Craving carbs can be super pesky and annoying.
You’re just going about your day when all of a sudden you have a craving for carbs that you can’t get out of your head!
Let’s understand the top 4 reasons why you crave carbs and what you can do to stop these pesky cravings!
1 – Why Am I Craving Carbs And Sugar?
The primary reason people crave carbs is because they lack carbs.
Carbohydrates are a valuable source of fuel for your body. If you don’t have enough fuel, your body craves sweets and carbs because your body needs fuel.
Unfortunately, , it’s easy to become deficient in carbs and sugar due to various health trends like:
- Gluten free
- Low carb
These health trends usually come from the evil diet wellness & weight loss industry. The diet, wellness and weight loss industry is a for-profit industry based on people buying a diet, cleanse or weight loss product.
Their products fail but the person blames themself and buys another differently packaged weight loss product.
(Nowadays, cleanses and detoxes are the new ‘weight loss’ products which are restrictive in nature and can cause carb cravings, but try to avoid being labeled with negative ‘diet’ connotations. Don’t be fooled, they are diets in disguise! The key to not being fooled is realizing that these programs don’t talk about emotions or your intuition around food.)
What Happens When You Don’t Get Enough Carbs or Sugar?
Cars and sugar, fundamentally, are energy!
When you eat sugar or carbs, your stomach breaks down these ingredients into sugar. The sugar then enters the bloodstream.
While most people are concerned about levels of ‘high blood sugar’ an even worse problem is having no blood sugar!
So if you don’t get enough carbs, you may not have enough energy!
Unfortunately people think they are being ‘healthy’ by eating only ‘low carb’ foods, but then they often still end up having crazy carb cravings!
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recognizes restrictive diets, which cut out or overly diminish certain food groups like carbs or fat, may actually cause more of those cravings!
- the ‘gluten free’ trend essentially says that the gluten in carbs is bad. However, only 1% of people are actually allergic to gluten. This means that many people are going gluten free and may not be eating enough carbs!
- with keto, carbs are also seen as ‘the bad’ guy. One private client I worked with was only allowed 100 calories from carbs per day! That’s a very restrictive diet and no wonder she had carb cravings!
Calorie In Doesn’t Equal Calorie Out!
There’s a famous ‘calorie equation’ I learned back when I worked as a Personal Trainer.
Calorie in = calorie out
This equation means you eat “in” some calories. Then you either “burn” those calories or the calories turn “out” into fat.
Unfortunately, this equation often makes people afraid of eating because they are afraid of gaining weight!
Due to fear of weight gain, people try to avoid ALL carbs and sugar sources.
But avoiding carbs just leads to more carb cravings.
Distinguish Between ‘Whole’ Carbs and ‘Empty’ Carbs
Instead of avoiding ALL carbs and sugar, it’s best to continue eating the ‘whole’ carbs.
For example, “white” or “empty” carbs have about the same amount of calories as “real” or “whole” carbs.
- “Empty” carbs include candy, bagels, french fries, soda, white bread, and sugary cereals.
- “Whole” carbs include beans, whole wheat breads, oats, sweet potatoes, fruits, and vegetables like broccoli.
However, the real or whole carbs digest more slowly and are better for your health.
For example, Harvard research shows that insulin levels change faster in response to ‘simple’ carbohydrates (aka, “empty”) in comparison to ‘complex’ carbohydrates (aka, “whole”).
Therefore, a major cause of carb craving therefore is not eating enough “whole” carbs.
But there’s a secondary reason why you might be craving carbs, and it’s actually due to eating too many carbs!
2 – What Should I Eat If I Crave Carbs?
The secondary reason people crave carbs is actually due to eating too many ‘empty’ carbs!
If whole foods digest more slowly, then empty carbs digest too quickly.
This means that if you have too many simple carbs in a day then you may risk having your food digest too quickly, cause high blood sugar spikes, followed by your blood sugar levels plummeting.
This will simply make you hungry for carbs again!
Here’s What To Eat If You Crave Carbs
This diagram below provides some ideas on what to eat if you crave carbs.
In particular, please note that under the second “fiber” column, that the cereals, breads and bagels are all brown. This color indicates ‘whole wheat’ or ‘complex’ carbohydrates.
Again, carbs aren’t bad. You need carbs. But you need the ‘whole’ carbs because too many ‘empty’ carbs will just leave you craving more empty carbs!
Overall, get enough variety to balance your food intake with healthy fat, fibers and proteins.
This will keep your blood sugar levels even keeled and will help prevent cravings from carbs.
3 – Carbs Are Linked With Stress Relief
But what if you are eating whole carbs and not eating too many empty carbs but you still have carb cravings?
While food cravings are generally due to nutritional deficiencies in your body (like not getting enough carbs, or eating too many carbs that are “empty” of vitamins and minerals) …
I primarily help clients who struggle with eating various foods mostly in response to their emotions/feelings, not due to physical cravings. In these emotional situations, a person can be craving more carbs (or fat) even though nutritionally they are fine!
Why? Further research from Harvard shows that many animals under high emotional distress eat more foods that are high in sugar and fat.
Carbs and other foods can give temporary emotional benefits such as:
- Distraction from stress
- Numbness from difficult emotions
- Excitement when bored
If you have used carbs for emotional reasons in the past, your craving for carbs may have become conditioned within your body.
Your body now craves sugar, just like it craves oxygen.
Now whenever you are stressed, you crave sweets and carbs not for the energy reasons, but for the temporary emotional benefits carbs and sugar provide.
The key word is ‘temporary’, of course. Emotional eating is a real problem — please seek help if you are looking to break this problem.
4 – What About Food And Sugar Addiction?
It might seem as though you have a sugar addiction.
As we stated earlier, cravings for carbs (and other foods, let’s not forget) can be pesky and annoying! In some cases, the carb cravings may become much worse than pesky and people can believe they are addicted.
While there are similarities between these symptoms and the symptoms of a real addiction (alcohol, gambling, internet porn, etc) …
A relatively recent study from 2014 in Neuroscience and Behavioral indicates that “eating addiction” is a more appropriate term instead of “food addiction”.
What’s the difference between food addiction and eating addiction?
- Eating addiction implies that people are addicted to the emotional benefits of eating, rather than to the food itself being addicting.
- Food addiction implies that the foods themselves are addicting.
Understanding Why Eating Addiction Feels Like Food Addiction
In terms of eating foods, you can feel powerful cravings and think you’re a food addict!
In particular, there are a few factors that combine together to make powerful cravings that can make you think you’re a food addict:
- there is nutrient deficiency
- there is high stress
- and you have a background history of dieting, emotional eating, and other not-so-healthy coping mechanisms like drugs or alcohol …
This is when food addiction can seem real. The factors all combine into a powerful sense of craving for you personally.
It’s this powerful craving which feels like an addiction, but is actually caused by the combined power of the factors listed above.
However, despite the seeming realness of food addiction, it’s important to remember that food itself is a non-addictive substance!
It’s also important to remember that you have an innate ability to be at peace with food. This is a cornerstone piece of Eating Enlightenment philosophy.
For example, if you had time to:
- Practice ways of eating balanced meals
- Master strategies to handle stress and maintain a balanced perspective instead of falling into catastrophic thinking patterns about food
- Understood your history of dieting and why you developed emotional eating habits in the first place (this requires the practice of introspection and journaling!)
Under these situations you would not feel addicted to food. That’s what we want for you at Eating Enlightenment.