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What Your Cravings Are Really Telling You

Cravings are one of the biggest stumbling blocks when you’re committed to losing weight and feeling healthier. Giving in to cravings can lead to frustration that stops you from moving forward.

People experience different types of cravings, and you may not be vulnerable to all of them. The first step in learning how to beat cravings is to become more aware of the ones that trip you up as you work to lose weight. Learn what your cravings are really telling you and discover tips for how to beat cravings so you can maintain the positive change you deserve.

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You’re addicted to sugar.
Sugar has some qualities that make cravings irresistible. It floods the body, causing a blood sugar spike, which is quickly followed by a crash. That crash compels the brain to seek out even more sugar to compensate for the dip in blood sugar levels.

You’re stressed.
You may be more likely to cave to cravings if you’re stressed. Why? Because the brain considers eating a “feel good” activity, so it releases “feel good” hormones, like dopamine and serotonin, when you eat.

You’re conditioned to reach for salty or fatty foods.
The typical American diet includes a lot of processed foods loaded with salt and fat—so much that your taste buds may be trained to crave the unhealthy stuff.

You’re not eating enough.
That might sound like an odd piece of advice, but it’s worth considering if you’re working to lose weight. The average woman should not eat fewer than 1,000 calories per day. Under-eating doesn’t give the body the energy it needs to maintain normal functions, kicking the body into starvation mode, which increases cravings.

You’re not sleeping enough.
Sleep plays a critical role in the regulation of hormones related to hunger. If you’re not sleeping enough, you’re more likely to overeat or snack too frequently, particularly on starchy foods.

1. Stop cravings before they start.
Learn how to beat cravings by eating 4-6 small meals/snacks each day to keep blood sugar levels even. Stock the kitchen with healthy snacks like Caramel Pumpkin Spice Corn orClean Eating Raspberry Oat Bars.

2. Distract yourself.
Find an activity that will keep your mind off that craving. Here are a few ways to distract yourself:

  • Do a workout
  • Call a friend to chat.
  • Read a book or article.

3. Wait the craving out.
Put a timer on your craving. For example, commit to yourself that you’ll wait 15 minutes before eating the food you’re craving. While you’re waiting, crank out a few Desk Push-Ups or sneak in a relaxing Back Stretch. You might be surprised to find that the craving’s kaput after a few minutes.

4. Retrain your taste buds.
Swap out processed meals for a clean-eating menu filled with minimally-processed or whole foods. Tuck away the salt shaker, too, and instead season meals with herbs and spices that add flavor without excess sodium.

5. Get your zzz’s.
Keep hunger hormones in check naturally by investing in good-quality sleep.

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The Sneaky Reasons You Might Be Gaining Weight

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Most women know that different points during the weight loss journey can be very demotivating. Even more demotivating is when, even with all the hard work and exercise, your weight loss stagnates, or even reverses. All your hard work is not going to waste, especially if you’ve made a lifestyle change for the betterment of your overall health. But sometimes there are other factors that can be bumps in the road for you: hormone imbalances, insomnia, and of course, stress. If you notice that your favorite jeans are harder to pull on, or have seen the numerical differences between one day and the next, there might be an answer for the unexpected weight gain.

1. Life has got you stressed. You’ve heard it before, that sneaky hormone: cortisol. In preparation and response to stressful situations (money issues, job loss, death of a relative), the body releases cortisol which increases the appetite. The American Psychological Association reports that about 39 percent of adult Americans say they respond to stress by overeating or eating unhealthy foods. Human beings emotionally eat as a coping mechanism… so, by developing another coping mechanism to the inevitable stresses of life, your body can respond to stress in a healthy way. Ways to tackle stress are doing yoga, reading a novel, exercising, going out into nature, etc. After reducing your stress, you can leave eating for when your body really needs sustenance!

2. You’re on anti-depressant medication. It very well may be that the anti-depressant medication you’re on is working, and therefore you’ve regained your appetite and gained healthy weight. But many medications have well-established side effects of weight gain. The Massachusetts General Hospital Center For Women’s Health states that some common antipsychotics such as lithium, and antidepressants such as mirtazapine (brand name Remeron), are associated with unexplained weight gain. The drugs may trigger food cravings or affect the metabolism, notes Dr. Andrew Weil on his website. If you are prescribed for an anti-depressant and notice an upward fluctuation in your weight, you might talk to your doctor about switching medications or change to non-pharmacological treatments.

3. Insomnia: You’ve been hitting the gym and eating blueberries out the wazoo, yet you’re not shedding any pounds. If you don’t get the minimum of eight hours per night, your body produces less leptin, which is the hormone that tells you when you are full. Double whammy: Lacking in sleep makes your body produce more gherlin, which is the hormone that makes you feel hungry. Indulging in a great night’s sleep will help you wake up with a pep in your step and it will better equip you to make healthy choices throughout the day.

4. Your portion sizes are off. With so much debate in the past few decades about what to eat and how much in order to stay healthy, it’s no wonder that so many people are heavy-handed with their meals. It’s just as easy to overindulge in food that is considered healthy — but overindulgence is still overindulgence. If you are always a member of the Clean Plate Club, try putting your meal on a smaller plate and seeing if your satisfaction is on par with larger plated meals. To help keep your portions in check, view these helpful comparisons.

5. Hypothyroidism: It’s a fancy word for when your thyroid is not making enough thyroid hormone. It can make you feel sluggish and weak, and accounts for a slower metabolism and possible unexplained weight gain. Not a very good combination when trying to lose weight. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services notes that women are more likely to develop thyroid diseases than men. Your doctor can perform a simple blood test to detect if your thyroid hormone levels are too low.

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BMI: The Original Way To Measure Your Body Mass

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The BMI (body mass index) was originally created for insurance companies so that they could show policyholders the mortality rates of overweight people. It was thought-up in 1832 by Adolphe Quetelet, a mathematician who set out to define the standard human body within the parameters of height and weight. But there’s no question that the human body is so much more than just height and weight.

body mass index BMI

The equation relates those two elements, dividing height by weight to give a composite number falling anywhere between 18 and 40; that number could be seen as a rough sketch of how your body compares to the overall population in terms of fat content. In one regard, the BMI can be useful insofar as providing general data that helps doctors understand risk factors for a large subset of the population. But on a personal level, those two elements (weight and height) fall short of providing an accurate depiction of a person’s physiology. The equation does not take into account gender, body frame, ethnicity, age, exercise or eating habits.

Why so many doctors and health gurus find it outdated is because the formula does not differentiate between muscle and actual fat. Victor Adam of Axiom Health and Fitness explained that “what makes this useless as a determining factor for health is that it is very unspecific, since it doesn’t account for lean body mass. Someone who is 250 pounds of solid muscle at 5’6” puts them at a BMI of 40, which by this measurement says this individual is very obese and exceptionally unhealthy. While this is obviously an extreme example, it shows you the limits of this particular measurement — which is why it is not good for much more than offering you an initial indicator of the health of your weight for your height.”

For people who have larger frames, lots of muscle mass or higher bone density, the BMI ratio would be misleading. Also, the BMI does not take into account where fat is located.Visceral fat, another term for belly fat, is far more dangerous to a person’s health than fat located around the buttocks or thighs. Visceral fat crowds organs and can interfere with how they function.

Based on the BMI alone, many hardcore athletes would be considered overweight, even obese, because they lift heavy weights or run cross country and have tree-trunk thighs. On the other hand, someone could be a couch potato all day every day, and still have a BMI that falls within the healthy range. Hands down, tons of doctors and health coaches find the BMI tells a poor tale about a person’s health.

Dr. Scott Schrieber, a chiropractic physician that is double board certified in rehabilitation and clinical nutrition, said about determining body composition that “there are better choices, such as a percent body fat read, a waist to hip ratio, hydration status, ideal body weight, but not one method is superior than the other. We need to look at many measures for the individual, rather than globalize the entire human population into one test.”

If accuracy and truth about your health are important, there are more accurate methods available today. By getting a reading on your body fat percentage, you’ll get a very accurate idea of how much extra fat you carry as well as how many calories your body naturally burns. This can be done through your primary care physician. A waist-to-hip ratio you could do yourself! Registered dietitian, Amrie DeFrates, from California also pointed out that “though there are studies that show obesity as a risk factor for diseases such as heart disease and diabetes, there is also significant evidence to show that good health is absolutely achievable at any size.” Meaning, your health is not dependent on how much you weigh. What matters more is that you eat right, treat your body kindly, and most importantly, are happy.

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