Hunger and Cravings

If you follow our blog or DAMY Health at all you know that we’ve been using intermittent fasting for awhile and our members have had great success with it in combination with our DAMY Lean program.

Fasting and low calorie diets in general always present challenges. It is how we overcome them that makes us successful and allows us to consistently keep weight off.

Making intermittent fasting easier and more efficient for people requires us to help members manage their hunger. In this post we give a few ideas to help you along your journey.

On your weight loss journey you do not need to feel hungry all the time. Try some of the tips below to make the process easier.

Why am I so hungry? My cravings are out of control.

Is it that you want more or that you desire different foods? Sugar or fat? Salt or simply an abundance? Do you need crunch to feel satisfied for today?

Answering these questions is essential as it allows you to become more connected to your hunger signals. Just to keeps things simple here are a few basic mechanisms for why you think you are hungry:

  1. Leptin resistance: your brain is not recognising the hormone that says “I’m full” because you are inflamed, eating too quickly or some other mechanism. Fat cells release lots of this hormone. The signal just isn’t picked up.
  2. Blood sugar swings: if you eat lots of sugar/carbs you will have a blood sugar spike followed by an insulin spike. The act of insulin driving your blood sugar back down quickly is known to cause cravings.
  3. Hormone imbalance: estrogen dominance is associated with cravings during the days leading up to menses.
  4. Metabolic set point adjustments: your body tends to want to consume the amount of calories required to maintain your current weight.
  5. Insomnia/fatigue: when you don’t sleep well your brain thinks it needs more calories for energy.
  6. Intense exercise: did you burn lots of calories? Expect some hunger.

When you think about the above examples what resonates with you?

Trying to treat the cause is most important, even in hunger. Is it lack of sleep? Easy solution, and so on.

In general we have a few tips that could be helpful in each of these examples. Give them a try and see what helps.

Tips to Reduce Hunger and Cravings

This process is trial and error. Don’t stress about it. Try to stay in tune with your hunger signals and don’t judge yourself. Use these tools to stick to your program. The more disciplined you are the more success you will have.

Adjust your meal times

This is what I like to try first with many people. I am the type of person who needs to eat breakfast, have a small lunch and a larger dinner. If I go the other way (ie. large breakfast) my hunger is out of control.

If you feel hungry at certain times check in with what your pattern for the day was. Did you have a large breakfast and small dinner or the other way around? Did you have too many carbs at lunch?

Some people feel more satisfied for longer when they have high protein breakfasts. They feel full and do not want to eat all day. That works for them. It might be a good fit for you but the only way to know is to try.

If you have night time cravings (before bed) I would recommend considering developing a patter of having higher calories earlier in the day. This could mean mid-afternoon but it might be morning depending on the situation. Having a healthy, slow digesting, nutrient rich food earlier in the day might make the nights easier for you.

Refocus your mind 

You have weight to lose. You do not have to give in to the hunger (this does not apply if you are on insulin – consult your doctor).

You might want to consider mental distraction. This can take many forms. Taking your mind off the cravings can be very powerful for many and we all really should develop some ability to do this.

There are few ways to accomplish this but you don’t want to replace your hunger with something that could potentially also lead to cravings or an addiction down the road, like alcohol. You do want to find a distraction that works.

Here are a few examples:

  1. Physical movement – exercise. This can be a great replacement as long as it doesn’t lead to more hunger because of energy expenditure.
  2. Tea habit – something in your hands – Distraction can come in the form of another type of habit that involves consumption like a tea habit (sugar free). Some people feel night time food helps them relax. It’s how they enjoy their evenings. Tea can be a good replacement. We use a mango turmeric tea to reduce cravings and before bed will try a chamomile/passionflower option that really helps.
  3. Meditation – contemplative, conscious, calm time spent. Recognizing the hunger and simply sitting with it can allow you to move past. Acknowledge that it’s there. Say thank you to the body for sending you signals. Then move forward. It could be helpful to logically map out why you are restricting yourself and reviewing your goals. Meditating on the fact that you’re going to be okay is powerful. Sit with the notion that you don’t need food at that time. You are getting this hunger sensation for no reason. You are not in danger. This self talk can help.

Stay organized

Organization can help with hunger because meal planning keeps your brain on track with what is coming next. We find that when people plan out their next meal in advance they are better able to push through.

The most common example of this is using breakfast planning to get through night time hunger. Some people find it incredibly helpful to plan an extravagant, extremely healthy breakfast that includes a series of healthy fats, vegetables and complex carbohydrates in addition to protein.

What I like to do if I’m having hunger at night is plan an omelette for the next morning. This would consist of eggs, veggies, maybe feta cheese, some avocado, etc. Something that is incredibly healthy and also filling but not nauseating. Going through the motions of practicing this can allow your body to come down from the hunger.

You can say to yourself, no worries its coming.

Blood sugar flat line

Finally, we find keeping a low glycemic lifestyle very helpful in reducing hunger. This means preventing blood sugar swings.

  • Avoid liquid sugar
  • Avoid added sugar
  • Don’t overdo it with carbs at any one meal
  • Do not eat grains at dinner

I am currently wearing a continuous blood sugar monitor to assess how all the food I consume impacts my sugar control. I have learned that eating too much carbohydrate or sugar at one time causes me significant cravings 1-2 hours later. It might be the same for you.

When hunger is overcome, it is such a great feeling. The feeling of being on a roll with a diet is a good one. You can get there. We all can.

Hunger is completely normal and something everyone goes through when on a weight loss journey. It is a sign our system is working properly. We don’t necessarily have to listen to it.

Throughout this whole process the most important thing to consider is that if you do give in to hunger when it isn’t time to eat make sure not to binge. Binging will set you back. I hope these techniques help you prevent it.

Using these techniques you will be able achieve a 13-hour fast nightly at the least. Find what works.

What has helped you avoid giving in to hunger? Anything different than what was mentioned above?

Let me know on the comments below. Thank you for reading.

Dr. David Duizer ND