Here I sit with my left foot in a not very comfortable CAM boot. According to the doctor, I have a tendon or ligament injury. He’s not sure which one but I need to be immobile for at least 4 weeks. It is painful and the one thing I know with certainty is that I crave sugar when in pain.
Having Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, the genetic connective tissue disease, means multiple joint dislocations and non-stop muscle spasms. And apparently it also causes tendon and ligament damage. There is a physiological reason why we crave sweets when we hurt.
Sugar releases neurotransmitters from the reward center in our brain that do actually numb the pain for a brief time. Notice brief. This is the same reward center that responds to pain medication. But due to my Mast Cell Disease, I cannot tolerate any pain meds except Tylenol, so pain is my constant companion.
Do you unconsiously reach for sugar or some type of sweets when you are in pain? When your head is pounding? Or your backache is unrelenting? If so, there is a physiological reason. But, instead of going for the sugar to gain very short-term relief, become aware of that response and choose an alternative.
I now consiously tell myself that I’m in pain and will crave sugar, so I need plan B. Because I cannot take medication, my go-to is meditation. I do not feel the pain during my meditation and it is less after. I also use the other typical treatments too: ice, moist heat, TENS unit, muscle strengthening exercises.
Sometimes I succumb to the sugar craving. But it is with total awareness and with a plan for the continued pain when the brief response wears off. So what sends you to sugar?
Through the holiday season, we tend to eat on the run because of our busy schedules and added holiday festivities. Instead of feeling dragged down, how would you like to feel full of energy?
Holiday shopping, dinners out, parties to attend and family members traveling can add up to eating less than healthy food every day. The result may be feeling sluggish and lethargic. How can you keep up with all of the festivities when all you want to do is climb into your nice comfy bed and sleep?
If you fuel your body most of the time with the food that gives you peak energy, you will be able to enjoy this holiday season without feeling like a party pooper. So now is the time to stock up your pantry and fridge with the following foods to keep you feeling energetic and ready to party.
- Instead of sweets and simple processed carbs, focus on whole grains like whole wheat, millet, quinoa and brown rice. Save the sweets for occasional treats and slowly savor them. Sweets and refined carbs spike your blood sugar and then cause it to plummet, leave you feeling wiped out. Complex carbs are absorbed more slowly, keeping your blood sugar stable and keeping your energy up.
- Protein found in lean cuts of beef, pork tenderloin, skinless chicken or turkey provide your body the essential amino acids and vitamin B12. Protein also helps transport nutrients in your body and maintain your electrolyte levels.
- Salmon and other fatty fish, nuts and leafy, dark green veggies provide omega-3 fatty acids. Omega 3s improve blood flow in the brain.
- Water is absolutely essential. Even very mild dehydration slows down metabolism, causes headaches and zaps your energy. If you dislike plain water, add citrus slices or cucumber slices.
- Fiber foods like veggies, fruits and beans keep your blood sugar stable and your energy up. Pairing protein and fiber is the perfect union.
- Skipping meals or going too long between meals drops your blood sugar and energy. Eat small meals more frequently and energy-packed snacks in between meals like peanut butter on whole grain crackers, Greek yogurt and fruit or veggies and hummus.
- Eat dark chocolate. Yes, it’s healthy! especially 70% cocoa. It boosts your energy due to the caffeine and theobromine, another stimulant, but keep it to 1 oz. per day.
If you replace your on-the-run eating habits with these suggestions, you’ll boost your energy not only this holiday season but throughout the year. Enjoy each other’s company and savor each bite.
© michaeljung – Fotolia.com
Although I am well aware of the strong influence of sugar on the reward center in our brain, I am not a believer in banning all sugar. It just causes more cravings. Allowing sugar, on your terms is the way to manage eating sweets without having a candy binge.
Every store is filled with many kinds of Halloween candies now. If you are visually cued (and many of us are), this is tough to pass up. So here are a few tips to get you through the Trick-or-Treat season:
- Don’t stock up in advance. Wait until right before Halloween to buy your candy. They might not have your favorites… exactly!
- That leads me to the next… buy the candy you least like. It’s not for you. It’s for the trick-or-treaters.
- But, carefully choose something you do like, maybe one regular-sized candy bar or a small bag of fun-sized bars. This is your treat to savor on Halloween.
- If you have children, model savoring one piece slowly and putting the rest away for another time. Remind your children (and yourself) that treats are okay when you eat nourishing food too.
- If past memories of Halloween bring back bingeing on mounds of candy, remind yourself to stay in this present moment and truly enjoy your chosen candy. Open up the wrapper slowly, smell the aroma, put it in your mouth and slowly savor that morsel of sweetness.
- And as always, don’t settle. Don’t pick a Milky Way when you really want a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. That doubly goes for mindlessly eating Nerds because your child left them on the counter. Out of sight, out of mind. Put the leftovers away.
This marks the beginning of the holiday season. It’s a time for fun, joy, family and friends. I will be giving you tips and advice to get through the season, filled with an abundance of food. If you have a particular question, concern or holiday eating problem, you can send me a message in the box below and I will answer it in a future blog post. Anonymously, of course. [contact-form-7 404 "Not Found"]