Processed carbohydrates release serotonin in the brain – the feel-good chemical associated with happiness and peace. When people say they’re “self-medicating” with carbs, it’s not just an expression – it’s a potent and potentially addictive chemical response. If you feel you’re hooked, wean yourself off of unhealthy carbs with this plan and find freedom in the healthy alternatives.
Week #1: In the first week of the program, focus on adding healthy carbs and don’t cut back on the amount of unhealthy carbs yet. This will help ease the symptoms of withdrawal from unhealthy carbs.
Add Foods That Curb Carb Cravings
Add whole grains, like quinoa, oatmeal, whole wheat bread, brown rice, whole grain pasta, and whole fruits, like apples, pears, berries, and melon. These foods not only keep you fuller longer, but they also have antioxidants that help protect your brain chemistry!
Week #2: In the second week of the program, support will become vital, as you are now cutting your unhealthy carb servings to 2 per day.
Cut Back to 2 Unhealthy Servings of Carbs Per Day and Get a Sponsor
We treat food addiction like any other addiction, so get a sponsor – this can be a sponsor at a free Overeaters Anonymous meeting, a significant other, weight-loss buddy, or health-care professional. When we feel supported and happy in our lives, our brains release serotonin – the same brain chemical you used to rely on those unhealthy carbs to release. It’s not so much about what you’re subtracting from your life – it’s about what you’re adding. This is the key to sustaining change over the long-term.
Week #3: In week 3, you will be cutting back to 1 unhealthy serving of carbs per day, so you will need to find other ways to deal with triggers.
Cut Back to 1 Unhealthy Serving of Carbs Per Day. Find Non-food Activities to Treat Your Triggers.
Two of the most common triggers of eating unhealthy carbs are loneliness and stress. Remember, unhealthy carbs release feel-good serotonin in the brain, but there are lots of healthy ways to get serotonin as well.
If you’re lonely, it’s as simple as picking up the phone and calling your sponsor or a friend. Have a great conversation, get some support, or make plans to do something fun like see a movie or have a healthy meal together.
If you’re stressed, soothe yourself by doing something relaxing. Take a bubble bath, light a candle, or take a soothing stroll around your neighborhood.
Week #4: You will cut out all unhealthy carbs from your diet. You will need to focus on adding activities that boost your feel-good hormones.
Cut Out All Unhealthy Carbs. Replace With Hormone-boosting Activities.
Here are some ways to get three of the most important feel-good hormones:
- Serotonin: Sleep your way to busting your unhealthy carb addiction! Lack of sleep interferes with serotonin production. When you don’t get 7-9 hours of sleep per night, your brain releases ghrelin – a hormone that makes you crave unhealthy carbs.
- Oxytocin: This is also called the cuddling hormone. Get intimate with your significant other, rock your baby, or cuddle with a pet. All of these activities will release oxytocin which will make you feel happy, peaceful and connected. When we feel this way, unhealthy carb cravings all but disappear!
- Vitamin D: This is an important hormone for overall health – including mood! Get your daily dose of vitamin D with 20 minutes of exposure to the sun. If you’re getting more than that, be sure to put on some sunblock. Create a double mood-boosting whammy by exercising while you’re getting this sun by walking or riding your bike. If the sun’s not out, eat foods rich in vitamin D like salmon or tuna, or take a vitamin D supplement.