Click the link above to read an article I wrote that was published in LDSLiving.com
I received the following email from someone who read my article. I do not think his pain is unique. My response to his email will not take away his pain. I do not have that power. But I hope to offer hope and direction to people that are searching for answers. Maybe you or someone you know could relate to this email. Maybe my response will help you. Please feel free to share your thoughts with me at firstname.lastname@example.org. We are all on a journey and I want to keep learning too!
I just read your article in LDS Living, “Health Coach Shares One Aspect of Building a Happier, Healthier Life We Often Miss”. I enjoyed it greatly and plan on diving further into a few of its concepts. I felt inspired to reach out to you for help.
I am a loving father of 3 (soon to be 4), husband to a great wife, and unfortunately…….I am the perfect example of this article. I have several of the mentioned symptoms to a small degree but by far the greatest struggle for me lies with my relationship with food. Overeating is by far my biggest weakness. I know how to eat right and exercise but, inexplicably I loose the desire to continue. It seems like every time I have reached a healthy balance and begin to feel good about myself, it suddenly falls apart. More recently I have been plagued by a strong addiction to sugar in particular. I cant control my cravings and lie to myself that tomorrow will be different. In the last 6 months I have gone from completing a marathon to hiding junk food from my family and gaining an additional 45 pounds.
In short, I can change the outside, but the inside still remains the same. Eventually the outside will continue to reflect the inside.
I realize you may not have an answer but, How do I fix the inside?
Thank you for reaching out to me. I can tell you have a desire to learn and to change. That is a major asset that you have!! You also spoke tenderly of your wife. Which again is another major blessing that will help you in your journey. I’m so glad that you seem to have an understanding that the inside needs to change to affect the outside. Really that is our ultimate goal, right? We all need to change, put off the natural man, and strive to emulate our Savior. How does this apply to sugar cravings?? Well, I believe it is all connected. Part of our mortal experience is to feel rejection, loneliness, disappointment, and many other difficult things. It is part of life. None of us will escape the challenges of mortality. But thankfully there is a plan. The problem is that sometimes in our journey we adopt faulty core beliefs about ourselves. These beliefs are sometimes so deep and such a part of the way we think we don’t even recognize that they are there. At least, that is how it was for me. Those faulty core beliefs are why I believe we turn to substances that make us feel good… even if it is temporary and even when we know the long term side effects are undesirable.
There are a few ways that I have had success personally with changing my faulty core beliefs. I hope some of these suggestions will help you.
- Professional Counseling – Finding the right counselor should be considered with fasting and prayer (it’s a big deal and not all counselors are created equal). If you need suggestions I can offer some for you. If you have suffered trauma in your past consider a counselor that does life span integration.
- Going to the temple often – Connecting with God and being frequently reminded of our divine identity gives a powerful strength to see the lies in our faulty core beliefs.
- Working steps to identify and change faulty core beliefs – I offer a work book that helps in this process. I recommend social support when doing this workbook. I offer groups that help support each other during this changing process. We meet online using zoom.
You asked specifically about sugar cravings. Scientist are just beginning to uncover the mysteries of the microbiome, or in other words our gut health. We shouldn’t be surprised that just as with everything else that is important in life our gut needs to be cared for and have a balance of good things in it. Many of our common medical therapies affect our microbiome, such as antibiotics, proton pump inhibitors (medication for heartburn), C-sections, and many others. The result of these common medical procedures is that the good bacteria gets killed off and bad bacteria takes over. This causes all sorts of problems from depression to irritable bowel syndrome. Another thing about this “bad” bacteria is they love sugar!! They crave it and it may be the reason you are craving sugar. What can you do about this?
Your body needs both probiotics and prebiotics. I believe its best when you get these from natural, whole foods. Probiotics are found in things like kefir, yogurt, fermented vegetables like sauerkraut and pickles. Kefir is my favorite because it has a dozen strands of different of probiotics. Variety is key. If you ask a pharmacist for a probiotic supplement sometimes they will suggest acidophilis, but that is only one strand. Kefir is found near the yogurt in the grocery store. They have different flavors. It takes a bit to get used to because its a little tangy. But try just taking 1/2 a cup each day to help your microbiome and see if it helps.
Prebiotics are like fertilizer for the probiotics. Prebiotics are found naturally in vegetables, fruit, and grains. Asaparagus, garlic, onions, wheat are some examples. The beautiful thing about eating a variety of colorful vegetables is we get a lot of other good nutrition our body needs and we also get fiber which helps us digest our food slower so we can absorb the nutrients.
Paying attention to gut health is a really popular topic lately and you can find a lot of supplements on the internet. I prefer to stick with natural food as much as possible. Having a diet rich in “wholesome herbs” and “grain” and “fruit of the vine” (D&C 89:10-16) is also consistent with what we are taught in the Word of Wisdom.
One thing you can cut out that will make a big difference:
- high fructose corn syrup – this is found in A LOT of foods, especially when we eat at restaurants. Soda, ketchup, BBQ sauces, syrups, and more. High fructose corn syrup was developed as a cheap preservative. The problem is our body does not metabolize it properly. In stead our body considers this man-made product as toxic. In an effort to protect vital organs this toxic substance is shunned to our fat cells. We don’t even have a chance to burn it off before it is safely locked away in fat. Good new is that with a little effort we can find ketchup, syrups and bbq sauce without high fructose corn syrup. You just have to look for it on the shelf and read the label. Its worth it!!
Sorry, soda isn’t good for you even if you can find one without high fructose corn syrup. Artificial sugars also are very controversial. In my opinion its another man made product that is toxic to our health. If soda is something you drink, try replacing soda habits with ice water with a squeeze of lemon or lime. I know that can be a tough one to let go of. But you can do it! Pray for help and find another healthy pleasure you enjoy to replace it if needed.
Often when we are craving something if we can hold out for 10 min and find something else to do that craving subsides. If that doesn’t work, think about what your body needs. Does it need more sleep? Are you restless or bored? Maybe a walk would help or wrestle with your kids. Are you hungry? Nourish your body with healthy food first, drink some kefir if the cravings won’t stop. Put the kids to bed. Enjoy some time without the kids around with your wife and enjoy a small serving of one of your favorite treats. Savor each bite and pay attention to the texture and taste. Eating mindlessly leads to overeating. Treats shouldn’t be something we can’t eat. Then we just want them more. We just need to be mindful and have a good balance of what we eat and make sure that we are not substituting sugary foods for nutritious food, good relationships, connection with God, or boredom.
In my experience, when I treat my body with kindness, get enough sleep, exercise, and eat a variety of vegetables with each meal (including breakfast) I have very little cravings for sugar (keep in mind I also drink Kefir frequently). However, when my body is stressed and not getting what it needs I am looking for sugar to make me feel good. Sugar temporarily spikes our serotonin levels and it does make us feel good, for a moment. Isn’t it interesting how similar basic life lessons can be applied to so many different aspects of our life? Immediate gratification never produces the best results. Continuous efforts to make good choices do!
I believe our physical health is very similar to our spiritual health. We need to think about it everyday. We need to do something to help it improve. It needs to be part of our life. It needs to be something we do because we love ourselves, we love God, and we want to do all that we can to take care of the temple He has entrusted us with. I prefer to stay away from weighing myself on a scale. To me numbers on a scale are like the lower law when Moses had to tell people how many steps they could walk on the Sabbath day. Instead find other ways to assess where you are physically. Are you caring for your body? Do you get enough sleep? Do you nourish your body with healthy food? Do you move you body in a way that gets your heart rate up and oxygen pumping through your muscles? Do you connect with God, nature, and have meaningful relationships? If you can answer “yes” or “I’m trying” to these questions then you are on your way to good health.
Just as with a testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ it takes time to for us to have increased understanding and conviction. But as we continue our efforts each day it comes line upon line, precept upon precept. Don’t be frustrated if you don’t see results when you want them. Be patient and keep trying. If you have ran a marathon you know some of the basics of moving your body, but there are always more things to learn. We can keep improving and find ways to move our body that feel good and that we love to do!
Time and energy is always a challenge. Be kind to yourself and do what you can. When you do not have time for a run or walk sometimes multi-tasking helps. Play tag with the kids until you sweat or listen to your scriptures as you do some cardio exercises and/or strength training for 20-30 minutes 3-5 times a week. Making time to exercise does not need to consume your life, but it definitely should be part of your life.
I hope some of these suggestions help you. Please let me know if you have any further questions.
Thanks for your time.