Food cravings? Willpower is not the answer.

food cravings sugar chocolate danni-archer

food cravings sugar chocolate

It’s Monday.  You’ve just started a brand new health kick, and you’re convinced that THIS TIME you’ll stick with it.  You have an event coming up in three months and you want to lose 10kg in that time.  You’ve removed all the junk food from your house, and you got pizza for dinner last night as a kind of last supper – just to prove to yourself that it was the last time you were going to eat food like that for at least 3 months.  You’ve got this.  Motivation is at an all time high, and nothing is going to stop you this time.

It’s Thursday.  You skipped the gym this morning because you snoozed your alarm too many times.  You were running late to work and didn’t have time to eat breakfast or make a healthy lunch, so by the time 11am comes around you are starving.  Sushi is the healthiest choice around, so you grab a couple of rolls and basically inhale them without thinking.  But it’s okay, you’re still on track, you haven’t given up yet!  Back to your strict diet tomorrow, for sure.

It’s Sunday.  It’s now been 4 days since you went to the gym, or exercised at all.  You’re feeling like a bit of a failure.  Your diet hasn’t been terrible, but it hasn’t been very good either.  And now you’re sitting on the couch thinking about the packet of potato chips sitting in the cupboard.  You rationalise; “I haven’t really stuck to my diet this week anyway, so I might as well just start again tomorrow”.  Before you know it, the packet is empty and you’re hit with guilt, regret and shame.  Why did you do it?  Why did you give in so easily?  Why couldn’t you just be a bit stronger and ignore your cravings?  You didn’t even enjoy the chips in the end, you were just eating them to punish yourself! Why, why, WHY do you always do this to yourself?

Gosh, that cycle is exhausting.  Trust me, I’ve been there!  And the reason I’m sharing this with you is because I know what it’s like to struggle through with nothing but willpower and CONSTANTLY feel like a failure.

You feel like you’ll never lose weight.

You feel like there is something wrong with you because you just can’t stick to a diet.

You feel worthless because you’ll never fit into those size 9 jeans sitting in your cupboard that you bought 4 years ago as “motivation to lose weight”.

It’s a really horrible place to be, all that guilt and shame and failure.

But wait for it…. *drum roll please*….. THERE IS ANOTHER WAY!  While the dieting industry would love you to believe that will power is your only option when it comes to losing weight, I’m here to smash that myth.  Let’s be cynical for a second: if all those dieting pills and weight loss shakes actually worked, wouldn’t the dieting industry be out of work?  Wouldn’t they lose customers every time someone actually succeeded in their programs?  Wouldn’t they make A LOT MORE MONEY if they actually set you up to fail in the first place?  By convincing you that your willpower is not strong enough, and then convincing you to try again, use a different product, start again next week or in the new year, the dieting industry is making you into a lifelong customer.  And that’s a win for them and their wallets.

So what’s the alternative to willpower?

Willpower works against your body.  It tells you to ignore food cravings, push through your low energy, ignore your stress and stick to your diet plan no matter what.  So the alternative to using willpower is to work with your body.  Listen to your body, get in touch with you and your individuality, and work from the foundations up.

When you work with your body, you delve deeper into your food cravings and figure out what is causing them, so that you can eliminate them completely.  Not having food cravings in the first place is a lot easier than fighting those cravings will willpower.  (This is what I teach in my online program Overcome Food Cravings).

When you work with your body, you figure out what is causing your low energy and you fix that first, rather than forcing yourself to “smash it out” at the gym when your body is screaming out for rest.  It might require increasing your iron intake, or improving your quality of sleep, or a number of things.  But whatever is contributing to your poor energy, that needs to be addressed before you can expect to stick to a consistent exercise regime.

How do I work with my body?  I don’t know where to start.

This is exactly what I do with clients in my 1-on-1 GROG sessions.  And no, we don’t sit around drinking wine together (although that sounds like fun too!).  GROG stands for Get Rid Of Guilt.  In an hour session, via video call or in my Hove clinic, I will help you understand what is going on at a foundational level so that we can get you to a place where eating healthy foods and exercising regularly feels easy.  No battling willpower, no feelings of guilt or failure, just a really down-to-earth and simple approach to getting you on the fast track to success in your weight loss goals.

I’ll help you get rid of your food cravings altogether.  I’ll help you improve your energy levels, get your digestion working properly, and give you coping strategies for stressful and emotional situations.  Whatever obstacle you need to remove before you can start living a healthy, happy life – I can help you out.

For more information on my 1-on-1 GROG sessions, send me an email or comment below.

I struggled against my body and blamed my lack of willpower for way too long, and I don’t want you to do the same.  Book a session with me and together we’ll get to the root of your issue, so that you can find freedom with food and healthy living.

If you want to book a GROG session now, click here.  And feel free to bring wine! 😉

 

P.S.  If you feel like food cravings are holding you back from staying consistent with your eating habits, click here to download my FREE food cravings guide.

My ‘Day on a Plate’

danni-archer
danni-archer-naturopath

Inspired by too many “what a nutritionist eats in a day’ articles that are completely unreasonable for the average person (I’m looking at you, Lola Berry), I decided to share my own ‘day on a plate’ to give you an insight into my average daily diet.

I am a qualified naturopath, and my biggest passion is helping women lose weight and get their food cravings under control.  I help my clients improve their eating habits, reduce their cravings, understand their bodies and approach themselves and their bodies with just a little more kindness.  I help my clients find exercise that they enjoy, and create a healthy lifestyle that is simple, sustainable and enjoyable.

But I also help my clients find balance, and encourage them to enjoy their life in amongst all the healthy eating and exercise.  There is no point restricting your diet to the point that you’re miserable and can’t go out and have fun with friends.  There is no point setting unrealistic goals and expecting to have a perfect, clean diet 100% of the time.  I’m a realist, and I know from experience that expectations of perfection and unsustainable dietary restriction is only going to cause cravings and a negative mindset and possibly even binge eating.

So please, don’t compare your current daily diet to mine or anyone else’s.  We’re all at different stages and what works for me might not work for you.

Here’s my average daily routine:

6.30am  Breakfast:          1x espresso coffee with soy milk

8.30-9am                             Protein shake – either Medi-Restore or a combination of Vital Protein powder and Vital Greens powder, in 50-50 water and almond milk

1pm                                       Mountain rice wrap with roasted chicken breast and salad (baby spinach, leafy green lettuce, rocket, carrot, beetroot, cucumber, tomato all tossed in a little olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice) with hummus

3pm                                       Homemade banana bread, if I haven’t already had some for breakfast

                                OR          1 banana with Justin’s Almond Butter (soooo yum!)

7pm                                       Dinner is almost always some kind of protein with a variety of veggies.  Curries and stirfries are popular in our house, so is pasta, veggie bakes, homemade pies.. I try to mix it up to keep things interesting.  Some weeks I’ll do a big cook-up on Sunday for the week, and other days I’ll cook simpler meals each night.  Being just the two of us at home, meals will usually last us at least 2 nights, or we might have leftovers for the lunch the next day.

So that’s my average day on a plate!

But I’m human just like you.

Some days I’ll have a second coffee (my fiancé has turned me into a coffee lover!)

Some days I don’t take enough food to work and come home absolutely starving.

Some days I feel like chocolate, and although I always tune in to figure out why I’m actually craving it, there are days when I’ll eat something else instead and days when I’ll have the chocolate I’m craving.

Wherever you are right now in your health journey, it’s totally okay.

I used to eat hot chips almost daily, and craved chocolate like crazy.  I had a phase when I was 18 years old when I ate nothing but BBQ Shapes and salami and drank energy drinks every day.  Even just a couple of months ago I was having a rough patch emotionally, and my eating habits were completely reflective of that – I had no motivation to prepare food and was eating packaged convenience foods or nothing at all.

I’ve got a complex relationship with food, and even though my eating habits can fluctuate, I am connected to my body and always feel in control of the decisions that I make.  And if I’m having a rough patch, I know that it’s not forever, and I just do the best I can to get myself through.

So sure, I can give you my average “day on a plate”, but it doesn’t always look like this.  And that’s totally okay.  

Cause I’m human.  And I’m not perfect – but I am healthy and happy, and that’s the most important thing to me.

Top 6 Ways to Overcome Food Cravings

danni-archer-weight-loss

Food cravings are something many of us struggle with.  Whether you crave a certain food daily, or you’ve tried dieting and given up because of food cravings, you know what it’s like to give in to your cravings.. and that’s usually followed by feelings of guilt, regret, shame, failure, the list goes on..

I’m here to tell you that you don’t have to IGNORE food cravings.  You don’t have to fight against them, or rely on your willpower to get through them, or distract yourself from them.  You can actually reduce or even eliminate food cravings simply by understanding why you have them, and making a few small changes throughout the day so that you don’t have that 3pm sugar craving or midnight chocolate feast.

1. Eat more protein

Protein is known for many things, but few people know this: eating protein slows down your absorption of sugar, which means more balanced blood glucose levels, which means less sugar cravings.  It can also help you lose weight because your insulin production is often reduced when you’re eating quality protein at every meal and snack.

Protein-rich foods include meats and seafood, beans, legumes, lentils, nuts, seeds, mushrooms, tofu and tempeh.  Avoid processed meats like salami and luncheon.

2. Get more sleep, or better quality sleep

Research has shown that sleep deprivation causes increased food cravings.  Part of this is because you begin to rely on food for energy, so when you’re feeling tired you’re more likely to reach for a high-sugar food to give you that short-term energy boost.  The other reason sleep impacts your food choices and cravings is because it impacts your hunger and satiety hormones, so you’re less able to determine when you’re actually hungry and also when you’re full.  You’ll see below why hunger can cause cravings for high-fat and high-sugar foods.

3. Increase your vegetable intake

Certain nutrient deficiencies have been linked to particular food cravings.  You’ve probably heard that a craving for chocolate, particularly pre-menstrual, may be due to the magnesium content in cacao beans.  The bad news is, processed milk chocolate from the confectionery aisle in your supermarket has little to no magnesium content, so your craving won’t actually be satisfied.  There are lots of other nutrient deficiencies that can cause specific food cravings – too many to list here.  I’ll do another blog post on it soon!

My advice to you is to increase your vegetable intake, and a wide variety of different vegetables in order to improve your nutritional intake of essential vitamins and minerals.

P.S.  Potatoes don’t count as vegetables – sorry!

4. Don’t focus on restriction

Close your eyes, right now, and DON’T think about penguins.

It’s hard right?  As soon as you’re told NOT to think about something, that’s where your mind wanders.  It’s the same with diets and restriction.  If you’re focusing on what you CAN’T eat, that’s what you’ll be thinking about.  And I don’t know about you, but if I sat down and thought about chocolate cake for a few minutes I would probably start craving it.

Focus on the foods you want to eat, the foods that are healthy for you and provide your body with the energy and nutrients it needs to function and thrive.  Shift your attention away from deprivation and towards abundance – there are so many delicious foods you can enjoy that don’t contain refined sugars and trans fats.

And you know I hate the word CAN’T.  Get it out of your vocabulary when it comes to food choices.  You can eat whatever you want!  You’re just choosing healthier options, and enjoying a balanced lifestyle without guilt.

5. Snack between meals

Ever felt ‘hangry’? You’re not likely to reach for a healthy snack in these instances.  When your blood sugar levels drop low due to hunger, your brain will send out a strong craving for carbs – because the brain needs glucose to function, and carbs and sugar turn into glucose in the body.  So cravings for foods like hot chips, muffins/cakes, lollies, bread and biscuits could be a sign that your blood sugar has dropped too low.

How do you keep your blood sugar levels stable, and avoid getting hangry?  Eating regular meals and snacks that contain adequate protein can help to stabilise blood sugar.

My clients are sometimes surprised when I recommend snacking even if they’re not hungry.  The reason for this is that in today’s society, so many of us have dysfunction in the production and signalling of our ‘hunger’ hormones, and we miss the hunger cues until we are absolutely starving.  So eating small amounts even when you’re not hungry can be helpful in re-training your body to produce and stimulate a healthy hunger response.

5. Establish healthy ways to cope with stress

Stress is a HUGE factor in food cravings.  Any kind of emotion or feeling that you are ignoring can lead to ‘comfort eating’ or ‘emotional eating’.  Finding healthy ways to cope with stress, such as exercise, meditation, relaxation practices and eating healthily will reduce the impact stress has on your body, and therefore reduce the impact of stress on your food cravings and eating habits.

Of course, avoiding the source of stress is ideal, but we can’t always control that in the short-term (i.e. a stressful month at work, or a difficult time within your relationship).  Looking after your body with food and exercise, allowing yourself time to relax and being present with your emotions and feelings instead of ignoring them is a great way to reduce the impact stress has on your whole body, as well as reducing food cravings and the need for emotional comfort from food.

Most of my clients think I’m strange when I don’t ask them to give up the foods they are craving.  But when we start from the very cause of the craving and correct that, then the craving is either not there at all, or it’s turned into more of a habit.  And believe me, habits are a lot easier to change than full-blown, intense cravings!  I’d suggest picking just one of the above that you feel applies to your food cravings most, and make a few small changes.  Watch how your cravings reduce or even disappear, and you’ll begin to understand why battling with your willpower isn’t a solution for food cravings.

Is Stress Making You Gain Weight?

danni-archer-weight-loss

The more research is conducted on stress, the more we’re realising just how bad it is for our health.  Heart disease, digestive issues, poor mental health and so much more has been linked to living a high-stress lifestyle.  But if you’re not suffering from any of those problems, it can be really easy to ignore the effect that stress is having on you.  What you may not have considered is the impact your stress level is having on your weight.

Unfortunately for our waistlines, our physical stress response as humans is a little bit outdated – it hasn’t exactly caught up to our current lifestyles.  Today, our stress mostly comes from balancing and juggling the myriad of things going on in our life at any one time – work deadlines, family responsibilities, finding time to prepare nutritious food and exercise regularly, all whilst maintaining a healthy social life and looking after our finances and spending quality time with our partner… it’s a lot, and it’s fairly constant!  For our ancestors, stress was usually a threat of some kind, like being chased by a bear or struggling through a drought and not knowing when your next meal would be.  Short and quick bursts of stress in response to stressful situations – after which their bodies could recoup and recover from said stressor.

But in today/s world?  Rest is rare.  Our stress is ongoing, it’s always there, it’s chronic stress.  And how the heck does this all relate to weight loss, I hear you ask!  I’m going to explain it the simplest way I can – ignore the big words, they’re not important anyway.

When you are faced with stress, your body prepares for fight or flight.  You probably remember this term from your year 10 biology class.  What this means is that your body is gearing up to either fight the stressor (e.g. fight the bear that’s chasing you) or flight from the stressor (e.g. run away from the bear that’s chasing you.. a much smarter choice in my opinion, if it truly is a bear that you’re facing!).  Whether you are going to fight or flight, your body needs energy to do so.

So, your body will start to free up any stored glycogen (the storage form of glucose, from carbs and sugar) and convert it back into glucose, transport it to your muscles and around your body so that you have this quick hit of energy, from glucose (sugar), when you’re ready to face your stressor.  In the bear scenario, you would use up all that glucose as energy when you’re running away from the bear – that’s what your stress response is there for!  But what happens when the stress you’re facing is actually a work deadline and you’re sitting at your computer using little energy apart from your fingers frantically typing away at the keyboard?  Well, your body is still going to prepare for a fight or flight response.  And the glycogen and glucose is still going to be released.  And then when you don’t actually use up that energy, the glucose molecules can be turned into triglycerides (fats) and stored as body fat.  Are you starting to understand how stress can cause weight gain?

Stress = glucose released from liver + lack of energy output = glucose converted into fat = increased body fat

So how do you reduce the impact that stress has on your weight?  Well that’s a whole separate blog post.  But for now, try to become aware of the impact that stress is having on you and your health, including your weight, and try to find a middle ground between ‘busy’ and rest.

5 Easy Ways to Improve Your Energy Levels

danni-archer-weight-loss
women's wellness Adelaide

Energy!  That elusive ‘thing’ we all wish we had more of.  Do you ever see a child running around for no reason and think to yourself, “I wish I had that kind of energy”?  I’m here to share with you five very simple ways that you can look after and improve your energy levels.  And when you have more energy, everything is easier.

Hydration

It’s amazing that something as simple as drinking water can help to improve your energy levels.  When you are dehydrated, fatigue can quickly set in, so it’s important to avoid dehydration and stay hydrated throughout the day.  A general rule is that you should be drinking 500ml water per 25kg of body weight, so for example if you weight 75kg you should be drinking 1.5L water per day.  Add an extra 500ml water (at least) onto this on days you exercise, or if you’re in a particularly warm climate.

Perhaps an easier way to monitor your hydration is to make sure your urine is light in colour – the darker it is, the more dehydrated you are.

Quality Sleep

Obviously, sleep affects your energy levels.  The good news is – there is plenty you can do to improve your sleep quality!  Going to bed at a reasonable time and trying to get eight hours of sleep each night is a good start.  Avoiding screen time (computers, phones, tv, etc) for 30-60 minutes before bed is also going to make a big difference.  The artificial light from screens messes with your sleep-wake rhythm and is very confusing to your body, and can not only make it harder to fall asleep but also impact the quality of that sleep, thereby leaving you feeling unrefreshed in the morning.

Another thing that has a big effect on sleep quality is alcohol (sorry, I know you didn’t want to hear this!).  Alcohol can often put you to sleep faster, so you might think that it is good for sleep – but it actually reduces your sleep quality and depth.  Throughout the night, you cycle through different stages of sleep, some are a deeper sleep and some are lighter.  Alcohol consumption can actually prevent you from reaching or staying in the deeper stages of sleep.  This ultimately means less restorative sleep and you wake up feeling less refreshed.  So minimise your alcohol intake to improve your sleep quality and increase your energy levels the following day.

Iron – The Fatigue Fighter

You might already know that iron is super important for energy production and if you are low in iron, you’ll often feel quite fatigued and low in energy.  You might also feel irritable, suffer from dizziness or light-headedness, breathlessness, heart palpitations, or look more pale than usual.  If you think you might have iron deficiency, speak to your doctor about getting a blood test.  The “normal” range for iron can be as low as 5-30umol/L, but the optimal range is 25-30umol/L.  So if you have a blood test and your doctor says there’s no issue with your iron levels, ask what the value is and make sure it’s closer to optimal, because there’s a wide scope between 5-25 where you might be classed as having “normal” iron levels but it’s still affecting your energy levels because it’s not at optimal levels.

Dietary sources of iron include:  lean meats (esp. red meats), liver, eggs, green leafy vegetables (e.g. spinach, kale), wheat germ, whole grain breads and cereals, raisins and molasses.

Stress & Caffeine

I guess I talk about stress a lot, but the truth is it has such a huge impact on our health it is impossible to ignore.  When you’re stressed, your adrenal glands work really hard to produce cortisol (stress hormone) to help you cope with the stress.  After long periods of stress, your adrenal glands can get over-worked, and this constant production of cortisol is exhausting in it’s own right.  Sometimes your adrenal glands might struggle to continue producing cortisol, and so low cortisol starts to contribute to your low energy levels.  The important thing here is that you start managing your stress in healthy ways, take time out for relaxation and rest, and look after your adrenal glands so that they can keep functioning the way they need to.

Caffeine stimulates production of cortisol (stress hormone).  If you’re using caffeine to wake up or stay away during the day, your cortisol levels and adrenal gland health is definitely contributing to your low energy – it’s a never-ending cycle.  If you’re also using alcohol to relax of an evening, you’re just adding more stress to your adrenals and stress response.  Take care of your adrenal glands first, by managing your stress in a healthy way.  You will find that your energy levels naturally improve by doing so, and your reliance on coffee and alcohol will greatly reduce.

Exercise!

Yes, I know, when your energy levels are at zero it can be really hard to get up and exercise.  But I’m not asking you to go for a run, simply moving your body is enough to improve your energy.  Some ideas of low-intensity, low-effort exercises:

  • walk around the block for 5 minutes
  • dance around the house to one of your favourite songs (bonus points if you sing along too)
  • practice a few simple yoga postures
  • lie down and stretch your muscles (yes, this counts! Try it, you’ll feel better afterwards)

It’s not necessary, but doing any of the exercises outside is a faster way to increase your energy levels than inside – and being outside will also help to reduce stress and balance cortisol levels (discussed above).  It doesn’t take a long time, and it doesn’t have to be a full ‘workout’, but moving your body and preferably getting outside while you do it is a great, immediate way to increase your energy levels.  Make it part of your daily routine and notice how much of a difference it makes to the rest of your day.

So as you can see, healthy energy levels don’t have to be something you ‘wished you had’!  These five simple tips will have you running around in circles in no time at all (though it’s probably not as socially acceptable for adults as it is for kids).  Drink more water, improve your sleep quality, eat iron-rich foods, reduce your stress levels and move your beautiful body – you’ll thank yourself for it!