Category Archives: cravings

The Kraken aka Sugar Beast

The deep brain desire for sugar does not ever entirely go away, though it can be, as it were, caged by denial of sugar-starch-artificial sweeteners. I am a writer who likes analogy, to have concrete mental images of those more abstract issues. For me, the Clash of the Titans movie, the first one I saw in 1981, had the beast, the Kraken, caged deep in the ocean by Poseidon who controlled it.  This was very powerful imagery;  as indeed all the Greek mythological gods and creatures were meant to  be.

As I struggled with a growing problem of cravings for carbohydrates, those urges/cravings were to me like the Kraken; if I could keep the beast caged, then I would be fine. Admittedly, it took me a while to figure out how to permanently lock the beast deep in my limbic brain. For me that is complete abstinence from modern sugars-starches, and all artificial sweeteners save a small amount of stevia.

Like the mythological Kraken, this is no beast to toy with; either it is caged, or it is running rampant over the landscape of my brain. For me it is extremely destructive on several levels, not the least of which is weight gain. Indeed, many people suffer from mental health issues that seem to miraculously go away once they go on a ketogenic or  very low carbohydrate paleo-type food plan.

So, if you are  also in the throes of the Kraken, be assured you, too, can cage the beast; but, beware, open the cage a little and it will come roaring to the surface once again, more powerful than ever.

Yours in being in control,

Nan aka Sugarbaby

More on Why Artificial Sweeteners May Worsen Cravings

Here is the article:

The brain knows when it needs sugar and can’t be fooled by artificial sweeteners, even if it is sweeter than real sugar.
A new study has found that the brain can differentiate between real and artificial sugar. What’s worse? Eating food with artificial sweeteners will only increase cravings for sugary treats later.
The brain’s reward system is highly activated when the body receives a sugary solution rather than artificial sweeteners. Researchers at Yale University School of Medicine USA, believe that the research might explain the reason behind increasing obesity rates despite artificial sweeteners existing for years now.
Food seasoned with artificial sweeteners is extremely popular. In the U.S., about 30 percent of people eat stuff that has sugar substitutes. Previously, Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine, had published an article about artificial sweeteners’ effect on the body. Another recent study had found that drinking a can of diet soda can increase the risk of diabetes.
Researchers in the study argue that eating food containing artificial sweeteners, especially while you are hungry, will make you consume more sugar later.
In the study, researchers looked at specific brain signals that are associated with determining the difference between sugar and artificial sweeteners. These signals regulate the release of dopamine levels.
Dopamine is a chemical messenger and affects processes that control behavior, emotional response and more importantly the ability to feel pleasure. The chemical plays a major role in addiction.
The study was conducted on a group of mice and researchers looked for specific brain circuits while the mice were fed sugar or artificial sweeteners.
“According to the data, when we apply substances that interfere with a critical step of the ‘sugar-to-energy pathway’, the interest of the animals in consuming artificial sweetener decreases significantly, along with important reductions in brain dopamine levels,” said Ivan de Araujo, who led the study at Yale University School of Medicine USA.
“This is verified by the fact that when hungry mice – who thus have low sugar levels – are given a choice between artificial sweeteners and sugars, they are more likely to completely switch their preferences towards sugars even if the artificial sweetener is much sweeter than the sugar solution,” de Araujo said in a news release.
So, can there be a sugar substitute that can help people reduce weight without punishing the taste buds?
“The results suggest that a ‘happy medium’ could be a solution; combining sweeteners with minimal amounts of sugar so that energy metabolism doesn’t drop, while caloric intake is kept to a minimum,” Araujo said.

The study is published in the Journal of Physiology.

Stress Can Cause Cravings

I have been doing exceptionally well staying very low carb, and not feeling cravings. Some days ago, though, I received a call early in the morning telling me that my youngest sibling had died, which was expected since he had advanced cancer, but I as we do even when we think the passing is a blessing, I was very sad, cried, and was mourning that little boy of our childhood who lives so brightly in my mind.

Later that evening I found myself overwhelmed with cravings. I managed by eating good things, and not having a carb binge, but it took some effort. I was very surprised by this, considering how well I’ve been doing. Further, this kind of sadness often works just the opposite in me, and I lose my desire for food; so this seemed almost obscene to me.

I mention this because we all have lives of ups and downs, sorrows and joys, and that vast array of emotions that come with living.  Just a few years ago I would  have descended into a sugar-starch binge from such cravings, but I didn’t this time because I have a plan. I did eat more, but it was all the right kind of food.

We can never know exactly how we will react to the stresses in our lives, but knowing that a common reaction to stress is an increased craving for high carb foods at least gives us some armor.

Yours in loss,

Nan aka Sugarbaby

Patience is Important if not a Virtue

We always want to fix our issues now, even though the problems may have taken years to develop. Patience is hard for western people who are driven to achieve, to succeed, to perform, to make it in whatever way we think is important. Patience is not our strong suite; excepting those in the minority who do have patience. We often don’t have the ability to try to new things, to stick with it,  to wait and see how they work. So it goes with changing habits, foods, and all behaviors. Part of us doesn’t really want to change, another part does. It is something of a contest to see which part will win.

I have gotten more patience with age, but it is not easy to wait, even if the time is going to pass regardless; there is that part of us that wants the reward now.  We would likely all be doing great if we got the rewards first, then just had to manage the success. (I know this would not be true in all cases.) Part of the work of change is just waiting for time to pass.

My mother used to tell me I was “wishing my life away”; for, in summers particularly, I would be whining about not getting to do this or that, and would be anxious for time to pass since I lived out in the country away from friends and the fun things that were part of the school year.  I think many of us never quit wishing our lives away.

Now when you stop sugars-starch-artificial sweeteners, there is reward immediately in terms of health, but we have to stick with it for several months before it becomes natural, and we stop thinking longingly about those treat-type foods we gave up.

There are those few lucky souls who don’t struggle as much as most of us, and that’s good for them, but the majority will need to develop patience. We know that the rewards of avoiding these foods that have made us ill, over weight, addicted, are worthwhile, so if we have faith in the process, we too will become one of that lucky bunch who just don’t care that much about sweets. That’s be a reward truly worth the wait.

Yours in patience,

Nan aka Sugarbaby

Illness and Food

My house has been plagued by the flu this past few weeks, first one then the other of us, so we have been pretty wiped out. Biggest lesson learned:Don’t go to the Apple store on a Saturday. We rarely go to a mall, even less rarely go on a weekend, so when my spouse decided we needed to upgrade the gadgets, we went without considering the high volume of germs on all those lovely displays. We got sick within 48 hours of the visit.

Food and illness is not often discussed, other than the old adages I grew up with about starve a fever, and feed a cold. The first part is actually on target. If we pay attention to other animals, especially pets like cats and dogs, they don’t eat when they are sick or injured, though they will drink water. When we are sick or injured our bodies need to focus our energies on healing, not digesting food; so in general it is better to stick to broth type soups if we have anything. I made some yogurt from raw cream which has been my main nourishment.

I did notice some cravings for starch, but was able to satisfy them with some coconut butter and pineapple balls.

We rarely get sick being on such a good low-carb, mostly organic and grassfed/wild diet, but the upside to illnesses like the flu is that you do build up immunities.

Yours in good health,

Nan aka Sugarbaby

Avoid Substitute Treat-Foods Like the Plague

One of the most common things you read on no-sweet, low carb, paleo-primal, and all other such blogs, is all the ways to make substitutes for all the junk/gluten/sugar/starch treats people have had trouble with before, and will keep having trouble with by trying to cook up faux treats.

I know some people seem to have control over these, but most do not, especially not anyone who identifies with being a sugaraholic. Trying to create faux sweets and other such substitutes  is the epitome of trying to eat your cake and have it, too. Just doesn’t work. If you would eat a whole batch of regular cookies, chances are very good you will eat a whole batch of faux treats.

The best, smartest, and EASIEST way to get over a problem with sweets/carbs is to turn your back on them. You don’t need them, they don’t taste that good anyway, and if your bigger goal is to be healthy, slim, and free of the cravings, then give up the substitutes.

I’ve had to learn this the hard way; my weight loss would stall using almond bread, for example. Not surprising really, since bread, cookies, and cakes made with almond flour are very high calorie, and often hard on the digestive system. Plus, these foods also can lead to binges on the real thing, since you keep in your mind the idea of bread, cookies, candy, etc.

I’m not an absolutist about diet, so if you can in fact find a couple of things you can enjoy as desserts and not over use them, that’s great. For me ice cream is something I can make that is very satisfying and I’m happy with a small serving.

The psychology of food and eating is very important, and needs to be understood alongside the desire to eat well. Someone came up with the acronym JERF, for just eat real food; that’s the best goal. Eat real food and keep the idea of treats as something rare and even unnecessary.  My present goal is to be an A-1 Jerf-er, and keep away from the temptations that are purely replacements for the old sugary-starchy foods. If we have learned anything about substitutions, and we know from studies on the effects of artificial sweeteners, that people actually eat more, and gain more weight in diets high in them.

My advice: avoid substitutes like the plague. Eliminating such food will make our lives far easier, and we will be leaner and healthy for it.

Yours in learning,

Nan aka Sugarbaby

Want to Be Free of Cravings: Give it 5-6 Months

You want to be free of the horrible cravings. We all do, and that is the hardest part for most of us. For we can do very well for weeks and weeks, then one cookie can set us off on two days to two months of uncontrolled eating. Many different people from Dr. Wolfgang Lutz, to more recently Michael who was on Abel James’ recent podcast, report it takes a consistent several months to eventually move from pure will power to losing the desire for the junk (whatever “junk” is for a given person).

As I’ve written about before, the old brain, or limbic brain, or some call it lizard brain, has had millions of years evolving long before our big frontal lobes developed and we became these awesome thinking creatures we are now; which is why lizard brain which I termed for myself the Kraken, is huge and powerful and easily overwhelms the wee thinking brain/mousey will power if Kraken gets let loose. So even if you have gone for weeks without exceeding, for example 20 carbs a day, one carby meal lifts the steel door and the Kraken emerges to ravage the self-control we think we have. Will power is mostly myth, real power is learning how to stay in charge, giving the mouse-like thinking brain control over the steel door, as it were.  The only way for sugaraholics to do that is to stay away from the sugars-starches-artificial sweets that give power away to the Kraken monster who gets bigger, stronger, and ever more powerful with every bite of high carb food.

BUT, given enough time, at least 5+ months, we one day quit thinking about or wanting the formerly addictive foods. That’s a terrific plus, and reason enough to be faithful to the program.

Yours in faith,

Nan aka Sugarbaby

Sugar Addicts: Know Yourself to Help Yourself

Learning to help ourselves is the real work of being free from the addictive high carbohydrate foods that cause us to get overweight and/or make staying at optimum weight a challenge.

The addictive nature of sugar-starch-artificial sweeteners is real, and means we have to avoid the high carbohydrate foods like the plague;  but what is also important to understand is what triggers the urges beyond the well-known effects of the foods themselves.

As Dr. Lance Dodes has pointed out in his books on addictions, most people are not constantly abusing food, drugs, alcohol, pornography, or whatever the focus of the addiction is, and often may be abstinent for days, weeks, months, or even years, then there will be something that sets off the cycle of abuse or a binge. Learning to stop and consider what sorts of issues have triggered the desire in the first place is key to stopping the behavior.

More often than not it relates at the root level to frustration, a sense of helplessness, which promotes inner anger or rage leading to the desire for some control–all this is usually subconscious. While abusing food is not what we want to do, when we are under too much inner stress or turmoil, it feels like doing something, having some little bit of control, to eat a bunch of sugary-starchy food even though we will regret it in minutes.

The point then is to stop and think about what’s bothering you, and then consider an alternative action like writing in a journal or a blog, taking a walk, doing some artwork, cleaning a closet, etc. Or, if you go through to the binge, to try and look back at what was going on that may have set you off.

The main thing is to refocus that inner frustration away from the thing you don’t really want to do like eating a dozen cookies, and instead do something you will be glad you did afterwards. This is very helpful to me, and it can be very freeing to know you don’t really have to eat a pint of ice cream or worse. I have dozens of alternatives now all lined up. I will be so happy to get all my closets reorganized, and my cabinets cleaned!

The biggest plus, the bonus, is getting to know ourselves better and know what sorts of things are likely to set us off. Whether it is a bad work situation, or unhappy relationship, or fear about something you are afraid you might fail at, the root can come from anything, but at least you will soon learn to recognize the source and divert the urge to something less damaging, or even helpful.

Socrates said that the greatest lesson in life is to “know thyself”; this is surely true about controlling our unhealthy habits or addictions.

Yours in the learning,

Nan aka Sugarbaby

More Ideas for Help with Sweet Cravings

A couple of interesting posts from Food Renegade:

On how L-glutamine supplements might help cravings for sweets:

On using fermented foods to help sweet cravings:

There are several more sugar-related posts from FoodRenegade, but a warning that the site is heavy on commercials.

Yours in exploring,

Nan aka Sugarbaby

The Holidays–Again

Nothing new to add to older posts, save the common-sense-planning plan. Planning for some treats is better than pretending that you won’t touch anything, then caving big-time doing the slippery slide into a binge.  Fact is I like one particular type of fruit cake and plan to have one serving on Christmas Eve when my family gathers for our big celebration. Better to be realistic, but realistic doesn’t mean a free-for-all feeding frenzy.

I hope you all the joy of the holidays, and a new year filled with joy.

Nan aka Sugarbaby