The challenges created by the recent nor’easters triggered unhealthy food cravings. The lack of power, light, heat, running water and other basic necessities caused anxiety, irritability, restlessness and sometimes depression. This worsened as the blackout stretched from a couple of days to six or 10 or more! Lack of refrigeration spoiled meats and vegetables. Without power, we couldn’t cook, or even reheat food. Preparing nutritious meals was extremely difficult. It was much easier to just eat junk food. Our intentions to eat healthy went out the window.
A new client came in a couple of weeks ago after a storm. She had uncontrollable food cravings. She said that “six days without electricity, heat, running water and hot food drove me crazy. I knew I had a problem when I chipped away at a frozen pound cake left in the freezer and a roll of half-frozen chocolate chip cookie dough. The storm destroyed my intentions to follow a healthy diet.”
Her physician had recommended she see a nutritionist. She had difficult challenges: 30 pounds overweight, no energy, high cholesterol and insatiable cravings for sugar. Her physician thought this might lead to diabetes. She had tried to stop eating so much sugar, but the cravings defeated her best intentions.
I understood firsthand what she was up against. More than 20 years ago, I had been overweight. I had experimented with several kinds of diets. Fad diets were tempting and seemed to work in the short-term. I tried meal replacements, liquid diets, prepackaged food and others. However, the weight always came back. By focusing instead on eating nutritious, whole foods, I have been able give up added sugars since then and to keep the weight off.
Naturally sweet foods such as fruits and vegetables promote health, for the most part, by providing vitamins, valuable minerals and trace amounts of essential fats. Their rich fiber content slows the release of sugar into our bloodstream and their mineral content helps the body use sugar more effectively. However, the intake of too much refined sugars is unhealthy. Fresh fruits build up the body, refined sugar in junk food destroys the body.
Sugar should stay in your diet in its natural form, such as in whole fruits, carrots, beets and sweet potatoes. They provide vitamins, minerals and fiber. It is important to select whole natural foods instead of processed substitutes.
With my client, my first step was to look at her dietary intake. I told her to keep track of all the foods she ate before the onset of craving sugar. Eating one type of food may trigger a craving for foods high in sugar. The specific triggers are different in different people. By identifying a pattern, she could stop the cravings. By stopping the cravings, she could avoid eating foods with refined sugars, such as cakes, cookies and other desserts. It is not easy to control your intake of all sugars. They are hidden in many different forms in most processed foods.
When my client came back for a follow-up visit, she smiled and said, “I lost nine pounds and I have never felt better! Giving up sugar was the best thing I have ever done! I have regained my energy, started exercising and have a sense of overall well-being.”
After these nor’easters, many people have complained of feeling tired after eating something with sugar. They often ask, “Why can’t I eat sugar anymore? I was able to eat it in moderation all the time and I felt fine! Now it makes me feel listless, exhausted and unmotivated. What’s wrong with me?”
It’s rather simple. Nor’easters or no, years of struggling from the overload of sugar combined with the assaults of coffee, stress and a nutrient-depleted diet, the glands of the body may give out.
Being able to control your environment helps you control your appetite, especially cravings. Beware of storms!
Once you begin to eat better, you will feel better.
Linda Lonergan is a senior clinical nutritionist with a M.S. in food nutrition/biology, accredited by the American Dietetic Association and in private practice for 21 years specializing in personalized meal plans for all nutritional needs. Contact her at: 914-522-0729; Linda@NutritionKAngel.com; NutritionKAngel.com.