You can eliminate your sugar cravings and have more mental energy than ever before!

 
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One thing we hear a lot of is some version of, "But I just can't stop myself from eating or wanting [insert sugary treat]." In fact, combating cravings is one of the major difficulties in losing weight, eliminating brain fog, improving mood, and generally being healthy.

For me, it went something like this:

Wake up in the morning bright-eyed and bushy-tailed saying, "This is the day I start eating well, exercising, and being a bad-ass healthy chick." The day is a breeze. I decide not to drink a Starbucks before work. I don't eat any of the provided snacks at work. And then sometime between 4 and 7 pm I'd cave and eat a sugary snack. There was always a new cause or rationalization: a co-workers birthday (how can you say no to a free birthday cupcake and on Jerry's birthday - it would be rude!); I was feeling [insert emotion] (sad so I needed a pick-me-up, happy so I deserved it, bored so why not, etc. etc.); I was tired; I simply wanted a treat; or just the good old “I'm an adult gosh darn it and I can do what I want!” Fast forward to me falling asleep in bed feeling guilty, asking myself why and how I let that happen, and promising myself I’d be “good” tomorrow, every night. 

But it’s not even just about the guilt and the health issues. 

Going through this whole: I crave it but I musn’t eat it rigamarole is giving you decision fatigue and causing your work, your social life, your adventures, and every other aspect of your life to suffer.

What is decision fatigue and why is it the bane of your existence?

It's simple. As you make more and more decisions, each decision becomes harder and the quality of your decisions deteriorates. Your brain is tired! It’s similar to when you try to carry all your groceries in one trip - at first it feels fine - you even do a few bicep curls - but soon (usually before you get all the way to where you need to be) your body tires and you need to drop your bags to give yourself a break.  Unlike physical fatigue though with decision fatigue you aren't consciously aware of this low mental energy state and so you don’t take a break or refuel, you just keep going and make less than optimal sometimes even bad decisions. This has been demonstrated in experiments and further described by Roy Baumeister and colleagues.

Brain illustration courtesy of  The Awkward Yeti .

Brain illustration courtesy of The Awkward Yeti.

 

Your tired brain does either of two things when faced with a decision:

  1. Act impulsively (thinking about consequences is hard - just eat the brownie, who cares?)

  2. My personal favorite: do nothing, resist any change (planning a vacation is too tiring - I’ll just take a staycation).

Decision fatigue is making you less successful than you could be in pretty much every area of your life.

When you have decision fatigue:

  • You become resistant to making and understanding trade-offs despite your intelligence. For example, you may pick an inferior product to eat because it’s cheaper, not fully grasping that with the lower price you may be getting lower quality.

  • You become vulnerable to marketing tricks. Maybe thinking to yourself: well, the ice cream says it’s gluten free so it must be the healthy option, I guess.

  • You start settling for paths of least resistance instead of doing what is best for you.

  • You have less willpower to devote to work and all the other activities in your life.

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Meet Diedra

She went to the store to buy a dress for her daughter's wedding but she was tricked into buying a robot suit instead. Thanks, decision fatigue.

Overcoming decision fatigue would give you an edge over everyone else at work, when negotiating, at home, everywhere and all the time. 

Let's go back and re-frame our initial predicament in terms of what we've learned: you are waking up determined to eat well, you continuously rebuff sweet treats over the course of the day and by the end of the day you are so mentally tired (you have decision fatigue) from rebuffing those treats you just can’t stop yourself from eating one. Then you feel guilty that you were so good for the whole day and ruined it at the end.

So how do you overcome that decision fatigue so you can break out of this daily habit?

You stop the cravings. Then you don’t have to make those decisions anymore. Decision fatigue is a fact of life - you can't avoid it completely. You have to just decrease the amount of decisions you make so it affects you less frequently and less severely.

Banishing those cravings comes from following a LCHF/Primal/Paleo diet. As we discussed previously, the LCHF/Paleo/Primal way of eating allows your body to use fats instead of carbs as the primary energy source. Fat provides more consistent and reliable energy to your body so these intense cravings become a thing of the past. When you rely on carbohydrates your body is in a state that is consistently and urgently calling out for more carbs hence the cravings (to learn more on the science behind it read our previous article on the LCHF diet). It’s like trying to fly by gliding like a bird vs trying to fly by strapping a bunch of fireworks to your back. A bird will stay in the air longer with a more gentle decline and can easily soar higher again without any jarring motions. The firecracker pilot however is going up and down and having a hard controlling everything - it’s a complete mess. 

Even better, those sugary foods I used to crave taste gross to me now and that further reinforces my lack of cravings. 

When you are fully acclimated to eating an LCHF/Primal/Paleo diet, you will notice something else happening. If you eat a very sugary treat, you will find them cloyingly sweet. You may even feel a bit ill afterwards. That is how you used to feel all the time. Now it just feels as if you are ill because you feel so good otherwise. This feeling also helps beat back those cravings - since you know you won't feel well after eating a piece of cake, you're more likely to turn to a healthier option that is going to spike your blood sugar less like some fruit. 

Let's say you are some sort of anomaly and you’ve been reading this article thinking to yourself, “pssshh I have never craved sweet things.”

First of all, jealous. Second of all, this still applies to you because I guarantee you still get decision fatigue from other parts of your life and if you are eating a carb-based diet you are compounding the decision fatigue you experience.

How are carbs creating more decision fatigue regardless of cravings for sweets?

The way to increase your brain’s energy is by feeding it. If you are following the Standard American Diet and feed you brain carbs you are giving it that short-term energy source that isn’t going to help you over the course of the day. Your brain is going to quickly tire again and you’ll be back in the same position you were in before. While you are crashing and burning just trying to stay afloat by setting off more firecrackers, your Primal-eating brethren are soaring along on the energy from that fatty avocado they ate this morning.

In summary, although it may sound kind of cool to strap fireworks to your back in a make-shift jetpack sort-of-thing, it’s never gonna be as great as soaring like a majestic eagle so join our flock and eat LCHF/Primal/Paleo.


tl;dr

Sugar cravings are bad because:

  1. They generally lead you to eat sugar which makes you fat, tired, and unhealthy.

  2. Every time you are faced with a craving you have to make a decision to eat or not eat the sugar and maintaining that willpower drains your mental energy leading to decision fatigue. This leads to less brainpower to devote to work, your social life, and other activities.

  3. Even if you don’t experience sugar cravings when you are not eating a low-carb diet, your body is using carbs as a primary fuel source. This is a short-term fuel. When your mental energy starts to inevitably wane, eating carbs is only going to be a short-term burst of energy and then you’ll be right back where you started - mentally "so done" with everything.

  4. 4The LCHF/Primal/Paleo diet will help you eliminate your sugar cravings so you have fewer decisions to make in a day and provide you more consistent longer-lasting energy for your brain to tap into to delay the onset of decision fatigue. You'll have more mental energy to tackle more important things in your day and you’ll put all those carb-eaters to shame.

P.S.

You know what scientists have determined to be the most tiring part of making decisions? Deciding what to do. Not pondering options and forming preferences or implementing decisions made by others - it's sorting through the options and deciding what is best for you. That's why having a health coach is so amazing. We provide evidence-based guidance on what you should be doing. You don't have to make decisions. You just implement. This takes less mental energy and allows you to focus on other things in your life like killing it at work or planning a life-changing vacation. 

Kelly Fox