When I considered testing the effectiveness of the Paleo Diet on myself, I thought that I wouldn’t have too much difficulty with the dietary restrictions. I believe that I was eating pretty well, especially when I consider how I used to eat. I felt that over the last couple of years, my eating habits changed from horrible to pretty damn good! I now eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, so I figured going Paleo wouldn’t be a problem. I could eat all the meat I want as long as it’s lean. In fact, my meat intake was going to increase during my Paleo Diet experiment. What I didn’t expect was how much I was going to miss grains.
When I think back on my dietary life, I always loved carbohydrates. To this day I believe that there has never been a piece of cake that I didn’t like. However, my love of carbs didn’t stop at cake. I love fresh bread, pastries, pizza, etc. If it is made from flour, I’ll probably like it! Despite my longstanding love of bread and cake, I didn’t think that eliminating grains from my diet would be an issue. After all, my bread intake has been cut from two loaves of white bread per week 3 years ago to one loaf of multigrain bread every eight weeks. In my mind, I hardly ate grains. I figured this Paleo Diet restriction would be a cinch. Boy was I wrong.
Maybe it’s the forbidden fruit syndrome, but after two days of not eating any grains, and not having any sugar, I was in serious need of some bread products. My freezer contained some sliced baguettes that were going to be made into bread crumbs. They were a little freezer burnt, but that didn’t matter. These frozen crispy sticks of bread looked great to my carbohydrate starved eyes. It was all I could do not to thaw one in the microwave (I did take one out of the freezer though and seriously considered it).
After fighting off my desire for frozen and stale bread, it occurred to me that I must be going through some sort of withdrawal. This bread has sat in the freezer for months, and it has never looked that good to me before or since. Surely, I am not the only one to crave carbs like this. In the March 2003 Journal of Nutrition article Sugar and Fat: Cravings and Aversions, Susan Yanovski concludes that cravings for specific macronutrients, such as carbohydrates, result from a physiological need to alter neurotransmitters in the brain.
The idea that carbohydrate cravings are real and have physiological and psychological components was studied as far back as the 1980s. JJ Wurtman wrote in Clin Neuropharmacol in 1988 that the relationship between excessive appetite for carbohydrate-rich foods and mood disorders may explain repetitive weight gain or the inability to lose weight among some obese individuals.
The fact that carbohydrate cravings have been validated in scientific journals made me feel better. It’s not just forbidden fruit or personal weakness on my part. Rather, my urges to eat any bread or donut I see is really my desire to alter my brain chemistry with glorious carbs!
After five days without any bread products or grains of any sort, my cravings have started to dissipate. They are not gone completely, but the stale, freezer burnt bread doesn’t look appetizing anymore. I’m not sure if my desire for bread will ever disappear, but I do know that I won’t let the cravings beat me.