I feel like in winter I go into hibernation mode and put on weight and just crawl into bed earlier than I should! Do you feel that way when it gets dark at 5pm? Do you want to eat whenever you watch the news or a scary movie? It happens to all of us, you’re not alone.
If your cravings have increased due to going overboard on holiday treats, or even from stress and the current early darkness of winter, then read on because I have some simple, natural solutions that you can try. And I want to emphasize that this is very important to your immune system. Maintaining good general health and optimal nutrient status is key to staying well during a pandemic. And FYI, the virus isn’t going anywhere, it’s going to be on planet Earth forever, in some form, so we are going to have to co-exist. So again, maintaining a healthy BMI is critical to a successful outcome after exposure of any pathogen.
Curb the crave and start today! Trying these things is the first and only commitment you have to make today. You can always revise the plan, have a little donut, and then get back on track!
1. Drink something instead.
Take notice of how many times you go to the fridge and open the door. The next time you do that, open the freezer instead and get the ice cubes. Put them in a glass of water, or iced tea and drink instead of eating! This keeps your tummy full to some extent and may help you avoid yet another tub of yogurt or slice of cheese. Try it; you’ll see. I talk a little more about water, and lemon water, in my other article, Solving Cold, Flu and Fever.
Coffee or black tea is a beverage you could incorporate into your day. Matcha tea is another favorite of mine because caffeine is a natural appetite suppressant! Even green tea has some caffeine (less than black tea though), and caffeine-sensitive folks may prefer this option. A cup of coffee, tea or matcha once or twice a day should easily reduce your consumption of food, and your cravings for sweets. The EGCG in green tea and caffeine itself are both well-studied appetite suppressants.
This warm spice is found in many blood-sugar-lowering supplements, but even a sprinkle of the spice can help. Cinnamon is a superfood that has been utilized for centuries to work as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. Cinnamon has well-known activity (but it’s mild) to help your insulin and blood sugar levels, which in turn, reduces cravings. Give it a try and sprinkle it on some green apple slices, sweet potatoes or coffee.
Ginger is a natural anti-inflammatory that improves insulin sensitivity in the body which will make your blood sugar slide into a better range. Ginger is easy to buy at any grocery store and you can grate it into soups and stews. Interested in knowing why you should eat more ginger? CLICK HERE to find out.
5. Minimize grains.
This is a hard one but you can do it. If you eat a lot of bread, rolls or buns please reduce that. If you eat other refined carbohydrates, for example, pasta for lunch, cereal or muffins for breakfast and bread at dinner, again, reduce that or stop it. (I told you it was hard!) But here’s why… these are lacking in fiber and they provide empty calories that spike your blood sugar which then has to crash! At that point, you are experiencing the hunger pangs again so you go back to the cabinet looking for another Pop-Tart!
Also, you will fall into a mental slump after a high-carb meal, plus it makes your jeans tighter after a few years.
So if you can just try to cut down on those, it would be enough for today. Skip carbs altogether for a meal every day! This lowers the glycemic index of your meal and that’s important. That would be a place to start. Whole grains or complex carbs are better for you too. I am not anti-carb or anti-grain, so it’s okay to eat some oatmeal, quinoa or rice on occasion too. My goal for you is to make the protein and vegetables the main part of your plate, with carbs only a small portion (instead of the other way around).
In this moment of writing, I see in my mind’s eye a mouth-watering foot-long sub, but that is a heavy carb hit for me, and I prefer more meat and less bread. A change in ratios! So with this example, I would make it a wrap instead, or an open-face sandwich, or a bowl that skips the carbs! Another trick I do is at the Indian buffet bar… I use salad greens and a tiny bit of rice under the main course that I spoon on top of it. I use that rather than rice. It’s a lower carb option but it still gives me the fix I want, allowing me to eat more (lol!) but the platefuls are low-carb and that’s the point. Just try this tip and see what happens and give yourself some time to figure out what works for you.
I can’t say a whole lot about this one because it’s in one of my supplements and no claims can be made. The herbal extract has been used around the world for centuries to support already healthy blood sugar levels* and to work as an antioxidant and cholesterol agent.* Banaba has been studied in both animal models and humans.
7. Gymnema sylvestre.
Another herbal extract that I cannot say a whole lot about for the same reason as banaba. But this one has been studied extensively and a quick google search will show you how it can fight the crave!* It is able to help support regeneration of pancreatic cells that have the job of lowering blood sugar. The more of those pancreatic islet cells the better, and unfortunately, those get destroyed sometimes for people in an autoimmune type of fight. Again, I cannot elaborate but I want you to know it can help with cravings in case you want to put it in your arsenal. It’s an edible food actually, but also sold in health food stores and in multi-tasking glucose supplements that support cholesterol and blood sugar.* It can somehow ‘block’ the taste of sugar on the tongue hence the nickname “sugar destroyer.”
When you think cutting down on the crave, and hunger pangs, you cheat yourself by not considering oils. Everyone is talking about the sweetness factor (including me in this whole entire article), so right now I want to mention one overlooked but critical thing and that’s OIL. Give yourself an oil change. The good fats that you put into your body work very quickly to displace bad fats, and that will help with HDL and LDL. But also, a well-oiled machine just runs better, doesn’t it?
There is data to show that the nutrients in healthy oils, for example tea seed oil, or olive oil can prevent or mitigate symptoms of diabetes by nourishing the body with antioxidants and other phytochemicals. We also know these nutrients can reduce blood glucose, triglycerides and LDL – three different compounds in the body that when high, contribute to heart disease and hypertension. The same healthy nutrients in oils (think omega 3’s and vitamin E) are also found in nuts by the way, and these have been shown in studies to reduce fasting blood sugar (and hemoglobin A1c).
Palm oil has come under controversy lately, so I’m not recommending that one. And then there’s canola and vegetable oil which is just “meh” in my opinion. I don’t use either. If you use a lot of oils in the kitchen while cooking like I do, or you make your own salad dressing like I do, then I would switch up your oils and starting using more organic olive oil, grape seed oil, avocado, tea seed and/or coconut or macadamia nut oil. Ghee is another option and so is pure clean butter. You do not want refined oils or fake butters as I call them. Those are greasy wanna-be’s! Read more about healthy oils in my other article posted HERE.
If you type “oil” in my search box, you’ll see other articles about “tea seed” oil and olive oil, and much more! My search box will lead you to any one of about 600 health articles I’ve written and a lot of people don’t realize I have that many medical articles here.
9. Take a whiff of peppermint.
If you have an essential oil of peppermint, sniff it throughout the day. It is a simple, easy and affordable tip to try. Peppermint is known to reduce cravings and so long as you’re trying everything, I’d pull out all the stops! It helps with digestion too, so you could also just drink some herbal peppermint tea with your meal (or right before) and see if that helps you to reduce portions. I didn’t cover portions in this article, but it should be a priority. If you can cut down on the amount of food you eat -little by little- this will help you with your overall quest to reduce your weight, cut down on cravings and live a healthier life.
In summary, I would like to emphasize that I understand you and have the same love of sugar. I’ve gone on diets myself over the years… it’s not easy after menopause to lose weight. And I’ve been small most of my life, and then gained, and then small again and experienced injuries at the gym causing me to be sedentary and so forth. I’m saying there is no judgment, and in fact, we need sugar to survive. I eat desserts too. I’m always dismayed by people who say to avoid sugar because we need some of it. But there ARE healthy more natural sugars that your brain requires to function, but in moderation. I’m hoping today’s article hits the target intended – and that’s to remind you that you have control over your life, and not to let the holidays, or stress get you down, and make you feel bad about indulging in excess.
We would die without consuming some type of glucose, but that said, the cravings and the fact that many of us OD on sugar every day (or more often than that!) is creating an unhealthy balance in our bodies. Our brains pump out endorphins and ‘ask for more’ and it puts us into a cycle of requirement. To help break that, try some of the options above and give it more than a week. It takes the body and brain some time to reacclimate to your new strategy, especially if it’s been amiss for years.
One more thing, be careful with stimulant pills. I know those are a ‘thing’ and help with weight loss, and some of them do work but they can tax your heart and your blood pressure, and that is unhealthy and dangerous for some of you. Diet pills are apt to interact with many medications too, increasing your risk for anxiety, insomnia, headaches, panic/restlessness and cardiac side effects. I wrote an article on interactions that is useful because it also includes interactions with supplements. CLICK HERE to read, Avoid Dangerous Interactions.
I don’t recommend weight loss “diet” pills. But if you want to take a product that helps with blood sugar, that’s different. Because when your blood sugar is balanced, you are cellularly satisfied, and when that happens your pancreas gets a break! In a nutshell, blood sugar balance is key to cravings, and translates to long-term, sustained weight loss and healthy BMIs.
Eating because you’re bored presents another new challenge since many of us are sitting home more often than in the old days! But even that can be addressed over time, so long as you become aware you’re doing that. Eating a nutrient-rich diet, exercising if you can, and trying some of the tips I’ve listed for you are critical to your health and well-being.
If you’d like to, feel free to let me know if you’ve successfully helped yourself, cut down on cravings, or even improved your mental clarity with my tips. I am hoping, and rooting for you and please do the same for me. The month of December always makes me feel like a hibernating polar bear, lol!
Suzy Cohen, has been a licensed pharmacist for over 30 years and believes the best approach to chronic illness is a combination of natural medicine and conventional. She founded her own dietary supplement company specializing in custom-formulas, some of which have patents. With a special focus on functional medicine, thyroid health and drug nutrient depletion, Suzy is the author of several related books including Thyroid Healthy, Drug Muggers, Diabetes Without Drugs, and a nationally syndicated column.