Why I Created The 7 Steps to Freedom from Cravings System
Hi, I’m Brenda.
I’m a mother of 3 young bouncy boys. I love being a mom. But it can be stressful cleaning up after them all day, splitting up fights, and getting dinner on the table.
So what did I do to relieve my stress?
After I’d got them bathed and off to bed, catching up on my favorite Netflix shows with a
piece of cake and dollop of ice cream is what I looked forward to all day. It was my moment of bliss after a day of chaos.
But the problem is… I never knew when to stop.
The feeling of joy food gave me led to me going back to the kitchen for another slice.
And then another…
Until I’d eaten the entire cake!
But I knew my uncontrollable cravings were unhealthy. I knew they posed a bigger risk to my health than just feeling blobby in a bikini.
Because my cravings for cakes, soda, and other sugary foods were putting me on the fast track to health problems, like erratic blood sugar, high cholesterol, and other health problems.
But stopping my cravings was easier said than done.
There’s no way to switch them off like a tap.
I’d already tried countless restrictive diets, expensive supplements, and willpower to curb my overeating habits.
But I never lasted more than a few days before I was telling my kids to jump in the car so we could go to my favorite fast food restaurant. So…
I decided to get professional help and went to see my doctor.
After I confessed to my nightly cake binges and how I couldn’t seem to control my cravings, I expected him to tell me to stop wasting his time and have more self control.
So I was relieved when he said:
“Brenda, don’t be too hard on yourself. Struggling with overeating and cravings for unhealthy foods is something millions of people struggle with every day. It’s why most diets result in eating binges and frustration. Luckily, I know what’s causing your cravings and how they can be stopped.”
What was my doctor’s solution to my cravings for sugary snacks and inability to stop eating even when I was full?
It was a pill he said would reduce my cravings for sweet foods.
Well, I’ve always been taught to follow a doctor’s orders. So I thought ‘what the heck. It’s worth a try.”
So I started taking it every morning.
And did it work?
Well, I’ll admit. It did seem to dampen my cravings. I didn’t feel the urge to raid the fridge as much as I used to.
But… it wasn’t long before I started noticing unpleasant symptoms.(1)
Sometimes I’d feel a fluttering in my chest, like I was skipping a beat.
It made me a little anxious. But I was willing to put up with it if for the sake of getting my cravings and health under control.
But what I wasn’t willing to accept was what happened next: I started getting angrier with the kids.
I’d fly off the handle at the smallest thing.
Now, in the past, I’ve always tried to be calm and fair when settling their disputes.
So when I’d started yelling the moment one of them snatched another’s toy car and I saw the look of shock on their faces, I knew this wasn’t the solution I wanted.
It felt like I’d just swapped my cravings for turning into an angry ogre. I didn’t want to be one of those moms who yells at their kids all day.
But this left me back at square one.
So I decided to reach out to Gareth Churchill for advice.
Gareth Churchill – Natural Health Researcher and founder of Erudite Lifestyle
For anyone new to this site, Gareth Churchill is the brains behind Erudite Lifestyle.
Ever since subscribing to his newsletter, I’ve always been impressed with his depth of knowledge on complicated topics to do with the body. And I love how he calls out all the quackery and nonsense around natural health topics.
So I sent Gareth an email explaining how a single spoon of ice cream was all it took to trigger a huge food binge, how I’d keep eating even after I felt full, and how I was worried about developing severe health problems down the road.
Three days later Gareth replied.
He told me how my cravings for food were rooted in childhood.
Huge feasts at Thanksgiving… cake on birthdays… and sweets at Halloween. Throughout my childhood I’d been conditioned to link food with pleasure and fun. A connection that still stuck with me as an adult.
So whenever I felt stressed, bored, or in need of a reward I’d go hunting for food to give me comfort and relief.
But that wasn’t all Gareth told me.
Gareth also explained why cravings and binge eating are due to three key hormones.
Cortisol is known as the ‘stress hormone’.(2)
When the body feels stressed, it releases cortisol to send blood and nutrients rushing to the muscles and brain.
Why does it do this?
Because stress is another word for the body’s ‘fight-or-flight’ response.
The feeling of stress is the body preparing itself to deal with a challenge or escape from danger.
Great if you want to escape sabre toothed tigers. Not so great when you’re trying to relax in the evening.
Because when you’re in fight or flight mode your body sends blood and nutrients rushing to the muscles ready for action. This is why the body feels nervous and shaky when stressed.
But unfortunately, getting the brain and muscles ready for action isn’t all cortisol does.
Cortisol also tells the body to take on fuel.
And the best source of fuel is…
Glucose is created in the body from foods packed with sugars and carbs. So naturally, the body starts craving sugary snacks and pizza whenever you feel stressed so it can get more glucose.
This is the real reason you crave junk foods when stressed: It’s not because you’re hungry. It’s because your body is begging to be fed glucose for escaping danger.
Except when you’re sat in front of the TV all that extra glucose does is mess with your blood sugar and get shoved into your body’s cells as fat. More on this in a moment.
Got a craving for cake? It’s likely due to dopamine
Dopamine is the brain’s “feel-good hormone.”(3)
Dopamine gets released whenever we do something pleasurable, like eating our favorite foods.
In fact, dopamine is to blame for all sorts of addictive behaviors, including smoking or gambling. So it could be said food cravings are a type of addiction.
Sadly, it’s sugary foods that trigger the biggest dopamine dump.
In fact, a study by the University Bordeaux, France, found that the pleasure rats got from eating sugar surpassed that of cocaine.(4)
So it’s no wonder so many people reach for doughnuts, cakes, and other sugary snacks when they feel down. Because they know when they do it well release a flood of dopamine that can help them feel happy again.
Insulin is what our body releases when we eat too much processed food high in sugars and carbs.(5)
Because when the sugars and carbs turn into glucose in our bloodstream our body sees this as a threat.
So insulin is released to move excess glucose into our body’s cells before it does too much harm.
But insulin can be too good at its job.
Rather than get our blood glucose to a safe level, insulin can cause our blood glucose to drop further than it was before.
And without enough glucose in our system, we can feel drained of energy, tired and grumpy.
So what does our body do in response?
It starts craving more sugars and carbs to compensate.
And so we get stuck on a rollercoaster ride of bouncing blood sugar.
The bottom line is that it is the hormones cortisol, dopamine, and insulin that are to blame for uncontrollable food cravings. Not greed or lack of willpower.
The impact these hormones have on our weight is proven in studies too.
This includes a huge study done in 2017 by scientists from across the US. For six months they studied the hormone levels and eating habits of 339 Americans.(6)
What they discovered is that half of the participants had put on weight.
And what they all had in common was having “higher cortisol, insulin, and chronic stress” resulting in “increased food cravings and reward-driven eating behaviors.“
In other words, unless cortisol and other hormones can be kept at a healthy level cravings for junk food will never go away.
In his email, Gareth said that the most important hormone to get under control was cortisol. Because as the study I just mentioned discovered, stress is the biggest cause of cravings.
So he recommended I tried meditating, yoga, or another form of exercise to reduce my stress levels.
When I read that I felt like emailing Gareth a quick reply – ‘Easier said than done when you’ve got 3 young boys!!!’
What Gareth also didn’t realise is that I’d already tried meditating and yoga to try and feel calmer.
Sure, they’d help lower my stress for a little while.
But they didn’t seem to do anything to fade my cravings.
So I started doing research my own.
I must have read hundreds of health blogs, medical research papers, little known journals, and anything else I could find on managing the stress that triggers food cravings.
I was close to giving up until I discovered an article by Harvard Medical School on Dr. Richard Benson’s ‘Relaxation Response’.(7)
This is a technique he developed during the era of free love, flower power, and Woodstock to flush the stress hormone cortisol from the body in 20 minutes or less.
This is the same amount of time a study by the Weight Loss Program at Mount Sinai St. Luke’s Hospital, New York, found the brain needs to be kept distracted before food cravings fade away.(8)
Yet I didn’t stop at this 20 minute craving distraction technique.
I dug deeper into the underlying causes of cravings and binge eating.
This led me to research by Karen R. Koenig, an expert on eating psychology.
She’s done studies that found why cravings and binge eating are rooted in: “conscious and unconscious emotional discomfort.”(9)
In other words, we eat to fill a hole in our souls. A sense that our lives our are missing something and we feel unfulfilled.
Speaking to the Huffington Post, she said, “Events don’t have a meaning; we give them a meaning,” and that “The meaning of eating is, ‘I’m going to be happy. I’m not going to be in emotional discomfort. I’ll have this wonderful experience.’”
The good news is that my research journey then led me to discovering a breakthrough achieved by the Department of Psychology, McGill University, Montreal.(9)
After reviewing people who suffered from binge eating they discovered that unhealthy eating habits can be reduced through “engaging in alternative stress reduction and coping strategies to mitigate the effects of their emotional eating.”(10)
And it gets better, because I then found out there’s a scientifically proven system that provides the “alternative stress reduction and coping strategies” McGill University recommended.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy!
Cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT for short, is a type of psychotherapy that can be done with a therapist, in groups or individually at home.
It’s traditionally used for treating anxiety and depression. Yet CBT can also be used to relieve overeating habits.
As WebMD states, CBT “helps you learn to spot negative thoughts that drive you to binge. It then teaches you to replace those bad thoughts with healthier, more realistic ones.”(11)
In fact, an analysis of 106 studies by Boston University found that using CBT to cure binge eating “yielded large effect sizes, when compared to pharmacotherapy.”(12)
In other words, CBT was found to be more effective than swallowing appetite suppressant pills.
Now I was on a roll.
The next stage on my journey was combining everything I’d discovered on distracting the mind from cravings, healing unconscious emotional discomfort, and replacing negative eating habits with healthier ones using CBT techniques.
I then used them to create a system. A system that guides people step-by-step on all the skills they need to balance their hormones and get control over cravings for good.
1 – How to avoid the triggers and habits that lead to binge eating
2 – Transitioning to a balanced diet high in nutrition
3 – Adopting coping strategies for managing bad feelings in a healthy way
4 – Improving body image and self-worth while abandoning perfectionism.
5 – Thinking in a healthier way that leads to closer relationships with others
6 – Learning to embrace feelings of hope and embracing positive change.
7 – Improving self-confidence and put positive thoughts into action
And so the 7 Steps to Freedom from Cravings was born!
It’s a system that guides people through the 7 steps I followed to lower my stress, curb my cravings, and finally escape the clutches of food addiction.
It’s been so transformative for me that I knew I had to share it with the millions of people who also struggle with overeating and cravings for junk food.
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