Why You Crave Carbs and How to Change It

At Hilliard Studio Method, we’ve always recognized a balanced diet is key to healthy weight maintenance. High protein, high fat, low carb is the way to go.

Many researchers believe obesity is caused simply by taking in more calories than you burn. Referred to as “energy balance,” they believe the trick is to consume fewer calories and burn more in order to lower that ratio, eventually leading to fat loss and better muscle tone.

But, according to current research (read more in this New York Times article), that couldn’t be further from the truth. Obesity may be caused by an imbalanced diet heavy in carbohydrates. The article, which includes research conducted by Dr. David Ludwig, who studies and treats obesity at Harvard Medical School, says insulin may be causing our hormones to be thrown out of whack. His studies find that our excess fat is directly linked to insulin signals in our bodies. Insulin is known to accumulate fat, while telling our bodies to burn carbohydrates for fuel. That means these simple carbs are actually what cause fat build-up.

“Elevate insulin levels even a little,” says Dr. Robert Lustig, a pediatric endocrinologist at the University of California, San Francisco, “and the body switches over from burning fat for fuel to burning carbohydrates, by necessity.”

By burning carbs instead of fat, the body will not only hold on to body fat, but even the slightest taste of carb-rich food can stimulate insulin and create a craving for more carbohydrates. “There’s no question in my mind,” says Dr. Lustig, “that once people who are ‘carboholics’ get their insulin levels down, they become less carboholic. And if they go off the wagon and start eating [simple] carbs [and refined sugars], they go right back to where they were before. I’ve seen that in numerous patients.”

Here are some HSM-approved suggestions on how to effectively lower carb intake:

  1. While we enjoy complex carbohydrates (fruits, whole grains like lentils and quinoa) that fuel our bodies, try to limit the amount of simple carbs and refined sugars (like pasta, pastries and candy)
  2. Don’t tempt yourself: While it is difficult to avoid carb-heavy snacks in the era of fast food, sweet treats and processed packages, try to stray away from these aisles at the grocery. Instead, shop the outer perimeter, which is where the produce and whole foods live, grabbing veggies, healthy fats and proteins over quick carbs.
  3. Tell everyone: Let your friends and family know that you are trying to make a change for the better. Ask for their support in your carb-cutting endeavors.
  4. Plan for your cravings: Bring your own mid-day snacks to work, skim menus beforehand for healthy, carb-free options at restaurants and look up recipes to meal plan before shopping. Try some of our favorite recipes, like:
    1. Niçoise Inspired Salad
    2. Herb-Roasted Fish
    3. Lentil Salad on Arugula
    4. Crispy Kale Chips
  5. Replace those simple carbs with healthy fats: We reach for nuts (walnuts, almonds and pistachios are a few of our favs), avocados, flaxseed and salmon as tried-and-true ways to fill up without filling out!

And remember, if you do indulge in those simple carbs, don’t feel bad, and DON’T give up! We can’t all be 100% disciplined all the time, but we can pick up where we left off and get back into a healthy routine.

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