|Understanding Food Cravings
We don't always eat because the body needs nourishment, and in fact that's rarely the case for the average
American. Understanding food cravings very clearly can radically change our eating habits for much the
same reason that understanding the quality of what we eat can do the same. There are many psychological
and physical factors that lead us to eat when the body is not in need. The Lemonade Diet Team has devoted
quite a bit of effort to researching and experimenting with food cravings, and we would like to pass along
what we've learned.
Identifying the Food Craving
While the physiological hunger response is the most obvious, it's by no means the only craving, and in fact is
relatively minor, at least in the context of the living standards of most Americans.
1. Physiological hunger
As anyone who has gone on an extended fast knows, the physical hunger response grows weak after a few
days, and in fact we found that, in isolating this response from other triggers, it's actually quite weak in the
first few days as well. It's not really the body that goes into starvation mode so quickly, but rather the mind
justifying it's psychological cravings, and perhaps other food cravings triggered by nutritional imbalances.
The body does, after a time without a relatively continuous food intake, begin lowering metabolism and
processing fat reserves, but it's not nearly as starvation traumatized as we may come to believe based on
our responses after not being fed for a few hours, and so the basic hunger response is dealt with quite easily
using a currently very popular appetite suppressant called Hoodia. It's quite possible that, if other food
craving factors are not resolved, the body will never actually go into a physiological hunger mode, in which
case Hoodia will not be effective. This is an example of why it's important to be able to identify the cause of
Incidentally, the lemonade diet doesn't qualify as calorie restricting diet since the needed calories and
nutrients are supplied in the syrup, and yet most seem to go through a period of hunger. This is not
physiological but rather psychological. We miss eating our favorite foods and so we crave them, but the body
is fine. It's just a little mind game we play with ourselves and we usually get over it in a couple of days and the
hunger goes away.
2. Blood sugar imbalance
It was initially believed that only those with a diabetic condition or who showed overt signs of Hypoglycemia
were subjects of blood sugar imbalance. We were surprised to learn that nearly everyone is affected to some
degree. We found one doctor who believes half of his patients are hypoglycemic, whether being officially
diagnosed or treated as such or not, and most people seem to have some kind of food craving associated
with a certain time of day, which are clearly blood sugar related. Night cravings are very common, often
shortly before bedtime, sometimes in the middle of the night, and we also believe that the strong hunger that
often precedes regular meals or drives you to the vending machines at 3pm is not a basic hunger response
but rather a blood sugar dip.
Basically, foods with a relatively high glycemic index, which constitute the most common foods in the average
diet, convert very quickly to blood sugar, causing it to spike, resulting in a release of insulin in order to
reduce it, which may lead to low blood sugar, which will then trigger a craving for sugar. It's something like a
rubber band effect resulting from a rapid increase in blood sugar, which is overcompensated for. Given some
time, the body will successfully balance the blood sugar, but what more typically happens is that we respond
to that food craving by consuming something sweet, which may continue the blood sugar roller coaster.
Given this new evidence, we decided to see what it would take to balance blood sugar in the 'normal'
individual. (Those diagnosed as diabetic, pre-diabetic/hypoglycemic are obviously a special case and are not
referred to here specifically) We tested several natural supplements and found that it takes anywhere from a
few days to a few weeks to balance the blood sugar roller coaster, often shifting the times, frequency and
severity of the cravings as it smoothed out. Generally, the food cravings lessened for everyone during this
process, but expect that it will take some time. We found that L-Glutamine worked remarkably well. We
exceeded the recommended dosage by quite a bit in order to accomplish this, but studies have been done to
determine L-Glutamine toxicity and failed to identify a toxic level. Many practitioners prescribe this nutrient in
the range of 4,000 to 5,000mg/day, and we've been operating in the 2,000 to 3,000mg range. L-Glutamine is
an amino acid that can suppress insulin to stop the decline of sugar levels when needed. It can also stimulate
Glycogen to increase sugar levels, and can, itself, be converted to a sugar through a process called
glucogenisis. The overall effect is to help dampen the 'rubber band effect'. It's very plentiful and relatively
It is suspected that those who eat the 'right' foods and consume several small meals a day likely are not
subject to significant blood sugar variations. In any event, once the physiological hunger response is
satisfied and other craving factors identified, any regularly timed blood sugar variations can be easily
3. Stress related craving
Since eating is pleasurable, stress can often derail an otherwise successful diet, and so it must be dealt with
separately. Most of us are familiar with the many ways of reducing stress, but since we were moving in the
direction of natural supplements, we explored various homeopathic, herbal and psychoactive supplements.
We found Theanine to be quite effective in bringing lasting relaxation, thereby eliminating the apparent
hunger craving. It also seemed to take effect relatively quickly, which may become important in the event of
sudden emotional upsets. In the absence of emotional stress, the 'pleasure syndrome' of eating is no
stronger for most than any other enjoyable activity, and need not take precedence over other enjoyable
activities that can substitute.
Mind and body are in no way separate, and so it can take some effort to determine what is a physiological
craving and what is psychological, and in the physical realm the basic hunger response must be separated
from blood sugar variations. Perhaps you can view these recommendations as a 'toolkit' to be used to
explore the nature of your own cravings by resolving them one at a time, much the way we did in our
explorations. The tools may give you a way of dealing far more effectively with your own unique mind/body,
which can positively affect not only your dieting goals, but your quality of sleep as well as your mood and
sense of well being throughout the day. For all of us, it has also brought to our attention the quality of our
diets as well as shaking up our ideas about the quantity of food needed in order to function at peak
performance. To put it bluntly, most of us eat more than we need to and removing the bulk of our attention
on food can only improve our lives in a multitude of ways.
It is critical that the struggle relationship with food be severed, and it's my hope that you can sever it
permanently. Clearly, if you eat to satisfy your body's need for calories and nutrients, then excess weight
never becomes a problem to begin with.
Happy crave hunting from
The Lemonade Diet Team
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