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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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October 31, 2013

Managing Cravings: Strategies to Stay the Primal Course

By Mark Sisson
112 Comments

CravingsLast week’s “Why Diets Fail” post elicited some great discussion. There was a bit of everything – from wrangling to rallying, appeals to encouragement. It was the kind of conversation that, I feel, really makes the community. People are real. They put their experiences out there. From there the discussion, inquiry, challenge and support get going. It’s spirited and honest – doesn’t get any better than that in my book. I invite you to look back to the conversation yourself. For my part today, I want to address by far the biggest theme of that day – cravings. Your comments explored the issue from all kinds of angles. What do I do with cravings? Can I prevent them – pre-empt them in any way? Is it a bad sign if I have them? Do I need to give it time? Do I need to take a different approach? If I have them, does it mean eating Primally can’t work for me? Let’s take it apart.

First off, let me say this. I get the cravings experience. I truly get it. When I was doing the extreme competitive sports, I was eating more carbohydrates than you could probably imagine. A tub of ice cream in one day was not unheard of, and that was in addition to a whole myriad of grains and fruit and other carb/sugar sources. Yes, I got plenty of meat and veggies in there, but when you push your body that hard every day, you load up on thousands of calories – any way you can get them.

So, when I finally retired from the competitive lifestyle and the diet that fueled it, my body had its own transition to go through. I was never overweight, but the poor diet and overtraining took its toll in numerous other ways, including recurring bouts of fatigue, osteoarthritis in both of my feet, severe tendonitis in my hip joints, and gastrointestinal maladies to name a few. Something had to change. And it did, but it was rocky at times. It didn’t happen overnight. I held onto some things for a while – a bit of bread at restaurants, a helping of this or that at holiday meals. Eventually, I gave it all up. That’s what I found worked for me. With the effects on my body and digestive system, I just couldn’t justify it anymore. That said, I still remember the things I enjoyed back then. Even today I can look at a bananas foster and get a little wistful. Then it passes.

It’s important to say that not everyone has these kinds of cravings. Sure, no one is blind to what the rest of the world is eating. All of us here at one time or another used to enjoy some variety of unhealthy but insanely popular food. In fact, I’d venture to say just about every one of us had some favorite item – some piece of junk food so processed and kitschy that it feels almost unmentionable. (Go ahead, get it off your chest.) Still, not everyone continues to crave said unmentionable or any other old favorites. Some people, once they go Primal find over time that they’re totally satisfied and feel little to no interest in “indulging.” The longer they’ve been at it, the less tempted they are. Call it age, adaptation, whatever, but it’s probably a number of factors: physiological predispositions (or lack thereof), individual histories, personality traits, etc.

If you’ve been fully Primal for a while, the following strategies might not be as useful. Even some veteran Primal folks do, however, end up going through a temporary backslide during random life events or transitions (e.g. pregnancies with strange aversions/cravings, grief/loss with appetite issues, extreme life stresses, etc.). For those who are transitioning to Primal and for those who have been Primal but still experience cravings, these might be helpful.

Thanks to everyone who offered their ideas last week. Some points here echo/dovetail with those suggestions. Some will sound quite logical. Some will seem a little off the wall. I’ve worked with a lot of clients over the years and heard from thousands of MDA readers about their experiences and the paths they took to Primal. Collective strategies show the unusual underbelly of how to get from point A to point B and stay on course. For some, the path is straightforward and sensical. For others, it’s a quirkier, more imaginatively scenic road trip.

Accept that it’s going to be a journey toward personal idiosyncrasy.

Make no mistake: good eating is just as personal as bad eating. Maybe the better way to put that is it needs to be just as personal – if it’s going to stick. If your food line-up becomes a generic meal plan of shoulds instead of wants, you’re going to have a problem on your hands eventually. You need to find food you’re passionate about – that you look forward to eating. No, we don’t live to eat. That said, who wants to give up really great pleasurable eating?

Take radical care of yourself.

Seriously – bigger than life, indulgent care of yourself. So much so that you rest on the edge of guilt and would fall off the other side except it’s so nice for a change. It’s amazing to me how many people take on a new diet and change nothing else about their stressed out, sleep-deprived, unbalanced lifestyles. We’re setting ourselves up for failure if we don’t work with our bodies or if we exhaust our willpower. The hormonal helter-skelter caused by sleep deprivation won’t do you any favors. Likewise, going through 4 caffeine crashes in a day or living a life you have no desire to meet each morning is reason to pause and reassess. Food is powerful stuff, but it’s part of a bigger picture. Do other things to take care of your emotional and physical needs, and you’ll take pressure off your diet to fix things it’s not meant to fix.

Keep a transition food journal – the unrated version.

Yeah, as a trainer, I know the typical food journal “assignment” can be tedious and boring. I’d suggest taking a different approach here. Try to view this as an exercise in extreme self-honesty. (That’s where it all starts after all.) For the first week, write down everything you eat – and crave. No judgment. Put as many of your food thoughts and responses in there as you have reasonable time for. Let every quirk and odd association shine through. (If nothing else, it will be fun to look back on.) Be sure to include where/when the craving hit – and what spurred it (e.g. T.V. commercial for meat lovers’ pizza, neighbor kid with a fudgsicle, a crappy mood). For the second week, brainstorm responses to cravings, reasonable exits/avoidances from craving-associated situations/triggers and substitutions that sound good or almost as good for each craving. With that in mind…

Discern the real crux of your craving.

What do you really want when you’re craving your coworker’s tuna casserole or mac and cheese? Seriously. Do you want some hot comfort food? Do you want something that reminds you of your childhood lunches? Do you want cheese…salt…creaminess? What will fill that spot? Some really good cream based Primal style soup? Maybe not every single craving will respond to a strict Primal substitute. Do the best you can. If a bowl of buttered and salted peas will get you over the hump, then do it. If a bowl of mashed cauliflower “potatoes” with butter, salt and parmesan can sub for it, even better. Maybe some “meatza” or a grass-fed Polish sausage or hot dog (complete with some homemade ketchup) will give you the same “normal” food vibe.

Keep a major stash – of moderate recipes.

On that same subject, I think it’s crucial for most people to have plenty of recipes/food ideas that reflect some of their old favorite things to eat – just Primalized. That was the heart of the Primal Cravings cookbook concept, and I can’t tell you how many people tell me that book helps keep them on the wagon. When you just have to have a big juicy burger but feel like the meat patty falls flat on its own, try the crispy cooked potato slices as a better bun. The fact is, most of us agree that gluten free buns are a poor substitute, and there’s no nutritional value in them anyway. Crispy potato slices are just different enough to not disappoint but hit on the inevitable taste association most of us have of burger and fries. This is just one example among many in that cookbook and others, but the general point holds.

Keep plenty of substitute ingredients on hand.

Along the same lines, have plenty of ideas and plenty of ingredients to make whatever you might feel inclined to lean on in a craving fit. (Yes, I know it can feel like that – that sudden, intense and irrational mental flare-up.) Keep cocoa powder, stevia, and coconut milk on hand for when your chocolate craving has gone toof far. Or, better yet, some chocolate coconut Primal Fuel with just water and ice can really hit the spot. Keep alternative sweeteners in the cupboard and some fresh fruit and nuts in the house to make an impromptu Primal “fruit crisp.” Keep less starchy root vegetables for when you want healthier fries or chips. Create seasoning blends for said fries or meats that make you crave them even more. (I thought a good grass-fed steak was heaven until I started using a lavender and custom salt seasoning. Now I could eat it every day.)

Make an “eat this, not that” list – and have multiple copies.

Put one on your fridge. Put another in your car. Put yet another in your work desk. Have one saved in a folder on your phone. When cravings strike, don’t trust your memory to recall this information. That’s not how most of us work in those moments. We go into panic, one-track mind mode. A list means we don’t have to think farther than remembering we have the list itself. (You will likely forget the list a couple times, but that’s fine. Eventually, you won’t.)

Psyche yourself out of deprivation thinking.

We can say cutting out wheat or other unhealthy foods is depriving ourselves (as was raised last week), but I think there’s an important distinction to be made between depriving ourselves of things we need/things that are good for us and eschewing those things that don’t serve our well-being. Giving up something doesn’t automatically impose deprivation. Giving up cigarettes isn’t deprivation. While we might miss a French baguette, a smoker likely misses cigarettes. Sure, for most of us (don’t forget about those with Celiac Disease) a baguette isn’t as bad as a cigarette. Nonetheless, we’re still not doing ourselves any favors when we eat it. Sometimes taking certain things off the table entirely is necessary for health. Coca-Cola will tell you their soda can be part of a “balanced diet,” but that’s a b.s. brand of balanced. Intellectually reason with yourself here, but let it work on an emotional level. Picturing the round contours of the baguette and thinking of a bloated wheat belly can be one way to psyche yourself back to reality. Likewise, imagining the massive carb spike playing out in your body sending off inflammation alarms in every cell could do it for some people. It might take a more unsavory image or memory of last time’s fifteen trips to the toilet to make you turn away.

Look into physiological reasons for continued cravings.

Are you getting enough calories in your diet? What about protein? Do you have a history of hormonal issues? If not, it might be worth checking into. Oftentimes, even slight imbalances (on paper) translate into significant issues for the body. Carb cravings can be the result of adrenal fatigue, thyroid dysfunction, or yeast overgrowth, for example. Particularly if you experience significant fatigue, insomnia or other ongoing physical symptoms, see an endocrinologist or other specialist who would be willing to look at the hormonal and/or whole health picture.

Just eat it, but…

In the end, it might come down to just eating that object of a craving obsession. If you think a Primalized version can get you through, go for it. If not, eat the original. But don’t do it on the spur of the moment. Plan it. Dine with it. Eat other good healthy things with it (e.g. your favorite salad). Enjoy a nice glass of wine with it. Make it an occasion with other healthy foods/pleasurable elements to both fill you and distract you. The 80/20 Principle can work for you here, but be cognizant about how these things go for you. Does one indulgence set off a major backslide? Be prepared for what comes after if you decide to go there. (And try not to go there whenever you can.) Be ready, for example, to make a Primalized substitute of that food the very next day after you have the original. Cravings often come on top of each other. An old food can churn up a whole cycle. Eat the item, but cut off the cycle with all your favorite Primal foods and strategic substitutions over the next few days after that trip into old territory. Avoid the trouble and risk whenever possible by keeping variety and Primal craving-worthy food in your meal circulation.

Thanks for reading, everyone. What’s worked for you? How has knowing yourself – and organizing your strategies around that self-knowledge – helped you over some major humps in the journey? Throw your ideas and challenges into the mix on the board today.

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112 Comments on "Managing Cravings: Strategies to Stay the Primal Course"

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Groktimus Primal
2 years 10 months ago

If you’re craving it’s a good bet your carb intake is too high. Even wholefood carbs can be too high.

Battousai
Battousai
2 years 10 months ago
Yeeaaah….or it could indicate just the opposite (Hypothetical scenario: Someone with a daily CrossFit habit eats, say, 100g of carbs a day, craves carb-dense junk food constantly, reasons that his cravings clearly hint at a supraoptimal intake of “wholefood carbs”, decides to cut his carb intake down to 50g – turns into a zombie. Could it be that doubling the carb intake instead of cutting it in half is a better idea in a situation such as this?). Or a myriad of other things. Context matters. To quote Einstein:”Things should be made as simple as possible, but not any simpler.”
b2curious
b2curious
2 years 10 months ago

Then that person was not paying attention to something that has been said here, in several posts. Someone who is doing intense work outs may need more carbs on those days….

Battousai
Battousai
2 years 10 months ago

You are missing the point; the CrossFit-example simply serves the prupose of “fleshing out” my criticism of what I believe Groktimus` remark to be, namely unwarranted causal reductionism; whether or not MDA provides information about “Primal for athletes” is irrelevant in this context.

Sarah Geatz
2 years 17 days ago

Great post! A lot of great info, I bookmarked this page and well be using it as my guide.

Question.

Have you ever heard of if it fits your macros movement?

You combine healthy foods with non healthy foods as long as you don’t go over your macro limit of proteins, carbs, and fats. (Which make up calories)

What is your take on it if you have heard of it.

Thank you,

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[…] Last week’s “Why Diets Fail” post elicited some great discussion. There was a bit of everything …read more […]

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Gwen
2 years 10 months ago

“Do other things to take care of your emotional and physical needs, and you’ll take pressure off your diet to fix things it’s not meant to fix.”

Best.sentence.ever.

Seriously. Thank you for that!

Sarah
Sarah
2 years 10 months ago

I agree.

Teri
Teri
2 years 10 months ago

I agree it is the best statement and so true for me.

fitmom
fitmom
2 years 10 months ago

+1!!!

Baz
Baz
2 years 10 months ago

Yeah Gwen, that should be a T-shirt 🙂

KT
KT
2 years 10 months ago

Yes!!!!! That makes it sound so darn simple!!!!! Fully agree here! And yes to the t-shirt!

paleodog
paleodog
2 years 10 months ago

Gwen, well stated. I that when I take better care of my emotional needs and try to find out what it is that really “bugging” me the whole eating thing falls much more easily into place from a primal perspective. BTW you look like Betty White!

MattyT
MattyT
2 years 10 months ago

Stress and lack of sleep are powerful triggers…..

Mark P
2 years 10 months ago

+1

Stress and lack of sleep would do me in badly.

Also, upping my carbs increased my appetite a bit. however, I don’t see this as a bad thing. I went from feeling I could fast for days, to wanting to eat much more.

I think there’s nothing wrong with having cravings. It just takes some willpower and mindfulness to realize that you’re only human and it’s natural to feel this way, but the world won’t end if you pass up the indulgences. It’s kind of like a higher-state of thinking, food-wise.

Nocona
Nocona
2 years 10 months ago

Are we sure it’s natural and only human? Did american indians have this? Maybe they craved berries, honey, root veggies. But I just can’t see them going around most days craving.

Collin
Collin
2 years 10 months ago

American Indians craved those things because those were the best things they could get.

Nocona
Nocona
2 years 10 months ago

Collin, they went after liver and fat first.

People's Nutritionist
2 years 10 months ago

The Eat this Not that list idea is great. That way you can curb your craving without splurging on anything too detrimental. Stellar idea!

Sandy
Sandy
2 years 10 months ago
I don’t think I get cravings, but I do have times of the day that just feel like a snack would be tasty (often around 4pm). I’m not actually hungry, but just want to eat something. Now I grab a spoon, dip out some coconut oil, stick a few salted nuts in it and eat it…yum. That usually gets rid of the snack idea. If it doesn’t, I eat a few more nuts. I am trying to stop thinking of sugar and grain products as “treats” and instead think of them as “slow poisons”. So I don’t have a “cheat”… Read more »
Michael
Michael
2 years 10 months ago

I read this article and your comment while eating a cupcake.

I don’t care — it’s Halloween. All things in moderation.

Rich
Rich
2 years 10 months ago

All things?

I don’t think that works with heroin.

Chris
Chris
2 years 10 months ago

Actually it would if you eat it instead of injecting it. Heroin was sold as an oral cough medicine for a long time with very few people getting addicted until someone had the idea of injecting the stuff. As I understand it, the slower onset and lower peak effect greatly limit the addictive potential.

I still agree that “everything in moderation” is bad as a general principle.

Reventon
Reventon
2 years 10 months ago
I seriously hate both that statement “All things in moderation” and the automated snide, holier than thou response of “Sure, including heroin/cocaine/cigarettes/drain cleaner and rat poison mojitos.” Grrrr. [Begin Rant] PB is about one thing – INFORMED CHOICE. Do what you will with the information. If you want to eat a cupcake, then God Bless. They’re not for me, but as long you understand what it means in the context of your own eating and activity plan and have no problem including it, all cool. At the end of the day, it’s your body and your health outcome. Suggesting that… Read more »
John the Drunkard
John the Drunkard
2 years 10 months ago

I don’t know about heroin in cough syrups, but in Europe and the U.S. the most common form of opium addiction was in the form of Laudanum, a tincture of opium in an alcohol base.

Digesting opiates, e.g. oxycontin, may SEEM less drastic than injecting them. But people are dying by the thousands anyway.

Bob
Bob
2 years 10 months ago

All things in moderation……including moderation !

ajb
ajb
2 years 10 months ago

One trick I use when I’m stressed is to ‘pre-eat’. (Kind of like ‘pre-drinking’ but good for you.) So, if I sense I might break out the Haagen-Dazs, I will eat a large helping of broccoli, cauliflower, a steak, whatever. This tends to change my biochemistry enough.

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Denis Gobo
2 years 10 months ago

Good advice. I just did a 24 hour intermittent fast last Saturday and noticed that it really, really helps if you keep busy during the day. If you are just walking around being miserable and thinking about food, it will be really hard

Elisa
2 years 10 months ago

This is SO true! When I am at home, but still have stuff to do I tend to gravitate towards the kitchen more and more. If I am busy out doing things throughout the day I don’t really think about food at all.

Jason
Jason
2 years 10 months ago

Since going Primal I have a new appreciation for fresh homemade guacamole. I crave it and that isn’t bad, it’s just how to get it from the bowl to mouth. Nothing works like tortilla chips. I don’t even like the chips that much but the combination is snacking heavan…

Catherine W
Catherine W
2 years 10 months ago

Plantain chips?

Grokesque
Grokesque
2 years 10 months ago

We pop ours onto a steak haché (burger/beef patty?) !!

aly c.
aly c.
2 years 10 months ago

yes! plantain chips! trader joe’s brand is roasted in sunflower oil with sea salt. yum.

Kenny
Kenny
2 years 10 months ago

Carrot sticks work great as a crunchy substitute, and a good guac masks the carrot taste. Look at me sneaking vegetables into my own diet!

PrimalGrandma
PrimalGrandma
2 years 10 months ago

II put quac on my omelets, use sliced mushrooms or cuke slices to scoop it up, it’s great on steaks and there’s always this really great invention called a “spoon” that is a no-brainer for getting the quac from the bowl into the mouth.

I’ve also been accused of double-dipping by using the same chip over and over and just sucking the quac off the chip and re-using the chip. So now out of courtesy, I just suck the quac off the chip and throw the chip out and get a fresh one. Chips are cheap—–

Aria
Aria
2 years 10 months ago

Personally, I make my own tortilla chips by frying a corn tortilla in butter or coconut oil. It’s still not primal but we can at least avoid the manky vegetable oils.

Laura
Laura
2 years 10 months ago

bacon is a fabulous substitute for the chip

Deanna
Deanna
2 years 10 months ago

I’m a big fan of a spoon.

wendy
wendy
2 years 10 months ago

Sometimes I just have to sit on my hands and say “For the next 5 minutes, I’m not going to eat that candy sitting on my co-workers desk.” The craving passes, and then I’m ok. Until the next one…

Susan
Susan
2 years 10 months ago

Think about hydration as well. Some cravings are actually signs of dehydration. Try some water with lemon, cucumber, and mint. Very refreshing.

Lindsay
Lindsay
2 years 10 months ago

Every now and then I get a little reminiscent and long for a big old stack of french toast or eggo waffles covered in aunt jemima butter flavoured maple syrup (maple syrup like product)… and then I remember what’s in that stuff. I think it’s because it reminds me of childhood. Whatever comfort it would temporarily bring me would not be worth how I felt afterwards though!

trackback

[…] Last week’s “Why Diets Fail” post elicited some great discussion. There was a bit of everything – from wrangling to rallying, appeals to encouragement. It was the kind of conversation that, I feel, really makes the community. People are real. They put their experiences out there. From there the discussion, inquiry, challenge and support get […] Mark’s Daily Apple […]

Luke
2 years 10 months ago
I know for many people, myself included, it’s impossible to just have one of certain things. Seriously try to have just one chip! I think these are the foods that get you in trouble. We feel guilty that we did something wrong and think “why did I eat that.” I’ve worked with a lot if people who when that happens fall completely off and go binge on everything bad. As if one mistake ruined it all. I find there are other things if I’m craving I can actually have in an 80/20 context. Sticking with those foods and avoiding the… Read more »
b2curious
b2curious
2 years 10 months ago

I can eat just one chip. The trick is to have some “real” food available and ready. Then take the single chip and close up and and put away the bag, or leave it with whoever is eating them, throw it away, whatever, but get away from the rest of the chips. Then eat and enjoy the chip. Then go eat the food you have available and ready.

Trish
Trish
2 years 10 months ago

I’m one of those who can’t stop at one anything. I envy people who can. It has taken a long time to be able to pass the “sugar high” offerings people leave in the coffee room. The real test will be Christmas . . . .

Joshua
Joshua
2 years 10 months ago

The paragraph on taking radical care of yourself is such a lightbulb! I wonder though about the idea of planning and making a real meal out of giving in to the craving. I mean, if I turn my defeat by the meat lovers pizza commercial (for not the first time) into a nice meal, I run the risk of tying healthful emotions to unhealthful food. For me, better to wolf it quick and dirty and add a thick layer of extra shame to that pizza.

Zig
Zig
2 years 10 months ago

Thank you very much for this post; there are several things I can apply to what I’m doing to make things easier for myself (especially the “eating what I should” versus “eating what I want”, and allowing myself to relax on the edge of guilt.

So steak with lavender and custom seasoned salt. What’s in the custom seasoning????? I am trying to expand my seasoning palate, and have had difficulty finding ways to try to add lavender. Also, I always love to learn of new steak seasonings!

Myra
Myra
2 years 10 months ago
I’ve never done any “diet” because I’m not into deprivation. Paleo has worked because I never mentally deprived myself of anything. Instead, I mentally framed it as substituting delicious food for things that I should eat sparingly (i.e., eggs & bacon vs. cereal and fake milk; real fruit & nuts vs. dessert or other machine crap). In the beginning I also used primalized versions of old favorites, such as primal pizza. As I have evolved in my journey and understood first hand the effects of grains, dairy, added sugar and bad oils, it has become increasingly easy to visualize the… Read more »
Rick
Rick
2 years 10 months ago

In my experience, resisting a fall off the wagon hurts a little for hours, but climbing back on the wagon hurts a lot for days.

Patrice
2 years 10 months ago

Rick, I had to read that twice to get it….reminds me of saying:

“the pain of discipline weighs ounces, the pain of regret weighs tons”

Thank you.

Dr. Anthony Gustin
2 years 10 months ago

The 21 day challenge helped a lot of patients of mine!

Jesse
Jesse
2 years 10 months ago

The “Primal Cravings” cookbook by the Keatleys has been a Godsend. The ability to occasionally have pizza or baked desserts, particularly without having to use almond flour, brings joy. A life without pizza is its own punishment.

Nocona
Nocona
2 years 10 months ago

When I sat with my dying father for 7 days, I made sure I ate perfectly Primal. The results were astonishing. Whenever I have perceived stress coming on or am in the process of stress, I make sure my eating gets perfect instead of the opposite. Now I’m trained: Stress = better eating, sleeping. Now it’s become my trigger.

b2curious
b2curious
2 years 10 months ago

That is an excellent idea.

Marie
Marie
2 years 10 months ago

For me it’s all about sleep. I am lucky enough to have a schedule that allows for a quick afternoon nap when needed, but sometimes I get busy or forget to do that and it’s stunning what sort of cr*p I can hoover up instead. (Canned french-fried onions, anyone?) It’s also stunning how on days when I do make sure I’ve had good sleep I don’t even think about eating junk.

emmaclaire
emmaclaire
2 years 10 months ago

This is a great list! I love the idea of carrying a “eat this/not this” list with me at all times. As you said, when a particularly virulent craving hits, it’s easy to just react to it and choose something out of panic. A list would allow me to respond to the craving, not react to it, by offering myself several healthy choices. Thanks for the input!

Leah
Leah
2 years 10 months ago

Damn it! I didn’t know what a bananas foster was so I googled it. Now I’m craving one.

Patrice
2 years 10 months ago

Funny!

Shary
Shary
2 years 10 months ago
I like the section titled, “Just Eat It, But…” Falling off the wagon isn’t the end of the world. Don’t beat yourself up or attach too much importance to it. That can be counterproductive. In fact, it can cause you see yourself as a total failure and give up completely. Just make sure the object of your desire is really worth it. (If you give it some thought beforehand, you’ll realize that it usually isn’t.) Meanwhile, keep your goal in sight. Just because you gave in to a day or so of eating junk doesn’t mean the “primal door” has… Read more »
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[…] Last week’s “Why Diets Fail” post elicited some great discussion. There was a bit of everything – from wrangling to rallying, appeals to encouragement. It was the kind of conversation that, I feel, really makes the community. People are real. They put their experiences out there. From there the discussion, inquiry, challenge and… Mark’s Daily Apple […]

Patrice
2 years 10 months ago
I traveled and had a birthday recently. I fell off the primal wagon with just a few cheats: chili with beans, 1/2 piece corn bread, oatmeal, excessive dark chocolate (bars and mocha in coffee), 3 bites of cake, 1/2 apple pie and 1/3 creme brûlée over 5 days. Seemed relatively harmless, but amazingly enough a skin rash and swollen fingers has come back!! That was first thing to disappear going Primal. And my stomach is bloated. Crazy! It is just not worth it. And one cheat leads to another rationalization it seems….In 2 days of healthy eating my skin rash… Read more »
Mantonat
Mantonat
2 years 10 months ago
Some people say that cravings are a sign that your body needs something specific, but most of the time I find that its a result of boredom combined with convenience. Which is why I just don’t keep bad foods in the house. If they aren’t there, I don’t think about them. If I get into one of those cycles where I’m standing in front of the fridge with the door open, or poking through the pantry for something salty and crunchy, I’ll walk away pretty quickly once I realize there’s nothing immediately graze-worthy. If I’m busy and active, I don’t… Read more »
Shauna
Shauna
2 years 10 months ago
My office is the same way. The kitchenette looks like a Halloween clearance some days, and they seem to have stock in Panera for all the stuff they use them for catering. Some days, I just say “screw it” and will eat a donut (I’m a sucker for eclairs), but nowadays, if I eat even that, one is enough, and even on the verge of being too much sugar. It’s a far cry from how I used to be, where I’d not only eat something every time it was offered, I’d go back for more. The sick feeling I get… Read more »
Marti
Marti
2 years 10 months ago

So true! I can pretty much self-righteous my way through the bakery at the grocery store every time now. I just focus on my cart and what I see in other carts and stand a little taller. I swish my skinny butt past the baguettes with a smug smile. (and run like crazy for the door, before I change my mind 🙂

Ben
Ben
2 years 10 months ago

Best thing I heard, especially when adapthing to fasting was that hunger comes in waves, then goes. It doesn’t build and build and get stronger as time persists. It helped me

Phil
Phil
2 years 10 months ago
Thankfully my cravings for things I don’t eat have mostly disappeared, but what I used, when the talons of “I WANT THAT” had me in their grip, was to remind myself that eating it was “just not worth it” and it helped. Unfortunately my cravings haven’t disappeared completely, they’ve just moved to things I can eat 🙂 like heavy cream, nuts and certain fruits. Since I’m still in the process of getting used to listening to my body dictate it’s requirements – rather than my mind encouraging excess – I’m letting those cravings happen and weirdly enough, they’re getting less… Read more »
Hispanicgamer
Hispanicgamer
2 years 10 months ago
My comfort, binge, food was always Cheez-Its with Pepsi. My favorite thing was to get a bowl full of Cheez-Its and a tankard or Pepsi and play computer games. One day I noticed that my pants had shrunk (damn dryer!) but didn’t do anything about it. Fast forward 20 years later and still being overweight by 15 lbs. and running marathons but never ever seeming to get my weight to drop. Along comes someone telling me about the Paleo/Primal life and voila! weight lose! Effortless, like Mark says, I only had to stop eating grains and nothing else. I may… Read more »
Donna
2 years 10 months ago

yeah I find that once I feel the cravings, if I can get over the initial cravings, then I’m fine for a while. But that first 5 min window is tough to overcome.

Ryan
2 years 10 months ago
I’m nearly to “day 100” mark of my complete lifestyle change, that I began earlier this summer, and yeah, I get a craving here and there. Doughnuts, cheesecake, whatever. But I haven’t given in, because as silly as it might sound – it scares me to death that I’ll immediately regain the 40lbs I’ve dropped. As irrational as that sounds, it keeps me from going to the dark (and sweet) side. Listen, I don’t think people give themselves as much credit as they should. People are stronger than they think they are. So you get a craving – come on… Read more »
Maybeme
Maybeme
2 years 10 months ago

“…as silly as it might sound – it scares me to death that I’ll immediately regain the 40lbs I’ve dropped.”

Me too!

Deanna
Deanna
2 years 10 months ago
I don’t usually consider myself one for cravings, but discovering the Primal Blueprint has in some ways set me up for some serious psychological battles with food. Framing all non-Primal foods as something I “can’t” eat has definitely been part of the problem, and I’ll find myself saying, “But I’m choosing not to eat it” and then arguing “But you don’t WANT to choose not to eat it!” The stricter I try to be, the worse the conversation gets. Sometimes, just eating the damn cookie or pizza takes care of it. Other times, if I have a super-strong craving for… Read more »
Divided
Divided
2 years 10 months ago
Tonight I watched my kids empty out their Halloween haul onto the carpet. In amongst the chocolate and other things I’ve been able to avoid for nearly a month now was a little packet of parma violets. You probably don’t have those in America. They are tiny. You could probably inhale one and breathe relatively normally. My nan used to buy them for me when I was very small and I’ve always loved them. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parma_Violets I was stupid enough to try to replace the craving with a rice cake. Nuclear meltdown of a power plant is probably quieter than my… Read more »
Bill C
Bill C
2 years 10 months ago

Never heard of parma violets, but we do have smarties. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smarties_%28wafer_candy%29

Divided
Divided
2 years 10 months ago

We call those fizzers, although you’ll more often hear them called Swizzels because they are made by Swizzels Matlow.

Parma violets are the purple ones, but they have a stronger flavour, kind of like a lavender flavour.

Smarties are something else entirely – chocolate.

Diane
Diane
2 years 10 months ago

I find that if I eat a lot of protein, more than I ever thought I should, that I simply cannot stand the thought of eating anything when I’m not particularly hungry.

Adam
2 years 10 months ago

If you don’t already crave chocolate and can control portions of it, a nice piece or two of the dark stuff can really curb your appetite and manage cravings for other food.

I find this a good tool to suppress my hunger and allow myself to focus on other areas of my life. Works great!

George
George
2 years 10 months ago
I’ve been doing the paleo/primal thing for about four years, and I have a few observations from my own experience: -When I spend extended periods of time avoiding any cheats, with my diet dialed in, I feel great! My mind is sharp and clear, I have seemingly unlimited energy, I sleep better, my digestion is good, etc. This in and of itself is very helpful in convincing my brain to ignore random cravings for bad things when I get them. -Many times when I have gone back to old foods that sounded good, they were a huge disappointment. My conclusion… Read more »
Issabeau
Issabeau
2 years 10 months ago
I totally agree with you. Been primal for almost 4 years now (3 months to go) and it’s been tough at times. What seems to trigger cravings and weight gain for me is milk. I do not drink milk from the store (feedlot crap), I only purchase Raw Milk from a goat farmer. Although I was tested for allergies and nothing came back bad, I bloat and cramp every time I drink it. Milk also triggers cookies/cake/pastry cravings …. so the next week-end farmer’s market I end up buying a rhubarb pie with the excuse that it’s made in a… Read more »
trackback
2 years 10 months ago

[…] great thoughts on managing cravings. While it’s specific to primal eaters, I think the tips provided are solid and pretty […]

Stephanie
Stephanie
2 years 10 months ago
I like the Primal Blueprint in general because even though there are foods you avoid there are relatively simple (although not always easy or quick) ways to make the thing you are craving in a way that is far less negatively impactful on your body. I have only been eating this way for about a month now, but I have had a version of pumpkin pancakes, pumpkin bread, pizza and cupcakes now that are almost 100% on plan. They are higher in carbs to a degree- but I find I don’t need as much of them and just the fact… Read more »
Baz
Baz
2 years 10 months ago

After a while, I actually started to crave the primal foods instead.
Just yesterday I got a craving for canned mackerel and boiled eggs.
About a year ago that would have been granola bars or sandwiches calling!

It’s amazing how the body just adapts to “know” what it needs instead of assuming it “wants” junk.

Just keep grocking on you’ll get there!

marielleGO
marielleGO
2 years 10 months ago

I woke up with a strange craving for eggs this morning…
Made a massive omelet!!!

d
d
2 years 10 months ago

Sounds like your living the life 😛

mh
mh
2 years 10 months ago
After eating mostly primal for a few years, last year my husband and I decided to lower our fat intake and track our diet for a couple of months to drop a few pounds. The weight came off easily when I simply cut down my 1/2 cup of whipping cream a day and used a lighter hand with ghee and olive oil – strong support for the ‘fat-burner’ principle – my body had less fat coming in as fuel, so I burned my reserves instead. But the really weird thing was that out of the blue, I had an intense… Read more »
Sofie
Sofie
2 years 10 months ago

Liver is very nutritious, so maybe you were lacking something 🙂 Eating it regularly is a good idea.

marielleGO
marielleGO
2 years 10 months ago
Damn!!! Why did you have to give that last “just eat it” option!!! I have been battling a craving that I only have this time of the year. Only in this season with have these specific sweets available for on of the Dutch holidays. Chocolate covered cookies…. And I have been doing good so far but the craving doesn’t go away. Actually I crave all sorts of chocolate related things now I think of it… (I know it’s an addiction) but now the idea of those sweet with my nice Mead, a good book and tons of candles makes me… Read more »
JD
JD
2 years 10 months ago
There should be two different words, but for now I’ll describe the term high cravings as those caused by hormones, blood sugar fluctuation, or deficiencies. When I switched to a low carb diet I was getting lots of high cravings, the kind that would cause you to down a tub of ice cream in a single sitting. What I did for a week or two was if I got an inkling of a craving, or thought I might get one, no matter what it was for I would just overeat on fats and meats, sometimes tell I felt sick. Now… Read more »
Lisa Wolfe
Lisa Wolfe
2 years 10 months ago
I am a licensed counselor and practice Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. A major part of the treatment for most psychological problems is exposure and response prevention. That is, exposure to a feared trigger and resisting urges to do something that would provide momentary relief through avoidance. It has been scientifically determined that cravings are time limited; typically a single bout of craving lasts no longer than 7 minutes. This includes hunger pangs, urges to have a drink. The most important first step is developing awareness of the beginnings of a craving, then the ability to sit with the feelings/sensations involved, without… Read more »
Keir Houghton
Keir Houghton
2 years 10 months ago
Just returned home from dinner with a friend and funnily enough – there’s another timely and astute article from my friend Mark S – before I went to have dinner I resolved not to abandon my primal principles – but you know, I just didn’t have the willpower – I didnt go mental, but looking back i had paella (rice), beer (grains) and shared a knickerbocker glory (ice cream, disgraceful!). Shocking, I know my primal bro’s and sisters, i oughta be ashamed. But perhaps the stress relief of a good meal outweighs the bad behaviour! Either way – i can’t… Read more »
Melissa (a.k.a. The Cavechic)
2 years 10 months ago

The paleo diet is the only diet I’ve ever been on where I did not have cravings.

Logan
Logan
2 years 10 months ago
I think d best way to subside cravings is to change habits d ryt way… I dnt remember if i read this on MDA or Nerd Fitness, but d best way to change a habit is by creating a new SELF-IDENTITY… I thot i cud never let go of the wheat rotis (flatbread) and rice that is so common in India, but after a few months of moderating these things,i started thinking about myself as sum1 who DOESN’T EAT that, rather dan sum1 who DOESN’T WANT TO EAT that… creating identities works like a charm, at least it has for… Read more »
Beccolina
Beccolina
2 years 10 months ago
I can usually ride out cravings if I put my mind to it (ie, I REALLY want to), unless I’ve let myself get over-hungry. It”s been very hard since baby #4 (2 months old), because it’s hard to get my hands free on any type of schedule. When they do get free, I make food for the older kids first, and sometimes I get to mine, sometimes not. That’s when the temptation to eat four granola bars, or toast, or anything I can reach with 1 hand can get overwhelming. I also notice that I have worse cravings if I… Read more »
Kevin A Goldman
2 years 10 months ago
I am in one of those life “moments” where there have been multiple sources of stress and uncertainty. I have been for more than a year. I have definitely fallen off the wagon, which I never was fully on. I am slowly increasing the number of meals that I cook myself, which I am doing more now than ever before. I may still be eating badly (when out socially) too frequently for my taste, but I am working on cooking as another front to get back to the wagon. I can feel that my “bad” decisions affect me more than… Read more »
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