Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Defeating Unhealthy Cravings: BMI = 28.7

Just over a year ago my diet was completely out of control. Today I enjoyed three healthy meals and wasn’t even remotely tempted to eat junk food. When I began this journey, I thought that my unhealthy cravings would haunt me for life. I had no idea how to build up the self-discipline to resist the foods that controlled me.

I remember seeing that the time was 22h45 and realizing that the corner store across the street would be closing in 15 minutes. The thought of it would startle me as I realized I had to get moving fast if I wanted to grab some late-night snack-mix while at the same time grabbing onto the table and pleading with myself not to do it. Often enough I could hold fast until 23h00 and the urge for snack mix would subside once it was no longer available. More often than not, just an hour later, I would be making a chicken nugget sandwich with mayo and red onion. They weren’t good chicken nuggets either; they were the type made from low grade chicken bits that get tossed into a blender. I picked them up in ‘economy’ bags in the frozen section of the supermarket.

Chicken nugget sandwiches are quite delicious. So delicious, in fact, that an hour after my first I would be making a second. I remember rolling around, nauseous, unable to sleep because of the heart-burn, bemoaning the fact that such foods had so much control over me.

I now understand why I was so easily overpowered by such unhealthy cravings: I was malnourished. For all the calories that I was taking-in, my diet was nearly devoid of essential minerals, vitamins, and fats. There was plenty of fat in my diet but not the fats that the human body requires.

By all rights, my cravings should have been for veggies, walnuts, fish and flax seed. Sadly, though, I had no interest in the foods that I needed to get nourished. It seems that the myriad of super-calorie-dense ready-made snacks that surround us these days trick our instincts. I don’t understand how that is possible, but I bet there are scientific papers on that very topic. I’ve just googled “junk food tricks brain” and found out that I win that bet. The scientific term for the brain being tricked into eating junk food is “hedonic hunger”. Go ahead and click the link if you like scientific explanations.

It seems that sugar and fat drive hedonic hunger. I believe that lack of proper nutrition, over a lengthy period, also drove my hedonic hunger. My recovery was a vicious process because I needed to radically cut down on refined sugar and added fats while at the same time forcing myself to eat lots of veggies and small amounts of foods that were naturally high in essential fats. In other words, I had to fight against my cravings long enough to break the power that fat and sugar had over me and for the veggies and healthy fats to heal the damage done by years of malnutrition.

It was gruelling, and if I had to maintain that struggle for the rest of my life then I know I would not have made it this far. Fortunately, the first 4 weeks were the hardest, and by seven weeks in I had completely broken the hold that junk food had over me. Since then, I’ve taken a lot of time to investigate other people’s success stories and I’ve found that many people undertook a similar approach and also struggled from 4 to 8 weeks.

That wasn’t the end of my resolve, however. Once I had broken the hold that snacks had over me, I decided to continue refining my diet to get it as close as possible to the Canada Food Guide. I needed to start adding more veggies, opting for whole grains for my starches, and I needed to make a study of the more detailed recommendations of the Canada Food Guide.

It was about this time last year when I started increasing the variety of veggies that I ate. A few months later I began focussing on converting most of my starches to whole grains. A few months after that I began swapping out the occasional meat portion for lentils or beans. Over just the past few weeks I’ve begun having an ounce of canned mackerel with my breakfast for the essential fats it provides.

I guess I’ve become a bit of a health nut. I’m ok with that, though. I used to think that health nuts could never allow themselves to just enjoy some good food, or life, for that matter. That fact of it is that 7 weeks of diet rehab has changed my life and I never want to go back to what it was. If you are struggling with hedonic hunger then I just want you to know that it can be defeated and it need not be a life long struggle.

No comments:

Post a Comment