Last night I went out to dinner and came home to the intoxicating aroma of chocolate chip cookies baking in my kitchen. My kids were making them. They both looked at me, waiting for a reaction.
I think they had hoped to be done by the time I got home. They have been incredibly supportive these last few months, and they’ve been really sensitive about not asking for high carb sweets or processed food. But this is my journey, not theirs, so I don’t restrict their choices. By example, I hope they’ll learn from my mistakes, but since they’re both young adults, it’s up to them to make choices for themselves.
The cookies smelled delicious. The milk came out and they noshed away. I stared at the cookies on the tray. A few months ago, I wouldn’t have skipped a beat to have just one or two or more. The voice in my head would have said something like, “it’s ok, have a couple, just this once.” And they were watching me. “It’s OK,” I said, “It doesn’t bother me. Enjoy. When you’re done, just put them away.”
The number one question I get asked about this plan is exactly how the cravings end. What’s the secret sauce? The answer is simple: Completely cutting flour and sugar caused my mind and body to heal and release me from the effects of it. As a result, I don’t crave those foods anymore. Sure, sometimes out of old ingrained habits, I think I should be able to have them. But they don’t trigger a crave the way they used to.
From a biochemical standpoint, here’s what happens: The insulin levels stay low consistently and the hormone leptin can now do its job. Leptin is blocked in most obese people, and if you are more than 30 pounds overweight you are undoubtedly leptin resistant. Leptin is made by the fat cells and when it hits the brain, it sends the satiation message, but when insulin spikes, it blocks leptin getting to the brain. And this happens every time you eat the white powder or refined syrup, whether it’s sugar or flour or even ‘healthy’ sweeteners. Leptin also triggers the urge to get active. The other side of the equation is that cravings are caused by the brain’s addiction to sugar and flour. Once ended, the body can function in the way it’s supposed to, which is release the stored energy (fat) and begin returning to a healthy weight or natural set point.
The most important thing I want to convey is this isn’t about willpower. I haven’t suddenly become more disciplined. It really is about the change in my brain. Essentially, I’ve been released from addiction. I don’t believe everyone has the same brain as I do or that one size fits all when it comes to weight loss. But I have done every popular diet, and this has been, hands down, the fastest, most effective and supremely healthy solution. And, this plan is the only one that leads to permanent weight loss. So many suffer, because frankly, most are doing it wrong. Forget moderation. It doesn’t solve the REAL problem.
It’s been a bit challenging to articulate how this ‘new brain’ feels, mainly because I imagine the “before” me reading this and rolling my eyes. And had it not been for my desperation and the sheer amount of weight I needed to lose (100 lbs), I’m not sure I would have taken this path. I would have continued with the self-recriminations, the push to exercise more and eat less. And on and on.
I will do my best to describe how this now feels: Whether it’s an aroma or the sight of food I choose not to eat, it does register, yes. But the way it registers is more like a passing thought. I remember what my old behavior would have been. But that’s it. Those cookies that were put away don’t call out to me. For all intents and purposes, I crave them about as much as I crave celery. I don’t have to worry about whether I will have enough self-control. There’s an ease. There’s a confidence. What’s more, this is the first time ever where I’ve been ridiculously consistent. In the beginning, there were a few caves. And from time to time, I allow myself the occasional few ounces of wine with sparkling water (alcohol becomes sugar when metabolized). But overall? I’m sticking with it.
Beyond the weight loss, there are huge benefits to stepping outside the norm of what’s we’ve been taught to put on our plate every day. I think more clearly, my skin has changed, I’m more patient, and less anxious. I’ve begun an exercise program for the cold winter months, and Jillian Michaels is kicking my ass–note that beginning exercise is NOT recommended in the first 8 weeks on the plan (unless you’re already a regular at the gym).
For the first time, I feel certain I will reach my goal. I’m almost halfway there, 41% to be exact. This isn’t to say WOW, this is easy. It requires staying present, remaining conscious, planning ahead, and not relying on willpower. It requires staying public and continuing to talk about the experience. I can’t go down when I have a slip. I can’t waste time beating myself up. This is not about perfection, it’s about determination. It’s about reaping new rewards.
And with every day, the reward goes beyond looking in the mirror and seeing the results. It’s a feeling of mastery and strength, of unlocking the solution. The cravings are gone. The road has been cleared of debris and I feel a freedom around food I’ve never felt before. I never want to take that for granted. It’s a release I’ve worked hard for.
The other component is knowledge. In addition to steering clear of flour and sugar, there are some key things I’ve learned to do consistently:
- Keeping a food journal – studies show those who keep a food journal during weight loss will lose 50% more than those who don’t.
- Establishing hardcore rules – having black and white rules rather than practicing moderation is proven to take the load off willpower.
- Going public by connecting with others who share the same goal substantially increases results–thanks to my A-Team, I don’t do this alone.
- Having a plan in advance of challenging situations, i.e. If X happens I will do Y, puts less stress on the brain, thereby strengthening willpower versus tapping it.
In the end, I can’t take credit for ending my cravings. What I can take credit for is setting the stage to allow brain and body to do what they were made to do.