Conquer the Cravings, Tame the Junk Food Beast

I’ve noted along the way that when you make a commitment to write every day, one of the hurdles you must occasionally overcome is writer’s block…what are you going to write about today? Some days I sit down to the keyboard and the ideas flow, and I can bang out two or three of them right away. Some days I sit down and I got nothing. Seriously…no…thing.

Fortunately, being in the health and wellness space, there are great resources to go to for inspiration. One of mine is livestrong and somewhere in there I’m bound to find something to riff on. Today was no different. I happened upon an article on curbing your food cravings and I thought, “Wait, didn’t I write something on that?” Why yes, yes I did.

The upshot of my “Stop Eating Crap” is that a serious yoga practice, fully incorporated into my lifestyle and routines, tamed my sweet tooth and controlled my cravings. I stopped eating garbage, not deliberately, it was just a happy accident of the yoga. But why? My engineer’s brain always wants to know why something works, not just that something works. All I had was:

Some combination of improved diet and sweating out the garbage left me lacking the desire to eat crap, and on the occasions I did (out of habit, or nostalgia) I regretted it.

Well, Livestrong provided the answer. Check out the cravings article (but come on back, ‘kay). Some of the factors influencing our food cravings are; energy deficits, hormones, emotions and stress. Their four suggestions for taming your cravings are:

  1. Eat more protein – protein fills you, reduces cravings, and doesn’t leave room for too much junk.
  2. Identify emotional triggers – we’re emotionally attached to certain food (y’know, comfort foods).
  3. Allow yourself a treat – we’re not robots, and life is meant to be enjoyed, so indulge occasionally. Knowing you’ll sometimes get a treat helps you control the cravings as they arise.
  4. Get more sleep – it’s easier to give in when we’re tired.

In reading these, I found myself thinking back over the last few weeks, and the things I’ve written about my life as a yogi. I’ve noodled around ideas touching all of these areas. Let’s take them in order.

First; eat more protein. By wearing a heart rate monitor I found out that I was burning 1000 – 1400 calories per class, ½ a day’s eating. I also learned that yoga is a total body workout, including resistance training. Resistance training=building muscle=need more protein. So, through yoga I both greatly increased my calories burned and my need for protein to build muscle. The upshot of it all is that my wife had to add a lot of protein to our diets.

Second; emotional triggers. I didn’t approach this one exactly those terms, but I wrote about moods and mood swings. I needed to tame my moods in order to be a good father to my boys and a huge part of doing so was yoga.

Third; allow yourself a treat. In “Stop Eating Crap” I noted that while I seriously reduced my garbage consumption, I didn’t eliminate it. In fact, I still have a powerful sweet tooth, but I’ve found most of the comfort crap I used to eat (still looking at you Vachon cakes) leave me feeling lousy. So, if I have the craving, but the object of the craving is going to leave me feeling lousy, I have to trick it. My trick? Dark chocolate.

Cocoa is a very healthy food. Please note that I said Cocoa , not chocolate. Basically, the darker the chocolate, the healthier it is. This is because the Cocoa is healthy, not the sugar, and the darker the chocolate the higher the Cocoa ratio. Basically; white chocolate=bad, milk chocolate=not good, dark chocolate=good. I’ve found that 80% Cocoa dark chocolate is still sweet enough for my cravings and as a bonus, cocoa has some very beneficial effects regarding working out, but that’s a topic for another time.

Finally, sleep. I banged out “Perchance to Dream” specifically to address sleep deprivation and its ill effects. In my reading on sleep deprivation the one ill effect I didn’t come across is an increase in food cravings, and when I was working on improving my sleep I was doing so for reasons completely unrelated to food and diet. It doesn’t matter. Like so many other benefits I received from yoga I got this one simply by being immersed in the practice, the practice that gave me so much.

By its nature yoga had me applying those four suggestions. In addition it helped me to relieve the stress in my life (another of the major triggers for cravings), gave me the energy and patience necessary to ride out the emotions and moods that are bound to arise when raising three healthy, energetic, rambunctious little boys.

I wrote “The Subject is Not the Object” about the purpose of yoga not being to get better at yoga, but to get better at being you. Controlling unhealthy food cravings is another example of this. By showing up, relaxing and letting it come, another great benefit of the healthy lifestyle through regular yoga came to me.