Question on hunger vs. cravings:

Question: I think the biggest struggle in my life has been the conscious decision to eat because I'm actually hungry. Not because others are eating, not because I'm stressed or bored, but because my body needs nutrition. How do you really decide when to eat before being actually too hungry and do detrimental overeating?

Answer: There are a few different elements to this question.

1. If you are a sugar burner instead of a fat burner, you will be hungry more often. This is because your body has been trained away from burning the number one fuel source, fat, to burning quick energy, carbs/sugar. You can read a great explanation of fat adaptation here: 

2. Sugar and low quality carbs are actually nutrient deficient and will further deplete your body of nutrients. This tells your body that you are lacking vitamins and minerals and that you need to eat more to fill those voids.

3. Eating low quality foods are often filled with lots of highly palatable components that will make you crave them (sneaky food producers!) and so you end up over consuming. When you replace these low quality, highly palatable, nutrient deficient foods with good quality carbs (when I say carbs, I am referring to vegetables), proteins and most importantly good fats; your body will respond (when it gets used to having these good foods consistently) by not sending out emergency signals that you are hungry. You will not need snacks every two hours or get to the point where you are shaky, irritable or hungry. Also, if you are eating good quality, whole foods you are not going to overeat before you feel like you're done. Portion control is something that has become important to us because the recommended ways of eating by the government lead us to be sugar burners and now we have an obesity epidemic and they are trying desperately to solve this problem by telling us to eat less and exercise more. Bad advise people!

If you feel hungry picture a can of sardines or a pile of raw broccoli. Do they sound good to you? Then EAT! But eat vegetables with fat or good protein and fat. If you are hungry only for your favorite candy bar, that is another story. You are having a craving.

Here are a few ways to distract yourself when you are having a craving:

  • Drink some water; you may be just dehydrated!
  • Go on a walk, being outside and moving around may distract you long enough for the craving to pass.
  • Get some intense exercise and release some dopamine in a good way.
  • Writing about your motivations for changing your diet. Reminding yourself of those initial goals can rekindle the fire enough to put the cookie down and step away.Cinnamon!
  • Cinnamon can actually help to regulate your blood sugar after meals and can quiet a sweet craving while not actually having something sweet. Try adding it to nut butter or tea with coconut milk if you are really desperate for a treat.
  • Drink some spiced tea or mint-flavored water (no added sugar) for a sense of sweetness without actually consuming sweetness.
  • Take a nap, if possible.