I have been eating cake for the past 3 days, and I want off this ride. How could I slip and not practice what I preach!? Quelle horreur.
The wellness center where I practice held its one year anniversary last Thursday, an open house appreciation for the neighborhood and clients. Food, fun, festivities, and THIS CAKE:
Chocolate with chocolate ganache layers and buttercream icing. Made by a local San Francisco bakery using real ingredients (read: no trans fats or fake foods), but still, lots of sugar and white flour. Oh, it was so gorgeous. So gorgeous that I couldn’t bear to throw it out, so I volunteered the take home the leftover hunk to store in my freezer. So I thought.
Most of it made it into the freezer, but I started thinking about it. I sawed off a hunk and defrosted it and ate it. Then I sawed another hunk the next day and defrosted that. Hmph, I thought, I don’t feel too bad and this is deeee-licious. I was kind of low energy, but maybe I hadn’t slept well the night before. Or the night before. Then I crashed and needed a nap today around 4pm–the magic hour I always warn my clients about when they’ve had a sugary breakfast or lunch. When that happens, they crash in the afternoon. Just like I did! And the nagging sugar cravings! It was like I was fiending for that cake. Sugar is a powerful drug, ya’ll.
All it took was a few days of having this cake for me to get on that roller coaster of sugar cravings that I was giving into and then crashing as a result of. And once you get a taste of sugar regularly, it sinks its talons into you and you can’t escape the grip of those cravings. And you know what happens? You eat sugar and white flour-based foods that break down into sugar, and you get a pleasurable high. You also get a high from the gluten in the flour, which has a powerful endorphin rush effect as a result of the gluteomorphins plugging up feel-good receptors in the brain. Double whammy!
So you eat that cake and you get that rush and you feel ok because your blood sugar has soared, causing your cortisol levels to spike (ah–fight or flight!), then you crash. You feel foggy and fatigued and tired and you want more of that drug. This is the classic way a sugar or gluten addict spends his or her day–on that roller coaster. Once I get people off their coffee and pastry or their cereal and milk (yup, breaks down into sugar) in the morning, they are pleasantly surprised to find that a protein breakfast rich in healthy fats and void of refined ingredients like white flour and sugar leaves their energy levels stable and their minds clear–and they’re not a slave to the sugar/gluten drug that drives their cravings. This has not been me the past few days. And to make it even worse, my skin started to suffer. If for nothing else, dump the sugar & the gluten for vanity’s sake!
And once you get on that ride, it’s hard to get off, because, well, it feels good and tastes good. But the results are not worth it: cravings, crashes, irritability, foggy thinking, poor sleep at night, weight gain! That’s right, aside from the obvious weight gain that comes with sugar & gluten products, these foods actually make you hungrier! That blood sugar roller coaster increases appetite, and the foods that cause it raise cortisol, which increases appetite, fat storage, and inflammation = FAT. So here’s how to get off the ride:
(first off, a word of warning–if you’re a sugar & gluten addict, the first few days won’t be pretty. The cravings are brutal–once you take away the drug, you can expect some withdrawal. There are herbs that can help).
1) as I mentioned, start off with a protein rich breakfast, NOT a breakfast with sugar, white flour, or foods that quickly break down into sugar, like toast, gluten free breads, cereal, or oatmeal. Try chicken sausage sauteed with a handful of spinach and sliced avocado (my fave 5 minute breakfast); bacon and eggs with raw kraut; or a protein smoothie made with rice, pea, and hemp protein.
2) avoid sugar & gluten. It seems like a duh, but you have to quit cold turkey. Not even a bite here or there. That just makes the cravings linger. Get it out of the house and don’t look back.
3) eat every 4 hours to maintain stable blood sugar. Make veggies the base of your meal and get a palm-size of protein with a dose of good fats like olive and coconut oil at every meal.
4) like I mentioned, the first few days can be brutal. Try 500 mg of glutamine to kill the cravings, or look for a blood sugar stabilizing herbal blend that will help to quell cravings: something that has gymnema, chromium, biotin, and alpha lioic acid, for example. Trace minerals help balance blood sugar.
5) if you must have a sweet, do 70% or higher dark chocolate.
So, if you find yourself on that roller coaster, whether you’re normally “good” like me or whether you’re a lifelong sugar junky, you can get off the ride! Pick a day, clean out your house–get rid of all the white sugar, the white flour, the gluten products (which trigger cravings all on their own, and paired with sugar, boy, it’s brutal), and just do it! Give yourself at least 21 days of no sugar to really break the habit, and nothing sweet–no honey, no sweet fruits (like the tropical ones), no booze, which triggers sugar cravings due to the fact that it is liquid sugar.
GO forth & be sugar (and gluten) free!
Mary Vance is a Certified Nutrition Consultant and author specializing in digestive health. She combines a science-based approach with natural therapies to rebalance the body. In addition to her 1:1 coaching, she offers courses to help you heal your gut and improve your health. Mary lives in San Francisco and Lake Tahoe in Northern California. Read more about her coaching practice here and her background here.