Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
15 Feb

8 Reasons Why You Act Against Your Own Better Judgment

donutWe all make poor choices against our better judgment. It’s kind of what makes us human – the tendency to actively and willfully make decisions that will result in unfavorable outcomes. Sure, the candy bar tastes good, but you know you’ll feel awful after eating it. Yeah, that blog is fun to read, but you know you’d be much happier if you finished that essay for class first. And yet five minutes later, a candy bar wrapper sits, emptied of its contents; your molars house fragments of nougat and sport a caramel sheen; light nausea approaches; and you find yourself wading knee deep through comment sections, MS Word window minimized. What just happened? Why did you do those things that you told yourself you wouldn’t, that you warned yourself against, and whose negative ramifications are already coming to fruition – just as you predicted?

Last week, we began the dialog with my introductory post on akrasia – the act of knowingly working against one’s own interests – but we didn’t get into any details. Today, I’m going to try to provide a few answers. I’m going to delve into the reasons for akrasia, particularly as it pertains to making bad eating choices. I won’t discuss psychological issues, per se, instead focusing on physiological explanations, but keep in mind that the two are often one and the same. You can’t really separate the mind from the body (well, without killing the person, that is).

Whether we pick up the phone to order takeout, open the candy wrapper, shove the spoon into the jar of Nutella, or accept the offered slice of cake, we are making a decision. Most health experts say making the healthy decision is a matter of willpower. So that if you make an unhealthy decision you simply don’t want it badly enough. Like Bob Newhart in that old Mad TV sketch, they seem to think all you have to do is just “STOP IT!”

Well, it’s not that easy. Otherwise, folks wouldn’t be making these decisions that go against their better judgment. Otherwise, they’d indeed be “stopping it.”

So why do we do it?

Many – perhaps most – poor dietary choices stem from an inability to resist cravings. And who can blame you, really? Whether they’re for chips, sweets, or something specific like wheat, cravings are difficult to ignore by design. Their very purpose is to get you to give in to them, to override your rational side and promote decisive, single-minded pursuit of whatever it is you crave. Something, then, is at the heart of these cravings. Something physiological. But what?

1. You’re missing something from your diet and your ancient genes are misinterpreting the modern cravings.

There’s often a disconnect between what our animal bodies need or desire and what our human minds know is best. When the animal body perceives a deficiency, some nutrient lacking in the diet, like salt, it often develops a craving for that nutrient. 20,000 years ago, if you were salt-deficient you would have gone looking for shellfish or rock salt, because those are the salt sources you knew. Your food memory bank was rather limited in scope. Today, that same salt deficiency might manifest as a craving for Pringles or Cheezits, because those foods are listed under “salt” in your food memory bank.

Let’s look at some research on the subject. In one study (PDF), human volunteers were put on a strict low-sodium diet and treated with diuretics for ten days, rendering “substantial sodium depletion.” The effects were pretty telling. Salt thresholds – the minimum detectable level of sodium chloride dissolved in water – lowered dramatically; the subjects could detect lower levels of salt during sodium-depletion than they could during sodium-repletion. Furthermore, salt depletion made salty foods taste better than they had before the study, and salt-depleted subjects rated the saltiest foods as the most attractive and desirable.

It’s quite possible that your “Pringles cravings” are actually salt cravings, and that the former is simply what your animal body associates with “salty.”

2. You’re missing something from your diet and your modern self is misinterpreting the ancient cravings.

What about sweet cravings? Paul Jaminet thinks that sugar cravings might actually be fatty meat cravings. It sounds crazy on the face of it, but he makes some salient points. First, certain amino acids are actually slightly sweet. These sweeter amino acids are also hydrophobic, which means they are found inside cells with fats, and they repel water (fat doesn’t mix with water). Hydrophilic amino acids, which are water-soluble, do not associate with fat, and trigger the umami tastebuds, are not sweet. A leading theory of sweetness even suggests that in order for a compound to be sweet (to interact with sweetness receptors), it must be hydrophobic. Paul suggests that in a Paleolithic environment with ample prey, bland (rather than sweet) tubers and less abundant/seasonal fruits, cravings for sweets drove us to eat calorie-dense, nutrient-rich fatty meat.

It’s possible, yet again, that our animal bodies are confused by the modern (and totally understandable) conflation of sweet with sugar and misinterpret what is actually a need for fat. Perhaps those sweet cravings turn into sugar binges because sugar isn’t actually what your body wants.

3. You’re addicted to wheat.

Wheat contains opioid peptides that may be able to activate opioid receptors in our bodies. You know what else activates opioid receptors? Opium, morphine, and heroin. (I’ve never tried any of them, but I hear they can inspire some real devotion from their users. See: Trainspotters, Requiem for a Dream.) I know that may sound glib, and I’ll be the first to admit that research into this is still very preliminary. You won’t find any ironclad evidence on PubMed that wheat is addictive. But the thinking goes that rather than hitting you like a ton of bricks and rendering you speechless from the sublime triggering of your opioid receptors, wheat addiction manifests as a stubborn lingering thing.

Evidence does exist, however limited. One older paper (PDF) that identifies multiple opioid peptides in wheat gluten, suggests that they are capable of binding to brain opioid receptors via a “plausible biomechanical mechanism,” and deems them of “physiological significance.” Dr. Emily Deans, of Evolutionary Psychiatry, has actually used naltrexone – a drug that blocks opiate receptors – to curb wheat cravings in celiac patients who are trying to kick the “habit.”

Wheat plays a huge role in the diets of industrialized nations. If you’re reading this, you probably grew up eating it. You may still be eating it from time to time – and that may be at least partly responsible for your urge to eat that slice of bread.

4. You’re addicted to sugar.

Similarly to wheat, sugar has addictive properties. A review of the rat studies shows that rodents will become quite addicted to sugar rather quickly, at times even choosing it over pharmaceutical-grade cocaine. There’s evidence that the addictive properties affect humans, too. As with wheat, naltrexone has been shown to reduce the rewarding properties of sugar in people. When you block the opiate receptors in the brain, sugar simply isn’t as rewarding and you’re not driven to consume as much of it. 

Sugar appears to be addictive in both rats and humans. You, being a human, could very well be drawn to make bad decisions about sweets because you are addicted to them.

5. You’re stressed out.

Everyone knows about “stress eating.” Chronic stress is repeatedly linked to obesity and overeating, and there’s strong evidence that it even elicits cravings for specific foods or nutrients. Like sugar. Remember our old friend cortisol? It’s one of the premier stress hormones, and in high cortisol responders – people that secrete lots of cortisol in response to stress – cravings for and intake of sweets increase dramatically. Stress also appears to increase the desire for “comfort foods,” those deadly high-sugar, high-fat concoctions, via an increase in ghrelin, a hunger hormone.

Stress can also lead to salt cravings, probably because the adrenal glands which produce stress hormones also produce hormones which monitor electrolyte balance. And indeed, stress can also increase salt requirements, which, as we know from earlier, can often manifest as “chips cravings” or “cracker cravings.”

6. You’re training too much without adequate fueling.

My general rule is that starchy vegetables like tubers and potatoes, as well as sweet fruits, are elective foods. You don’t need ‘em, and most people, especially those who are trying to lose weight, will be better off limiting them. They can be tasty, though, and if your activity levels warrant a higher intake of carbs, you could eat them. I have no problem with that and I don’t see them as problematic in that situation. In fact, if you’re doing daily Crossfit WODs or pounding the pavement to the tune of 100+ miles each week, you had better eat some tubers and some fruit. If you don’t, if you go very low carb while trying to maintain that breakneck pace, you will suffer. You will probably also crave easily-digestible, refined, processed junk carbs. Think chips, bread, pizza, pasta, or – my own personal favorite/nemesis from my Chronic Cardio days – tubs of ice cream.

Your body needs to replenish the glycogen, and it needs carbohydrates to do it. Gluconeogenesis can only get you so far if you’re pushing your body to its limits. In the face of heavy, glycogen-depleting training, a lack of Primal starch sources will have you craving sweets and grains in no time.

7. You’re not getting enough sleep.

Lack of sleep has long been associated with overeating and obesity. For one thing, poor or disrupted sleep schedules promote disrupted cortisol secretion, which – as I’ve shown above – can affect our food choices. Bad sleep also increases insulin resistance, which changes how we process macronutrients (especially carbohydrates) and renders us more prone to fat gain. And now, a recent study has shown that a single bout of acute sleep deprivation (just one night) causes people to find food more rewarding. Patients on no sleep derived more pleasure from food, desired more food, and reported more hunger than patients who had slept. And that was just a single night. Just imagine the effects of days, weeks, or even years of chronic poor sleep.

If you’re running on no sleep, you may very well be more susceptible to the wiles of junk food.

8. You fear being socially isolated due to your food choices.

Peer pressure doesn’t just occur in groups of teens smoking joints behind a 7/11. It can happen at birthday parties, at office events, or during the holidays. Wherever treats are being served, and the vast majority of those in attendance partakes, those who would otherwise refuse the offered treats often feel pressured to give in. You hem and haw, try to say “No, thanks,” but you start thinking you see shared glances between judgmental partiers, sense hurt feelings from amateur bakers, and you worry about looking like a “health nut” (as if that’s a terrible thing or something), so you take the slice of cake or square of brownie and partake. You know what happened last time you gave in. You remember quite vividly the downward spiral of junk indulgence that transpired then, and probably will again. But still you eat it.

Why?

One explanation may be that social rejection – even if it’s only imagined – can manifest as physical pain. To figure this out, researchers ran brain scans on study participants as they played a virtual ball-tossing game and then began excluding them from play (PDF). Ultimately, all participants were excluded from the game. During both explicit social exclusion (in which players were prevented from participating by other players) and implicit social exclusion (in which extenuating circumstances prevented participants from joining the game), the brain scans registered significant activity in the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), a region of the brain that acts as a “neural alarm system” or a “conflict monitor.” Whenever “something is wrong,” the ACC lights up. Physical pain famously triggers the ACC, but the ACC is not involved in the physical sensation of pain. It’s involved in mental distress.

Distress is a negative sensation. It is unpleasant by its very definition. If you’ve resisted the treats in the past and felt socially isolated or rejected because of it, you may be conditioned to take the treat next time in order to avoid the isolation and avoid the activation of your neural distress center. 

Do any of these sound familiar? When it comes to making poor dietary decisions, keep in mind that we are complex animals and the causes of our actions are multifactorial. Some or all of these factors may play into your particular misstep. Maybe you gorged on cake at the party both because your ACC was buzzing in trepidation at the prospect of social isolation and because you’d been putting in way too many road miles, you were overtrained, your cortisol was spiked, your blood sugar was low, and you were craving sugar. It could be any number of things from this list (and even some that aren’t on it).

So, while the decision ultimately rests on your plate, you might find it helpful to understand that a whole host of factors is actively influencing you. These aren’t excuses, and they don’t remove responsibility, but they do show you what might be going on under the hood. Hopefully by understanding exactly why we often make bad decisions about food against our better judgment, we can tip the scales in our favor before the next one is made.

Well, it was a long one, but I hope you found it helpful. Be sure to leave your thoughts in the comment section. Thanks for reading!

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. I just love indulging once in a while. Some cake, a piece of bread, it’s all good if you don’t go overboard,

    Paul Alexander wrote on February 15th, 2012
    • I just ate a giant piece of chocolate chip brownie. It was delicious.

      Dr. Squirrel wrote on February 15th, 2012
    • I respectfully disagree, Paul. If you’re addicted, you can go overboard.

      One of the key things is to identify whether you can moderate your intake of a certain food or if you have to abstain. Just knowing that can make a huge difference. ‘Everything in moderation’ advice is not for everyone.

      Alison Golden wrote on February 15th, 2012
      • It’s impossible, anyway. Not like you can take cyanide in moderation. :P

        Dana wrote on February 15th, 2012
        • “Most foods contain traces of cyanides, including cassava, sweet potatoes, yams, maize, millet, bamboo, sugarcane, peas and beans, as well as kernel of almond, lemon, lime, apple, pear, cherry, apricot, prune and plum.” (This is from a Health Canada website. Use your googling device in the quote “Cyanide [Technical document - Chemical/Physical Parameters]“.
          Also from the same sight. “lethal oral doses of cyanide compounds generally range from 50 to 200 mg CN (0.7 to 2.9 mg/kg bw).”
          So I guess we can and all have partook in cyanide in moderation. I have to say, I have seen so many really intelligent answers you have made in the blogosphere that I am really surprised you didn’t know that.

          John wrote on February 16th, 2012
      • I am certainly addicted to sugar. As someone with candida, I can tell you when the bacteria starts dying off, the cravings for sugar are brutal! I have read a recent study which showed that gut bacteria can cause us to behave in certain ways (such as becoming anxious).

        I “fell off the sugar wagon” last night. (OK, more like fell into the wagon. :-)) I’m going to try to keep myself busy over the next few weeks to combat the craving, especially at night when I am tired. I keep telling myself that it’s no different than getting off the cigarettes, which was tough too.

        Happycyclegirl wrote on February 16th, 2012
      • I completely agree, Alison. Scroll down if you like, to my (very long) comment.

        Susan Alexander wrote on February 16th, 2012
      • I agree Alison. Allowing myself little indulges seems to work fine for me but it doesn’t work for my husband. He really fares better when he abstains completely.

        Jessica wrote on February 17th, 2012
      • I’m addicted. I went overboard during the holiday season – so many temptations laid out before me. Here it is 3/4 into Feb & I still haven’t got myself back to where I was. I can’t have certain things in front of me ever, others just not at the “wrong time”.
        I just take each incident as a learning experience, dust myself off, & move on!

        peggy wrote on February 20th, 2012
      • Spot on. I have trouble with addictions before and no matter what I do I cannot have coffee and sweets in moderation. In fact once I have a good coffee from a store I am well likely to eat junk food later that day.

        But the problem is total abstinence is very bland and difficult and I am forever trying to find some kind of balance which actually does not exist.

        Scott wrote on October 19th, 2014
    • I just had my first two pieces of bread I have eaten in about 6 months – had a sudden craving for a Rueben . . . .

      Duncan wrote on February 15th, 2012
    • I cannot resist that piece of cake with butter cream frosting when I go visiting every Thursday out of town! I average 85% primal; some days 100%. It takes discipline to be 100% but for most primal folks I assume they’d do the same when visiting/entertaining.

      laura wrote on February 19th, 2012
    • True to an extent, but Hershey’s has a “Moderation Nation” campaign and food companies love the “there is no bad food” mantra, as well as a shifted focus to “calories in, calories out”. Merck and Coca-Cola for instance support a national “Exercise is Medicine” campaign, and the national government program is “Let’s Move”. The whole “I deserve it”, “every once in awhile doesn’t hurt” is true, but is also exactly what the industry promotes.

      Alexander J Rinehart, MS, DC, CCN wrote on March 22nd, 2012
  2. I definitely find that many of the times I’m craving dessert, I’m actually craving something fatty rather than sweet. It’s that ultra-satisfying feeling you get in the back of your throat as you’re swallowing something like a milkshake, muffin, or milk chocolate… Cold, creamy coconut milk can usually help me on that front. If that doesn’t work, my not-so-primal but not-so-terrible go-to is Lindor truffles… literally ONE truffle is enough to satisfy. Their ingredients really aren’t so bad (and the list of them is pretty small)- the fats are from coconut and cocoa butter (and are non-hydrogenated), and there is no HFCS. The dark chocolate ones have 4 grams of sugar per truffle (If I remember correctly). They have that creamy texture that regular ultra-dark chocolate bars don’t give me.

    Elizabeth wrote on February 15th, 2012
    • I had this experience recently also. I’m a marine biologist and do field work during the winter. After one of my days out in the field, I decided I was going to ‘treat’ myself to some dark chocolate. But then I found a bag of chicharrones (fried pork skin) in the store that sounded much better. Even though chicharrones aren’t that great because of the oil they’re fried in and excess salt, they didn’t leave me with a sugar buzz afterwards. They were super satisfying and totally killed whatever craving I was having.

      Elisa Maldonado wrote on February 15th, 2012
    • I tried responding to this a few hours ago, but the site was having problems. Let’s give it another try :)

      There’s a mall 30 minutes from my house with a Lindor store. It has just about any kind of truffle flavor available, and it’s hard to not go in there without walking out with a little something tasty.

      It’s good to know that as far as chocolate goes, Lindor isn’t a bad way to go.

      Robert wrote on February 15th, 2012
      • Robert, I think that the site troubles have something to do with the sudden appearance of Trolls on many new and old articles. For example, see “Dr. Squirrel’s” comment above.

        About the time that the site was slowing down and pages weren’t loading, etc. I noticed in the “recent comments” box several odd looking comments/commenter names.

        Makes me wonder given the recent site hacking…

        rarebird wrote on February 15th, 2012
        • Just bought a Lindt Lindor chocolate bar this morning :) 90% Cocao. I have a square every now and then to satisfy my sweet tooth.

          samui_sakana wrote on February 16th, 2012
    • The Lindor truffle is my go-to as well! It curbs the craving for me in no time. My favorite is the Extra Dark. I put them in the freezer (to hide them from myself) and when I need to curb a craving I pop one out and let it warm up a bit in my hands and enjoy it slowly. They make minis now too which make it seem like you are having more.

      Dusti wrote on February 16th, 2012
  3. Thank you so much for the insights. I recently realized that when I have cravings it just means I am hungry and I eat fat. I would love to eat sugar or something crunchy but what really satisfies me is some fat! A chunk of Kerrygold butter or some cheese and I am right as rain again:)

    Suzanne wrote on February 15th, 2012
    • A chunk of butter–really? Kerry gold is delish, but just butter?

      Katrina wrote on February 20th, 2012
  4. This is a really fantastic article. I agree with most of it.

    I am a little surprised to read that craving for chips might be our ancient genes speaking to us, whereas cravings for wheat are potential addiction… something doesn’t really add up there.

    But aside from that, I thought the article was very good!

    RPLong wrote on February 15th, 2012
    • I think craving for chips/salt was just being used as an example. Looking at the article, I think a chip craving could fit under at least 6 categories (maybe all 8 if the chip uses wheat or sugar in processing). A wheat craving may also be a craving for a quick hit of endorphins.

      John wrote on February 15th, 2012
    • Unless the chips are made of wheat, potato doesn’t trigger any opioid receptors as far as I know.

      Mind you, there are times that wanting the potato chips is connected with insulin resistance which means you’re craving carbs like crazy, and you might as well have triggered the opioid receptors because the urge is about as powerful. But there are circumstances where the wanting the chips really is just wanting salt.

      I think he was trying to say wheat’s got unique attributes that you don’t have to suffer from other starchy foods.

      By the way, I suspect someone just switching over to low-carb or to Primal is in a particularly precarious position with salt-craving. Hyperinsulinism causes the kidneys to retain sodium, but if you correct your diet and therefore drop your insulin to normal levels, your kidneys start sodium-dumping. That’s got to be where at least part of the “induction” craving for potato chips is coming from.

      Dana wrote on February 15th, 2012
      • That’s a good point about sodium dumping. However, I believe that sodium dumping goes on past the induction phase and is sometimes a reason for increasing salt in the diet.

        See Volek & Phinney (below) for a good discussion of the natriuretic nature of low carb diet, symptoms of low sodium, and reasons for having sufficient salt intake.

        I prefer sea salt or another “whole” salt over table salt, so I buy salt free food whenever possible and add my own salt.

        “The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living”, (2011), Volek, J.S. & Phinney, S.D. ISBN 978-0-9834907-0-8.

        rarebird wrote on February 15th, 2012
      • I understand the argument, I’m just pointing out that it is a little bit of selective reasoning if we say that one thing is an addiction and the other thing is our ancient genetic code trying to tell us something.

        I think fresh meat, vegetables, fruits, and low glycemic-index carbohydrates are all great things to keep to the diet.

        But I am a type 1 diabetic, and a lot of the stuff I read on here is incredibly dangerous if done over a long period of time. A lot of the articles are spot-on, but it’s important to be able to filter out the stuff that just doesn’t compute.

        Just MHO.

        RPLong wrote on February 16th, 2012
        • PICA: people may associate it with “bizarre” customs like eating dirt, but dirt is probably more nutritious then a lot of the garbage sitting on grocery shelves.
          There are hundreds of minerals. Who knows all of what you could be depleted on? If you can’t stop hunting and picking and pecking your body is trying to tell you something.

          oly wrote on February 16th, 2012
  5. “you find yourself wading knee deep through comment sections” — Guilty as charged!

    Joy Beer wrote on February 15th, 2012
  6. Just before I was diagnosed as Coeliac I made a concerted effort to – for want of a better word – poison myself with wheat, I was eating about 8 to 10 slices of bread per day to ensure that the ttga test and the subsequent biopsy would produce a high enough reading to be detected. I was quite ill at the time, pallor, bloating, exhaustion.

    Once I gave up the wheat – immediately after the endoscopic biopsy – I immediatly started getting headaches and dizzyness which lasted for about a month. Definite signs of a withdrawal from something!

    Ian wrote on February 15th, 2012
  7. Hello addiction my old friend. I’ve come to talk to you again… Can I borrow a cup of sugar?

    Grokitmus Primal wrote on February 15th, 2012
    • Because a wheat loaf softly creeping, left its lectins while I was eating…

      Lisa wrote on February 17th, 2012
  8. This is a tremendously helpful post, thank you! I can attest to several of these points as being true for me. I know sugar addiction has to be real because I’m certain I was truly addicted to sugar. It was a hard battle to overcome, but I’m finally on the other side. I actually don’t crave it anymore, and I think it is because I took the advice to “fight” sugar cravings with fat. It works and I seem to recognize any feelings of wanting sugar as actually a want for a good piece of fatty meat. And, it works every time. Now, I just don’t even feel those physical cravings anymore.
    I also very much relate to #8 on your list. I’ve been allergic to milk for years, and to this day my family (on both sides) make a huge deal over it. There can’t be a family meal without someone commenting on how miserable I must be. Since I had a sugar addiction, some friends and family found it “cute” that I loved sweets so much and go out of their way to provide them for me, even now that I’ve asked them to stop. I am made to feel isolated and find myself still accepting crap foods sometimes when the pressure is on. I think being a stay at home mom and the isolation that can bring amplifies that wanting to belong in social settings. Ultimately, I am the one in control of what I eat or don’t eat, regardless of what anyone else says or thinks. It’s interesting, though, how hard it is for some people to be understanding that the diet we eat is a deeply personal choice.

    Casey wrote on February 15th, 2012
    • I relate! I have a friend, vegetarian since birth, for whom I go out of my way to create delicious meals working within the plethora of limitations of her vegetable dislikes (loathes raw tomato, mushrooms in any form, etc). Yet, when I visit her house she offers me pizza for dinner. My primal choices are simply not respected as ‘serious’ choices.

      Yvette wrote on February 19th, 2012
      • Again, a year late. I hope she’s a good friend otherwise. :)

        As far as I can tell, many vegetarians are into the moral/health aspect big time for their WOE. Everyone needs to respect their choices as it’s healthy, hard and more “moral”. (I confess I don’t understand why killing plants is a-okay, but that’s a whole nother discussion. ;) )

        Anyway, accepting that meat is vital foodstuff and that grains will not substitute does work with the vegetarian world view. It in fact disturbs it to the core. In many ways it is easier for Paleos,who can eat anything that is hunted or gathered, to accept and work around vegetarians than the other way around.

        Amy wrote on February 10th, 2013
    • I think they do understand what a deeply personal choice it is. That’s why they pressure.

      I hope this has gotten better with your family. You probably won’t see this as I’m a year late, :) but I can say that if, you never give into the pressure, at some point they give up, too and move onto something more interesting. Giving in occasionally reinforces their behavior of “success”.

      Amy wrote on February 10th, 2013
    • I sympathize with you. Going Primal has been a challenge for me. I’m either on the wagon or off in the ditch eating doughnuts. (MY Achilles heel…) and what makes me so bloody mad is I’m not the one who has to loose weight, it’s my hubby and what does he bring me (cause he works at the grocery store…) doughnuts from breakroom, cookies from the vendors cause the bag broke. I get furious “Are you trying to sabotage me by bringing me my trouble foods? Are you trying to make me go off into the ditch so you can eat whatever the hell you want again?” OHHHHH burns me up!

      The Costco visits are the worst, while everyone else is wheeling out of the giant store with cartloads of salty snacks, soda and boxes of processed junk, ours is full of organic produce and nitrate free meat and Kerrygold butter! He is nothing but resentful and has plateaued and even gained his weight back.

      Anyway, I feel your pain. I’m lactose intolerant too and my family thinks it’s all in my head. *SIGH* That all this “gluten” nonsense is a bunch of BS. Plus I am a stay at home Mom and don’t get out (one car…) much…and the frustration of getting a picky 3 year old to eat Primal has really gotten to me lately…

      I guess we are only responsible for ourselves, and screw everyone else. If they really care about you they’ll do their best (within reason) to accommodate you or not tempt you too far.

      Thanks for writing the article Mark, it is indeed insightful. Maybe next time I’m craving my sourdough I’ll realize it’s the rush I”m after. Dark choc covered almonds save me now lol…(and I mean only 3 of them…)

      Kate wrote on April 6th, 2013
  9. Awesome article. There is certainly something kinda addictive going on with wheat. The one thing that’s been tough to give up is beer. I have no cravings for bread, and avoiding it is now second nature. If I drink wine or spirits, I don’t get the same “buzz” as a beer. I certainly feel the effects of alcohol, but the alcohol and wheat combo has a bigger effect. I also notice that I just don’t get the same “buzz” from a gluten free beer. Still, if I have a beer now, I notice an unpleasant gut effect within the hour. Certainly akrasia.

    John wrote on February 15th, 2012
    • I have also noticed the beer/booze buzz difference. And, beer gives me the headachey hangover, while vodka or whiskey seems to ‘burn clean’.

      Erok wrote on February 15th, 2012
      • Ditto for us! Beer and even wine makes us feel icky. Hard cider has been our answer.

        FoCo wrote on February 16th, 2012
  10. Be excited. BE, BE EXCITED!!

    TJ wrote on February 15th, 2012
  11. My weakness is drinking in a social environment. I cut back on drinking and my tolerance has fallen greatly. Being single and out and about, or at a BBQ, a family function, days that end in “y” (kidding on that last one) alcohol is invovled. I feel awkward with out a drink in my hand. The issue is after a drink my willpower fades and my momemtum kicks in and boom, off to the debauchery races! I know I am better off avoiding all drinks because I will feel my best! Alas… akrasia

    liberty1776 wrote on February 15th, 2012
    • Why does the drink in hand have to be alcohol or soda? If you look about there are lots of other things – just a BYO alternative

      Michelle wrote on February 15th, 2012
  12. This was me. I would binge on anything with sugar or grains – like really badly, like going out to get some fast food, then coming home, and then going out later to get some more. Or going to the supermarket to buy (and then eat) two pints of Ben and Jerry’s. It was a sickness. I could easily consume 5000+ calores in a night – this after having already eaten that day. It’s hard to describe – driving home or sitting on the couch, I would get a craving and I would battle with it for a while. But the whole time I just knew that I was going to give in. It felt like an addiction, like a scratch that needed itching. There was nothing I could do and I just got in my car and drove to the store or restaurant – like a total automaton, without control. Anyway, thank you Mark – since I’ve gone Primal, I no longer have these moments, and if I do eat sugar or grains (rarely, but it happens), I don’t binge and the cravings don’t return.

    Ben wrote on February 15th, 2012
    • Ben,
      Oh this is me spot on! If you look at my picture in the “In the Making” section, I am holding a container of Haagen Daas over the garbage can with a sad look on my face. What isn’t told in the picture is that the other container that I just polished off a few hours earlier is sitting in the trash! lol

      Oh, old habits die hard . . .

      Happycyclegirl wrote on February 16th, 2012
    • Wow, I’ve been there, too!

      I have been finding that I need some more carbs in my diet (Navy cardio, I suppose), and then I don’t have cravings. There are other times when something good and fatty takes care of it. Between the two, it’s been smooth sailing so far.

      Deanna wrote on February 25th, 2012
    • Ben, you just described my life and binge eating problems for the last 5 years to a T. Going primal has helped, I’ll admit, but every once and a while I’ll slip into that mode.. I’ll literally fall of the wagon giving in to binges for 5 days until I’m so physically I’ll and disgusted with myself that I pull it back together. My brother tells me that I’m too restrictive with what I eat and how much, and that it will always ultimately lead to binging. I’m so frustrated and feel so hopeless from this roller coaster. I thought about seeking counseling. What finally helped you to stop slipping into these binges?

      Brittany wrote on March 21st, 2012
  13. Hi Mark,

    This isn’t a direct comment on the post, but more about the style of your writing, which I think is outstanding. I’m a popular science writer and broadcasting by training, although I haven’t worked directly in that field for a while, and have spent many years focussing on expressing complex scientific ideas in lay terms. You have a way of getting fundamentally complex information to your audience in a way that is a model of clarity. It’s a real pleasure to read. Thank you.

    Nigel wrote on February 15th, 2012
    • Hear hear!! Always accessible and informative :)

      Tara wrote on February 17th, 2012
    • And withuot spleling mistaks, well grammar and good punction; to!! ;)

      (I love reading your blog – you’ve either got great editors or you majored in English. It’s stylistically smooth, grammatically good, and I don’t notice spelling errors. If your blog weren’t so easy on my “internal proofreading” I might not be Primal now. Maybe there’s something wrong with me…! LOL)

      Tom wrote on February 20th, 2012
    • Fist post ever…I just wanted to echo this post on Mark’s writing skills/style. He actually reminds me a lot of Anthony Bourdain (“No Reservation” Host), same way of sarcasm yet full of wits.

      The Way We Were wrote on September 26th, 2013
  14. Wow, more insights! Having a better idea what’s at the root of my cravings makes it easier for me to either give in to the right craving or override them till they subside. Thanks!

    deb wrote on February 15th, 2012
  15. Excellent post. I find I have the most success by spending 30 minutes roughing out my schedule/meal plan for the week on Sunday afternoon. I go to the grocery store after that either Sunday night or Monday right after work, which prevents me from letting good food (and dollars)go to waste…(when I was just getting into the primal blueprint, I would buy 10 different vegetables, and only make it through half..I’d feel so disappointed in myself!).
    It also gives me peace of mind during the week, since I don’t have to frantically figure out what I’m going to prepare each night for dinner after a busy day at work…and it prevents me from stopping by McDonald’s since I have something planned at home.

    This has really helped me to find a nice middle ground between becoming obsessive during the week, and just letting myself fall back to old habits with food. If I know I have something going on after work that will prevent me from spending the time to cook a full meal, I will cook extra the day before, or plan a meal like tuna and a salad that is quick. Sometimes, on particularly hectic weeks, I’ll even plan in an eat-out day…part of the 80/20 rule…without worrying about it.
    There’s a lot to be said for a few minutes of thoughtful planning.

    primalpal wrote on February 15th, 2012
  16. I agree wholeheartedly with the basic premise that often a natural physiological phenomenon is to “blame” for human behavior – rather than “lack of willpower” or intentional, willful disregard. All that blaming doesn’t help, anyway. In a sense, all the points made here could be summed up as “maladaptive coping strategies”, if a “psychological” term is really called for. Think about it.

    And, yes, ALL the points above seem familiar to me. While I have not experienced athletic overtraining, I have experienced repeatedly pushing to the limit in the context of several physical activities such as gardening and construction work.

    By gardening, I mean a LOT of long days of hoe work and so on. I had a one acre “truck” style garden that I worked ~alone~ with only hand tools and “toted” water. Fed my family, my chickens, and several neighbors all year. The work had me guzzling the Gatorade and relating to why construction workers often drink a lot of beer.

    Anyway, I find that since going primal not only has my sense of taste and food preferences changed, my ability to tune into what my body actually needs has improved dramatically. As others have commented, often what I am needing is fat – and to a lessor degree salt.

    I have developed a strange (to me anyway) habit of using raw walnuts halves like a “chip” and room temp soft butter like a “dip”. I put the walnuts in my hand, sprinkle them with a little sea salt, and then scoop up just a tiny bit of butter with edge of the walnut. A few of these nuts and I am good to go for quite awhile without any desires or cravings. Evidently a low carb diet causes the kidneys to increase salt excretion – so its much more salt and water for me these days.

    I also find that this premise about food applies to other behaviors as well. I THOUGHT that I was sleeping well and waking restored. Now I KNOW that there was much more room for improvement there as well. I had planned to eventually deal with my night owl habits and so on – but, that problem has worked itself out without so much as a single exhibition of “will power”.

    I have two lights – a table lamp and a floor lamp – that simulate natural daylight. Good for seasonal affective disorder (SAD) in the winter. I moved them both to a different location that surrounds the area where I use the computer. I leave them on a long time during the day. In the evening, the f.lux on the computer kicks in and that’s my signal to start reducing light exposure overall.

    Next thing I knew, I was getting really sleepy early in the evening and losing interest in my usual “night owl” activities. So, I now end up in bed earlier and wake up earlier, naturally. As of today, I am waking up with the dawn on my own – no alarm, etc. When I wake up I am much more alert and less inclined to fall back asleep. And, the length of time that I sleep – usually 8-9 hours – is getting shorter.

    And, I am also starting to see my waking fasting blood sugar decline. My detective work continues – like peeling layers of an onion. I am now taking a closer look at adrenal functioning as potentially the root of all other health issues that I have been dealing with increasingly over the years. Better sleep hygiene will also help with healing adrenals.

    And, so on it goes. What an adventure in living naturally :-).

    rarebird wrote on February 15th, 2012
    • Walnuts in butter is not strange at all; it’s delicious! Glad to know I’m not alone.

      Erok wrote on February 15th, 2012
      • :-)))))

        rarebird wrote on February 15th, 2012
    • Low carb causes salt excretion because insulin signals the kidneys to hold on to sodium. It’s the reason salt is now associated with high blood pressure. As it turns out, this is also true for African-Americans who have been noted to be more prone to hypertension and hypertension-related kidney damage. Why? Because black folks in the U.S. are more likely to have insulin resistance and they get it earlier, on average, than white people do. And of course this is something most doctors are overlooking. I think when MDs start making it routine to check new patients for hyperinsulinism, we might start seeing the health of this country turning around for the better.

      If I’m VLC and start getting leg cramps I now know to eat some salt to make them go away. It’s awesome. (I keep Real Salt in the kitchen, which makes it even better!)

      Dana wrote on February 15th, 2012
      • Hi Dana –

        Yep, I get what you’re saying about salt. I just replied to your comment about sodium dumping above – before reading this comment.

        I think you are right about the need for MDs to make hyperinsulinism part of the routine. I also wish that it wasn’t so hard to get them to test the adrenals. I realize that those tests are expensive, time consuming, and in some regards controversial. But, still…

        Anyway, I’m done waiting on finding an agreeable MD and getting these tests done myself.

        rarebird wrote on February 15th, 2012
  17. so true, I’m in college and I have been having difficulty eating right but this post brings it into a lot of light

    matt wrote on February 15th, 2012
  18. It’s odd, when I first started Primal Blueprint I did SO WELL with avoiding everything that I knew was bad — and I felt great. But a year into it, I began to slip. I started craving french fries like crazy, and I would find myself giving in almost eery time. This was right around the pre-holiday madness last year, and my stress levels have risen considerably with work and life in general. I can’t imagine that has played a small part in my fall, but getting back up again has been a real struggle.
    What do you do when you find yourself deeply dug into a rut and can’t seem to get out?

    Ava wrote on February 15th, 2012
    • I know what Mark said about just “stopping” not being effective, and in some contexts I agree. However, in the context where a lapse has occurred, and a rut is in the works, just stopping is ~part~ of works for me.

      The first thing I stop is any tendency to cry over spilt milk, as the saying goes. What’s done is done. Time to move on.

      You can “boot strap” yourself into the lifestyle you choose. You may find that even briefly returning to the starting point with the PB, where you had success before, will be helpful – both psychologically and physiologically.

      rarebird wrote on February 15th, 2012
      • As Molly Ivins said, “The first rule of holes: when you’re in one, stop digging.”

        Rule 2: Ask for help getting out. In person or online, ask a friendly crowd to support you in getting back on track. Asking publicly invests you in changing far more than just committing to yourself.

        Rule 3: Give yourself pats on the back as you climb out of the hole. Commit to your health and your way of eating before every meal. Congratulate yourself without negative overtones after each time you make a decision to eat well. Tell yourself at random times that you’re getting back on track.

        jake3_14 wrote on February 15th, 2012
        • Oh, excellent!

          Good ol’ Molly Ivins, bless her heart :-). She is so right!

          Thanks for sharing these rules.

          rarebird wrote on February 15th, 2012
    • STOP IT!

      Melissa wrote on February 15th, 2012
    • Mantra: “I deserve to eat real wholesome delicious food. And I deserve to eat it until I’m not hungry anymore”
      …concentrate on detoxing and removing the poisons from your life. Gorge on real food, favoring densely nutritious items. Fats and fatty meats, vegetables and fruits. All you want. If you want fries, fry them yourself at home in tallow or lard and sprinkle with unrefined sea salt. Want blueberries and bananas? Fine, eat a pound of them. Shellfish, roasted marrow, medium rare filet, oxtail stew, pot roast, bone broths. Whatever satisfies you as long as it doesn’t poison you as well. When the toxic food stops looking like food, and you find you’re spontaneously fasting because you’re just not that hungry anymore — the weight stuff will take care of itself.

      Oly wrote on February 16th, 2012
    • I hear you! I started PB last March. It was easy and delicious for about 8 months. Then winter and the holidays arrived. I hate winter but love sugar. *sigh* I am doing better at ignoring the sugar cravings but my office is full of sweets at all times. Very frustrating.
      (and shame on Mark for posting a pic of a donut!)

      FoCo wrote on February 16th, 2012
  19. Before going from low carb to low carb Primal in late 2010 I was sooo addicted to wheat (and sugar).
    At Whole Foods, samples of breads like challah, cinnamon challah and other breads as well as tea cakes are out for customers to nibble on. I used to eat enough of those samples to make a whole piece, and then leave and come back for more :)
    It is so wonderful to be free of those cravings, and now when i go to WF i have no desire for those samples.
    Same thing when I made potato pies for my relatives this past holiday season, I had no craving to eat a piece.

    Gayle wrote on February 15th, 2012
  20. The fair of being socially excluded is very real due to food choices, especially in blue collar places. You shouldn’t have to defend your own choices but often others who have poor health choices are jealous about your discipline and know they should be doing the same so they try to embarrass you

    Johnny Palmer wrote on February 15th, 2012
    • Or they don’t know what healthy choices actually look like, think you’re stupid for doing the exact opposite of what the experts are saying to do, and want to mock you for not following the rules. That crap starts early in public school and some folks never drop the habit. It’s institutionalization mentality. Got to curry favor with the Boss Man.

      Dana wrote on February 15th, 2012
  21. The physiology of social isolation is interesting, but it doesn’t add much to the reality – I don’t eat diary products and you should try explaining that to people sometime. Adding grains to that has made me seem like a total weirdo – even to my wife. I try to explain that it’s really only a few things I don’t eat – I eat alot of things others wouldn’t touch. Some people HATE fish, but nobody gives them grief about that, as long as they suck down a few cheeseburgers on white buns. I ususlly get the sympathy thing “oh you must be lactose intolerant, you poor dear”. Whatever. I just have come to the ceratin knowledge that the approbrium will not hurt me, at least physically. I know what I will feel like the next day if I start eating poisonous things.

    captain mike wrote on February 15th, 2012
    • I’ve been reading a book by a British hypnotherapist, Marissa Peer, called “You Can Be Thin”. She takes a psychological approach to weight loss, but promotes a Paleo approach, which is refreshing.

      One of the things she tackles specifically is peer group pressure. She has some wonderful suggestions as to what to say in these situations, and also a couple of good approaches to get your head in the right space to refuse wheat and dairy. One is “That looks delicious, but I’m afraid wheat/dairy makes me really unwell, would it be ok if I just had a couple of eggs/these nuts/tuna”. She points out that if you are overweight, then the odds are that wheat and dairy DO make you unwell :)

      She adds “A vegan or Muslim would never say, ‘I had to eat the pork, it was all that was available and I didn’t want to hurt their feelings’”

      She also says “J Lo or Madonna would never eat cake because nothing else was available” :D

      I found it a really useful little book – its available on Kindle – and I’ve been reading a number of comments on here recently about how hard it is to cope with peer group pressure – this book has some excellent ideas in it (No, I am NOT affiliated – I used to be a Reference Librarian and can’t switch it off ! :) )

      One last comment on the subject – I found after losing 35 kilos (77 pounds) eating like this, that loads of people wanted to know how I did it & found it REALLY hard to argue with me on the science etc, given that I had lost so much weight and looked so good for it :)

      Molly wrote on February 15th, 2012
      • Yes these are good replies to peer food pressure. Sometimes we make too many excuses. Also if someone is vegan no one generally pressures them to eat meat. but if you are paleo people still like to push wheat and other grains anyway.

        Gayle wrote on February 16th, 2012
      • I was just looking into this book, and one review says while she’s anti-wheat and dairy (yay), she’s also pro-soy (boo). I take it you think it’s worth it and that part is easy to ignore? I haven’t read it, just trying to decide if it’s worth it.

        Karen wrote on June 9th, 2012
    • I get the eye rolls and frustration from my spouse as well. He really doesn’t understand that it matters, and I am going to be doing GAPS with my kids as well since they are special needs. It’s so important, but I just look like I’m looney tunes. And then I start to question myself if I am overdoing it or something. Not “normal” or “allowing myself or the girls” or not “treating them” every now and then. Ugh!

      Julie wrote on February 17th, 2012
      • I’ve found that a lot of it is a power play — some folks just can’t wrap their heads around the idea that what they think is right for them is also right for everyone else – sorta “my way or the highway” mentality. whether it’s right for you or not. And to this day, when some folks hear about my PB lifestyle, they just laugh, roll their eyes, or call me crazy.

        Know what? If wanting to be healthy and feel good and look good is important to me, then so be it. Stick with it and don’t give up!

        PrimalGrandma wrote on February 17th, 2012
  22. Btw, whenever the thought that something “crunchy” would be tasty crosses my mind, I reach for the chia seeds. Doesn’t happen everyday – but often enough that I’m glad to have the chia seeds around as a “crunchy snack” .

    rarebird wrote on February 15th, 2012
  23. Fascinating article — Bread as the opiate of the masses.

    An old Atkins trick for sugar cravings — 500 mg of glutamine and a shot of heavy cream. It works and now I know why.

    Diane wrote on February 15th, 2012
    • Another candidate for “comment of the week”:

      “Bread as the opiate of the masses.”

      :-)

      rarebird wrote on February 15th, 2012
      • This reminds me of “Bread & Circuses.” The ancient Roman rulers knew how to keep the masses appeased with cheap (opioid peptide filled) food and entertainment. I’ve wondered if that’s what’s happening in our culture – lots of readily available cheap food that keeps the people slightly drugged and addicted, plus tv = who cares what the politicians do?

        LuLu wrote on February 15th, 2012
        • Doesn’t seem like a stretch to me. Plus, don’t overlook all the psychoactive drugs being prescribed – sometimes to treat symptoms brought on by the crappy diet and sedentary lifestyle in the first place.

          rarebird wrote on February 15th, 2012
    • Great point! I mix a tablespoon on L-Glutamine powder in my protein shake. Takes away (for the most part) sugar AND alcohol cravings.

      Mark Cruden wrote on February 16th, 2012
  24. “Go ahead, enjoy your poison. I could beat you in a wet t-shirt contest any day.”
    That’s what I say when someone tries to make me feel bad about not eating the latest culinary confection. (Okay, not REALLY, but I’m THINKING it.) :)

    Ashley North wrote on February 15th, 2012
  25. When I crave salt, I’ve conditioned myself to reach for dried seaweed sheets instead of chips. I have eaten chips since I’ve gone primal and I can taste how rancid chips are because of the oil used, now…

    Ruth wrote on February 15th, 2012
    • Dried seaweed sheets are now on the grocery list. They sound yummy.

      And, boy! I know what you mean about smelling that rancid oil. Its everywhere. My dogs were on a premium grain free kibble before I went primal -but OMG I began smelling how rancid it was after going primal. It wasn’t anywhere near the expiration date, either.

      So, I changed to a brand that I hoped was going to be fresher and had NO plant oils in addition to no grain. WOW the first time I opened a bag! It smelled so fresh!

      rarebird wrote on February 15th, 2012
      • What brand/flavor of dog food is that?

        Sarah wrote on February 16th, 2012
        • Hi Sarah –

          Its a Canadian brand called Orijen. They have several varieties for both cats and dogs. They use a “biologically appropriate” approach. You won’t find the words primal or paleo in their information – but that’s exactly what it is.

          The meat ingredients are range/grass fed, pastured, fresh/wild caught, and certified fit for human consumption. The meat is boned to control the mineral content to prevent over- mineralization issues, like uroliths. The plant ingredients are selected as ones that animals would eat in the wild. It smells so good that we joke about stocking up for our own emergency food supply.

          This food is literally award wining. See the website for more info.

          rarebird wrote on February 16th, 2012
      • Although I find all the info here to be awesome, inspiring and helpful….it never ceases to amaze me how almost every sigle post provides so many gems in the comments as well! I have an older cat that has been having health and diet issues for several years. Recognizing that it came from what he was eating even though I did not feed him supermarket brand garbage was part of the lightbulb moment that brought me to the primal world for myself. My issues were also a result of diet and it made sense that if I ate as I was designed to eat, just like my cat, I would have better health. I couldn’t find anything on the market for the cat that was all the things I knew it needed to be. Grass fed, sustainable yada yada. Then I read this post and find just what I am looking for and of all impossible, ironic things…it’s made less than 200 miles from my home! I love MDA!!!!

        newgrokcanadensis wrote on February 18th, 2012
        • Now if I could only find grass fed butter that easily!

          newgrokcanadensis wrote on February 18th, 2012
  26. Paul Jaminet’s theorie, as strange as it sounds, could indeed be true. I used to eat only lean meats as I have only access to grain-fed options. I then read the Paleo 2.0 article by Kurt Harris and transitioned to fatty cuts. One the one hand, I can’t eat lean cuts any more as I find them too dry and satiating. But on the other hand, while sweet stuff like fruit still tastes good, I lost my cravings entirely.

    Luke wrote on February 15th, 2012
  27. Great post, Mark! Very informative as well as entertaining. And I was eating a bit of a chocolate bar while reading it :P

    Reiko wrote on February 15th, 2012
  28. “or shove the spoon into the jar of Nutella”

    Ahhh….my biggest nemesis. How did you know?? Ha!

    NicoleK wrote on February 15th, 2012
  29. I really needed this post. I “went Paleo” over the summer and was “hardcore” for about 5 months. Lost lots of weight, never felt better, all that good stuff. Then the holidays happened and I have really, really, struggled to get back into it since then. I have my good days (weeks, even!) but something always triggers my old habits. Old habits do indeed die hard.

    But this was great, and I am going to really try to get back on track and think about, like you said oddly enough!, adding more fatty meats when I’m craving those sweets, or some salty broth when I’m having that crunchy/salty craving.

    Allison wrote on February 15th, 2012
  30. For many years I have had success prescribing that clients increase their fat intake in order to reduce sweet cravings.

    Corey wrote on February 15th, 2012
  31. Any suggestions on how to deal with number 8? That’s my biggest issue, as someone who has always had problems dealing with societal rejection and peer pressure, not being accepted, ect.

    Andrea wrote on February 15th, 2012
    • The next time a group hassles you (e.g., doesn’t accept two polite “no thank yous) about your food, tell them you’re on a medically-supervised diet. Works like a charm for me, and nobody has to know that my doctor is Michael Eades.

      jake3_14 wrote on February 15th, 2012
      • Yep! Works like a charm for me, too :-)!

        rarebird wrote on February 15th, 2012
    • I’m a bit antisocial so I’m not interpreting how people react well, but they at least don’t say anything when I smile and say, “Thank you but that will make me sick.”

      It seems like the honest truth for many people here.

      Kelekona wrote on February 15th, 2012
      • Yes, it IS the honest truth!

        rarebird wrote on February 15th, 2012
    • Say you have an allergy or don’t say anything and order what works for you.

      JMc wrote on February 15th, 2012
    • I’ve used a technique called EFT (the Emotional Freedom Technique) VERY effectively for the psychological/emotional roots behind food cravings and self-sabotage for years now. I first heard of it in Dr. Mercola’s book The No-Grain Diet about 10 years ago. Since then I’ve become an EFT practitioner (I’m also a holistic nutritionist and personal trainer) and I use EFT and my other skills to help people overcome those blocks to healthy living. Just do a google search on it, you can learn the technique in five minutes!

      Ellie wrote on February 16th, 2012
      • AH yes Ellie. I am so good at recommending EFT to others and not doing it myself. Thanks for the reminder!

        Tara wrote on February 17th, 2012
    • I made a comment below with some suggestions. Either just have a small amount, like half or quarter of a cookie or just a bite OR tell them you can’t partake because of a preventative health regimen prescribed by your doctor (like you have discovered you are predisposed to diabetes or something). People don’t usually argue with health issues and won’t judge you.

      mmmpork wrote on March 21st, 2012
  32. This just perfectly explained the withdrawal I went through when I stopped eating wheat! I really felt like I was getting off an addiction and I was literally craving tasteless whole wheat fiber thingies when I’d never even liked or eaten them much before.
    Very informative post!

    Wafaa wrote on February 15th, 2012
  33. Did you write this article for me? It certainly seems like it!!

    I discovered Cross Fit in August 2011 and Paleo/Primal in January 2012. It has only been 1 1/2 months but for the first time in my life I feel like I am in control of what I eat and not the other way around. Since going Primal I have lost 20 pounds, my skin is so much clearer, my hair and nails are stronger/shiny, my muscles are defined, my stomach is flat, I sleep great and wake up ready to go, and I no longer have daily headaches. I was known as the “Advil girl” because I carried around a 500 tablet bottle in my purse (you can’t sneak up on anyone with that!).

    Since going Primal I have discovered just how addicted I was to to grains and sugar. Last year I was promoted to a much higher profile position – add in tons of stress and fuel for the addiction. I could never actually admit I was an addict but now, with a much clearer head, it is obvious I was. Every one of my immediate family members have some type of addiction but I thought I was above all of them because I didn’t drink too much, do drugs, need pills to sleep or calm my nerves. I was really only kidding myself. My addiction was food. I ate because I was stressed. I ate because I physically felt like I needed it. I ate because the cravings were so strong I literally could not function until I gave into them.

    One word sums up how I feel today…FREEDOM!! I am 38 years old and have battled food/weight since I was a teenager. I have been on every diet out there but I could never sustain because the addiction always won in the end. I have no cravings for crap anymore and my appetite has significantly decreased. I eat real food until I am satisfied and I am truly happy!

    Thank you for your website and your committment to the Primal lifestyle. You are an inspiration!

    Mel wrote on February 15th, 2012
  34. Regular fasting REALLY helps because it is practice of mind over body, Spirit over flesh, term it the way you like. And, yep, I agree it is a great idea to answer those craving now and then. I sometimes cave to three fingers of Bushmill’s -nector of the gods as Spyder Robinson put it.

    Justin wrote on February 15th, 2012
    • +1 on the fasting. +1 also on the scotch.

      Erok wrote on February 15th, 2012
    • Well, it’s understandable that you would feel that way, but I don’t see mind and body as separate (we have different metaphysical beliefs), and I would rather my mind and body worked in *harmony.* I believe that when my mind’s wanting to work against me it’s because something’s amiss in my body. And so far my experiences bear that out. For example, I am a completely different person when my blood sugar is out of control! I’m not diabetic, but I’m at that stage of probable metabolic syndrome where I get reactive hypoglycemia on a high-carb diet. If I just tried to force my mind to overpower my body, I’d still be crazy and getting powerful compulsions to start fights with people. Thank goodness I didn’t take that approach.

      Just my two cents. Your mileage, of course, will vary.

      Dana wrote on February 15th, 2012
      • Totally relate.

        rarebird wrote on February 15th, 2012
    • (Mind you, I still get into arguments with people, but I have gotten a LOT better about picking my battles and about knowing when to back away and go do something else and let the debate do whatever it will in my absence. And I don’t NEED to argue with people anymore, where once upon a time I did.)

      Dana wrote on February 15th, 2012
      • +1

        PrimalGrandma wrote on February 15th, 2012
  35. Well for me there is ONE more to add to this list – pure boredom. I have a desk job, and it can be brutally slow, so…. I eat. It is fun, I love eating, and something to do… I keep healthy snacks around, nuts, seeds, dark chocolate, but soon half the bar is gone…… Gotta work on cutting out boredom eating big time.

    Wendy wrote on February 15th, 2012
    • Yep. I’m at my desk right now, munching on some dried squid, stinking up the whole office. (Co-worker: “Is that pesto I smell?” Me: “not exactly.”) Problem is, I know there’s MSG in it. Dang boredom.

      Erok wrote on February 15th, 2012
      • Wow, I can’t imagine EVER thinking that dried squid smells like pesto!

        Elizabeth wrote on February 16th, 2012
    • Oh, yeah…me, too.

      rarebird wrote on February 15th, 2012
  36. Do you have an opinion on Vitamin D UI 50000?
    Thank you.

    Lana wrote on February 15th, 2012
  37. One thing about fear of social isolation: This goes WAY back, and once upon a time social isolation meant death. Our population wasn’t as dense across the earth even two thousand years ago, and being kicked out of your tribe could (and often did) mean that there weren’t any more human beings for hundreds of miles around. Humans are soft and squishy and don’t have claws. One accident or predator attack (yes, we occasionally had them) with no one around to help you and you’d be done for.

    It’s another example of ancient genes not having come to terms with the modern reality. Just as well, because I see neither the gigantic human population nor the fancy modern technological wizardry (which is nearly all petroleum-manufactured or -powered) lasting for very much longer. Human capital always was the most valuable of them all.

    Dana wrote on February 15th, 2012
  38. I have actually gotten to a point where I CAN’T eat much of gluten or sugar without getting sick. For Pete’s sake, I caved to one of my few remaining weaknesses (ice cream) just last week and within fifteen minutes of indulging, I was in the bathroom throwing up. There is nothing quite like the realization that for almost my entire life, I’ve been poisoning my body, that all this time my systems have just built a heavy tolerance for it all. Anyone else experience this severe allergy, for lack of better explanation?

    And the peer pressure seriously gets to me sometimes because I am 17 years old living in a want-it-now society. It isn’t because I can’t say no, it is just the sheer bombardment of Primal no-gos. Everybody on here knows and probably cringes at the things the average teenager eat. For every party I attend to just a quick lunch with the gang after a volunteer event, I get at least one comment from a friend when I turn down the pizza, or the General’s (our JROTC unit instructor’s wife) famous lemon bars, or the whatever. It is beyond ridiculous. I have gotten pretty good at fending them off, and I’ve actually gotten two friends to give the Primal lifestyle a test drive.

    The real kicker? When I DO cave in, and promptly throw up, they think it is the Primal Blueprint making me sick, NOT the junk I just choked down. I don’t ever get a break with these guys. And it is difficult to explain the Primal Blueprint to them because of Conventional Wisdom that’s been pounded into all of our heads since the 2nd grade. Apparently me losing 25 pounds in 6 months, with hardly any effort, isn’t enough of a show point. Any suggestions?

    Jen wrote on February 15th, 2012
    • This is for Jen….Be very, very aware that you are exhibiting every sign of a severe eating disorder…Anorexia Nervosa and or Bulimia…I say this to you with compassion and empathy, not judgement. There are many MDA readers here who are in the same boat..and we look to the primal/paleo stances to give our bodies and minds the nutrition they need without resorting to the addictive, poisonous foods you mention…but do not head down that slippery slope to feeling “dirtied” or “spoiled” if you “cave in” to an indulgence or a “forbidden food” once in a while…The 80/20 principal so important in this primal lifestyle is also an acknowledgement of our humanness..our frailty if you will..and extremely important. It is wonderful that you choose to eat in a healthy, primal manner, but do not let it provide and excuse to follow a path to eating disordered behaviors and self-destruction…this is not what the primal lifestyle is about..it is about the enrichment of one’s life..not the effacement of it. All of this from one who knows…who has been there…is still there…and battling it every day. Courage and be strong in choosing health !

      Donna wrote on February 16th, 2012
      • Did you misread Jen’s post? She’s not vomiting intentionally; she’s saying the junk food is making her sick. This is a very common reaction for someone who hasn’t been eating grains or dairy or sugar and suddenly indulges. Based on her post, she’s not exhibiting any signs of an eating disorder, unless you’re one of those dumbasses who wants to pathologize healthy eating by calling it “orthorexia.”

        Sarah wrote on February 16th, 2012
        • I resent being called “a dumbass” for your information, and I was making no accusations…simply observations..this from a long and profound personal experience with eating disorders. Vomiting after eating items that make one feel sick or uncomfortable is very akin to eating disordered behavior. I feel sick as well when eating foods that I know to be unbenificial to my body, but I wonder ..and hope for Jen and others out there that eating “clean” or primal is not the excuse to “get rid of” those foods that would spike our insulin levels and cause us to gain fat. I do not accuse paleo-minded people to be “orthorexic”..as I am one myself…but there are eating disordered..or formerly eating disordered individuals who are simply seeking a healthier way to approach nutrition, life and being kind to their bodies. Careful there, with mean-spirited accusations. I pointing out red flags that can go ignored in this community. These topics are rarely addressed in this blog…but they should be.

          Donna wrote on February 16th, 2012
    • I learned how to suppress the puking mechanism enough to keep it down, but it does hurt. I got my reaction by eating almost nothing but the most empty-calorie garbage available and my stomach finally tried to crawl away from the abuse.

      No-one screams eating disorder when an 8-year-old vegan is suddenly fed theme-park food and ralfs all over the car, it’s “why the hell did you feed him that garbage.”

      Actually, I wonder if a vegetarian would get so much grief from your group.

      Kelekona wrote on February 16th, 2012
  39. Mark, you just cracked why my ‘hormone sickness’ (to quote The Clothes Make the Girl) has been such a b*tch the past couple weeks! **reaches for the avocados and backs slowly away from the tortilla chips**

    Miel wrote on February 15th, 2012
    • Just looked up this blog. Nice one. Totally relate to ‘hormone poisoning’ time. (I say I’m allergic to my hormones but this is more poetic!) MARK – do a post on PMS!!! What we should eat to help us with mad moods and mad cravings ..Ya might need some female help on this one. :)

      Tara wrote on February 17th, 2012
  40. My #1 reason isn’t even in the Top 8!. (Which is, I’m drunk.)

    66 wrote on February 15th, 2012
    • Set aside 1 day/week, or 1 day/2 weeks for getting loaded and eating junk.Eat cleanly the rest of the time. JMO.

      Digger wrote on February 16th, 2012

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