You have sugar cravings, and you often give in to them. Good news- there is a reason. It isn’t that you lack willpower, your body is betraying you, or that you are a weak person. It means something in your body is out of balance, either emotionally or physically. Many, many women with PCOS struggle with disordered eating- be it binge eating, anorexia, bulimia, or something else. Add to that the 43% of women who eat to manage emotion, and you have a real problem. Emotional eating expert and clinical nutritionist, Stephanie Dodier, visited the podcast to discuss:
- How to identify the source of your cravings
- Tools for managing cravings when they hit
- Why no amount of will power is going to help you move beyond poor blood sugar regulation
- The roles of nutritional deficiency and microbiome imbalances in cravings
Links mentioned in the podcast:
A full transcript follows.
Stephanie Dodier is a Clinical Nutritionist & Emotional Eating Expert, Author of The Crave Cure Program, Inspirational Speaker and Host of The Beyond The Food Show . Stephanie’s integrative and comprehensive approach to nutrition focuses finding the root causes your cravings and aligning your body and mind.
Stephanie’s has been there, too. Her health journey began 6 years ago while working as a senior executive in a Fortune 500 corporation. She went from suffering severe panic attacks to transforming her life completely, allowing her to regain her health.
Stephanie is passionate about sharing her journey with other women while educating and empowering them to achieve the same results and why she founded the Going Beyond The Food Project. The Going Beyond The Food Project is the revolutionary movement that will change the way women related to food. It’s about ditching the diet mindset, transforming the relationship to food to feel good for good.
Amy Medling: Did you know that disordered eating is very common among women with PCOS? Actually, women with PCOS are at much higher risk for disordered eating patterns. That was something that I really struggled with when I was in the midst of my PCOS struggles in my 20’s. I share about my issues with binge eating and compulsive eating often on PCOS Diva. Today, I really wanted to connect with an emotional eating expert and somebody that could really give us some tips for those who, like me, struggled and continue to struggle with emotional eating and binge eating. Especially, I think, it derives from a place of feeling not enough or perfectionism or just blood sugar levels being out of control. I would love to welcome Stephanie Dodier. She is a clinical nutritionist and emotional eating expert, and she is the author of the “Crave Cure Program”. Welcome to the PCOS Diva podcast, Stephanie.
Stephanie Dodier: Hello, Amy and everybody listening right now. It is a pleasure for me to be here.
Amy Medling: I would love for you to share a little bit about your health journey, because I think most of us in this online expert space all have a story and a journey. That’s how we lead is from that story. Please share that with us.
Stephanie Dodier: Absolutely. My journey with my relationship to food actually began at the age of 11 when my family moved from one end of town to the other, and I ended up starting in this neighborhood with absolutely no friends. Literally, I was alone all the time, and I turned to food and cooking, because, although I was very young, I loved cooking. My mama was teaching me how to cook. To food to fill up that loneliness I was feeling inside of me. I didn’t know I was lonely. All I knew was I didn’t feel good, and cooking and eating made me feel better. I was on my first diet by the age of 14. I got dropped off at Weight Watchers, and, on my own, I went, began my first diet.
You fast forward a multitude of diets later, at 36 years old, still not understanding what was going on with my relationship to food thinking my body was failing me. I was 300 plus pound at that time. I was very anxious. smoked a pack a day. I ended up McDonald almost every single day to eat. Didn’t exercise. Overworked. Highly position in the corporate world, so a lot of stress. Ended up in the hospital. 36. I think my life’s going to end, and the doctor announcing me actually what I thought to be a heart attack was actually anxiety. Panic attack to be more specific. I was put in front of a choice. I was told that the only way out was medication, anti-depressant and anti-anxiety medication, that I likely would have to take for the rest of the life, and/or continuing and not be able to function.
I didn’t believe that for some odd reason. What I call a Yoda Moment came upon me, and I decided to not have the medication. I was certain that there was another solution. I didn’t know what it was, and then my journey began in trying to a- lose weight, because that’s what most women what to do first is lose weight, which I did. Changed my food, hired somebody to help me, and then I lost weight, but I was still having a lot of cravings. Still binge eating. Still using food as something that was a punishment to myself. Then that’s when my journey began in understanding food craving, relationship to food, binge eating. That’s what I do today.
I literally quit my job, went back to school, and now I’m working with women just like you, Amy. Helping women who struggle, in my case, with their weight and their relationship to food.
Amy Medling: It very much mirrors my journey with PCOS feeling like there’s got to be another way besides these pharmaceuticals that you’d have to be on for the rest of your life. That just seemed crazy to me.
Stephanie Dodier: Exactly. I say to my followers or the people that I work with, “I’m a big experiment on two legs.” I try everything, and I see what works and what doesn’t work. By having the pleasure of working with women, I get to see maybe it works with me, but it doesn’t work with other people. I realize that there’s a lot of individuality in the way we approach PCOS or relationship to food.
Amy Medling: I have feeling you felt a little bit like me. You were the successful corporate woman on the outside. I became a stay-at-home mom, but before I had kids I was very successful in the corporate world too. I was always that type A personality. I was a straight A student, athlete, constantly trying to be the best version of me. I could not understand why this smart, intelligent woman could not control the amount of Chips Ahoy cookies that she ate. I’d just go through the whole sleeve of them and then just feel awful about myself. Why was it that I just couldn’t get that part of me together?
Stephanie Dodier: I totally hear you. Shame. Guilt. For me, at that point, I’m already in the nutrition world, and then the whole model of calorie counting doesn’t work anymore. The food restriction is getting to the level where I have nothing left to eat because I believe that everything is a problem in the food that I eat. Little did I know it’s actually the emotion that I carry around that’s causing me to have those problem. I’m curled up on my couch thinking that I’m all alone, that I shouldn’t be like that, there’s something wrong with my body, and then what happened … This is the whole guilt of binge eating, right? You feel shame. You feel guilt, and then you don’t like this emotion. The same way you run away from stress by eating chips or Chips Ahoy cookie in your case, when you binge you get, “Oh my God. What did I just do?”, guilt, shame, and then you don’t like these emotions the same you didn’t like stress. You’re like, “Ugh. I want to get rid of this,” so you binge again, thinking that that’s going to make you feel better.
Then it’s just this vicious circle of overeating and binge eating. The whole reason we do that, girls, is because we don’t want to feel the emotion that are behind it.
Amy Medling: You’re stuffing that emotion down.
Stephanie Dodier: Exactly, because we don’t know what to do with this anger, jealousy, stress. We don’t know what to do with it. What we have in our brain pattern when we’re emotional eating, binge eating, over-eater is food makes us feel better. Even if it’s for a short amount of time, we feel better. That’s the only thing we know. That’s the only tool we have to feel better. The problem is, it’s only a short time. It’s not root solving the issue, which I’m sure you talk with your crowd all the time, right? Got to get to the root of PCOS. The same thing with emotional eating. We have to get to understand what’s causing us to not want to feel those emotions and learning tools to cope with those emotions. Does that make sense?
Amy Medling: Yeah. It absolutely does. I would love it if you could kind of get into some of those tools that helped you. I knew we’re all, like you said, we’re all bio-individuals. Certainly, with PCOS, it’s this syndrome, and it affects every woman different. I don’t want to say that it’s this one-size-fits-all approach, but maybe some of the tools that you see work across the board for your clients, because there definitely are some overlying arching sort of tips and tricks certainly in PCOS.
Stephanie Dodier: Absolutely. I would say for your crowd, for the people that have PCOS, the number one trigger for craving is actually blood sugar. The unstable blood sugar will cause the PCOS syndrome and symptoms. Another consequence will be those sugar craving and this desire to have carbohydrates. The number one across the board, and the second step in any of my protocol, is always food. It’s stabilizing blood sugar by using real food. Not by counting calories or macro. Simply by eating a lot of vegetables, a certain amount of fruits, protein, healthy fat. That in itself will remove in the course of two to three weeks your “sugar craving”.
Amy Medling: I like to say that no amount of will power is ever going to help you move beyond poor blood sugar regulation.
Stephanie Dodier: No, because, will power, it’s actually something that’s not true. I interviewed on my podcast Susan Pearson, which is a PhD in food psychology, and literally it’s scientifically demonstrated that will power is not a real tool that we have. It’s something that we believe we have, and that’s why we ran out of it. What we need is actually to create the emotion and the desire to sustain us on a long period of time. The same thing goes with blood sugar. If literally your body is calling for carbohydrate because it just crashed because you have too much three hours prior, there’s nothing you can do to get away from that because literally your body is in survival mode. It needs the sugar to survive.
Amy Medling: I hope that everybody heard that, because it has nothing to do with you and how good you are or how worthy you are. It’s just a physiological state that you really can’t control. In terms, you can’t control those cravings when you are low blood sugar, or you’ve just binged on the Chips Ahoy cookies, and now your body’s craving more sugar.
Stephanie Dodier: Yeah, because you just crashed. It means nothing about you. For that matter, any binge period, any over-eating period, any sugar craving, means nothing about you as a human being. It means that your body is imbalanced. When I teach about craving, the number one thing I teach people is your craving are a message from your body. That it is a physical message like low blood sugar. That it is an emotional message like you’re jealous or you’re angry, and you don’t know how to cope with that. It’s a message. Your craving are a message from your body to let you know that something is imbalanced.
Your work is not to judge it. Your work is to be the investigator and understand what is imbalanced in my body by learning to understand what it is.
Amy Medling: Where do we go from there? We’re eating better. We’re eating more whole foods. The PCOS Diva lifestyle is really all about, and my meal plans, are really about keeping your blood sugar balanced.
Stephanie Dodier: Yeah, because that’s the root of PCOS, right? Let’s imagine you’re there. You’re eating the way Amy has taught you how to eat. You eat well, and you still experience episodes of craving or emotional eating? Number one, here’s a quick stat for you. 43% of women use food to alter their emotion beyond blood sugar issue. You are not alone. Literally, almost 50% of us have had a pattern in our life, likely being very young like me, where we learn through experience when we eat food we feel better. Now, when we don’t feel good, we require more food. What do we do?
I have something called a Crave Cure Formula. It’s literally it’s one-page, and it’s four steps that will allow you to pause your craving, observe it, and interrogatively figure out why you’re craving. It’s very simple.
When you have a craving next time, and you already have balanced blood sugar, you eat the PCOS Diva way, what you’re going to do is you’re going to step away from the food. Literally, step away from the kitchen. Step away from wherever you are where there’s food you’re craving. Step away, and find a place, an environment, a space, where you can be with yourself for about five to 10 minutes. I say to people if you’re at work and all of a sudden, you’re working and all you can think about is chocolate, literally go into the bathroom at work. Go into your bedroom at home. Go outside. Sit on the deck, and close your eyes and start breathing in and out by the nose.
For those who practice yoga, you will recognize yogic breathing. There’s a very, very scientific reason why we breathe in and out by the nose because it literally activates part of your brain that will get you from a fight or flight or stressed environment in your body to a more relaxed rest or digest part of your body. You will get to that place of more relaxation, and then you will scan your body up and down trying to figure out where your craving is sitting. Literally, when you start doing this experience, you will find that your craving is actually tension in your body. Interesting, right? Emotion, again, scientifically have been demonstrated to be energy in your body. When we feel certain emotion, whether it is happiness or anger, either one of the scale, it’s actually physical tension in our body. By scanning up and down from the head down to your arms down to your rib cage, your hips, your leg, you will observe tension in your body. By simply breathing in and out where that tension resides, the emotion will literally melt away.
When you’re stressed, Amy, where do you feel the tension in your body?
Amy Medling: Gosh. I get shoulder.
Stephanie Dodier: Exactly.
Amy Medling: Shoulder and right under my shoulder blades.
Stephanie Dodier: The whole trap. The top of your shoulder. The shoulder blade. If you’re at work, you will feel your shoulder rounding. That’s the emotion of stress for the majority of people. It’s the shoulder and upper body. Often, we’ll curve our body. By simply being cautious of that, relaxing, and helping that emotion move in our body, guess what’s going to happen to the craving? It’s going to go away. Eight out of 10 times when my client, my followers, follow this formula, give themselves five or 10 minutes of attention, they get out of that place of being self-conscious and taking care of themselves with no craving.
Amy Medling: That’s such a gem of advice, and I think that something else that I tell women is that you can have whatever you want any time you want it, but you need to choose in the moment. I think if you tell yourself, “Okay …” I’m going to go back to the Chips Ahoy cookie again. “I can have that Chips Ahoy cookie, but first I need to do this exercise. Then if I still want it, I give myself full permission to have it after I’ve done the exercise.” It just diffuses everything. I think your ego does not want to be denied.
Stephanie Dodier: The more you fight it, the more it’s going to be there.
Amy Medling: If you just allow with the caveat that you have to go through your little protocol first.
Stephanie Dodier: All you’re doing … Remember, I said earlier that our craving are a message from our body. It’s like a little toddler pulling at your pants saying, “Hey, hey, hey. I’m here. I’m here.” Right? That’s what your cravings are. What happens to a child when you give it the attention it wants? It calms down. Your cravings are exactly the same way. All your body wants, in the case of emotional craving, is to pay attention that you’re stressed right now. You need to chill. You’re angry, and you need to get rid of that anger. You’re jealous. You don’t need to be jealous. Whatever the situation may be. The best way to do that is to actually be with this emotion, observe it, and then it’s going to go away, because it did what it wanted, which is to pay attention.
Amy Medling: I think we’re so afraid of our emotions. I think we’re so afraid to feel those emotions, and I think it’s because … I’m going to go back to the toddler. I have three kids, so I’ve been there. If you observe a toddler’s temper tantrum, there’s sort of a buildup and a climax because you cannot maintain that intense emotion for a very long period of time. At some point it has to subside. I think if you can sit with your feeling knowing that even if you’re afraid of it, it’s going to subside, there’s going to be this peak and then it’s going to trail away and dissolve as you said. If you just lean into it rather than be afraid of it, knowing that it’s not going to be as intense as you think it is-
Stephanie Dodier: We call that a wave system.
Amy Medling: Oh, gosh. There’s a name to it.
Stephanie Dodier: We call that a wave. When I teach people about emotional eating, I literally show them a beach wave. The emotion that you’re trying to numb is going to peak, and you’re going to think, “Oh my God. I can’t deal with this. ” If you pay attention to it, the waves will roll into the beach and disappear until the next wave comes in. One other thing we can’t deny is life, the human experience, is a series of emotions. It’s not going to stop, but you will have learned to cope with it and realize that it’s not the end of the world. That the wave will roll onto the beach, and it will end until the next one comes in.
Amy Medling: I really would challenge Divas listening to give this technique a try and see if it can be helpful for you. It’s definitely worthwhile. I think something else that has helped me with my binge eating is I found that I have this pattern of doing it at night time when the kids went to bed, and I just needed some comfort. I realized that it was more self-care. It was my way of treating myself at the end of the day, so I’ve really experimented with the intermittent fasting from … If I have a good dinner with enough … I need a carbohydrate at dinner, or else my blood sugar tanks at like one o’clock in the morning. If I’ve had a good, hearty sort of meal, I can go from after dinner until breakfast the next day without eating anything. I’ll just make myself a nice cup of tea or, I call it, an evening elixir with almond milk and spices that’s still kind of a treat, but I really have given up the food. It’s forced me to find other ways to take care of myself in the evening.
Stephanie Dodier: You’re totally right. The number one complaint from women is nighttime eating, snacking, binging. All the same thing. Really what we’re craving, again message from our body, is not the food. It’s the attention to self through what we call self-care. It could be like, I’m holding a bottle of essential oil in my hand, and it could be as simple as diffusing some oil, reading a book instead of being on the TV. The TV is one of the, in my experience, the thing that activates the most craving because we’re numb. When we’re numbing out in front of the TV, we’re literally shutting our brain off, and we’re letting the TV get us away from ourselves. I bet you if, for the people listening, if you were to simply read a book, go for a walk, relax outside of the TV, your nighttime snacking will likely strongly diminish if not go away.
Amy Medling: Another great trick.
Stephanie Dodier: Bath. Another hot bath, right? Great way of nourishing yourself without actually using food.
Amy Medling: Yeah, and adding some Epsom Salt in there for some magnesium. You know, Stephanie, a lot of cravings are because our bodies are nutrient deficient. Maybe you could talk about that for … We have a little time left.
Stephanie Dodier: Absolutely. There’s many causes. Blood sugar, emotional eating, nutritional deficiency, meaning that you don’t, example, eat enough color, enough vegetable. Magnesium being one of them. Your body will ignite cravings to go get those nutrition. Your body will signal you that you need to go get food. Another one is poor digestion or digestive imbalance of the microbiome. I don’t know if you talk about that, Amy, but the whole microbiome imbalances can actually cause us to crave food. If we have not enough of the good bacteria and too much of the bad guys, the bad guys actually crave sugar. Some of your craving, ladies, could actually be because you need to take care of your microbiome. You need to eat more fiber. You need to eat more fermented vegetables. Drink some kombucha and reduce the amount of sugar coming in that actually feeds the bad bacteria.
Amy Medling: I think at lot of times that sweetness, kind of the opposite of sweet is sour, and I find if I have sugar craving, if I have, which is very medicinal for PCOS by the way, especially if you have acne, but a couple forkfuls of sauerkraut-
Stephanie Dodier: It kills it.
Amy Medling: It kills it. It’ll do it for me.
Stephanie Dodier: There’s many, many reasons why we can crave. The thing is, we often will start with sugar, because most people know that sugar will cause craving. Then we stop there. We don’t realize there’s other reason why we’re craving, and we go back to that cycle of punishment because something is broken with us. I invite the listener to further discover what else your body is trying to tell you with your craving instead of beating yourself up because of it.
Amy Medling: Tell us how your programs can help listeners dive a little deeper into their cravings.
Stephanie Dodier: I’ve got a program, a project, coming on right now. It’s a passion of mine the same way PCOS is for you. You’ve created this amazing platform for women with PCOS. My platform is called “Going Beyond the Food” and understanding what else is causing you to crave or to have an unbalanced relationship with food. It’s called the “Going Beyond the Food Project.” It’s going to be an online conference from November 1st to the 8th 2017, if you are listening at any other time, and it’s going to be totally free. We’re going to have every day three to four speaker that will each drill down in one reason why you have craving or challenge with food.
That will range from a functional medicine doctor talking about gut health to hormone to psychiatrists talking about eating disorder for people who experience, to people who deal with emotion and energy. I’m gathering the top health and wellness expert in the field of craving to teach women or men in general that there’s other reasons why crave in solution with that. I’m inviting for you to come and join me November 1st through the 8th.
Amy Medling: We will have a link to the conference in our show notes.
Stephanie Dodier: One more thing I forgot to say that’s very different than other online conferences you may have been exposed to. I actually have a track of case study and inspirational story. Women out there who have gone through the challenges of weight and craving, and they have overcome and are thriving by applying the “Going Beyond the Food” principle.
Amy Medling: Those are so powerful. I love reading success stories. Just the victories are so inspiring.
Stephanie Dodier: That’s what I invite people to do is to follow us. It’s a revolution. Literally, I’m … I don’t want to say angry, because anger’s not a good emotion, but I’m very upset with the weight loss industry and fitness industry because it, for close to 40 years, led me in the wrong direction and literally made me hate myself because I thought something was wrong with me. I want to change that. I want women to understand what I now know and what I’m talking about here to remove that guilt and that shame that we have because of our body. Yes, that does include body image, but it goes further than that. Actually, it’s understanding and taking responsibility for ourselves and stopping this weight loss and fitness industry from leading us in the wrong direction.
Amy Medling: Thank you so much for the work that you do, because the world needs it. There’s so many of us that have struggles and need a fresh perspective on this topic.
Stephanie Dodier: Please come and join us.
Amy Medling: We will also be linking to your website, because you have a great blog and a podcast and lots of good free tools for women struggling with emotional eating and disordered eating.
Stephanie Dodier: Yeah, the podcast is very easy to find. “Going Beyond the Food.” I’m going with the same thematic everywhere.
Amy Medling: Thank you Stephanie. It’s really been a pleasure having you on the show.
Stephanie Dodier: Any time, Amy. Thank you for welcoming me in your world.
Amy Medling: Thank you everyone for listening to today’s PCOS Diva podcast. I hope you enjoyed it. If you like this episode, don’t forget to subscribe to PCOS Diva on iTunes or wherever else you might be listening to the show. If you have a minute, please leave me a quick review. I read them all and love to hear from you. If you think of somebody else that might benefit from this podcast, please take a minute to share if with her so she can benefit from it too. Don’t forget to sign up for my free newsletter. It goes out every Thursday. I look forward to being with you again very soon. This Amy Medling wishing you good health. Bye bye.