Selene River Press recently received a question about how to still enjoy foods you love even while making healthier diet choices. Essentially, this person wanted to know if they had to give up their favorite donut in order to eat healthier. I love this question because there are so many possible answers, and most of us have experienced all of them either personally or through our patients.
Nearly 15 years ago, my wife and I were at our wits’ end. She had been experiencing horrendous pain, inflammation, and insomnia for several weeks straight. We were in chiropractic school at the time, which allowed us to take advantage of some of the most sophisticated tools, procedures, and doctors in the world of natural healthcare. My wife also had multiple exams with medical professionals, but all with the same dead end.
After months of effort, there was no light at the end of the tunnel. Despair and depression set in. But when our last medical doctor told my wife to schedule a psychological consultation because the problem was “all in her head,” it only steeled our resolve to find another option. Our answer was out there, somewhere!
Fast-forward a few more weeks. We were introduced to Nutrition Response Testing, a strategy to identify nutritional deficiencies and toxicities for improved function and healing. Due to the desire of many patients to avoid dangerous pharmaceutical or surgical interventions, many similar strategies have since emerged and increased in popularity. Some of these include Muscle Response Analysis, Applied Kinesiology, and Functional Medicine. After beginning Nutrition Response Testing, we saw immediate results from small changes. We were hooked! And of course we wanted to learn more and make bigger changes for bigger results.
Our doctor cautioned us to make gradual changes. Most people eat the way they do simply out of habit. These are hard to change quickly and often snap back when willpower disappears. However, our desire to never return to those issues was strong enough to keep us going, and our positive results reinforced these changes.
I’m not going to make it seem easy or sugarcoat our story (more on sugar later), but this is the first lesson on how to make changes in your diet without the pain: The bigger the reason, the easier the change.
Since those early days, Dr. Lauren has attained Master Clinician status, and our team has worked with thousands of patients experiencing a wide range of health concerns with various levels of commitment to their own personal transformation, which affirmed for us exactly why our doctor said to take it slow. I’m going to attempt to summarize our years of experience in order to help you make simple, consistent changes without feeling like you are sacrificing everything you love to eat.
Introduce the Idea of Real Food
For several generations, we have been replacing traditional, nutritious foods with highly processed foods that are designed to sit on a shelf longer—all in a quest for higher profitability. These foods are also full of harmful and addictive chemicals. I recommend two amazing resources that both explain the manipulation of our food supply and outline the foods we all should focus on: First, an article from the Weston A. Price Foundation titled “Timeless Principles of Healthy Traditional Diets.” And second, a short and wonderful guide to healthy food shopping by Stephanie Selene Anderson titled Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is! Anyone looking to make lasting changes to their diet should understand how we are truly designed to eat and how our food has been radically altered to prey on our biological cravings.
Controlling the Cravings
Many of us crave foods not because of what is in them but because of what is absent. For example, in the past sugary foods like fruits were available only for a very limited time. The human body evolved to love the energy reserves that can be derived from sugar. Think of the bear getting ready for hibernation that gorges on berries to build up plenty of body fat. The sugars in fruits are accompanied by lots of fiber and, if grown organically, tons of vitamins and other nutrients that are vital for our survival. None of these positive factors exist in sugary processed foods. Our brain is still happy to get the sugar, but as our body waits for the nutrients that are no longer there, the absence triggers more cravings.
To help tame the sugar monster, there are a few products we love. The herb Gymnema has been used for centuries to help with sugar cravings by temporarily blocking taste receptors. Reducing those reward centers in our brains helps us control our cravings that much easier. Sugar is highly addictive—with some research showing it is even more addictive than cocaine! Breaking the psychological addiction by calming down the brain is a great step forward. Another option for Gymnema is the 10-Day Blood Sugar Support Kit from Standard Process. This program may be especially useful for anyone concerned about metabolic disorders like diabetes or metabolic syndrome.
Trace Minerals-B12 is another product that works well at taming sugar cravings. By giving your body the nutrients that should have been there in the first place, you are less likely to spiral out of control with the cravings that lead to overeating deficient foods.
Cataplex GTF is yet another wonderful product that can help alleviate the destructive effects of sugar. GTF (Glucose Tolerance Factor, a trivalent chromium) assists with carbohydrate digestion and provides high levels of a specialized form of chromium to help protect your pancreas from the damaging effects of a high sugar diet. We recommend this product for people starting a diet that will help wean them off of sugar and also for those who already have metabolic disorders such as diabetes.
A final note about sugar is that we are finding more and more people with fungal issues like candida, which only triggers more cravings. A candida infection can influence your overall metabolism by stealing your nutrients. Candida loves sugar, absorbing most of the free sugar in your body and triggering a craving to find more. There are many ways to help with fungal infections, but Lactic Acid Yeast is a good place to start when it comes to undermining fungal growth.
Along with sugar, we are biologically wired to love fats and salt. Traditional diets with fats and salt were packed with nutrition, but now these ingredients have been overtaken by highly processed and refined oils and salts that cause more harm than good. To tame cravings, simply switch out the offending products with better quality items. Replace vegetable oils, margarine, and hydrogenated oils with organic butter, lard, coconut oil, or unrefined organic olive oil. (There are more healthy oils and fats out there, and I again encourage you to explore the resources at the Weston A. Price Foundation.) For salt, stock up on nutrient-dense Himalayan salt or Redmond Real Salt.
Easy Does It
Pick one change you can make today and get started. Once you feel comfortable, make one more small change. It may take a month for that single change to take hold, or it may take a single day. Be consistent, and you’ll see big changes eventually.
You might be asking, “Will I have to cut out my favorite treat?” There is no easy answer. You may love that donut, but does it love you back? You know donuts aren’t part of a healthy diet, so the more you cut them out the better, but striving for perfection will leave you frustrated. Holidays, birthday parties, and special events at the office will happen, and you will want to partake just to be social. These special treats taste great and bring back a lot of positive memories and emotions, but there will be a price to pay with inflammation, sinus congestion, body aches, energy crashes, and many other effects. Sometimes it’s worth it, sometimes it’s not! Through a lot of trial and error, we’ve realized that it’s much easier to simply avoid those treats while looking for a more nutritious whole food substitute.
As you take control of your cravings and your choices, it’s also important to take control of the ingredients when making your favorite treats from scratch. You can find many sugar substitutes and alternatives on the market these days, but they vary widely in how they affect our health. As a rule of thumb, anything that triggers a sweet taste sensation will also trigger a response by your pancreas to produce insulin. Insulin has one job—to get glucose into cells—either for energy production or fat storage. If you’re not ready to burn off some extra energy, even “low sugar” options can contribute to unwanted weight gain. The best compromise for cooking is to use lightly processed natural sweeteners like molasses, honey, maple syrup, date paste, or other fruit concentrates (organic is best). Make sure to only add enough to get the taste you desire.
Lastly, “moderation” is an annoying buzzword that gets kicked around a lot in dietary circles, but it can be useful. If you are currently drinking 12 sodas per day, cutting back to 10 is a step in the right direction. Continuing to wean yourself off these items will eventually get you where you want to be, but moderation is the means to the goal, not the goal itself. Even a little bit of poison is still poison. Go through your diet and identify where you get your extra sugars and work on whittling down the amount per serving as well as the frequency that you enjoy them. If you stick with it, your taste buds will adapt to the new sensations over time.
In the end, you can change your cravings and your habits by being consistent. Your body will thank you!