Conquering Cravings and Overeating

I am sure we can all relate to those days when we feel like a bottomless pit of hunger. Those days when we couldn’t help but finish a bag of chips, box of cookies, tub of ice-cream or several chocolate bars. It tastes amazing and feels so good in the moment until you finish and regret eating so much. In many cases, this is not a result of lacking willpower, but a chemical process in your brain causing you to overeat and crave junk food. Processed foods contain addictive ingredients such as flour, oil, salt, sugar and dairy. These trigger a release of dopamine in your brain which is a hormone that makes you feel pleasure causing you to continue eating the food to continually release dopamine. It is a vicious cycle that is easy to get caught up in if you are not aware of the powerful effects of processed foods. Toxic foods that we are not designed to eat (chips, chocolate, ice-cream, bread, salt, sugar, oil, cheese, etc.) overstimulate the pleasure centres of the brain causing overeating and addiction. For more on the science of this check out Dr. Alan Goldhamer, author of “The Pleasure Trap” and Dr. Neal Barnard’s work. Here are my top tips for conquering cravings and overeating:

  1. Meal Plan & Cook
    • Pick 1 day each week to write out a meal plan & grocery shopping list for the week ahead & buy groceries
    • Pick 2 days each week to prepare your breakfast, lunch and dinner for 3 days
    • Ex. Breakfast (oatmeal or quinoa porridge), Lunch (leftovers), Dinner (soup, stew, bowl, salad, wrap)
    • Prep Batches – Grain, Legume, Root Vegetables
    • Freeze any extras after 3 days to prevent it from going bad
  2. Remove Temptation
    • Remove all temptation from your kitchen, out of sight, out of mind
    • Throw Away & Don’t Buy – processed food (if the label has more than 1 ingredient)
    • Stock up on whole plant foods only (fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, grains, beans)
    • Treats – once a week make a healthy cookie/cake recipe instead of buying junk food
    • Social Eating – come prepared, bring a healthy treat to eat and share
  3. Hydrate
    • Drink 2-3L (8-12 cups) of filtered water each day (herbal tea, smoothies, green juice, soup)
    • We tend to eat when our body is actually craving water
  4. Eliminate Addictive Foods
    • Stimulate dopamine and causing uncontrollable overeating
    • Processed foods that come in a package or have a list of ingredients
    • Flour, Oil, Salt & Sugar (FOSS) – refined chemicals that are addicting
    • Sugar – alcohol, dried fruit, agave, honey, maple syrup, brown sugar, white sugar, xylitol, etc.
  5. Balanced Low Glycemic Meals
    • All macronutrients at each meal will satiate you – protein, carb & fat
    • Healthy Plant Fats – Avocado, coconut, nuts, seeds
    • Healthy Plant Protein – beans, legumes, tempeh, nuts, seeds, grains
    • Healthy Plant Carbs – root vegetables (potatoes, squash, carrots), grains, fruits
    • Insulin – hormone that regulates blood sugar – eat fat/protein with each meal to slow absorption of sugar and prevent insulin/sugar spike leading to sugar/energy crash
  6. Fill up on non-starchy vegetables
    • Leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables
    • Zucchini, cucumber, mushrooms, peppers, onion, garlic, etc.
  7. High-fibre, low calorie, filling, nutrient-dense
  8. Eat Enough
    • Eat when you are hungry, stop when you are full
    • Don’t count calories or deprive yourself or this can lead to cravings and overeating
    • You will feel more hungry the more active you are
  9. Meal Frequency
    • Avoid eating too frequently or waiting too long between meals as this will cause imbalanced blood sugar leading to cravings and overeating
    • Wait 3-5hrs between meals