Many of my patients who are working on the carbohydrate restriction to improve their blood pressure, blood sugars, triglycerdies and weight often tell me that if they “fall of the wagon” and start eating high carbohydrates foods, they can’t seem to stop. There are scientific reasons for this.
Eating a diet high in carbohydrates results in spikes of blood sugar which is followed by increased production of insulin to control the blood sugar fluctuations. The spike in insulin reduces another hormone called glucagon which tricks the body in believing it doesn’t have enough body fat (remember, we were designed to be Stone Age Humans who needed a certain amount of body fat in order to survive). The body then increase its level of hunger which causes you to eat more in order to store more body fat.
We then eat more carbohydrates that again increase our insulin that makes our glucagon levels drop that makes us hungry and we eat more. The cycle goes round and round and round.
Because of this, I advise my patients to follow a few steps when confronted with parties and lots of carbohydrate-laddened food over the holidays.
- Remember, seeing and smelling food at a holiday party will stimulate your appetite. Prepare yourself mentally for the fact that you may start craving food. Plan to mentally keep control of your choices, you’ll be proud of yourself afterward.
- Avoid the mindset of “taking the day off” from limiting your carbohydrate intake. You need to view your efforts for carbohydrate restriction as a life style, and you need to simply set a limit as you might (hopefully) with alcohol. Remember, taking a day off and having excessive carbohydrates my set you into a cycle of carb binging for the next several days or weeks and can undo all the positive gains you’ve made so far.
- If you feel like your hunger is ramping up, stick to the higher protein foods (turkey, ham, nuts, cheese) or vegetables instead of the higher carbohydrate foods (pie, cookies, holiday candy, bread, chips, mashed potatoes, etc). If you eat more protein, at least it won’t harm your metabolism, it will avoid the carbohydrate hunger cycling and will provide more hunger suppression later on in the day than eating carbohydrates will.
So good luck this holiday season. Remember carbohydrates in and of themselves are not deadly, it’s the excessive proportion that we consume that is harmful to our bodies. Enjoy a little stuffing, have a small pie of dessert and just have a plan as to what to eat if your hunger runs a bit higher than you can control and you can get through this holiday season without the “usual” weight gain many experience.