery, upset stomach feeling. That is because the same mood chemicals in your brain are also in your stomach.
So you craving food is normal, biological, expected. Your body is doing what it knows to do. Your brain, and apparently, your gut want to stay happy and feeling good. The body has learned that certain foods make us feel happy. That strong desire to eat a food, that is a craving. The problem is when people get a craving, they feel they NEED that food. Truth is, your body will be OK. If you are consuming healthy, balanced foods your body will be OK. You need to tell your gut brain to be quiet! Here are 10 statements you can tell your gut brain when a craving arises.
- I am feeding my body food it needs to be happy, healthy, and fabulous!
- I am strong!
- I am not weak! I am human and this is a natural, biological process. My body will adjust!
- I am in control of what I eat and I eat foods that satisfy me and sustain me.
- I am making healthy choices and my body appreciates me for that!
- I am making choices that my body loves, and I love myself for making these choices.
- I can have balance, and I can enjoy food, but right now I am choose to eat foods that will heal my body.
- I enjoy foods that are healthy, nutritious, and good for my body.
- This craving is a normal reaction and it does not mean I need to eat the food I am craving.
- I have love, support, and fun that sustains me and makes me happy.
Your body will adjust. Your gut brain will learn that it is satisfied and sustained and those cravings will decease. If you are feeling weak or feeling like a failure, you are not! Your gut is not the boss, YOU are!