3 Ways To Curb Your Holiday Cravings
My name is Marcy Vasque and I am a functional medicine nutritionist specializing in gut health. So I work with a lot of people who struggle with constipation, bloating, diarrhea, gas, and really that's just to name a few.
So if this sounds like you or someone you know, I encourage you to sign up for an initial appointment where we can help you work through some of those issues that you're having or if you're the kind of person who likes to do things on their own.
You can download our free guide, five Ways to Improve Gut Health Guide. And this is great for you to get started and to learn some extra information about your own gut. Well, folks, the holiday season is here and if you are like most Americans, your stress level will rise. I know mine does.
So how do you get by? What happens is that many of us have actually trained our brains to cope by eating.
And if that's one of your mechanisms, I want you to read on, maybe you're going toward eating mashed potatoes, or pumpkin pie, or cake and cookies. You name it, it's any food that is a comfort to you that we have trained our brains to want when we're in these stressful times.
So today I'm going to go through three tips to help you curb your holiday cravings and maybe even thrive this holiday season. Whether your goal is to decrease stress eating, unwind anxiety, or maybe even just create short mental wellness breaks throughout the year, this is the science to go with it.
How to curb your holiday cravings
So tip number one is understanding our cravings. Cravings are actually messages from the body that says something is out of whack or out of balance.
The most common foods that we're gonna find ourselves craving are gonna be sugar, carbohydrates, maybe some chocolate salt, and for some even cheese. Now, increased cravings are a result of low serotonin, and serotonin is our feel good neurotransmitter that's produced mainly in our GI tract.
It has a strong influence on our mood, appetite, and even our digestion. Now, when we eat carbohydrates or sugar, it increases the release serotonin, that feel good neurotransmitter which makes us feel pretty fabulous. But remember, it's only temporarily.
So when our levels are low, our brain thinks, oh, let's grab that candy bar, or that cookie, or that piece of cake, or maybe it's the bagel or chips that'll fix this, but remember, that won't work long term. So a low serotonin level can can actually be be due to poor gut health.
Because I mentioned that serotonin is made in our gut, 90% of our serotonin is actually made there. So in order to maintain those feel good levels of serotonin, we need to make sure our gut is in tiptop shape!
And when our gut is in good shape, it can absorb nutrients much better and help to make those neurotransmitters, that serotonin that we need so much.
This was really dependent on having healthy amounts of digestive enzymes in our stomach, and also the proper balance of good flora in our intestinal tracts.
So if our gut isn't so healthy and we have an overabundance of the not so good bacteria, which can happen from too much stress, maybe you take antibiotics recently or you're eating a lot of processed refined foods, that all influences that good flora in our gut.
So what can we do to help decrease those cravings and increase serotonin? Make sure your gut is in tip top shape.
Tip number two is understanding your habits. Which is a really fun one! Our brains kind of learn in a three step process with this. What happens is that first we see the food and our brain says calories survival.
And then we actually eat the food, and finally our bodies send a signal to our brains to remember what we're eating and where we found it. And so we kind of slowly lay down these memory tracks.
So if it was a wonderful piece of cake and your brain was lit up from it and it increased that serotonin, it's going to want to go back to that. So again, we might see that cake or see that food, eat the food, feel good, and then we just keep repeating it.
So what we want to understand is what your triggers are, what your behavior is, and then the reward with it. So does that seem simple? Kind of, but we all know that those cravings pop up. I see the food, I'm going to eat it, and this makes me feel good.
We're not thinking about our behavior all the time with this. So what happens is that after a while, our brains learn that if we eat the sweets, when you're mad, or sad, and you feel better, it wants to keep doing that and it wants to repeat it.
And as you're watching your habits, you'll notice that this becomes stronger when we are sad or we're stressed. It's just an emotional response. And so really it's no wonder that during the the holiday season, our cravings really go haywire.
So what you want start paying attention to is taking time to understand those habits and identify what kind of things initiates or triggers that craving and the resulting behavior, as well as what do you do when that happens.
You'll be amazed at what you notice throughout the day because you'll likely notice that this is not only during the holiday season that we're doing this, this is month to month, and day to day.
And when you experience the craving, instead of immediately grabbing the food or getting trapped by that emotion, recognize how you feel in that moment. Are you stressed? Is that why you're reaching for the food?
What else can you do instead? These cravings often make us operate in kind in autopilot. We're just kind of doing it. We're not paying attention to it until you stop yourself.
Research has shown that even using willpower, which a lot of us think we don't have enough of, or think it's stronger than it is. But willpower isn't going to be the answer for this
The answer is following your habits, your triggers, your emotions, and what kind of behavior happens after that. So don't rely solely on your willpower and start recognizing what might be underneath of this. You will realize that you are in control of your cravings instead of your cravings being in control of you.
Our last thing we're going to go through to curb those holiday cravings is ditch dieting. We need to ditch our traditional dieting that we've done over years. You might be thinking, then why are there always so many different diets out there?
It really comes down to the fact that a lot of us aren't in control. So we need that next diet to latch onto to give us some consistency or make us feel like we're working toward a goal.
If you just recognize that the diet before didn't work and you're gonna start another one, question yourself, why am I doing this? I've done this over the years and this isn't working for me.
Ditching dieting is going to help you a lot in decreasing cravings because oftentimes diets can be made up of calorie or food restriction, and we can do that for a short amount of time.
When that restriction gets old, let's say in a month, or even two months after you start, you're back to your old habits. And that goes back to the tip number two that I was talking about, is identifying your habit.
And that will help decrease those cravings. Lean into eating whole foods and getting enough protein in all of your meals, it's going to make you feel more satiated for a long period of time.
Getting those good, healthy fats that are so tasty and having a few of those carbohydrates that give us that energy and that feel good serotonin. Those things keep us feeling fuller longer, keep cravings away, and keep our blood sugar steady.
So as you're moving through this holiday season, I really encourage you to first find out, is your gut healthy? Are you making enough serotonin? Is that why you're having those cravings? Remember, cravings are a sign of imbalance in our body.
And then are you recognizing your habits? Pay attention throughout the day. What are your triggers and what is the response? How can you kind of just sit with it for a moment before reacting? And lastly, get rid of the dieting.
Eat good protein, eat good carbohydrates, and make sure you get those healthy fats. And your holiday season will be a lot less stressful!
If you'd like to explore any of this information further or obtain an individualized nutrition plan, you can schedule an initial appointment at our clinic. We also take insurance and some of our clients get full coverage, which is great.
Or you can start by just downloading our FREE GUIDE: 5 Ways to Improve Gut Health.