Ask a health coach: more questions have been answered about your wishes


Hi folks, We look forward to having Board-certified health and wellness coach Erin Power again to analyze the emotional and psychological reasons why we crave comforting meals. If you’re committed to following a Primal diet this year, you’ll definitely want to check out this week’s post. Do you have any questions for our health coaches? Go to ours Mark’s Apple Daily Facebook Group or ask in the comments below.

Luke asked:
“I’ve been eating Primal for a few weeks now and it seems like I can’t shake my cravings for comforting food. You know, mac ‘n cheese, beer, ice cream. I really want to keep a healthy diet this time around and I don’t understand why it’s always a struggle “.

You probably won’t be surprised to hear that sugar is highly addictive. And that includes foods that turn into sugar in the body, like mac’n cheese, beer, cookies, cereal … you know. But what you may not realize is that when you consume these foods, you experience a temporary increase in serotonin levels and then a rather drastic accident. That’s why sugar gives you so much. And then it leaves you wanting more once you have these irritable and hungry withdrawal symptoms.

Do fats and carbohydrates cause cravings?

Macronutrients fat and carbohydrates are two of the main components of comforting foods. Fats and carbohydrates are not inherently bad, but when combined they usually do to punch, metabolically speaking. As I mentioned, carbohydrates increase the neurotransmitter to feel good, serotonin, while fat has the phenomenal ability to soothe. In fact, this study found that when participants consumed saturated fat, they became less emotionally affected while watching a sad movie or listening to sad music.

That’s why certain foods are so addictive. And the situation gets worse when you are Under stress.

Not only that, research shows that the areas of the brain caused by cravings (hippocampus, caudate, and insula) are the same as those involved with drug and alcohol addiction. These are the parts of the brain associated with our reward system and the emotional connection we develop each time we repeat a behavior.

Eating and repeating: creating neural pathways

Every time you repeat an action, whether you want to continue doing it or not, you strengthen your neural pathways. These are pathways that send signals from one part of the brain to another. Eventually, these actions become automatic.

It’s like going the same way to go to work every day. After a handful of times, you shouldn’t think about it anymore. Your brain automatically knows where to go. The same goes for desires. When you arrive at a large bowl of mac ‘n cheese every time you feel low or stressed, take part in the process of continuous reinforcement. Emotion (feeling low or stressed) triggers the action (eating), which causes the reward (feeling good). Basically, it’s not your fault that you have desires. That doesn’t mean you’re stuck with them.

Wishes can also be a sign that you are not properly supporting your body in other ways. Lack of protein, poor sleep quality and chronic stress also play an important role. Listen, this is not about willpower. Desires are usually a purely physiological response. This means that with the right changes, you won’t feel so tempted to dive headfirst into a pint of rocky road or a bowl of Grandma’s chocolate chip cookie recipe.

4 Tips to Overcome Desires

  1. Notice what activates you. Are you hungry, tired, stressed? Be aware of what drives you. Research even shows that watching food on TV can make you eat more. And not the healthy one.
  2. Eat more protein. Things like beef, fish, eggs and chicken can help you feel full and have less cravings. This is because protein it reduces the hunger hormone, ghrelin, and improves the production of dopamine, one of the hormones involved in cravings.
  3. Sleep more. Studies show that sleep deprivation can make you crave sweets and other comforting foods. So make quality a priority and follow Mark’s advice for a good night’s sleep here.
  4. Decrease your stress. Our friends at myPrimalCoach We’re sharing simple ways to relieve stress in this post — from breathing techniques to brisk walking.

Try them for a week and see what happens. Managing your desires is easier than you think when you have the right tools.

Mihir asked:
“How can I get rid of my food addiction (junk food cravings and other tasty foods)? I’m not looking for medical advice, but if you have any tips for overcoming cravings forever, can you tell me how to do it?

The emotional reasons we crave food (and are addicted to food) are often stronger than the physiological ones. Since you are aware of the temporary hormonal changes that occur when you eat super nice foods, I will go straight to the chase.

I don’t think there is a single person who has no emotional connection to food. Keep in mind that it doesn’t have to be a negative experience to count. Were there certain foods you enjoyed growing up on? Did your parents give you sweets when they hurt you? Or have you been rewarded with junk food for good grades? Maybe a certain dish reminds you when things were simpler, with no bills and adult jobs and responsibilities. All this is normal and very common.

Mindfulness and emotional nourishment

Practicing the act of staying present (also known as conscience) can help you learn to stand firm in the face of food cravings. Instead of avoiding the feeling or boredom of processed junk, awareness allows you to recognize emotion without judging. And researchers agree. Sarah Bowen of the University of Washington teaches a method called Relapse prevention based on mindfulness. It was designed to help those struggling with substance abuse; however, his method helps all kinds of people with addictions to learn to become aware of the emotional sensations of their desires and to face the experience with compassion, rather than giving in to their desire. Being aware also helps to name the emotion you are experiencing.

When you are stressed or sad or feel isolated and have no legitimate appetite, consider what you really want. You may have an unmet need in one or more areas of your life.

We all have basic human needs, such as:

  • Certainty
  • Uncertainty
  • Importance
  • Connection
  • Growth
  • Contribution

Your cravings for junk food can give you a sense of security that makes you feel safe and secure. Or they may feel very excited, proving a much needed explosion of uncertainty. You may feel socially isolated (and really, who isn’t now) because of the pandemic, and look for foods to help you cope. Or you may feel trapped in your current situation, use junk to self-sabotage.

Find alternatives that empower you

Once you’ve perfected what you need, take steps to find more empowering ways to meet that need. This is a great exercise that I use with mine health coaching customers to help them get started: Write down 5 non-food ways to meet each of these basic human needs.

List 5 ways to meet your need for certainty.
You can read your favorite book or listen to a song that brings back fond memories.

List 5 ways to meet your need for uncertainty.
Why not make a recipe you’ve never tried or comb your hair in a new way?

List 5 ways to meet your important need.
Being a role model for your family is a great way to meet that need.

List 5 ways to meet your connection need.
Call a friend or play ball with the kids in the park.

List 5 ways to meet your growing need.
Consider taking a class, learning a language, or watching a new yoga video.

List 5 ways to meet your contribution need.
This could be supporting a local cause or simply being present with your family.

Now, here’s the important part: You have this list ready before You need it. This makes it as easy to go for a walk or call a friend as it is to order a deep pepperoni dish. And if you want more practical advice, feel free to check out the new myPrimalCoach program. You can even work individually with your own health coach.

Now it’s your turn. Have you struggled with desires? If so, what has worked for you?

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