We’ve all been there, it’s been a tough day so you reach for a sweet treat to give you a lift. Or you get home and just want to eat and drink your body weight in pasta and wine. Then you beat yourself up for hours about how weak willed you are and how you’ve failed to be healthy so you might as well throw it all out the window, finish the ice cream in the freezer and start again tomorrow. Sound familiar?
This scenario is not uncommon but it’s also not all down to your will power. For most of us there is a complicated hormone cycle going on and often it’s triggered by stress and perpetuated by sugar.
Let me explain…
When our body perceives something as stressful it responds by pushing us into ‘fight-or-flight’ mode. This is the same response our body had when we were hunter gatherers and stress was a real life or death situation. The stresses we face today may not be the same, but our body’s response today is and it’s designed to help us fight or run away from a threat to our lives.
Under stress, you release adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones causes your heart to pump harder, your blood vessels to dilate and the release of glucose (sugar) from stores to give your muscles the energy to fight or run. It’s this response which makes us feel more alert and more energetic when we’re in a stressful situation. But once the stress passes, the glucose which hasn’t been used to run away is put back into stores, causing your blood sugar levels drop and making you feel tired. Your body then craves a ‘quick fix’ from sugar or simple carbohydrates (white bread, pasta, rice etc.). Often after a stressful situation our willpower is diminished or we often think we ‘deserve’ a treat. But while this will make you feel better in the short term, your glucose levels will quickly drop again triggering another craving and the cycle or what we nutrition bods call the ‘blood sugar roller coaster’ will continue.
In the last few weeks I’ve been going through a very stressful time and have noticed that my cravings for ‘comfort foods’ like carbs and sugary treats have increased, and I’ve found it harder to resist. Knowing that most of these cravings are caused by the stress hormones has helped me not beat myself up when I gave in and had a cake or bowl of pasta. Sometimes during a stressful period, it’s kinder to allow yourself to eat what your body is telling you it needs. But, in general, it’s best to try and use more nourishing foods in response to stress.
- Keep protein rich snacks like nuts and seeds, whole yoghurt, boiled eggs, hummus and crudités or dates filled with nut butter on hand to keep blood sugar balanced.
- Choose complex carbohydrates like wholegrain rice and oats and eat whole fruits and vegetables which provide fibre to slow the release of the glucose they contain
- Step away from a stressful situation and take a walk or just take a few deep breathes, both will help lower your cortisol levels and reduce the stress response and hopefully the subsequent sugar cravings.
- If you do reach for sugary foods, accept it was what your body needed and don’t beat yourself up or throw the whole healthy eating plan out the window. Get back on track with a more nourishing choice at the next meal or snack.
If you’d like help to address your sugar cravings or help you deal better with stress why not book a nutrition consultation with me. Contact me to book a free chat to find out more about how I could help you.
Quote SUGAR when booking and you’ll get 10% off the consultation price!