Cravings Don’t Need To Be Fought {Sugar Part 2}

How many times have you heard about “Combatting Sugar Cravings” or “Reducing Carb Cravings” ?

I’ve heard vegans supporting each other on “Overcoming Meat cravings” -and Hell! -when I was raw vegan I would read in the community forums people discussing overcoming their evil and addictive “Cooked Food Cravings“.

Cooked Food Cravings! Oh the horrors.

In my post In Defense of Sugar- Part 1 I talked about how I came to believe that sugar was not inherently bad. Here I will go more in depth, and relate it to addiction, cravings and more of the mental components.

Sugar Addiction Myth

Sugar is treated like an evil drug, and any desire for it is feared and shamed. And while it is true that sugar can be used like a drug in binges or emotional eating, it is not inherently evil or bad, and neither is the desire for it. Craving carbs is not a symptom to be squelched.

I am under the firm belief, that food cravings are not a problem unless you have denial or guilt associated with the craving. In my opinion and experience, denial and guilt are the things that lead to overeating and intensified and irrational food cravings, not the food itself.

If there was no guilt attached to a craving, you would eat it, and go on with your day. You would digest it and gain the maximum benefit from the food that your body had been asking for (cookies included). And you’d probably be feeling great!

Last Supper Syndrome

If you are giving into a craving under the conditions of “Just This Once then Never Again”. Then you will most likely subconsciously fear for your impending lack and potentially abuse it- maybe overeating till you’re sick. Then you blame the problem on the food itself, instead of your disordered relationship with the food. You will also have feelings of guilt associated with eating this food.

And guilt never helped no-no-nobody.

But You Swear! You Really Are Addicted to Sugar!

This is what I have come to see that the supposed “sugar addiction” really is:

Eating carbs and sugar is calming and feel-good for the brain. This is normal and natural. If you do not allow yourself to eat carbs regularly, you may find yourself “addicted” to the way you feel on carbs when you give into your natural cravings for them. This may lead to overeating or bingeing. Is this because carbs are bad? No! It is because you are denying them!

Sugar also elevates blood sugar. This is also normal and natural. If you are not used to eating sugar, your body will not handle the sugar as well. It may rise too high. It may rise high and crash, leaving you to crave more. Is this because carbs are bad? No! It is because you are denying them- and not used to metabolizing them.

The more you deny carbs, the more you risk “addiction” symptoms because of the feel-good properties, the body’s ability to metabolize them, and because of abuse due to denial and guilt.

What Does This Mean?

Start eating what you crave.

I do not know what you crave. I would never dream of forcing you to eat cookies or pizza or a rotisserie chicken just because that is what I craved and ate today.

You are the only one who knows what you crave.

Your cravings may not be ‘rational’ but do not discredit them. What you crave is what you need. Not only because your body is probably asking for something quite specific, but also because the longer you deny your cravings, the more insane and intense they may become.

What If You Crave Twinkies? Should You Trust Yourself THEN?!

Do I think that there is great nutritional value to Twinkies? Not necessarily. The reason you crave them specifically and not “cake” is probably psychological. Linked to some past denial or memory from childhood.

But it is a food, and if you crave it, the sooner you start eating as many damn Twinkies as you want, the sooner the Twinkies will likely loosen their hold over you.

The first healing that has to happen is your denial/guilt relationship with food. Only then can you feed the body for the right reasons instead of fear-based reasons, denial reasons or guilt reasons.

So, Should You Be Eating Lots and Lots of Carbs?

While I do not believe that sugar or carbs are villains, and that they are necessary, for example for optimum thyroid function etc., that doesn’t not mean that I believe people always need to be pounding sodas and cakes for their health and well-being. Again, it all comes down to what you crave.

But, I feel very strongly about defending and supporting carbs because:

  1. your body does need carbs
  2. denial of cravings often leads to disordered eating
  3. guilt with cravings often leads to disordered eating
  4. food phobias are detrimental to intuitive eating

I think that a moderate, healthy intake of carbs is only sustainable and health supporting if it is coming from your true desires and cravings. Only then will you eat what nourishes you and be happy to stop when you are satisfied. Not out of fear for your waistline and health, but out of true desire.

BUT the only way to get to that point is to allow yourself to heal your relationship with food. Which means allowing and indulging all cravings. Which, may lead you to eating a shit-ton of sugar for a while.

And I want you to be ok with that.

19 comments

  1. daguttgrl79a says:

    Word! You speak the truth. Coming off of all my food phobias has led me to hesitate when reaching for things like oatmeal and swiss miss cocoa and ketchup, but I’ve been craving those things and enjoying them, and guess what? Nothing horrible has happened to me, besides feeling a little bloated. Most importantly, I didn’t dive into a pile of oatmeal and crack out like a junkie or binge on cocoa and ketchup; I let myself have my craved foods, enjoyed it, and carried about my day. It’s funny how I used to be afraid of oatmeal.. now that I’m eating it, it’s not as awesome as I thought it would be and it’s making me realize that I might not even like it that much. and I’m talking about the cheap ole instant stuff, that “scary” stuff that I thought would make me implode. Well, no implosion but it honestly isn’t all that yummy to me anymore.
    I love this intuitive eating stuff, I’m actually learning about my self, who woulda thunk it!

    • Caroline says:

      How you feel about oatmeal is how I feel about ice cream. I started eating it freely, and now after a month, its “meh”. Rarely crave it!

      • daguttgrl79 says:

        well I finished the oatmeal (FINALLY, lol) and yesterday decided to try something different for my morning at work breakfast.
        since i’m now officially facing my food fears, i thought i’d keep with the hot cereal theme since i’ve never really had them in a normal or non binge/purge way. so i was browsing along the cereal aisle when it dawned on me: I haven’t browsed the cereal isle EVER!!!! in fact the only time i’ve been on a cereal isle was to get binge stuff, but never as a “sane” or sober eating person. Whoa! yeah, so i was looking at all the hot cereal options and felt like i was in a foreign foods market: cream of wheat, oatmeal, oatbran, maltomeal, grits, porridge… what IS all this stuff???? ok i i know what oatmeal is, but when i got my recent purchase i just grabbed the cheapest one and didn’t look around at all the other options. what a surprise! all of these items looks similar but what looked good to me, for real? i tried to ask my inner soul but got nothing in response, so i grabbed a box called “Oatbran” and thought it looked… happy? The box had some Irish looking village and fields and for soem reason this made me feel happy, so I went with it.
        This morning I finally got to break into my box of “happy” oatbran.. and it turns out it is rather goopy, and sort of gross…. bummer!!!! moving on to Plan B.. steel cut oats?
        Clearly I am stubborn and ridiculously determined to find a hot cereal that I like and that isn’t goopy…. probably because I have this romantic idea of eating some sort of hot bowl of something for breakfast, perhaps while sitting in an Irish village with green pastures outside the window of my cottage 😀

      • Caroline says:

        I bet your inner soul led you to the Oatbran! To show you you don’t like it! hahaha I eat a lot of things for that same “idea” that you mention. Thinking that the idea of something will mean I am like a hearty, beautiful english person nourishing my self in a pub in the rain. 🙂

    • Camila says:

      I craved oatmeal with brown sugar and butter too, then I had it for the first time in FOUR YEARS and realized how badly my blood sugar crashed with it (started trembling!), even with eggs. that kinda traumatized me into not craving it any more, haha. i guess it’ll take me awhile to handle those carbs again.

      • Caroline says:

        Hey Camila, I used to stay away from foods that crashed my blood sugar on my last year’s intuitive eating attempt. And it really worked, I never ate them, and I genuinely didn’t want to. And I thought that was a good thing. But I still had a lot of fear attached to eating the food, and I guess I wasn’t quite as free with my eating as I thought. Funny though, now that I truly let myself eat sweet things freely like I never would have before, I really really can handle them. My blood sugar is fine! It may have taken some time, but not that long because I PUSHED THROUGH 🙂

      • AnnB says:

        There are days when I crash (get sleepy or literally fall asleep…in an easy chair) after eating a high carb item or higher carb ratio meal. Other days no effect. I am wondering if the crash is a normal anti-stress reaction. You’ve dosed the stress and now your body relaxes for much needed recuperation.

  2. Janamma says:

    Very true stuff. Very hard to let go and trust the body though. I was so scared initially but I decided to go where the cravings took me. For a while it was coffee cakes and lemon loaf from Starbucks every single day. And now I am in Starbucks and that stuff don’t even look so appealing anymore. If it does call my name again, I will eat it and I think my body feels secure in the knowledge of that…
    I did gain 10 lbs more to my already fat ass but I also got pregnant super easily. I don’t think the reproductive system likes dieting.

    • Caroline says:

      It is very hard to let go and trust the body. This whole thing is a very spiritual process at it’s core.

      It is hard to take that first step. And all the subsequent steps too. There are many layers of disillusion, aren’t there? I JUST bought my first loaf of bread with gluten in it after 5 months of “listening to my body”. I am even sure I am gluten sensitive at all but I let blogs convince me I was because “everyone was”, it took me this long to buy that sourdough bread.

      What you said about the Starbucks cakes is very common and good for people to read! It just loses its magic appeal after it is allowed and freely indulged in! Very cool

      I have also gained 10 lbs (gained 15, lost 5 as I start to listen more and more), and while I don’t like it, I do think it is necessary at least for a while. It is also forcing me to come to terms with my slightly warped body image and feelings of self worth connected to weight!

      Thanks for commenting!

  3. Kait says:

    This:
    “food cravings are not a problem unless you have denial or guilt associated with the craving”

    is fabulous and I’ve often thought the same thing. After reading so many diet blogs and forums it seems we are always trying to fight the craving, slay the dragon, kill the beast and all this BS. Maybe when we just go with the flow and give our body a little of what it wants then we won’t have these crazy cravings to begin with, and we’ll realize that the only reason we have out of control cravings is because of the ridiculous restrictions we arbitrarily put on ourselves. During my last “obsession” I would down a whole can of full fat coconut milk when I was craving carbs because I read that some a-hole in knee socks thinks that oatmeal was causing inflamation and peanut butter was moldy.

    I just craved a giant bowl of oatmeal with gobs of peanut butter so I ate it and now I’m happy instead of dreaming about oats and pb then binge eating less healthy things later. Lovely!

    In one of these blogs, you asked us to write three columns of food, the first being the old taboo foods, and to circle what I really wanted to enjoy without consequences. My original list had stupid psychological things like bran muffins, oatmeal, bananas, beans, non organic blueberries and peanut butter as off limits. Now those things have moved into my healthy and eat freely column, I feel great and I’m not dreaming about them anymore! I’m not eating stupid amounts of avocados anymore because they give me stomach aches every time I eat them and I don’t need to get used to all that fat and eat them to be healthy because I need to “detox” whatever that is! F it!!!

    I still have minor passing thoughts about carbs and love handles…but I”m working on that and it gets better each day with the help of posts like this, thank you! I don’t know how all this stupid carb obsession started but I’m so over it, eventually my brain will catch up. Love to f*** it!

    • Caroline says:

      Yay! I’m glad that List was helpful. Sometimes a good solid writing exercise can be so great to see things clearly. I am with you, I used to eat meals that only consisted of meat and avocados. I read “crave carbs? you just need to eat a shitload of FAT!” And that is what I did until I caved and would binge on dried fruit at night. hahahaha. OH so dumb. I would WAIT for the day when my body was “fat burning” and satiated on just Fat. And it never was! UGH. F*** it!

  4. tab says:

    Hey Caroline, I just discovered your blog today, when googling carb cravings 🙂 I think it’s great. I embarked on the journey of intuitive eating around 2 years ago after a decade of anorexia, then binge-eating and then orthorexia. It is such a great experience to be able to see food as just food without any emotional judgement.

    With regard to eating what I crave I have made the experience that it is sort of tricky to eat what you crave psychologically and physically. Psychologically due to all the restriction (I ate no processed stuff for like 8 years and didn’t have birthday cake for 10 years) I feel like I could live on all things sugary 😀 😀 😀 :D. However, I feel like often times I actually really do crave starch like white bread, whole grain bread, pasta, etc. but my soul wants sweets. What happens is that I don’t feel satisfied and later binge on noodles or plain baguette 😀 etc. a weird thing to binge on :D. I was wondering if any of you experience the difference between craving sugary and starchy carbs. I experience it very extreme especially when I am physically active a looot. On the other hand I also experience it the other way round: that when I eat a meal without any sugary carbs in it, I could keep on eating and eating without every feeling satisfied, but then I realized I actually crave something sweet and drink a glass of juice or soda and everything is fine and I feel perfectly satisfied.

    I am a little concerned about it cause I don’t want to make this more complicated as it is, but do any of you experience this as well that your body wants a very fine tuned balance between sugar and starch?

  5. Grace says:

    Hello 🙂 I find this post fascinating.

    So, I eat roughly 2800-3400 calories per day and consume between 380-420 grams of carbs per day…..do you think this is okay? My body just loves carbs I guess! And with the oatmeal thing….I have always loved oatmeal and I eat 3 packets of quaker oats instant oatmeal every single day.

    Idk if this makes a difference but I am 5’6 hover between 112-117 pounds and also have a 4 year history of EDNOS which consisted of over exercising and under-eating for my personal needs (1800-2000 average) with exercise every day.

    Thoughts? Thanks!

    Do you think those with a history of restriction (through exercise or what not) just need more carbs in general compared to others, as well as sodium? I mean I eat this much every day and pretty much maintain. Although, all my carbs (most) come from high fiber foods as well.

    • Carrie says:

      If you had four years of undereating for the amount of exercise you were doing, your body is going to take a long time to feel 100% confident you are going to give it what it needs. So keep feeding it! Without a shadow of a doubt! Don’t have one ounce of guilt over it! You are listening and doing the right thing for your body!

      • Grace says:

        Thanks for the encouragement and sweet words! I am getting A LOT better at not having guilt! 😀

        Love the blog! Love it! Such a refreshing blog and s different from the rest of the worlds views on diets and low calorie bull s**t. I love this place! 🙂

  6. Nikki says:

    It’s so weird – I’m, honestly, sitting here on the verge of tears because it’s, like… someone finally articulated what I’m going through. I thought I was going crazy, but this post has helped me learn that I’m not; I just need a bit of help.

    I’ve lost a massive amount of weight from going Paleo two years ago (270 lbs down to 188 lbs), but within the past year, I’ve been struggling. I’ve become a lot more obsessive with food and my weight, and my eating habits are completely messed up. I’m a chronic binger (that “Last Supper” analogy is SO me). I’m afraid to gain weight, yet I can’t stop binging on carbs, sugary stuff, and junk food – the foods that made me balloon up in the first place. I thought that I just wasn’t trying hard enough anymore, so after my binges, that often resulted in weight gain, I would push myself harder and restrict my diet further – which led to more binging. The feelings of self-inadequacy and failure got to me, too, because I ate clean and paleo once before, and now, I can’t anymore.

    After reading your posts, I definitely need to work on healing my relationship with food. Thankfully, exercise – not the militant kind, but the energizing and strength-building kind – has been a great release for me and source of comfort. It’s mainly the reason that I was able to maintain my weight loss for so long. But my toxic relationship with food is another thing. It’s stressing me out, and that, in turn, has led me to pick up poor food and dietary habits. I have to learn to change these patterns – and your posts are a terrific first step.

    Thank you so much for writing this! From now onwards, my body belongs to ME. Fuck dieting!

    • AnnB says:

      What is a poor food habit? Why do you need to consciously change it? Eat, eat, eat and let your body decide when and what it wants to eat. Do your best to honor your body and leave off labeling how, what and when you eat. Think of the young children, animals who have no concerns about eating how, what and when except to ask for or find food WHEN they are hungry.

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