Without question probably the biggest obstacle people have when transitioning to a healthy diet is dealing with hunger. Iâ€™ve written in the past about the differences between true hunger and toxic hunger.
In case you missed it, true hunger is the physiological response by your body releasing the hormone ghrelin when the stomach is empty.
While this primal response is built in to cue us to start looking for food it doesnâ€™t mean we constantly need to have something in our digestive system.
In fact, if you want to get efficient at burning body fat for fuel youâ€™ll want to condition your body to go through brief periods of restriction.
Intermittent fasting or periods where you eat almost exclusively from raw foods ( fruits, greens, nuts, seeds, etc) is one of the best ways to tap into stored body fat. The problem is this strategy only works when you consume the right foods. You simply cannot go without eating throughout most of the day and then make poor choices at dinner and expect to see good results.
Likewise you cannot fuel your body on low-calorie processed foods, refined sugars, and diet sodas and think you’ll be very good at burning fat. If I’ve said it once I’ve said it a hundred times “it’s not about the calories!”
Eating the wrong foods will only make the hunger pains worse while also contributing to hormonal imbalances that lead to a slowdown in your metabolism.
Regardless of whether you’re eating a few hundred calories or a few thousand, if you’re eating the wrong foods you’re going to be perpetually hungry.
A much more effective approach is to eat mostly raw foods through the day and then have a dinner with lean protein and more filling fats. Youâ€™ll want to give your body a break from heavy digestion to free up energy for other metabolic functions.
The simplest forms of energy from glucose (plants) and fructose (fruits) are ideal fuel for the cells and donâ€™t require extensive digestion like with starches and animal proteins.
Contrary to what many experts will tell you….
Unlike many nutritionists I do NOT recommend eating whole grain starches several times during the day to maintain blood sugar levels. That’s right, eating the whole grain bagels, wraps, and other starches only serves as a crutch to help offset the toxic hunger that occurs when you begin cleaning up your diet.
Toxic hunger is a physiological response of the body caused by the cells going through detoxification. What your body is actually calling for is phytonutrients and antioxidants to assist with the detoxification. We often misread these signals and instead provide our bodies with more starch and sugar just to offset the hunger. This only prolongs the suffering and keeps you stuck with a sugar addiction.
The real secret with dealing with hunger pains is to change the way you provide your body with energy. The more you provide your body with heavy meals or lots of starches the quicker youâ€™ll become hungry again. This is why you can eat a whole stack of pancakes and be hungry again only a couple hours later. You want to avoid eating larger meals during the day and loading down your digestive system.
When you first make the switch youâ€™ll be dealing with toxic hunger but once you clean out the metabolic waste from your digestive tract and rejuvenate the cells youâ€™ll find you can go much longer on simple fruits and vegetables without feeling hungry.
My personal experience with changing sources of energy…
I can attest to this from personal experience. As someone who weighs in at around 240 lbs a normal breakfast for me would be something like 4-5 eggs, a bowl of oatmeal, and some fruit or yogurt. I could eat this and be starving for my mid-morning snack in just a few hours. Without doing the exact math I can tell you this is more than 500-600 calories.
Because of my desire to build lean muscle and maintain my strength Iâ€™ve found that I canâ€™t go long periods of time on a raw food diet. Having said that, I regularly alternate periods where Iâ€™ll do a slightly modified version.
A typical breakfast for me during those periods would be something thatâ€™s called a â€ślemon-ginger blast.â€ť It consists of two apples, one lemon, a bunch of cilantro or parsley, carrots, and a piece of ginger, all run through my Breville juicer. Now this canâ€™t provide but maybe 200 calories but a funny thing happens when I do this…
Youâ€™d think Iâ€™d be starving by just having a green juice for breakfast but Iâ€™ve found the exact opposite. Normally the first few days Iâ€™m hungry when following this strategy but then all of a sudden I can hours on just this green juice. Why is that? The reason is simple.
Energy not used for digestion can be freed up for all other metabolic functions…
As my body detoxifies and cleanses itself of metabolic waste I free up a ton of energy. The energy that I previously used for digestion is now freed up to for everything else.
The nutrients from the fruits and greens feed my cells exactly what they want and conditions are optimal for calling upon stored body fat when extra fuel is required. The other interesting thing that happens is I have much clearer and sharper thinking.
I have to say I definitely feel the best when I follow this strategy. Iâ€™ll lose weight in a hurry when doing this, but since I want to maintain muscle density I typically rotate my diet. While I almost always lose body fat when following a modified raw food diet, I donâ€™tâ€™ lose much strength or muscle mass because Iâ€™ll rotate back to periods of higher energy density.
A typical strategy for me will be to rotate back and forth with a modified raw food diet after every 3-4 weeks. Depending on your fat loss goals and how much metabolic waste and toxins you’ve built up will dictate how long you detoxify.
Personally, if I was looking to lose body fat, a more true Primal Blueprint strategy is definitely the way to go. You simply canâ€™t go wrong with feeding your body the essential nutrients it needs from mostly fruits and vegetables.
Here are some other tips to help you keep your hunger pains in check…
Eat more fiber
Without question fiber is a bona-fide weight loss superfood. While Iâ€™m not big on eating a lot of starches Iâ€™m very much a fan of using a soluble fiber supplement (like pysllium husk) and eating lots of fruits and vegetables.
It will help keep you feeling fuller longer and is very effective at stabilizing blood sugar levels. The reason this happens is because soluble fiber forms a gel like substance in your stomach. It helps to slow down gastric emptying so you donâ€™t get a surge of sugar into your bloodstream.
I drink a tall glass of water with lemon and psyllium fiber every morning upon awakening. This helps to aid in the elimination process along with providing a sense of fullness to get through the morning without feeling overly hungry.
The other reason fiber is so essential is it acts as a broom in your digestive tract sweeping out metabolic waste. You simply canâ€™t go wrong with adding soluble fiber to your diet.
Drink more water
Did you know that the most common cause of hunger is actually a signal of dehydration? The next time you feel hungry go drink a large glass of water and see if youâ€™re still experiencing the hunger pains shortly thereafter. I canâ€™t say enough about the importance of drinking plenty of water.
This is especially true when youâ€™re going through a detoxification process. Remember the toxic hunger signals I was talking about when you start cleaning up your diet. Drinking lots of water helps to flush the system and aids in cleaning out the digestive tract and liver. The more you hydrate yourself during this time the less toxic hunger youâ€™ll experience.
Eat high volume foods
High volume foods like large salads help to reduce ghrelin levels long before youâ€™ve overeaten. I recommend to all my Charleston personal training clients that they eat a large garden salad with lots of veggies, nuts, and seeds, for lunch.
While breakfast is arguably the most important meal of the day, I have to say that eating a high volume lunch from a large salad can be equally important to offset those late afternoon sugar cravings and energy lulls. If you need more energy density simply add some lean protein like chicken, fish, turkey, etc.
What about the 5-6 small servings of food per day recommendation?
I get a lot of questions about whether or not itâ€™s essential that you eat 5-6 small servings of food per day. The answer is absolutely not. I will often recommend this strategy myself to people when first starting off on a program but itâ€™s simply to help stabilize blood sugar levels and reset the metabolism.
Most people who are trying to lose weight have already cut down to very low calories by the time they come and see me. Eating less than 1000 calories a day from mostly processed and refined foods will wreck havoc on all hormonal systems of the body.
The first step to balancing out insulin levels and raising the metabolism is to eat a supportive nutrition diet from mostly whole foods with 5-6 small servings per day. This will help to reduce the toxic hunger pains that would come from going right into a modified raw food diet. Think about it as a process of first resetting the metabolism and stabilizing blood sugar levels, then transitioning into a detoxification phase.
If youâ€™re up to it you can go right into full detoxification but Iâ€™ve found this requires much more planning and discipline, not to mention more pronounced toxic hunger in the first week. Having said that, at some point youâ€™ll want to go there anyways so itâ€™s up to you when you start the detoxification and cellular rejuvenation.
I like to think about it as a step by step process where you slowly build new habits and routines while you change the way your body receives energy. Give yourself the best chances to succeed and if that means eating 5-6 small servings of food for a few weeks before going into detoxification mode then by all means thatâ€™s what you should do.
I just want to make sure you understand that the â€ś5-6 meals per day ruleâ€ť is not something that is set in stone and you must follow forever. The cleaner your system and more time youâ€™ve been off processed and refined sugars and starches, the longer youâ€™ll be able to go with energy from fruits and greens.
People who regularly follow a Primal Blueprint type diet will tell you that they can often go some days with eating very little then have a larger (but clean) dinner and feel fine, not to mention stay lean. Itâ€™s because their body is using the nutrients from whole foods to feed the cells and they have plenty of energy that would otherwise be tied up with digestion.
The standard American diet has not only led to an obesity epidemic and numerous health problems, but itâ€™s also created perpetual hunger with most people. We continue to eat more and more without ever really feeling satisfied. The problem is weâ€™re simply eating the wrong foods.
I know this may be hard to get your head around at first but youâ€™ll have to experience it for yourself. I can assure you that when you clean out your system and change the way you fuel your body, everything changes.
You wonâ€™t be hungry all the time, youâ€™ll have energy to burn throughout the day, you wonâ€™t experience those insane sugar cravings, youâ€™ll feel better, lose weight effortlessly, and most importantly significantly improve your health.
The question is are you willing to stick with it long enough to make the change? The end result is guaranteed to be positive and it works every single time. The solution to changing your health, body composition, and quality of life lies in the foods youâ€™re eating.
Itâ€™s up to you to decide what youâ€™ll put a priority on. When youâ€™re ready to make a change, Iâ€™m here to help. Personal coaching and accountability can go a long way to helping you be successful with a lifestyle change.
If youâ€™d like more information on Primal Blueprint foods along with recipes to things like the â€ślemon-ginger blastâ€ť download my FREE e-book, â€śThe Lean Code Method Quick Start Nutrition Guide.â€ť
Talk to you soon- Shane
Shane Doll is a certified Charleston personal trainer, fat loss expert, speaker, and founder of Shaping Concepts. Personal training in Charleston with a FREE no-obligations trial. Experience the Shaping Concepts difference for yourself today.