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How to Curb Carb Cravings?

by (748) Updated July 09, 2014 at 9:09 PM Created June 19, 2011 at 2:59 AM

This is kind of embarrassing, but I figured that this is a website where people post their problems and other people try to help them...

I eat paleo the whole day, and then late at night I get crazy carb cravings that turn me into a human cookie monster! I used to have binge eating issues pre-paleo, which made paleo a heaven sent bc I couldn't eat any of the things I would normally binge on. After paleo, I started to feel in control of my eating, lost weight and felt healthy.

But lately I've been going back to my old ways and don't know how to stop. I'm talking about consuming 1000+ calories in cereal, crackers, bread, granola, etc!! Every morning I wake up determined to start anew, but at around 9-10pm, I start to feel that itch again. I live w/ my non-paleo bf so I have some non-paleo food around the house that I can't get rid of. He's made A LOT of concessions already for me (ie. got rid of all desserts and snacks in the house) so I don't want to inconvenience him anymore.

I eat enough food during the day to fuel me and I'm pretty full/comfortable post-dinner. I don't even know how I started in this downward spiral. I don't remember craving carbs at night when I was younger. Is my late night munching due to an emotional or chemical reaction? I notice that I do go to food when I'm stressed. I've also noticed that I crave food more when I workout and, as a result, ingest more calories than I burn in my workouts.

I just bought a container of L-Glutamine at my local health food store bc I heard that it curbs carb cravings. Does anyone have any experience with L-glutamine or have advice on the dosage and when to take it? Should I take it on an empty stomach or with a meal?

Are there any other binge eaters out there who can give me some advice? I've tried to talk to my bf about this, but he doesn't binge so it's hard for him to see what I'm going thru.


UPDATE:

This is what my normal day looks like... 1st meal (12pm): frittata or chicken stir fry with a ton of veggies in tallow/butter/coconut oil 2nd meal (6pm): big piece of meat with veggies in fat.

I'll usually have some berries throughout the day. I want to say that I'm doing a low carb paleo (50 grams carbs), except for the fact that my carb binges bring up my carb count to a billion grams. :P My meals are already meaty and fatty so I'm going to take the advice of some of the other people and try to incorporate more carbs into my diet during the day and see if that helps. I'll also look into magnesium. I've also realized that eggs are very satiating and good at curbing carb cravings.

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15dcceb36c2de8d448ee53e54bc7360d
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128 · June 19, 2011 at 11:29 PM

OK GIRL: You have GOT to get it together. As long as you continue binging at night, you will make ZERO progress.

Now, for the good news: there is a way out of this! I used to have this exact problem. I would be 100% paleo during the day and then as soon as the sun set, my mind seemed to wander to the wonderful idea of "just a bite" of a cookie or ice cream...five scoops later, I would SWEAR to myself that tomorrow I would be good and that "one bad night" couldn't be too horrible. Fast forward a few months and bata bing bata bang...I had made zero progress.

Here is what you need to do:

  1. Eat a hearty breakfast. Seriously. Eat a big, beautiful, fatty omelet within a half hour of waking up. Mine consists of 3 eggs, 2 pieces of bacon, a link of chicken sausage, a tablespoon of butter, and a sprinkling of cheese. I also have a coffee with steamed half and half in it after breakfast. For all of that, it's about 850 calories, with lots of satiating fat and protein.

  2. INTERMITTENT FAST: I fast from 4pm-6am every day. You don't even know how helpful this is. It's very, very freeing because you simply don't have to worry about food after 4, and about four-six hours into the fast, it's time to go to bed. Sure, it's late at night and prime time for cravings, but knowing that my beautiful hearty breakfast awaits (and most likely a .5 to 1 pound loss on the scale) in the morning, the urge to eat at night is nonexistent. Giving my body this time to rest from food intake is supremely important for my mental health. Having a set time when you don't eat just makes life simpler, trust me. I can't emphasize how important this is. (Check out leangains!!!)

  3. Get into ketosis. Once you're in ketosis, hunger will feel like a thing of the past. After I eat my breakfast (typically around 6:30am), I don't eat again until 3:30pm. Not only do I not eat, but I don't feel like eating AT ALL. I literally will look at the clock and think "Shit, it's 3:30...I need to eat before 4!" and make myself a good, satisfying dinner.

  4. Stop eating all the time. Every time you snack on berries throughout the day, you are spiking your insulin levels. As long as you keep this habit up, you won't be able to feel the wonderful feeling of not caring about food that comes from ketosis. If you still want your berries, have a handful with each meal. Aside from that, don't snack. It sounds rough but it actually makes life easier when you're not thinking of food every half hour.

5.Don't skimp on calories. I don't hold back on calories. I don't go nutso whatso and eat 20 eggs and three pounds of beef at each meal...I just eat normal sized meals that are in the ballpark of 700-900 calories. My gauge for "how much is too much?" is whether or not I feel the meal digesting. If the meal disappears inside me and I feel energized and clean w/out feeling overly full, I know I've hit the sweet spot.

Commit 100%. As long as you're cheating, you won't make significant process, and you will constantly be craving grains/sugar/carbs. Make a commitment to intermittent fasting and paleo. I promise you that after 3-4 days of this, your life will get so much easier because you will be in ketosis, and you will be seeing significant, significant progress.

When I got my shit together, I was 130 lbs. As a 5'8" female, I don't have a ton to lose. However, I still lost ten pounds eating this way in two weeks, basically effortlessly.

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5477 · June 19, 2011 at 6:59 AM

Hmmmm.... Get some Mag Citrate (more bioavail form) and take in the evening. Try a couple 200mg tabs. Try some zinc, if you aren't already taking any in a multi, etc, in the am. And eat protein and fat like a banchi - 3 meals a day if you eat three meals and eat to be nice and full, not engorged but FULL. Cut the carbs, no fruit, no nuts, no nothing but fatty fish and fatty meat, and lots of yummy bacon, and eggs and cheese (if you do cheese) till you are full, until the cravings stop. Oh, and if you are a nightowl, make sure to eat your last meal late enough to deal with that.

I'm betting my liver that if you do this, it'll it will help.

No artificial sweetners, no fakey-sub sweet foods. NONE.

No diet drinks or sugarsub chewing gum.

Consider checking out some online group support for binge eating, and looking at what is stressing you so much.

Although I have never been a binger, I have been a stress overeater. One of my rules, when I changed my eating and my life beginning about 14 years ago, was that if I just felt like I had to mindlessly eat - and most of my stress eating was a late night thing too,(sort of anxious grazing behavior, or displacement behavior as Dr. Robert Pretlow would describe it) then whatever I ate HAD to be 100% protein or fat - PERIOD.

And that rule really, really helped.

Hang in there! You can work through this...

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2854 · June 19, 2011 at 3:23 AM

It sounds to me like a case of the late-night might-as-wells. When my body turns off for the night, I find that self-control goes with it. For me, making a 'no eating after _ o'clock' helps tremendously, even if I 'cheat' a few times a week. Maybe the comfort you're seeking can be found in going to bed instead, or cuddling with your bf, or reading a book. Try gaining awareness of what your body is actually craving.

Also... Perhaps your body is asking for more carbohydrates? Experiment with eating more paleo carbs earlier in the day.

And most importantly, don't feel guilty! Working thru binge eating takes a lot of time and experimentation- be kind to yourself!

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37013 · June 19, 2011 at 4:27 PM

I am a world class binge eater. In my case, cravings for carbs are emotional, not based on deficiency in any nutrient. Here's the kicker--I DON'T binge on paleo foods! The sure-fire test is, if I reject protein/fat foods, it's a binge.

So, my coping strategy is to not have forbidden carbs in the house. Then, when I absolutely have to binge or go crazy, it's usually extra fruit. I buy mostly grapefruit and have never managed to binge on enough of those to stop weight loss (in 3 months I've lost about 15 pounds.)

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1536 · June 19, 2011 at 12:17 PM

When I got anxious in the past, I would binge. Sometimes now I still binge when I am under stress, usually always on carbs. I've had a rather stressful two years. In the past, I'd go through the guilt and the body aches of haven eaten so much, then beat myself up over it, and then the cycles would be closer and closer together such that I was binge eating on a regular basis. Then, I developed hypothyroidism and stopped being able to feel full while eating such that I'd eat an entire large New York style pizza by myself and feel hunger half an hour later, exacerbating the whole problem.

However, I have found that getting up and going for a walk instead and thinking helps me better deal with anxiety and stress such that my cravings will go away. If I do have a candy bar or ice cream (I don't like starches nearly as much as I like sweet stuff) I don't beat myself up about it. It happens, and it goes through my body and out of my system, and then I don't have another one for weeks at a time. I try to not think I am undoing everything and let the guilt set in, because then I start incorporating sugary things back into my diet, and then rice, then potatoes, then bread, then anything at all and then I am fully on the SAD/fuck all diet.

I also find that sometimes I confuse food cravings with social cravings, since I used to use food for emotional comfort in the past. I like to call people or go for a walk and talk to someone when I am drawn to sugar because I might just need company rather than carbohydrates. Sometimes I'll watch a romance or romantic comedy (yeah, I know, but for some reason, films like Muriel's Wedding do it for me). Then, if I am still cravings carbs, I might have an herbal tea or some plain homemade yogurt. Then, if I am still craving carbs, I'll get some fruit or drink a little 100% orange juice, which for some reason, work as a nice substitute for when I want milk chocolate.

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1716 · June 19, 2011 at 6:03 AM

Supplementing with magnesium resulted in a marked decrease in cravings for me. Absolutely no more chocolate, sugar and junk food cravings since taking Natural Calm every night! Anybody else notice this? Are cravings the result of nutritional deficiencies? Also, keep the daily diet varied and interesting.

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19504 · June 19, 2011 at 3:05 AM

It is possible that you are not eating enough during the day...

Also going to bed earlier will help. One thing that might help is eating dinner with no carbs. Just protein (meat) and veggies and then right before bed eat one cup of cottage cheese. Do it every day and you will form a habit.

EDIT:

High ghrelin levels trigger hunger. If you were to consume tiny amounts of ghrelin you would want to devour much food. To decrease the ghrelin levels in your body you can:

1) Get more sleep. At least 7 hours / day. This is huge for reducing ghrelin levels.

2) This may cost me my Paleo Hacker card. However it is consistent with advice from The Quilt. Eat a breakfast high in protein within 30 minutes of waking up. The Quilt recomends 50 grams of protein for breakfast. ghrelin research is still young. However it seems that eating brings the level back down. And not eating allows the level to increase. So as time goes on in the day without eating grahlin levels increase. At night as each hour passes ghreln levels increase. So hitting the sac early is helpful in that your grehlin levels are lower than if you stayed up late. If you stay up late ghrelin increases causing huge apetites.

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11071 · June 19, 2011 at 10:39 PM

As a binge eater in recovery, I have to say that adding more carbs makes me MORE likely to binge, not less. Eating plenty of protein and lots of fat is key for me as well. I swear by L-glutamine straight under the tongue when a craving hits. You may want to look into a full amino acid protocol-if you can afford to, you can see Julia Ross at her Bay Area clinic, otherwise, read her books; The Diet Cure and The Mood Cure and do it yourself. Having all those processed carbs out of your house would be really helpful, maybe your boyfriend would be willing to do this if he understands that you are struggling with an illness? Good luck to you, I wish you strength.

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30 · June 19, 2011 at 5:03 PM

For me, ALL cravings and hunger are blunted when I increase my saturated fat intake. If I lower my SFA consumption, I get cravings/hunger pretty quickly. Adding a little butter/ghee/coconut oil/cream to everything I consume keeps me sated for hours!

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592 · June 19, 2011 at 12:28 PM

put all carbs into a locked cabinet and give only your bf the key. He can have his stuff and you can stay out of it. Cook up alot of meat for three days at a time. Put small containers of chicken in the fridge, jerky and stuff that you can substitute. You body is craving something sweet at night...DO something sweet for yourself. Have bf give you a massage, take a bubble bath...Write down some things that would help you divert your addiction to carbs. SO when it happens you have a list to go to and make it a good list.

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108 · June 19, 2011 at 5:58 AM

I'd look in to OA. OA.org has a list of meetings. It helped me a lot.

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1231 · June 19, 2011 at 4:06 AM

are you craving grains or carbs? if it's just carbs eat more of them in a planned and controlled way so you don't look at it like a binge.

paleo is not inherently low carb.

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250 · June 20, 2011 at 5:59 PM

I've found that I have to have SOME carbs or else I fall off the wagon entirely. I eat fruit and veg, and the occasional Larabar and/or Greek Yogurt and those tend to satisfy my sweet/carb craving. I've found that the results of eating grains and carbs--terrible mood swings, skin breakouts, digestive issues--are far worse than the cravings I get sometimes. I highly, highly recommend checking out http://paleopepper.com/disordered-eating/ for some great insight into dealing with disordered and binge eating while on Paleo. I am dealing with severe binge eating disorder and going Paleo has helped, but there are still moments of struggle. This blogger has helped me a lot. Good luck, and hang in there.

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705 · June 19, 2011 at 11:07 PM

I can't find the blog post that states this, but I read somewhere the hypothesis that our sweet receptors are actually receptors for fatty meat. Therefore craving carbs may in fact be a craving for some macronutrient.

I did find a post about adding egg helping, so if you're craving carbs, try adding egg to your meat: http://blog.sethroberts.net/2011/02/20/meat-only-diet-crave-carbs-meat-egg-no-craving/

Wout.

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1609 · June 19, 2011 at 5:58 AM

I find that the cravings tend to go away when I eat eggs. I remember reading about it somewhere, but don't remember the specific site.

edit here's where I read about it: http://blog.sethroberts.net/2011/02/20/meat-only-diet-crave-carbs-meat-egg-no-craving/

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77348 · June 19, 2011 at 5:11 AM

How is your sleep? Do you snore? When I had sleep apnea I had major cravings for crunchy carbs after dinner/before bedtime. I called it 'the mindless munchies'.

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70 · June 19, 2011 at 3:09 AM

I am exited to see some answers to this, I can keep it up until 4pm, after 4pm all want to do is to eat carbs.

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151 · June 19, 2011 at 3:08 AM

I have those too... but I'm getting ready for bed around 830pm, and in bed by 9pm so I can avoid it somewhat. Early afternoons get me! A woman I know who has experience with this told me to get some large "chunk" (pebbles) of pink Himalayan salt and suck on a small pebble when I get cravings. Oddly enough it helps. And, I don't do it all day, or even more than twice a day. You might try it, something about the minerals and the taste... it's much milder than table salt. Good luck. Sherry

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10 · October 23, 2012 at 7:41 AM

WOW !! that sounds exactly like me... throughout the day im superwomen i can even skip/pass meals when im starving during the day if they dont fit into the paleo program until i find a better alternative ... but at night time.. im no where near hungry.. not in the slightest but regardless of the food i will binge on it ! i sometimes make it to bed.. then wake up / get up frustrated 1 - 2 am and binge !!! luckily i manage to have some control over this with intermediate fasting which has helped me gain some stability but the main culprit i believe is my mental status with food. prior to paleo.. i had a massive binge eating disorder.. absolutely horible.. all day, night .. peanut butter.. nutella... bread.. milk anything that was calorie dense was what id be eating ! and believe me this wasnt OVEReating this was pure binging.. to the point i felt sickeninly full...

COCONUT OIL AND EXERCISE IN A FASTED STATE ( or 2 tablespoons coconut oil prior to the exercise ) IN THE MORNING < -- important.. really has helped me ! my binges are much less horibble now.. and less frequent and day by day i can feel myself loosing the desire to eat sugar...

try it =) coconut milk instead of dairy is also a very good option... because lactose in dairy causes a hormone to release which is extrememly strong in terms of making you crave sugar.. in fact id say even the fact that its full of protien changes nothing, lactose is such a foriegn thing to the human body that we are never able to reach true satisfaction from it !

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10 · August 13, 2012 at 8:27 PM

Bedtime eating (binging) has been my lifetime curse. I just can't sleep. For hours. Eventually I give up and eat. Sometimes less, sometimes more. And the more weight I lose, the worse this gets. When my past diets have gotten me to normal weight, the cravings are horrendous. I work so hard to lose the weight and then simply cannot control the binges and put it back on.

People think it is a willpwere thing. But if I have the willpower to lose as much as 90 pounds, and REALLY want to maintain it, is it will power or some sort of chemical thing that can't be beat.

In the past, this dilemma has caused me sigfnificant emotional despair. I tried counseling (at an eating disorder hospital). They did all sort of "analysis" for some root problem and tried putting me on different antidepresants. But I am a successful fairly well adjusted individual: to me theres got to be some "weight/brain chemistry" thing that dooms me to fail.

In the above thread, I have heard some conflicting things: eat more often, eat less often; eat carbs, don't eat carbs. Not sure what to believe.

I'll try some of the supplements mentioned and may try eggs again, in the past, while on the way down, they sometimes worked. But once I lose the weight, it seems like nothing works.

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259 · June 20, 2011 at 2:55 PM

I had the same issues, and found 3 solutions:

  • Do not stay up late. Whenever I stay up late or lack some sleep I have cravings.
  • Always make sure you have eaten enough. IMO it is better to eat to much and just fast until you are hungry again, instead of eating to little and being a prime candidate for cravings
  • Give in from time to time: I do eat some non-paleo food on some occasions (i.e. parties etc.), but I always accompany it with paleo food since non-paleo does not satisfy me, even in large quantities.

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20 · June 20, 2011 at 3:51 AM

Whenever i feel the urge to binge and eat a full weeks worth of food, I eat some meat wait 30 mins. Then if Im still ravenous I make a ginger cinnamon tea. Get the real ginger root from the store not the powder.

Helps me curb uncontrollable cravings every time:

Ginger root minced (1 in slice) Cinnamon (1 tsp) Boiled water Coffee cup

Drink and enjoy the tingle in the back of throat :) also helps with upset stomach:)

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25197 · June 19, 2011 at 5:13 PM

If you follow my recs for 6 weeks you wont crave any carbs. Eat 50 gms to 70 gms of protein 30 minutes upon waking and watch how fast they go away. The reason is complex and I will get into it but it controls the hypothalamic centers that control the hypocretin and incretin hormones. (NPY and Ghrelin and many others)

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817 · June 19, 2011 at 1:15 PM

Try Gymnema Sylvestre. Nora Gedgaudas is big on it and it works for me.

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114 · June 19, 2011 at 3:50 AM

A few suggestions that come to mind:

  1. Eat more/eat more carbs.

  2. Use a leangains approach. Eat only during a small window during the day. It could be as small as 6 hours. Put this window late in the day, and eat 2 big meals as opposed to 3 smaller ones. This tends to satisfy more and reduce cravings. Also, since your cravings come at night, eating big meals at the end of the day could help.

  3. Get rid of that non-paleo food. Always keep some sweet potatoes on hand so that you have a good source of carbs to binge on if you feel the need.

Hope this helps.

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3207 · July 09, 2014 at 9:09 PM

Coconut oil helps me a lot, I take 2 tbs. before each meal and that seems to curve my cravings. Hope this helps

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1174 · September 11, 2013 at 3:17 PM

What a super-helpful thread! I feel great doing IF with 'bulletproof' coffee every day, mentally sharp and energetic. However I've been getting midday and bedtime carb/sugar/dairy cravings like crazy, lately. I think my fasting window is too long, and I graze too much, causing fluctuations in blood sugar. I'm going to try some recommendations here, and eat breakfast earlier, totally cut the carbs/sugars for awhile, exercise first thing in the morning in a fasted state. And ugh, more sleep!

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0 · June 19, 2011 at 11:45 PM

Visualize how the refined carbohydrates are going to raise your blood sugar, raise insulin, create AGES, damage proteins, cause you to store fat, and generate inflammation. Basically visualize those cookies, cakes, and donuts as the toxin that they are. Works for me!

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1012 · June 19, 2011 at 12:53 PM

You need to eat a hearty breakfast; this will help sate you as others have suggested to lessen odds of binging at night.

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