Hang Up the Carb Call
So you’ve had a bad day… work sucked, you got 4 hours sleep and it’s pouring down rain. This is the time you just want to curl up on the couch, forget about the day and dig into a bowl or plate of your favorite “comfort” food.
Many of us turn to “comfort” foods when we’re tired, stressed or anxious. Mine used to be a classic grilled cheese sandwich. This month I challenge you to find a comfort food that strengthens you! Something that doesn’t make you search for your sweatpants or some other elastic waistband.
Understanding the “call” of the the comfort food.
I know the Cranberry Bliss Bar at Starbucks calls out to my mom each holiday season. For others, it’s cinnamon rolls, warm melty sandwiches, creamy soups… you get the idea. These foods seem to literally beckon us !
Why is this?
Comfort foods don’t just fill an empty space in our stomachs, they also strike an emotional nerve based on a previous experience or feeling associated with that particular food. Darker seasons, such as Fall and Winter tend to bring on food cravings that make us feel relaxed and content like a warm blanket. Food may very well bring you back to family holidays when you were young and life seemed a bit easier. Your brain remembers this when you see these foods and creates the “crave” response which explains why my husband is drawn by a magnetic field to his mom’s savory party chex mix.
I’ll spare you the boring science , but fill you in on why you fall for the same foods every Fall (pun intended).
Many of you may already know that certain foods increase our feel good hormones, serotonin and dopamine. Most foods that do this are high in salt , sugar and fat. Cheesecake Factory has hit the jackpot!
The Bad news is shortly after eating these foods, our bodies feel an energy and mood dump . I call this the “sugar coaster “. You joined your friends on the sugar coaster by eating high carb, starch or even high dairy foods. Now you are wanting a nap. In about another 20 minutes, you will want another hand full of party mix or frosted treat…and the cycle continues.
What to do?
The key to resisting the call of your traditional comfort foods is to be conscious of what events, experiences or surroundings trigger your desire for them. Once you know what turns on your comfort food urge, you can learn to turn it off. Or better yet, feed the urge with foods or activities that will boost your serotonin and dopamine levels and are great for your mind and body as well.
For example, I have replaced my grilled cheese sandwich with goat cheese melted on a Gluten Free Brown Rice Wrap with avocado. This keeps me energized, lean and feeling content (you can find this and other great recipes at www.breannetrains.com/blog).
Here are some great ways to boost Serotonin and Dopamine:
- Vitamin D – It’s required to make serotonin.
USE Sunlight – get it on you and in you ! Serotonin is HIGHLY dependant on light. This is why Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is an actual diagnosis.
EAT – Foods hit by the sun. Foods highest in Vitamin D are the greenest ones ( and NO, green M&Ms do not count)! Pick all natural…think Kale, Chard and Spinach. Animal sources that ate great green grass also pack a Vitamin D punch: eggs from free-range chickens, beef from grass fed/grass finished cows. These farm animals bathed in the sun and took it in from the grass they grazed on .
- Exercise – Remember this cool fact : exercise after tryptophan rich foods boosts serotonin. When you move, your body takes nutrients out of the bloodstream and shoves them into the muscles. Your muscles then light up serotonin in your brain piece! The turkey you had last night goes to your brain, once you start moving – this is why you literally get happier when you move! The more you work your muscles, the greater the serotonin increase…so hit those weights!
Big Takeaway : Turn down the crackers and cheese, or leftover pie…. Say yes to getting outside, lots of greens and lean proteins that eat grass !
More Results , Less Decisions
AADP CHHC, NS, NSCA CPT