It’s a fairly regular occurrence in our practice and coaching that someone will ask for help with reducing their carb intake. Usually (but not always) it’s because they want to lose weight.
When the average person talks about carbs in this sense, they’re not talking about the valuable carbs (fresh fiber) found in fresh vegetables, for example. They’re typically talking about those gnarly “starchy carbs”.
Really, it’s not so much that they need help with decreasing their intake – since that would only be a matter of keeping your mouth closed and not eating it! – they want help with decreasing their intake and not feeling rotten or deprived in the process.
While there are many directions we could take with this little carb-reducing journey, these are 4 of the main points I typically make with patients from the start.
1) It’s important to know what you’re dealing with.
Many people still think I’m talking about adding a “spoonful” of sugar to their coffee when I ask about their sugar consumption… and they wonder what this has to do with their “carb” issue. I’ve had countless consultations where someone tells me they don’t use sugar, or they don’t add sugar to any foods, or they don’t even have sugar in the house… only to listen to them tell me 5 minutes later that they start their day with a bowl of cereal, or a bagel, or a piece of toast, or a flavored coffee on the way to work.
Then, it’s their sandwich or sub at lunch, and the pasta or pizza for dinner, the energy drinks and pop, the snack foods… it goes on and on.
It’s not just the Mary Poppins spoonful of sugar. It’s all the foods, beverages, and various ingredients that convert quickly (and in excess) to sugar. That’s one of the biggest issues with “carbs”.
I tell people to visually picture their starchy carbs as cup-fulls of sugar.
We have to consider the long & short-term health consequences of consuming all the bread, pasta, crackers, cookies, cereal, rice, etc.
- One of the big problems with all this sugar intake is the massive stress effect on your blood sugar regulation, and your poor pancreas.
- Sugar is considered “fuel” for cancer.
- Additionally, these carb-based foods that the masses are consuming are rarely from pure, non-toxic sources. As a result, they cause additional issues with cellular inflammation and toxicity… which skews our hormonal communication system and metabolism, thus creating chronic challenges with getting “good” nutrition INTO the cell and “bad” waste OUT of the cell.
It’s quite the vicious cycle.
Inflammation, toxicity, and stress are the precursors to ALL chronic illness – cancer, diabetes, heart disease, hormonal resistance, autoimmune conditions, neurodegenerative conditions (MS, ALS, etc.), and so on.
On a more superficial note (compared to some of the aforementioned more serious long-term consequences of consuming carbs/sugars/grain-based foods) toxins are harbored in fat cells as an intelligent self-protective mechanism. The more toxic and inflammatory our diets, the larger our fat cells. The fat cells essentially trap the toxins to protect our more vital organs and systems. Decreasing the amount of toxicity helps the body more easily rid itself of excess body fat.
So, part one is to know that those food choices don’t come without consequence. They may be the popular, tasty, “status quo”… but look at the condition of our overall health in this culture that consumes excess carbs/ sugar! Consider the ever-increasing incidence of cancers, pancreatic issues, hormonal dysregulation, blood sugar imbalances & diabetes. Obviously, the status quo isn’t where we want to be.
Short term: these carbs & sugars cause us to gain weight & excessive body fat, maybe feel digestive distress, or lack of energy, or brain fog, or bloating, or chronic pain, etc…. but LONG term is far more dangerous.
2) At some point, you’ve just got to reclaim ownership of your body and wage a “strike” against these foods for a few days in order to break through the physical addictions. For most folks, that takes 4 or 5 days. Cut out all the culprits: bread, pasta, rice, cereals, alcohol, pop, energy drinks, fruit drinks, many condiments/dressings/dips/sauces, crackers, chips, pastries, baked goods, sweeteners, etc. and eat “clean” for a few days.
That’s enough to take care of the physical cravings. To take care of the mental and emotional attachments we have to these tasty toxins, you need to re-visit point #1… getting real with yourself and understanding the consequences of your choices.
I believe it’s always important to weigh the whole “pleasure vs. pain” deal. It’s a total mental thing once you get beyond the physiological cravings. So, you need to pay attention to what truly motivates you to act (or not act). Are you seeking pleasure by making healthy choices? Or avoiding pain by making those choices? And, vice versa: Are you seeking the short-term pleasure you associate with the more toxic choices? Or avoiding the perceived pain you associate with making healthier choices?
Once it becomes more painful to consume the foods that contribute to future illness, and more pleasant to consume foods that contribute to your future health, making healthier choices will become easier and more “second nature” for you. You might need to spend some time in “Head Space Boot Camp” ’til you get to where you want to be!
3) The strategy of ‘crowding out’ the tasty toxins with real, nourishing, whole foods is a powerful one. If, for example, you’re used to eating a bagel, or bowl of cereal, or piece of toast for breakfast, instead, you could opt for a few berries, and then some eggs and bacon/sausage or a protein smoothie, and maybe some green veggies. You don’t ‘need’ to eat the toast/bagel/cereal, at least not from a physical perspective. Your body doesn’t need more food.
I’ve used the phrase “Fuel up with health FIRST” for years with our kids. Give your body the healthier options first… then, as the theory goes, you may end up not wanting the less-than-healthy choice after… or at least not as much of it. If we ever opt for pizza (gluten-free or not), for example, we know we’re eating full salads &/or veggies first… then a little pizza. Crowd out the “bad”.
4) Substitution is a similar strategy and equally as powerful.
If you normally eat a sandwich, substitute with lettuce wraps, or the “insides” of the sandwich on top of a salad, or the “insides” on their own. Same thing with dinner – we do a lot of “wrap” ingredients on top of a salad, or lettuce wraps, or just meat with lots of veggies. Never underestimate the power of a bacon wrap or a bacon bowl!
If we feel like having pasta, we can substitute with Paleo-like versions made from squash or cauliflower, for example. Or you can substitute traditional flour-based foods with coconut or almond flour. Substitute pop, juice, and alcohol for cultured & fermented beverages like Kombucha, Suero or Amasai that actually serve beneficial and nourishing roles.
Instead of common snack foods, like chips and crackers, have healthy go-to foods readily available for those times when the munchies strike: jerky, hard-boiled eggs, avocados/guacamole, chicken strips, veggies, any type of fermented foods, some raw nuts, protein smoothies… Just don’t become a chronic snacker, though. This leads us to become fat storers vs. fat burners.
Paleo and Paleo-like approaches are definitely the way to go if you’re looking to decrease (or eliminate) toxic, starchy carb consumption while simultaneously fueling your body with healthy, nourishing foods. I’ve got some Paleo resources on this site you can look into if you like: http://www.drmomonline.com/paleoresources/
With some lifestyle changes, it’s all about “baby steps”. But in the case of sugar and carb addictions, I’d actually recommend going cold turkey for a few days. This is the only way to break the physical addiction. Cheating, even a little, takes you back to ground zero! Sugar consumption leads to more cravings for sugar!
In case you didn’t see it, I recently referenced a sugar-addiction-breaking-program by Catherine Gordon here. While it’s no longer on sale, the full price is definitely well worth it if you’re looking to make this important nutritional upgrade. Click HERE to read that article and find her “Sugar Freedom” protocol.
Another super-successful approach to breaking through addictions to sugar, as well as other cravings, is to do the 14-day “Get Real” Jump Start Health Program by Beyond Organic. It’s like clockwork when folks follow this program – cravings are annihilated!
Remember, it’s not about being perfect. While it would be ideal to permanently rid ourselves of sugar and toxic carbs, if you can “strike” from the carbs/sugar/toxicity, and then go back to those foods LESS frequently, you’re already better off! The more you can avoid/substitute, the better.
It’s a daily ‘battle’ for many of us, for sure.
Let me know how you do… or how you’ve mastered this part of your healthy lifestyle in the past.
Dr. Colleen Trombley-VanHoogstraat (“Dr Mom Online”) is a popular personality in Natural Health & Wellness. She is a Doctor of Chiropractic with 18 years of hands-on clinical experience in the Wellness Practice she shares with her husband, Dr. Marc VanHoogstraat, in Michigan. She is also the proud (home schooling) mom of two rather fabulous youngsters.
Her unique perspective of the science of Wellness provides predictable solutions and transformational results for those struggling with chronic health issues, as well as those seeking lifelong health. To discover her simple strategies for creating better health through nutrition, movement and mindset, regularly visit http://DrMomOnline.com, http://Facebook.com/DrMomOnline and http://Twitter.com/DrMomOnline.
Also, check out her available books at http://amazon.com/author/drcolleen .
For more information about working privately with Dr. Colleen and Dr. Marc in an Investigative & Functional Health Recovery Program for any number of metabolic and health issues, such as thyroid imbalance, weight loss resistance, hormonal imbalance, food sensitivity & gut permeability, cellular detoxification, autoimmune conditions, insomnia, and more, please contact Dr. Colleen directly at email@example.com or http://Facebook.com/DrMomOnline. Highly successful personalized distance programs are available.