Monday, March 29, 2010

Dealing with Carb Cravings

By Rick Kiessig

Like many people who move from a grain-based diet to Paleo, I too had trouble with carb cravings at first.

My solution was two-fold. First, I had tried a number of times in the past to ease my way into a low-carb diet, and ended up failing every time. This time, I decided to go cold-turkey. Although the first two or three weeks were very difficult, it got easier after that. The other thing I did was to find something that I liked as well as carbs, that was an acceptable Paleo food, but that had also been considered relatively taboo previously. In my case, that ended up being cream, in several different forms (plain, mixed with a little milk, mixed with baking cocoa, whipped, etc). If I had a carb craving, I trained myself to have a cup of cream instead. Rather than just drinking it, I eat it with a spoon to make it last. At the end of the cup, I found that the carb craving was almost always gone. If it wasn't, I would drink a large glass of water, and that usually did the trick.

Two things I found to cause big problems in the craving area were the taste of something sweet (even toothpaste), and the smells of some carb-rich food cooking, such as bread or pizza (often coming from other family members who don't eat like I do). The problem is that those tastes and smells can cause insulin to be released, which will lower blood sugar, and make you hungry. My solution was to eliminate anything sweet tasting from my diet for the first three months or so, and to replace the carb-rich smells with fat-rich ones, such as bacon. At the end of the three months, I found that sweets tasted much sweeter than before, and that I actually preferred slightly bitter foods (unsweetened baking cocoa is an example).

After being on Paleo for about 6 or 8 months (and losing 35+ pounds in the process), I fell off of the diet for about a week. I didn’t go back to my old ways, but “just” had one carb-rich item a day (rationalizations are a dangerous thing). However, by that time, my body had adjusted to low-carb, and as a result, I felt really terrible: fatigue, new aches and pains, and even bloating. Plus, I gained about a pound a day. After that brief experience which tied the theoretical to the concrete, it was easy to see how bad the carbs were for me, which also made them very easy to avoid. I never want to feel like that again.

Everyone is different, YMMV, but that's what worked for me.

For more reading on the subject of how to overcome carb cravings, I recommend Nora Gedgaudas blog post, "Taming The Carb Craving Monster". /Christian

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