hunger/fullness cues

Stop Counting Carbs

They did NOT count carbohydrates in the Paleolithic era.  

Imagine that! People didn't think about calculating anything. They just ate. I could see ancient humans being worried about the lions eating all the wild chickens. I could see them worrying about accidentally eating a poisonous berry, but I don't think they were really concerned about whether or not they had a thigh gap. 

What's cool about the Paleo community is that they seem interested in going back to a time when people didn't really worry so much about "getting fat." 

Paleo diet people seem to want to return to our bodies' natural instincts when it comes to deciding how to move and how to eat. And frankly, that's pretty exciting because people want to eat simply again and listen to their bodies instead of calculating calories, tracking points, or measuring food. I've said it before and I'll say it again, the human body has amazing capabilities if we're willing to just listen. 


The grand irony of the Paleo community is that many of the people who wanted to return to a simpler time are often the very ones counting carbohydrates via percentages, fitness apps, or counting up the grams on nutrition labels.

Carbohydrates really are okay. They're a macronutrient that is actually necessary to survival. Also, both fruits and vegetables contain carbohydrates.

So instead of COUNTING carbohydrates, here's how to listen to your body and learn how carbohydrates affect you: 

1. Notice your hunger/fullness. 

Simple carbohydrates like the ones we find in simple sugars and refined grains (e.g. white rice, white bread) do not contain much fiber or protein. Protein, fiber and fat all take the body longer to digest and keep you fuller for longer. Pay attention to which carbs fill you up for awhile. 

2. Pay attention to your digestion

This one definitely builds on the last one because people who have difficulty with digestion might experience more gas and bloating from high fiber foods. Sometimes refined grains are easier to digest for people with digestive issues. 

However, because of the high amount of fiber in whole grain foods, they can be super beneficial for helping move waste out of the body. 💩

3. Watch your mood. 

Sometimes the biggest issue with sugar and simple carbohydrates is the sugar roller coaster: sugar highs and sugar lows. This can be pretty gnarly on your overall mood if you're constantly swinging between the two. If you've been feeling a little too high and a little too low, it might be time to reconsider your sugar intake or processed/refined food intake. 

(I wrote another blog post back in February about mood regulation, carbs, and serotonin. Check that out here!). 

4. Monitor for any other health issues. 

Refined carbohydrates can increase triglycerides. For diabetics, monitoring glucose levels is a matter of vital importance. For others, refined grains can increase inflammation in the body making arthritis worse. For those with allergies, eating corn, wheat, soy, and dairy can cause all sorts of crazy problems in the body. 

Notice changes in your body, cumulative or sudden, and make sure you're getting regular check-ups and blood work with your healthcare provider to monitor for life-threatening issues like heart disease and diabetes. And, of course, please listen to your doctors and take care of yourself (AKA keep counting carbohydrates if you have a medical condition that requires it). 

When looking at carbohydrates and your body, remember to do it from a place of SELF-LOVE. Everybody is different. You just have to listen to yours. Just like our ancestors did. 


Respect Your Fullness

I know what you're thinking right now. 

What fullness? I don't ever feel full. If you've been on diets for a long time, I believe you. 

You've programmed yourself to "feel satisfied" when you've eaten 300 calories or a banana and 1 tbsp of peanut butter. Cantaloupe? Yes I can.... feel full on it (that link is for any Brooklyn 99 fans). 

But, when it's time to cheat, you are straight up plowing past "full" all way to stuffed like a Thanksgiving turkey.

I could get all Rousseau on you about this but, effectively, modern society encourages us to stray from our natural inclinations. Living in NYC, I know this all too well. We are a city that never sleeps even though, biologically, we need to sleep to survive. 

Add in "Clean Plate" moralism, a compulsive need to finish everything on your plate, and you've got the reason why we never feel full. Here's the most important component of intuitive eating:


The 10 principles of intuitive eating are written in a specific order for a reason. You have to follow everything up to this point to be able to honor your fullness. 

You have to give yourself "unconditional permission to eat." You have to be done with dieting. You have to eat when you're hungry. You have to legalize all foods and challenge any rules, guilt or shame you have around food

Here's the action item this week: 

Become conscious again.

Pay attention to your body and cravings. Do a yoga class or meditation. Do something that helps you bring awareness back to your body. 

Take a break from your TPS reports, email, Facebook or Netflix binge and sit your ass down at your table and eat. 

Give yourself permission to just feel whatever you're going to feel when you're full. Maybe you will keep eating and get REALLY full. 

Whatever you do is fine. Remember this is not a "hunger and fullness diet."

Just listen to your body. See if you can hear your body say, "Hey dude. I'm full."

Then maybe, just maybe, the dude abides.




Honor Your Hunger, Fool.

Since last week I wrote about "rejecting the diet mentality," I thought it fitting to keep going along with the 10 Principles of Intuitive Eating which you can read a summary of here

This is some food that I ate one time when I was hungry. 

This is some food that I ate one time when I was hungry. 

This is a big step for chronic dieters, myself included, but it's one of the most liberating experiences of adjusting to a more intuitive eating style. I'll never forget starting yet another diet in college and literally googling, "how to not eat when you're hungry." I'll never forget those words that seemed to bound off the page at me. "When you're dieting, you're going to be hungry. You just have to learn how to live with that feeling if you want to lose weight."

YIKES!!! I could go off on a tangent about thinspiration and ALL the problems that we as women, men, and transgender individuals develop out of hearing a biological and urgent need from the body and resisting it. We don't really do that with breathing or with peeing so I don't know why we insist on it when it comes to food.  However, beyond the problematic social and political implications, honoring your hunger is good for you. 

Here's my evidence: 

1. Your body is smart. Listen to it. 

I'm stealing these lines from my Whole Foods Market Wellness Club days but the human body is literally engaging in thousands of chemical reactions simultaneously. Even though medicine and biological science have come extremely far, we understand as much about how the human body works as an average person knows about rocket science. Prescription drugs often isolate 1-2 chemical reactions to treat a given symptom. I like to use the story of Viagra as an example for this because it was originally being tested as a drug to lower blood pressure.  But then of course you know the rest of that story.... 

So, when it comes to eating, your body knows better than the latest fad diet. Because it's smarter than even some of the best and most well-paid scientists out there. And YOUR body will give you unique clues on how to feed YOUR body. 

2. Restricting Food can actually lead to a binge. 

This is something we often discussed at the eating disorder treatment center where I used to work. Ancel Keys study is most famous for proving that restriction can actually physiologically lead to a binge. You can read a quick excerpt about that here. 

You can't trick the body into eating less food. The human body wants to achieve homeostasis. When you restrict calories all day long as many do while on a diet, when you get home, you want to eat everything that isn't nailed down in your house. This goes the same for all you lunch skippers out there. I know your TPS report is important, but if you skip lunch, that makes you a lot more likely to end up eating a burger for dinner even though you planned to eat salmon and quinoa salad. Your body will be begging you to make up for the caloric deficit. By eating before we are ravenously hungry, we actually set ourselves up to eat better food. 

I'm definitely guilty of this here. When I used to have a more rigorous day job, I would often eat a light lunch that I had diligently packed the night before. I would most likely end up working late and ordering seamless on my way home because I was STARVING which usually meant the only thing that would satisfy was fried chicken and french fries. 

3. When you restrict food, you can slow down your metabolism more. 

Ancel Keys also proved this is his starvation experiment that our basal metabolic rate slows down during prolonged periods of starvation.

As many of the chronic dieters of the world know, even when you're perfect with your diet and you willpower your way through, eventually you plateau because your body figured it out and is working tirelessly to keep you alive. I've been through this myself.  An RD put me on a 1200 calorie diet that helped me lose 4 pounds but after about 3 months, I was stuck. Eventually I gave up and sprang back up to what I affectionately call my "happy weight." 

While I often tell my clients to avoid paying attention to the scale, listening to my body, eating when I'm hungry and stopping when I'm full (that's a whole other blog post), has helped me lose weight. More importantly than that, I don't have to spend so much time researching my meals and my diet and my weight is pretty stable without me even having to think about it. 

For real, eating should be like breathing. Just do it when you body says so. 

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