I started writing a short answer to the question: http://paleohacks.com/questions/84061/what-do-you-do-when-you-really-really-really-need-sugar-but-refuse-to-give-in but it soon grew into a more general answer to the subject as a whole.
I thought I would post my answer as a question perhaps in aid of stirring the thoughts of others. So the following "question" can be read as the answer to the question above.
I may get shot down for this answer but hear me out.
From personal experience it appears to me that there is a major link between my ability to choose to do what I am supposed to do, and choose not to do what I am not supposed to do, and my diet and overall well-being.
By that I mean that if i have regular planned good paleo meals over the day/number of days, I appear to be in a stronger frame of mind to make the right decisions. And the opposite is also true, that if I have a rushed week and resort to snacking or just grabbing high carb foods to fill me quickly, I end up being half the person I normally am and I make poor choices. Worse I end up being attracted to making the wrong choices!
The reason I am saying all this is that perhaps you should not look at trying to solve the carb cravings by looking at the cravings, but rather look at the greater part of the picture.
Why not start by planning out one day's meals, which will optimise you to have the ability to plan out more meals and do a good grocery shop, which will aid you in being strong enough to clear out your house of troublesome items and breaking habits, which will I believe continue giving you a greater ability to deal with your cravings.
Simply I think that the issue with a lot of these cravings/desires/habits can be curbed not by focusing on trying to resolve them specifically, but rather starving them of their importance. The key I believe is doing something small and easy first which will give you the ability to do the next thing, and the next etc. I do not just mean this in terms of behaviour I mean this in terms of being nutritionally optimised so that we physically have the ability to be emotionally strong. Eat right and the mind will be right, I really believe this. Get the mind right and we will choose to eat right. It's kind of neat like that. Compound nutritional interest.
I really hope this has not come across preachy but I read a lot of posts like this and I always feel there is a bigger issue behind the question then just a craving.
That our cravings are a bit like us wanting to run a marathon but feel we can't start training until we have the best running shoes, or socks, jacket etc and so we feel helpless and end up sitting still. The issue is not the gear but rather the training itself. The point is to start walking everyday and the rest will fall in place. It is the general not the specifics that matter. Get the general right first and I believe the specifics will sort themselves out.
I do hope this has been helpful, or at the very least an entertaining read. I await the paleohack slap-down. :)
Prevention or cure. I'd agree that a lot of these cravings are 'symptoms' of a body-mind state that is compromised. But while a little effort and some changes to diet can fix the physiological causes relatively quickly, I think it's important to accept that it will likely take quite a long time to sort out the psychological processes that have developed over many years.
Good nutrition will put you in a better frame of mind, but there's still a lot of sub-conscious programming that typically needs to be addressed. And that's a whole lot harder if you don't have absolute confidence in the direction you're taking. Even more so if you don't even know which way to go.
I don't know if any of you are women, but my cravings always hit the week before the end of my cycle. Up until I get my period, for about 4 days, I am an eating machine. I don't care what it is, and I'm not ever satisfied. I try to plan ahead and have good left overs in the fridge for those times when I NEED something. It doesn't seem to mater how hard I plan ahead, I can't STOP. It is terrible, and I really don't know how to thwart it. Now that I'm not eating SAD anymore, I make better bad choices, but I know that it's the sugar that I crave. I eat a lot more fruit and chocolate at this time of the month. When I was on SAD, it was candy bars, chips, cookies, etc. I guess it's better now that I don't allow myself to eat those things, but I still feel so weak :(
I agree that good nutrition sets up a positive feedback loop that eventually makes each good choice easier and easier. After seeing this a few times you will choose to fast rather than eat the unhealthy snack if you've gotten yourself in a situation without good food available, because you understand the process of derailment that it can start.
For most people giving up sugar, there is still a ramp up period when you begin or after you have made a mistake in which you will feel a strong desire to eat it, and to get past it you simply have to do whatever tricks work for you.
Different people have different levels of response to sugar, in terms of how long their cravings will last, but also, what turned out to be important for me, is in how much they can tolerate. When I was eating about 25g of carbohydrate a day, I would have persistent carbohydrate cravings. It wasn't every moment, but it built up over time. At some point I realized I could no longer go for more than a couple of weeks without the cravings becoming so powerful as to dominate my mind. Physiology will always beat willpower eventually.
When I removed every possible source of carbohydrate from my diet and ate only meat, this completely resolved, along with other problems. I understand that ZC isn't for everyone, but anyone who suffers from carb cravings on an ongoing basis should be aware that they may be hyper-sensitive, and that ZC has given some people peace where they never believed they could have it. Just as some people cannot have one drink, some people can only get the flow described in the original post after removing all sugar.
Cravings are a clinical symptom that our hormones are not in allostasis. Our homeostatic goal is to be in balance. Our brain will drive us to regain balance if it is not altered by inflammation chronically. And carb cravings are pretty simple to remove. The Leptin Rx is designed to do just that. Get you back to allostasis. The rest is relatively simple because if you eat macronutrients in a balanced fashion we are hardwired in our nervous system to make every attempt to regain allostasis.
The problem arises when the brain can not come back to allostasis because of chronic inflammation. The signaling becomes disordered and the hormonal response is dramatically altered and the results found on any internet nutrition or diet forum become the norm.
I am sure that the above posts are all valid in different ways. Even with your period- if you were more balanced you wouldn't be craving like you do. But...so what...you ARE craving and that is miserable. I have discovered that cooking with coconut flour and eggs to make muffins with nuts, spices and the occasional blueberry helps me. They are dense and warm and somehow help to shut down the yammering, MORE, MORE, MORE from my brain. Put some butter on them, and a dab of raw honey (if you must) and sink into satisfaction- particularly with a cup of tea. Happy munching! (Plus they are very full of protein)
In my life I've experienced two different kind of cravings. The first are those that appear to be related to the quality of my diet. I have found that following a nutrient-dense paleo/PHD really helps with the vast majority of these cravings.
The second are the ones that are triggered by external circumstances ... these are the ones that ping my limbic brain in some way (aka ... my "fight or flight ... or food" response). These are primarily learned responses from a lifetime of responding to stress with food.
When I'm "on track" with my diet, the triggered cravings tend to be easier to spot and deal with as they are far less frequent. And my 60 sessions of neurofeedback (thank you Nora Gedgaudas!) and regular assisted meditation practice have enabled me to deal with all but the most difficult. But periodically the stressors overwhelm the system and I cave (there was that night with the 3 nips of Tanqueray and take out from Jerry's for example).
But there's also other things going on, like how exercise may influence impulsive behavior ... very interesting!
So ... I guess I agree that the idea of looking at the "greater part of the picture" is probably a good one.
How can we phase out cravings? 10 Answers
Is coconut milk inflammatory? 5 Answers
Are sweet potatoes Paleo? 3 Answers