What started off as a harmless day of indulging my PMS cravings, quickly turned into almost a week's worth of impulsive snacking, and unbalanced eating. We women have all been there before. Once a month we find ourselves craving inordinate amounts of chocolate, and fully surrendering the sweet sounds of John Mayer - ugly, PMS tears and all. This week seemed particularly bad though.
For starters, my PMS cravings kicked in on Halloween. So when I got home after a long day at work, helping my college roommate move into her new place, and enduring another day of public transit and I saw the leftover halloween candy... well I might as well have been a attempting a Guinness World Record for how many chocolates you can unwrap and eat while maintaining pleasant conversation about my job as a personal trainer and fitness coach. To add to this violent feeding frenzy, my sister made a delicious batch of lemon squares. It would be rude not to sample her latest baking venture, #amirite?
So that was Tuesday.
The following 4 days were a blur of lemon squares as my "preworkout" (and post workout, and pre-work meal, and pre-bedtime snack), chips for dinner, another trip to Sugar Mountain, and a blatant disregard for all of the knowledge I have of the effects of consuming sugar and processed foods. Sure, I would mix in a protein shake, and one day I even made myself eggs for breakfast... to which I immediately followed up with 2... or 3 lemon squares.
Which leads me to tonight. I am literally laughing at myself for succumbing to the North American food industry's tricks that get us to consume and consume and consume all the shit that they know our brains are addicted to. We all know how addictive alcohol can be. But do you know that the metabolic process for breaking down alcohol is only one step different than that which is required to breakdown sugar? To add to that, my northern ancestry gave me a genetic predisposition to consume as much sugar as I can get my hands on because I could be stuck eating caribou and moose meat for the harsh northern European winters.
Bamboozled again, my friends, and I am sure this won't be the last time either. But fear not! I have a plan. Thanks to my understanding of the sugar withdrawal process, and my current knowledge of intermittent fasting, ketogenic diets, and just general nutrition, I have devised a plan. And not a psycho, crash diet plan. That will only make my feelings of psychosis amplified in the height of my sugar withdrawals. You see, this is the key to bouncing back from a crazy week of eating. You need to know your enemy better than it knows itself, and you need to implement your own resources wisely because you are fighting your own brain here. Your Brain. That thing that has fascinated humans for years. That jiggly, mass of nervous tissue locked in our (sometimes) thick skulls. It isn't easy, but it is doable if you are smart about it.
So what is my genius plan, you might ask? Well it comes down to 3 things.
Often times when we experience signs of hunger, it is actually the bodies reaction to dehydration. While dehydrated the body is interpreting all kinds of hormonal signals due to water's vital role in many of the body's processes. Sometimes when we feel hunger, which is the release of ghrelin, what we actually need is water. So over the next few days (4 days is the standard for me to get over cravings), I will be making sure I am consuming at least 2 of my 1500ml water bottles every day. This should stave off some of those unnecessary feelings of "hunger".
2. Fat & Protein for Breakfast
In our bodies we have a hormone called insulin. It regulates our blood sugar levels by allowing sugar to flow from the blood into our cells. Kind like that one friend who can always get you past the line and the bouncer at a very exclusive club. When we consume high amounts of sugar, we produce an "insulin spike". In the morning when we haven't eaten all night, any amount of sugar will produce one of these insulin spikes because in the morning our insulin levels are at their lowest. Once the sugar has been shuttled into the cells, the insulin levels drop. But now you have put all of your body's hormones and metabolic processes on the homeostasis rollercoaster - and trust me, you would not want to be riding this thing. This is why consuming a healthy fat and source of protein for breakfast is key. If you listen to this podcast by Guru Performance, they go into more detail as to why protein and fat are the ideal combination for maintaining a favourable body composition. Consuming this power duo in the morning also creates a very small insulin response and you therefore avoid the rollercoaster ride of insulin spikes and drops throughout the day.
3. Intermittent Fasting
This is something that I try to practice every day as best I can. I started intermittent fasting in my final semester of college after hearing a presentation from a classmate of mine, Matt McMurray. I was feeling like I had no control over my psychology around eating and needed a way to bring myself back to normal. In his presentation he mentioned a 16:8 fasting to feasting window. Knowing myself, I made mine 10-6. I would go to the gym really early, come home, prep breakfast, pack it up and head to class. When 10am rolled around, I reached into my backpack and had a well thought out, nutritious breakfast waiting for me.
Intermittent fasting has changed the way I see food. I live in North America, come from a good home, have enough money and therefore will never go starving. Intermittent fasting allowed me to hack my physiology's instinct that I will die if I don't eat right away, and turned it upside down. This is why it is my 3rd key to success as I go through withdrawals. Re-training myself to understand that I won't die if I don't eat right away. That I can get through a heavy workout without eating because my body will benefit from the adaptations that follow fasted workouts. Giving myself a window to eat also means that I won't snack late into the night and risk messing with my bodies process of preparing me for sleep.
The last thing I will mention is actually today's instagram post. I hope this has been helpful to you and you learned something new.
Riri's Discoveries blog documents Riri's most recent research, her travel adventures, and her personal fitness journey.