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True hunger? Or just withdrawals?


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Okay ya'll, I'm pretty sure the answer to this question is probably out there already but I've been looking for awhile and now I'm just about out of time so I'm just going to ask - is there a good way to tell the difference between true hunger and sugar withdrawal/cravings? 

Today was Day 2 of my first Whole30 - I'm doing it mainly to gain a healthier emotional relationship with food, and also to address some health problems (joint inflammation and severe menstrual cramps, among others). I'm not overweight however, and I think I must have a pretty fast metabolism because I can pretty much eat All the Things and not have it impact my weight, and I'm almost always hungry (even not on the Whole30), and I've found that I feel better when I snack between meals. I think the hunger part could be due to the fact that the bulk of my diet comes from dairy, grains, and fruit (not on purpose, I just have very strong preferences (ahem, baby-addictions) for those foods) - so I probably have some blood sugar regulation problems from that? 

ANYHOW now that I'm not eating two of my three main food groups, and trying to limit fruit because I know it's a trigger food for me, I FEEL AWFUL! I mean, I feel great (really great, actually), until I start feeling hungry, and then I FEEL AWFUL! And all I can think about is GET ME SOME FOOD NOW BEFORE I PASS OUT! I start salivating, getting shaky, behind my eyes gets really sore/tight feeling, short of breath, and I can't sit still. I work at a school and today the kiddos were having lunch and the whole time I was watching them and thinking how great it would be if I could just have some of their food - doesn't matter what it is, I just NEED to eat.

Today I got really dizzy during my exercise - semi-normal for me, but I don't remember it ever being that intense. I did have half an apple + almond butter right before. 

I know the goal is to try and let my body get used to just getting 3 nutritious, big-enough meals a day, and I'm willing to wait it out if this is still in the normal zone, but I want to make sure I'm not failing to give my body what it really needs. I typically get this hungry feeling in the morning when I wake up, around 10:30 AM (***This is when it's the worst), at midday, around 3, and around 6. Not sure if it's just because I'm used to snacking, or if it's because my metabolism is such that I really do need to snack, or maybe both - I'm used to it, so I need to go easy on myself until my body adapts to all the changes and can handle bigger, fewer meals? 

The other thing is I feel full after eating not all that much.......so to get enough in to hold me all the way to another meal, I have to really stuff myself. Which seems a little counter productive?

I'd be so grateful for any thoughts you guys might have! Thank you!!

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For how to know if it's really hunger or just cravings -- if you're really hungry, you'd be willing to eat something bland and boring, like plain steamed fish and broccoli. If you wouldn't eat something bland and boring, but would happily eat fruit or sweets or potato chips, you're probably not really hungry, you're probably just craving something. If you are hungry, eat -- preferably a mini-meal of protein, fat, and vegetables or at least two of the three. If you're not really hungry, try having a glass of water, and then walk away and do something to distract yourself -- clean, work on a hobby, go for a walk, play with kids/pets if you have them, something that will get your hands and your mind busy for a little while, and the craving should pass.

For the meals, if you're used to more, smaller meals, it can take some time to get used to bigger meals. Try plating up a whole meal, eat what you can, eating around the plate so you get some protein, some fat, and some vegetables, and then setting it aside, and when you feel like you could eat a little more, come back to it. Over time, you'll find you eat more initially and leave less for later.

Before your workout, it's better to have protein and fat, not fruit. You're working on becoming fat adapted, but giving your body easy-to-use carbs right before a workout means it will use those first, before getting to the fat. Be sure you're having a post-workout meal too, of a little protein and (optionally) some starchy vegetable. These are both in addition to your three regular meals.

Be sure you're making your meals match the meal template, and don't skimp on the fat. Fat will help keep you satisfied longer. The fat you cook in often stays in the pan and isn't actually consumed, so add 1-2 servings of fat to each meal from the options listed on the template.

If you want any feedback about your meals, you can list a day or two of what you're eating, including approximate portion sizes as they relate to the template, and we can take a look. If you're not already, I'd highly recommend keeping some sort of food diary -- not counting calories or anything, but what you're eating, and how you're feeling. Since you notice specific times when you're having problems with hunger, it might be worth noting each day at those times if you're hungry or not. Ideally, you'll eat within an hour of waking up, and then be hungry (but not dizzy or hangry or any of that) 4-5 hours later, and then again 4-5 hours after that meal. Tracking can help you see if some meals help you get to that point better than others, so you can plan better going forward.

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Thanks Shannon! This was really helpful! I'm starting to suspect I may have some type of hypoglycemia because I still feel really sick between meals - last night I woke up at 4:30 AM with the shakes, and my heart pounding put of my chest. I posted on the hypoglycemia board earlier to see if anyone has thoughts about when/if to see a doctor about those symptoms. If the doctor is just going to tell me to drink some fruit juice when I'm having a crash, it's probably not worth my time. Lol.

The good news is that my body is slowly but surely starting to get used to the idea that it can, in fact, get what it needs from vegetables and protien - it just takes longer to convert. So my solution for now is to be extra generous with protein and fat (2 palm sized portions instead of 1), and allow myself a little (really, little) bit of fruit with meals if I feel I need it because it just seems to help.

Yesterday morning I had a smoothie (I know, i know, we dont recommend smoothies...but i like them!) with kale, spinach, half a banana, a handful of blueberries, flax and almond milk. Paired with 2 eggs, I felt MUCH better. Still a little shaky around 10:30, but a big improvement. For lunch I had a generous amount of tuna "waldorf" salad wit a few grapes and almonds in it, in lettuce wraps with other veggies inside - I felt fine the rest of the day. Hungry, not hangry, around dinner time. Unfortunately my evening was wierd so since I was on the go I ended up having more a series of snacks - a little fat here, a little protein there, some veggies and cranberry juice in the mix - for dinner. I felt fine last night, but I think that's probably what caused my big crash early this morning.

I think I may need to put my meals a little closer together for now to prevent a blood sugar crash. (?) I just know that by the time I "allow myself" to eat (not the most emotionally healthy attitude for me..) I'm WAY past hungry, and even though, yes, I do want sugar because my body is like freaking out and wants to gain balance asap, even kale tastes like heaven at that point.

This morning I had two homemade turkey sausage patties with avacado on top and a small amount of ground flax and minced apple in them, sautéed veggies (kale, broccoli, and sweet potatoes), and sparkling water with just a splash of unsweetened cranberry juice for flavor because I'm not a fan of lime. We'll see how the day progresses, but I feel great right now - full and also satisfied in the sense of my meal was delicious and fun to make so I don't feel deprived or punished. I'm home all day today so i think I'm just going to eat when I start to feel hungry and see what kind of pattern emerges. 

I used to be a nanny and one thing I learned is that if you wait to feed a baby until they're already crying from hunger, it's too late. They'll be so upset they'll refuse to eat, or only eat in short, ridiculously frequent bursts. Or they'll devour a bottle so fast it gives them a stomach ache. I'm no expert but I think the same principle maybe applies here? Eat good food just before the hunger meltdown begins, and things will be peachy. Wait too long for the sake of "willpower" and following the rules (which, snacking and fruit arent hard and fast "rules" anyway) and I'm going to be fighting an unnecessary uphill battle.


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