I love analogies.
I just love them. They make complicated things easy.
One of my favourites is Fluffy.
Low carbohydrate diet (low in starches and sugars) is a very powerful lifestyle tool to lose weight permanently and regain fabulous health.
However, craving carbohydrates can make starting and sticking to a low-carb lifestyle tricky.
Some of you, probably most of you, are familiar with Harry Potter.
In one of the books, JK Rowling describes this mystical beast guarding the Philosopher's Stone. The mystical beast is a three-headed dog. It’s called a Cerberus in Greek mythology.
Anyway, this huge hairy drooling beast is sound asleep and remains sound asleep with music. As long as there is a gentle melody playing, the beast is quiet. All three heads are sleeping. The beast of course belongs to Hagrid and has the incongruous name of Fluffy!
I like to imagine that we all have a Fluffy inside of us. Fluffy is the carbohydrate-craving monster that resides inside our brains.
My Fluffy is sound asleep when I keep my carbohydrate intake low. If I have a high carb day, then one head of Fluffy wakes up and he is looking for more carbs. If I then have more carbs, the second head wakes up and then the third. Within a short space of time, I have a three-headed carb craving monster inside. AARGH!
This is part of the reason I remain low carb. Not only does it help my weight management, but it keeps Fluffy asleep. When Fluffy is asleep, I’m not craving food. My food chatter slows, then disappears. I’m in control. I find it easy to resist biscuits, cakes, chocolate etc.
When Fluffy is awake, I feel out of control. Food like chips, bread, and lollies seems like a good idea. The biscuit tin calls my name.
So how does this equate to our food cravings?
Well, it all goes to the reward system in our brain. This is a complex pathway involving several areas of the brain. The neurotransmitter dopamine, sometimes called the pleasure hormone, is released by certain stimuli. These include alcohol, coffee, drugs like heroin and cocaine, gambling, shopping, and screens on phones. You know that feeling - the little buzz when you snag a bargain or when you drink the first coffee of the morning.
All food results in the release of a small amount of dopamine, but ultra-processed food (UPF) releases a huge amount.
When we eat UPF, the receptors on our brain upregulate, meaning they increase. These are the heads of Fluffy. When we avoid these substances the receptors downregulate, meaning Fluffy goes to sleep - AHH peace!
The more ultra-processed food we eat, the more we want.
So when Fluffy wakes up, we get increased cravings until we put him back to sleep…
And “How do you put him back to sleep?”, I hear you ask.
Avoid sugar, alternate sweeteners, and processed carbs for a period of time. Fill up on healthy fat and protein. Drink lots of fluids. Do not fast or restrict food while Fluffy is awake! After a few days, Fluffy will go back to sleep and staying on track with your low carb lifestyle will again be peaceful and smooth.