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    paleobynature's Avatar
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    Very long post - paleo with a serious hunger issue looking for advice...

    Hi All,

    This is going to be a very long post because it's about an issue I've struggled with for more than 5 years (even before I went paleo) and I can't cure it after going paleo either. The issue is having very serious hunger pain if I don't eat every few hours or so (also, I tend to have a very high tolerance for pain, regularly train in mixed martial arts (!) and though I might be mistaken, I don't think hunger should be as painful as it is when I experience it). The reason this post is long is because I'm trying to provide as much detail on my eating habits over the years to figure out if there is something obvious causing this issue that I've overlooked (or if the answer is simply, "unfortunately, some people get so hungry regularly that the pain is unbearable and they need to eat").

    Some background: I am 29 years old, male, 5 foot 9 inches, and approximately 166 pounds (more on my weight later). I have never had issues with my weight/size. Growing up I was pretty skinny, seemingly no matter what I ate or how much I exercised.

    Going back to growing up... from childhood up until college, my mom fed me a lot of pasta. Let's just say it was a bit of an extreme cultural desire to "fatten up her baby boy as much as possible." Every time I got stuffed with pasta, I felt sluggish, bloated, etc. (I'm sure no surprise from this crowd on that). But I didn't know any better. Other than the pasta, I generally ate a pretty balanced "mainstream" diet from what I can remember. One thing that was always missing during this time was any hunger pain. My mom was always horrified that if she didn't stuff me with food, I could go for more than a day without eating (there is a family story about how I once kept a piece of food in my mouth for over 24 hours because the doctor told her to stop force feeding me and see what happens). So no pain at this point. Also, even with all the pasta I did not get any bigger at all. At. All.

    In college is when I started training in mixed martial arts (6 days a week, sometimes twice a day). I didn't really change my eating habits but I definitely cut back on the pasta. I very rarely weighed myself but I remember at some point early in my training I was 145 lbs. I think between the training and probably stuffing myself with food (the after effects of my mom's upbringing!) I started to put on weight. I also think it was around this time in college that I started to develop the serious hunger pain if I didn't eat regularly.

    After college I quit my training all together because career took up all my time. Maybe a year or so after college, without knowing anything about being paleo/primal, I decided to cut out pasta entirely because of how it made me feel. Same went for pizza. I still ate sandwiches with bread but relative to my carb consumption previously, it was much much lower. I also saw that a few years after college I weighed about 168 lbs. Now, I have no idea if I put that weight on while still training in college or if it all came on after college, all I know is that in college I was 145 lbs and a few years later after college I was 168 lbs. So anyway, reduced carb intake, still struggling with hunger pain.

    Now we're about 2 - 3 years ago in the timeline. I found out about paleo/primal eating and basically implemented it immediately because it was a way for me to say "this is exactly how I've wanted to eat forever, I just had no idea that I could do that without catastrophic nutritional problems." The catch is that when I started eating differently, I made the emphasis on lots of protein, minimal carbs... but not much fat (another of my mom's rules as a child was that fat is terrible and should be kept to a minimum). Not knowing what role fat serves, I was eating a high protein, low carb, low fat diet. I can't say I remember feeling sluggish, but the hunger pain was definitely still there.

    About a year ago I started training in mixed martial arts again. Not nearly as much as I used to but maybe 3 - 4 times a week (only once a day this time!). One of my trainers is well versed in paleo/primal nutrition and told me I should up my fat intake, which I did. So now I'm at (what I think is) moderate to high fat, moderate protein, low carb.

    Here is a typical day for me during the week:

    Breakfast: wake up hungry and in pain and make a shake with: half a can of organic whole fat coconut milk, tablespoon of vita mineral green, half an avocado, tablespoon of almond butter, 2 scoops of Primal Fuel, a handful of blueberries/raspberries/strawberries (whichever of those 3 I have available). I also have a cup of Oolong tea with a tablespoon of coconut oil in it. I finish eating this at around 8:30am.

    11:30am - my stomach begins to growl and I immediately eat an apple to try to keep the hunger at bay. This sort of works. Sort of.

    Lunch: this varies quite a bit but very generally I'd say it usually involves some cut or pieces of meat with some sort of salad or vegetable side. Chipotle maybe (bowl, double meat, veggies, etc.), or a middle eastern place around here (bowl, shawarma, israeli salad, etc.). The theme is the same: meat and a green side. I usually eat this at around 1:30pm but it varies from 12:30pm to 3pm depending on work. By the time I get lunch I'm starving and it hurts.

    4:30pm - stomach grumbling so I eat a second apple.

    5:30pm - tablespoon of straight coconut oil as a last hope to hold me through my MMA training so I don't die before I get home (sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't).

    7pm - 8:30pm: MMA training

    9:30pm or 10:00pm (it takes me an hour to get to training and an hour to get back): Dinner. Very basic. Some pieces of chicken (with skin) from Fresh Direct (the pre-cooked whole chicken they sell). Salad with lettuce, tomatoes, olives, a few slices of cheese, olive oil, some pieces of manchego cheese.

    One thing I would say is that even if the hours in between meals seem like a lot (maybe they do, maybe they don't, I'm not sure) and therefore maybe you would say that I should be getting hungry, I would point out that hungry is one thing and serious hunger pains is another. And I would also say that if this is in fact normal for me (the hunger pain), then something like intermittent fasting is completely out of the question. I can barely last a few hours! That seems strange to me...

    .......

    On the weekend I make 2-3 eggs in the morning that is cooked in the fat of a quarter pound of bacon (which I eat with the eggs). I eat a very late breakfast/brunch because I typically go out (somewhat heavily) drinking on Friday and Saturday night (this is my 1 VERY BAD non-paleo thing that I do). Specifics on the drinks: cocktails with probably way more sugar than I should be consuming, even for an entire week, but in the span of 2 days. Drinking from 7pm - 3am (on average). The eggs and bacon last me most of the day but in the late afternoon comes the awful hunger pain, as expected. Dinner is usually at a restaurant and is very paleo (again, meat/fish with some kind of green side).

    Now that I've written all those details in probably not the best organization and with a few things left out that I can't think of at the moment... here is what I'm trying to figure out:

    1. how do I change my diet (or what do I do more broadly) to stop from having these awful hunger pains so that skipping a meal does not mean creating the desire to kill someone? Am I missing something?

    2. This I didn't allude to at all in the above, but I also want to lose about 5 pounds. I'm sure many of you will laugh at that number (and probably rightfully so), but here is my other problem (which again I did not allude to in the above so I am randomly adding it here at the end): my weight generally stays very constant no matter what I do and never even decreased after going fully paleo/primal from eating at least a moderate amount of carbs. I fluctuate between 163 lbs - 169 lbs, for reasons that I can't understand (yes, I monitor my weight now regularly but the numbers mean nothing since I have no idea why I'm heavier some days and lighter other days). I want to get closer to 160 lbs and for the life of me I haven't been able to do it.

    Well folks, after struggling with this issue for years and failing miserably at solving it no matter how my diet has changed over time, I'm tossing it to you for any ideas you might have :-)

    If you made it this far, thanks for reading!!!

  2. #2
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    You might want to check with the doctors. I get hungry all the time too...but those stomach pains seem abnormal?

    You might want to up your carbs. You're doing more training now right? Higher carb will help you lose that weight...sounds counter-intuitive, but works.

    You might simply be hungry because you're not eating enough! I'm your height and I'm a 25 year old female, and I'm only lifting heavy 3x a week. I eat probably 2x the protein you're eating now, and way more carbs. I am not eating as much fat though...but I'm 80% sure I'm eating a hell of a lot more calories than you are, and I'm eating 2000 cals to LEAN OUT (i.e. eating at a deficit).

    Drop the primal fuel. Order a clean whey protein...primal fuel is not actually primal...has a bunch of crap Mark wouldn't put in his own smoothies.

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    Might not be a bad idea to get a checkup. Sometimes people who are going into metabolic syndrome can have really gnawing hunger and a fasting blood sugar etc might be interesting. It can happen young; I've seen 17 year olds in Mexico with type II diabetes! If you happen to have a very reactive pancreas that makes lots of insulin you could be on the insulin roller coaster, going hypoglycemic which will send an "EAT NOW!" signal to your brain. And, as the above post says, it is indeed possible you just aren't eating enough...I had to up my fat and feel much better. An extra tablespoon of olive oil on the salad at lunch, an extra dollop of heavy cream in the morning coffee, etc.

    Some people have also described a sort of carb danger zone between Standard American Diet and Low Carb. Some of us can have trouble because we're not fat adapted, so our brains have to have our 600 kcal of glucose (about 150 gm) and yet we're not eating enough of it. It could happen if you are wandering into the 75-125 gm/day zone of carbs. That problem is one reason why some of the low carb paleo-like diets, like Atkins, recommend a two week "induction" phase of 20 gm of carbs a day. This allows/forces your body to rebuild the enzymes to burn fat and ketones and turns you back into the "fat burning beast" that you were meant to be. It really takes two to four weeks. Then you gradually add back carbs in a stepwise fashion, like berries first, then nuts, etc until you find where your personal body works best. Despite what some optimistic posters, our REALLY optimistic federal government, and book writers say, there is not a one size fits all diet.

    If you go that route, remember that many of us need to cut back a bit on exercise intensity during the adaptation phase of 2-4 weeks. But after that you can bump the activity back up as you tolerate it. When you can actually burn fat effectively it is a really good energy source and you never "hit the wall" or "bonk" like the sugarburners do. Volek and Phinney have written the definitive beginners guide to Low Carb athletic performance, with lots of studies and data (The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Performance.) Also you might be interested in Volek's TNT program, with some days of low carb and othter days of carbs interspersed with your training days.

    Good luck with this.


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    10/2/12: 169 lbs, 37"waist
    Now: low 150's, 33" waist
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    Search "zone of misery" and see if any of that applies to you, but it sounds like you are chronically undereating.

    Three eggs and only a quarter pound of bacon? Have a dozen eggs and two pounds of bacon. That should keep you full for about six hours of your apparently very active life. Then a few pounds of sweet potato and a few cups of berries, some nuts and milk - just pack in the most nutrient dense things you can. Have a pound of liver a week, minimum. And when you eat, always stuff yourself silly. Even moderately active people here find it difficult to eat enough. 3000 calories a day is typical of males in our age group. I have less because I'm enslaved by my employer, and they keep "upgrading" me to more and more torturous sedentary positions.


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    Eat more whole meat. Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner. Add whole food carbs at every meal (fruits and/or tubers).

    Stop with the liquid nutrition at breakfast.

    Stop snacking on Apples - they will definitely make you hungrier if eaten alone. Snack on nuts or cheeses (protein, carbs, and fat all in one package).

    Don't worry about the weight gain until you have hunger pains under control.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Knifegill View Post
    Search "zone of misery" and see if any of that applies to you, but it sounds like you are chronically undereating.

    Three eggs and only a quarter pound of bacon? Have a dozen eggs and two pounds of bacon. That should keep you full for about six hours of your apparently very active life. Then a few pounds of sweet potato and a few cups of berries, some nuts and milk - just pack in the most nutrient dense things you can. Have a pound of liver a week, minimum. And when you eat, always stuff yourself silly. Even moderately active people here find it difficult to eat enough. 3000 calories a day is typical of males in our age group. I have less because I'm enslaved by my employer, and they keep "upgrading" me to more and more torturous sedentary positions.
    I agree, my fiance is only a couple inches taller than you and he eats 6 scrambled eggs and spinach(with cream and/or cheddar cheese) and a steak, then he has a bowl of cream (serious, a bowl) with a cup of berries and a banana as brunch on the weekends. This always keeps him full til diner. Moar food!
    "...You sort of start thinking anything's possible if you've got enough nerve. -Ginny

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    Thanks everyone for replying. I really appreciate it.

    Some follow-ups based on what I read:

    1. My post might have made it sound like I'm incredibly active. Let me be clear about what I do during the week when I'm NOT at the gym those 3-4 times for an hour to an hour and a half... I'm sitting at my desk in an office all day long, only getting up to go to the bathroom or to get my lunch.

    2. I calculated my calories and unless I did it wrong I take in about 2500 per day. Is that really too little? How much more food can I even fit in my stomach? And, how could I stuff myself and not feel like a slug at the gym with all that food in ma belly?

    3. I calculated my macros and unless I did it wrong I'm at about 70 carbs (mostly veggie and some fruit), 200 fat, 100 protein. How much more of anything else could I take in?!

    4. In terms of upping the carbs, I guess I'm ok doing that with vegetables but definitely not going back to grains. They make me feel awful.

    5. In terms of upping the fat, don't I take in quite a bit already? I'm drinking oil in my tea and taking a spoonful of oil before the gym! I eat full fat everything, skin/fat on meat, etc.

    6. I really don't want to believe this is a medical issue so I'm hoping to try anything else as a fix before I see the doc. After all, I'm young an invincible! [Joke]

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    Stop calculating. You're undereating. Wake up, eat a steak. Do you hear me? I'm completely serious. OK, I'm exaggerating for effect, but I can't imagine for 2 seconds why you would be worried about your weight. Wake up, eat a steak, 2 burgers, 6 eggs, a rotisserie chicken, whatever. The apple is good for you but will only make you hungrier. Lunch? Another steak (or chicken or whatever). Hit it with a bigger hammer til it works. Meat, fat, tubers.

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    Very long post - paleo with a serious hunger issue looking for advice...

    Quote Originally Posted by paleobynature View Post
    Thanks everyone for replying. I really appreciate it.

    Some follow-ups based on what I read:

    1. My post might have made it sound like I'm incredibly active. Let me be clear about what I do during the week when I'm NOT at the gym those 3-4 times for an hour to an hour and a half... I'm sitting at my desk in an office all day long, only getting up to go to the bathroom or to get my lunch.

    2. I calculated my calories and unless I did it wrong I take in about 2500 per day. Is that really too little? How much more food can I even fit in my stomach? And, how could I stuff myself and not feel like a slug at the gym with all that food in ma belly?

    3. I calculated my macros and unless I did it wrong I'm at about 70 carbs (mostly veggie and some fruit), 200 fat, 100 protein. How much more of anything else could I take in?!

    4. In terms of upping the carbs, I guess I'm ok doing that with vegetables but definitely not going back to grains. They make me feel awful.

    5. In terms of upping the fat, don't I take in quite a bit already? I'm drinking oil in my tea and taking a spoonful of oil before the gym! I eat full fat everything, skin/fat on meat, etc.

    6. I really don't want to believe this is a medical issue so I'm hoping to try anything else as a fix before I see the doc. After all, I'm young an invincible! [Joke]

    Whoa there. Calm down on the fats and eat more protein and carbs. That's a lot of fat and too little everything else. No wonder your body is starving!! I would too if I ate like that.

    Primal is highER fat but even mark only eats about 55% of his calories from fat. You are overdoing fats the the exclusion of other nutrients.

    Carbs: fruits and tubers. Veggies vs grains aren't your only options.

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