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

When Listening to Your Body Doesn’t Work

Hunger largely comes down to perceived energy and/or nutrient insufficiency. Your body thinks that it needs more calories and more energy, and hunger sets in to get you to eat the food that contains those nutrients. Now, if perception matches up well with reality – if you truly do need more nutrients – things are good. You need some food, you eat some food, and you stop when you’ve had enough. In this situation, listening to your body is a good idea. That’s what all those Primal people (including me) are talking about when they tell you to “just listen to your body, maaaaaaan,” because for those people, it truly is that simple. Eliminating the excess carbs, the refined sugar, the grains, and the processed seed oils while adhering to the other Primal laws regarding exercise, sleep, stress, sun, and all the rest was enough to right the ship.

But that’s not everyone. Sometimes perception does not match up with reality. Sometimes your body thinks it needs more nutrients when it really doesn’t, for a variety of reasons. This isn’t actually an example of your body lying to you, since your body “believes” what it’s saying, but the end result is the same: you eat something that you really don’t need. It’s a bit like how your friends and family who worry about you eating all that fat and protein try to push bran muffins and whole wheat pasta on you. They’re operating under a fundamentally broken set of assumptions, but they mean well.

So, why does this happen? What’s going on when someone’s sense of hunger is broken? When doesn’t listening to your body work?

When you can’t access your stored body fat.

Body fat is stored energy; it’s long-term, slow-burning fuel that our bodies love to use, and should be able to use very well. But what happens when you can’t burn it very well?

You burn sugar instead. After all, you need energy from somewhere, and research shows that those who have the most problem with hunger – the obese and the formerly obese – burn more carbohydrate than fat, whereas those who generally don’t have much of an issue with hunger – the lean – burn more fat than carbohydrate. Problem is, our ability to store glucose as energy is inherently limited and dwarfed by our ability to store fat as energy. We can store pounds and pounds of the latter, while the former is perpetually scarce. We can keep only around 100 grams of glucose on hand in the liver and 400 grams in the muscles, depending on their size. That won’t last very long, and once it’s used up, you need more food – especially if your ability to burn body fat is impaired. When you need more food, you get hungry. If your body is used to burning sugar, you’re going to crave sugar. The resultant sugar craving is very real, because sugar is what you “need,” but it’s not what you need.

So, if you’ve had success losing weight with Primal eating, but still have trouble curbing your appetite, this could explain why –  you may not be totally fat-adapted. You can, and likely will, but it will take time.

When you’re insulin resistant.

Remember how I said insulin is an indicator of nutrient availability in Monday’s post on carb feeds? Heck, some have even gone so far as to call insulin a “satiety hormone.” After all, it can cross the blood-brain barrier into the brain, where it interacts with various systems to tell the body that food has been ingested and is currently digesting, and that maybe you don’t have to eat for a bit. Of course, that’s only the case if you’re insulin sensitive. If you’re insulin resistant, your body/brain won’t get the message that insulin is trying hard to convey.

Thus, insulin resistance promotes hunger. You eat, and insulin is released, but your body tells you to eat some more despite the much-ballyhooed ability of insulin to act as a satiety hormone.

When you’re addicted to junk.

What if you weren’t actually even phsyiologically “hungry”? What if your body didn’t think it was missing nutrients or fat or carbs – but rather it just wanted another hit of that sweet, sweet junk food? Last week, I showed how our brains and bodies respond to pleasurable, tasty foods by secreting endogenous opioids – brain morphine, really – that, together with dopamine, cause you to want more of whatever food triggered those secretions. This wasn’t a problem back when we only had access to real, whole foods like meat, plants, fruits, nuts, and roots, because those foods didn’t act as hyperstimuli of our reward systems. They caused modest, appropriate opioid and dopamine responses in the brain, promoting repeated consumption but not compulsive overconsumption. Fast forward to today and it’s a very different world full of people doing odd food-related things that make absolutely no sense:

People eat cans of Pringles and become immediately disgusted with themselves for doing it. They’re repulsed by the Twinkie even as it makes its way into their gaping maw. They throw up in their mouth at the thought of  McDonald’s “chicken” nuggets, yet find themselves in the drive-thru after work, ordering a value meal despite themselves.

It’s crazy on its face, but it actually makes perfect sense at the same time, because our natural reward systems have been hijacked by a constant barrage of delicious (but gross) food. You want the stuff even if you currently have no physiological need for calories.

When you are compelled to eat junk, don’t listen to your body. Eat something Primal, something nourishing, something that approximates what you’re craving only using real food. So, if you want some Sour Patch Kids, grab some raspberries. If you want a Big Mac, go for a grass-fed burger over salad.

When you’re experiencing reactive hypoglycemia.

Normally, you eat some food, your blood sugar goes up, insulin rises to take care of the nutrients, the nutrients are partitioned to their respective holding places, your blood sugar normalizes, and all is well. You’ll get hungry again, only when you need the food, when your body truly needs an input of energy. In some people, however, eating food (especially carbs) causes the pancreas to secrete an inordinately large amount of insulin, way more than you actually need. Your blood sugar drops from its postprandial high, but the insulin goes above and beyond, and your blood sugar continues to plummet past “normal.”

Your body implores you to “eat, eat,” even though there’s no real need for added energy; it’s just that your low blood sugar is indicating a need for caloric energy. In people with well-functioning metabolisms, lower blood sugar generally matches up with a need for calories and nutrients. In the reactive hypoglycemic state, the two do not match up. Hunger is constant, but you’re not really nourishing yourself. You’re just eating to push up that blood sugar.

In one sense, listening to your hypoglycemic body is working, because eating carbs raises your blood sugar and you feel better. But in the long run, it isn’t working, because you’re eating more than you need to eat, you’re gaining weight, and you’re not fixing the situation. Sticking with foods that don’t elevate your blood sugar to such dizzying heights (protein and fat) should give you better control over your blood sugar.

When your sleep is bad.

I harp on the importance of sleep all the time, and I’m going to do it again here. Lack of sleep isn’t just bad for alertness, circadian rhythm regulation, stress hormone secretion, bags under the eyes, exercise performance, etc., etc.; it’s also a potent appetite stimulator. Furthermore, not sleeping also worsens glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity, meaning when you do (inevitably) eat, it won’t sate you and you’ll be more likely to store it as fat. You’re also more likely to eat junk when you don’t sleep, because it increases the brain’s susceptibility to food stimuli.

When you’ve had a bad night’s sleep and your body is craving food, eat. Don’t fast, because that’s just heaping one stressor on top of another. Eat something you know is good – pastured bacon and eggs, a Big Ass salad, some sweet potato. And get some sleep, so it doesn’t happen again.

In all these situations, we are faced with a decision to make: do we listen to our bodies and feel “better,” or do we ignore them and do what’s “best” for us? There are no easy answers. If you’re not yet a fat-burning beast, you’re in for a rough time. If your blood sugar gets low enough, you might faint. Ignoring your body’s cries to eat something probably isn’t a good idea in that situation. If you haven’t slept, you should probably eat, but not junk. At some point, however, saying “no” to your body’s signals or figuring out how to fix the broken machinery that’s precipitating the messages is going to be necessary. That’s where something like the 21-Day Total Body Transformation, which removes the guesswork from all this so that you follow an established framework, or the 90-Day Journal, which provides a foundation for doing your own “formal guesswork,” comes into play.

Your body may appear to be working against you, but it’s doing it’s best. It’s responding to perceived physiological needs, even if those perceptions are misguided and confused. Whatever you do, don’t despair. Don’t give up. You’ve got a great community here, folks who’ve been there and back again, folks who can help you get things moving in the right direction.

In future posts, I’ll be discussing some other instances where the body’s messaging should be viewed with suspicion, so stay tuned.

Now let’s hear how you guys have dealt with confusing hunger messages in the comment section. Until next time, take care!

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. Anthony wrote on August 1st, 2012
    • I lasted 5 minutes.

      PatrickP wrote on August 1st, 2012
      • I lasted when his head bobbled like a ragdoll at the 14 second mark.

        Billy wrote on August 1st, 2012
    • Thanks for the link. I am listening to it, and I find all science-based information useful. For example, the part where he says the problem with meat, if there is one, is neither the fat content nor the protein, but the bacterial toxins. Interesting. I’m not going to be going vegetarian any time soon :-) but I’m willing to listen to any serious point of view. You can’t stop listening after a few seconds and then say it’s nonsense.

      Mike wrote on August 2nd, 2012
      • Dr. Joel Wallach used longevity as the benchmark. Science based.

        Paul_S wrote on August 7th, 2012
        • Dr Wallach explains that if you double your carbs you need to double your dose of vitamins and minerals to stay healthy.

          Besides the 8 part video linked above. Check out Dead Doctors don’t lie. Doctors follow their own advice and live to an average of 56 years of age.

          Dr Wallach eats 6 eggs a day. Dr Stephen Dr. Phinney eats less than 50 grams of carbs a day.

          The science is behind Mark Sisson and his Primal blueprint. I am also a big fan of Mark and his excellent work.

          Thanks Mark!

          Vegans, not so much. Cholesterol is needed for brain function, it is needed to make estrogen and testosterone. Lowering cholesterol makes you dumber and steals you woody.

          Can 60 minerals reprogram the genes for male pattern baldness.

          Paul_S wrote on August 8th, 2012
    • I lasted 2 minutes – he lost me with the egg…

      Sally wrote on August 2nd, 2012
      • I listened with interest up until he described the study looking at the damages from animal fat….and the study used sausage & egg mcmuffin??? Honestly, there is soooo little animal meat in there after processing and way too much trans fat and sugar that cause and effect (the suggestion that animal fat is the problem) cannot at all be demonstrated. It actually makes for poor science! It also totally destroys credibility.

        Michelle wrote on August 2nd, 2012
        • ……..not to mention all the GMO soy :(

          Kenny wrote on August 4th, 2012
      • I listened with interest up until he described the study looking at the damages from animal fat….and the study used sausage & egg mcmuffin??? Honestly, there is soooo little animal meat in there after processing and way too much trans fat and sugar that cause and effect (the suggestion that animal fat is the problem) cannot at all be demonstrated. It actually makes for poor science! It also totally destroys credibility. No wonder people are confused!

        Michelle wrote on August 2nd, 2012
    • Yes, the doctor who is trying to help people and donates most of his earnings to charity is obviously a quack that reads 2000+ scientific articles a year. OBVIOUSLY. And the guys who run these websites begging you to buy crap and eat meat are in it for your health. Come on, I know you’re smarter than this.

      chelsea wrote on August 3rd, 2012
      • Chelsea, I’ll take the guy with the visible agenda over the guy with the hidden agenda any day. Furthermore, I’ve done the standard US low fat/high carb diet, the strict vegan diet and the primal diet.

        Primal diet works best for me.

        Believe no one, research everything, come to YOUR OWN conclusions.

        Matters not how much Paul Newman Foods gives away, I still won’t eat his ‘olive oil’ dressing that lists canola oil as the first ingedient.

        Besides, you can do Sisson’s program without buying anything from him. All you need to know is posted on line. Yep, it’s the soft sell that got me fascinated enough to read The Primal Blueprint and share it with my friends and family. My next buy was The Primal Cookbook.

        My overweight family was appalled with what Mark said about nutrition and claimed it couldn’t possibly work. Now that they’ve seen me go from 225 to 185 eating jalepeno’s stuffed with cream cheese and wrapped in bacon, they’re getting a little more curious. By Christmas I’ll be at 175 pounds with washboard abs, and the facts will be irrefutable.

        Kenny wrote on August 4th, 2012
      • Maybe we’re not “smarter than this”, but we are “healthier than you”.

        Nobody is making you believe anything you don’t want to. Why are you so hellbent on throwing stones at our unassailable results? Results that destroy anything that doctor says, regardless of how much money he gives to charity? Results that by this doctor’s own system of measure embarrass the outcomes of his own prescribed nutritional course? What is that your measure of scientific proof? How much a doctor gives to charity? Are you sure he isn’t doing so to ease a guilty conscience?

        Come on, I know you’re smarter than this.

        Deuce wrote on August 7th, 2012
    • The problem I think with this main stream thinking is that he is either a) getting a kickback from Monsanto, or b) doesn’t completely understand the science behind feedlot animals vs. grass fed animals. The two are not comparable, and therefore our bodies do not react the same to them. Most people eat your feed lot store bought processed meat. Part of the Paleo lifestyle is to promote grass fed, antibiotic/hormone free animals. Mark has posted on the VAST difference between the two as have other Paleo sites.

      Bek wrote on September 6th, 2012
  2. I like the details behind why/how different bodies work differently.

    I’m in the easy fat-burning camp – lots of swim-bike-runs longer than an hour will do that to you! But this gave me a better understanding of just how hard it can be for someone who’s still in the sugar-burning phase, and what they’ll go through in their journey to being a fat-burner.

    To fight hunger when I’ve needed to, I’ve used: drinking water (or heavily diluted juice-water), eating carrot chips (carrots sliced big enough to be shaped like potato chips), and allowing myself one-two bites of something better – literally putting a snack onto a plate and walking into a different room (or office) to eat it – then being done..

    Chris Butterworth wrote on August 1st, 2012
    • For me, there’s not much better than a few spoonfuls of my homemade guacamole when I get hungry at in inopportune time.

      Of course, a high fat snack will keep you from getting hungry sooner and It’s super duper delicious.

      Graham wrote on August 2nd, 2012
  3. The big challenge is to be able to switch back and forth from carb burning to fat burning at a moment’s notice merely with the power of your mind.

    rob wrote on August 1st, 2012
    • Can you do that? I mean, personally? If so, how?

      Anon O'mouse wrote on August 1st, 2012
    • Ha! I’m doing this RIGHT NOW.

      SK wrote on August 1st, 2012
    • smart arse

      j wrote on August 1st, 2012
  4. Great article, makes perfect sense!

    Bagwell wrote on August 1st, 2012
  5. Awesome info! I am a self-diagnosed hypoglycemic. However, when Atkins came out I ‘discovered’ that if I eat fat and protein for breakfast instead of a bagel and sugar-laden coffee, that my symptoms abated. Question: am I really hypoglycemic or is the body simply not conditioned to consume so many simple carbs? I notice that my husband who can eat bagesl, cookies, and donuts for breakfast, lunch, and dinner never suffers the low-blood sugar attacks that I experience when I eat a high-carb meal (which I never do anymore since learning of this condition). So, there must be something to this, right? Thanks!

    Ara wrote on August 1st, 2012
    • There is such a thing as nutritional food types. Your husband may be more of a carbohydrate type and is therefore more able to cope with a junkfood diet without immediate ill effects.

      I tried going vegetarian a few years ago, having mistakenly thought it would be a healthier way to eat. It didn’t work for me AT ALL. I felt weak, tired, and just plain crappy. I was hungry constantly and literally craved red meat. I subsequently found out that I’m a strong protein nutritional type. After incorporating more protein into every meal, as well as cutting out sweets and most grain products, I stopped craving carbs and started feeling much better. I have eaten this way ever since. It isn’t really a diet for me; it’s just the way I prefer to eat.

      Shary wrote on August 1st, 2012
      • Shary,

        I had the same experience when I went raw vegan back in 2007 for 9 months. I felt OK at first and quickly slipped into feeling weak, tired, horrible periods (heavy and painful), hair loss, etc.

        I thought I was doing OK eating a lot of plant based proteins, but that wasn’t enough. Though I’m not a fan of red meat, I craved grass fed steak and oysters the entire time and I don’t even LIKE oysters!

        Carla wrote on August 1st, 2012
        • Oysters(and other “shell” fish) are a very good source for zinc. It is also found in red meats. Zinc deficiency leads to fatigue, hair loss, slower healing etc. You were probably deficient in zinc.

          Christine wrote on August 1st, 2012
    • Rare Earths Forbidden cures Drs. Joel Wallach and Ma Lan

      Chromium deficiency associated with low blood sugar pg 307

      Vanadium deficiency associated with hypoglycemia. pg 412

      My graying hair and varicose veins are the idiot light for my copper deficiency.

      There are 17 other minerals proven essential to live long and prosper. Our soils were declared deficient in 1936 and its gotten worse.

      Paul_S wrote on August 7th, 2012
  6. I hate how much low blood-sugar (40 – 70) makes me want to eat. I’m getting better at ignoring the mad cravings and adjusting my insulin dosages, but still, it’s more art than science. I keep fruit around the house now (apples, canned pears, strawberries) to help.

    Rachel wrote on August 1st, 2012
    • I am finding this too Rachel with type 1 diabetes. The trick is to slowly adjust the insulin. Having very minimal carbs during the day, makes me require drastically less long-acting insulin both night and day. It’s an accummulative effect that requires constant monitoring.

      I find the longer I do without carbs though, the less and less insulin I require. I know as type 1 diabetes I will always require insulin injections, but it’s amazing how eliminating carbs has been the only thing to drastically reduce the amounts.

      Following the recommended dietry guidelines for diabetes management was constantly putting up my insulin every year – even when I was madly exercising to try to bring it down.

      The lynch pin was the carbs.

      Chris wrote on August 1st, 2012
      • I 2nd that Chris. I’ve been type 1 for 23 years and do the following to figure our where my fasting blood sugar is.
        I’m personally on a long acting (Lantus, 2 injections daily, 11am and 11pm ) and a short acting (Humalog). I find that to judge what amount of long acting I try to get my blood glucose down to ‘normal’ level before I take my morning lantus injection, making sure my short acting is near it’s peak it so shouldn’t interfere/reduce your blood glusoce after you start your fast. I then fast at least til 6pm and see what my blood glucose does in that time. I’m in the UK so I work on mmols, so if I start at 11am with a 5.0mmol glucose and my blood sugar rises to 11mmol I know that I need to raise my lantus by 2 units (1 unit for me drops the glucose by 3mmol ish). At night I’ll do the same and see where my BG is at in the morning.
        I will usually do this 2 days in row to get a more accurate idea.
        Periodically my body auto adjusts what amount of insulin is required so then your BG goes out of whack. I then use this method again and adjust or reduce insulin as required.
        For me these small changes to long acting insulin take 2 -3 days to register with my body so you should be patient. That’s how my bosy works but others may react slower/faster. I’d also recommend intermittent fasting. For me i find an 8 hour eating window works. This then combined with a steady in range BG means your BG can stay level for 2 thirds of the day.

        BG mmol to mgdl converster here: w w w

        greg wrote on August 3rd, 2012
  7. Very interesting indeed. I’m a skinny guy with a pot belly and my insulin is insanely powerful. As long as I eat strict primal everything is hunky dory, but if I fall of the wagon you have to tie me down and lock me in a padded room when my blood sugar/insulin craze starts.

    Jonas wrote on August 1st, 2012
    • Jonas, being skinny with a pot belly is often a sign of compromised liver function, as is poor blood sugar control. Supporting your liver health might be really helpful for you.
      A lipotropic liver supporting formula along with good liver detoxifying herbs would be some things to consider.

      Erin wrote on August 1st, 2012
    • There are 60 minerals needed to keep our systems in tune. We pee and sweat them out every day.

      Our soils are depleted so we can’t get them from our foods. I buy mine and it helps control cravings.

      Paul_S wrote on August 7th, 2012
  8. This post needs to go in the “Get Started” section for people struggling in the early days. I have personal experience with this kind of ravenous, unstoppable hunger and it’s a bear to fight. Looking back, I think most of mine was firmly rooted in the “sugar burning only” mode my body was in. I would literally crave bags of candy, and sometimes gave in because it was “fat free”–thanks but no thanks CW!

    I am part of an entire generation of women who are dying too young because of that whole low-fat, high-carb craze that made us hungry, fat, unhealthy, susceptible to inflammation and disease, and now at risk of early death. I am so grateful that my 18 year old daughter is learning better–she’s a primal crossfitter and won’t touch a low-fat pizza.

    Rhonda the Red wrote on August 1st, 2012
    • +1 on posting this in the “get started” page!

      MissJenn wrote on August 1st, 2012
    • +2 on posting this on the Get Started Page. This was hugely helpful for me.

      Tami wrote on August 1st, 2012
      • +3

        JLB wrote on November 23rd, 2013
  9. Your body giving a false message can also work the other way. I went on a one week, no carb, meat only diet (Dukan) and had absolutely no appetite during it, even though I was in serious calorie deficit. What’s the biochemistry behind that?

    Frank Sales wrote on August 1st, 2012
    • Mark,
      Can you do another post on this? I too find that I have the same problem. Sometimes going low carb, I am just not hungry at all. And yes, the don’t eat method can work, but for how long? I could go literally days of not feeling hunger.

      croí wrote on August 1st, 2012
      • i have the same problem…eat a meal of eggs and sausage and i could go all day and not get a hunger response.

        i know i need more calories but i don’t get hungry. i’m not over weight and don’t need to lose any…why don’t some of us have an appetite? are we getting anywhere near enough nutrients when we don’t get enough calories?

        melv wrote on August 1st, 2012
        • +1 to this comment. I work 12 hour shifts as an RN; I try to eat protein/fat/berries or sauerkraut or something vegetal before work. I often won’t get a break until very late-like 4/5 pm. I have noticed that I can go all day and not feel hungry. I have also done weight lifting sessions fasting, so I think (after about 10 weeks primal) that I am fat adapted. Yet I still have questions about whether it not I should eat. One, if I don’t get a break at all, I’m eating at like 8 pm and going to bed an hour later. So I have questions about eating right before bed vs IF-would the latter signal my body that we’re in famine mode and stop burning fat? I’m really confused about my choices at this stage in my paleo journey. To clarify, I’m about 10 weeks in, have lost about 30 lbs, have seen a significant drop in my triglycerides (127 down to 74) and am feeling a lot of the other benefits-better energy, better skin etc. does anyone have any insights as to what point you can start listening to your body for hunger cues? I would welcome any comments. (And yes, I am seriously looking for a different, less abusive job.) Thanks.

          BJML wrote on August 1st, 2012
    • I am having the same issue. I am never hungry, eat only out of habit.only egg breakfast.?? still gettign fatter by the day?

      tcseacliff wrote on August 1st, 2012
      • I have the same issue. In fact, after breakfast (2 eggs, veggies, meat) I am sick for hours. Not eating junk – only eating primal. Seldom hungry, not losing weight. I am forcing myself to eat and tend to get about 1500 or so cal per day.

        deby wrote on August 1st, 2012
      • I did a weight training diet that was very low card, protein high supposed low fat but it did include a little animal fats. It was a weight & measure thing to build muscle & lose body fat. I also had to eat the set amounts 5-6 times a day and it nearly killed me to eat the volume of food required (and i hate salad so picked the cooked veggie options instead) I lost too much weight and did not build as well as I had hoped as I just could not train enough. Prior to that I ate not much junk anyway but enough that I added a few extra kilos over time. I dropped 6kg in 3 months ( I was 46, 57kg at start, 163cm). I am not or ever have been a ‘foodie’, and not motivated by food, have over the years gone days without eating, and I have found not eating can be as much bad habit as overheating. I have never had a food issue but don’t eat when I am stressed.
        Anyway – sometimes we have to set a new food pattern to break an old one, and that’s not easy! CW verses PW (primal wisdom) still means be flexible, keep trying something different if something does not work. I would make myself eat 3 times a day to get away from not eating at all or eating once a day (did that for years and it was not healthy at all!).

        Michelle wrote on August 2nd, 2012
    • I have the same concern. Actually this is the reason I don’t do primal anymore – it totally and completely shut down my hunger and I became concerned that I was malnourished because my food intake was so low. With no appetite, I just couldn’t bring myself to eat that much. This went on for months (I thought if I kept with it long enough it would stop). I ended up about 10lbs underweight. It caused me to experience insomnia for the first time in my life (the insomnia hasn’t stopped even though I gave up being strictly primal nearly a year ago).

      Would love to hear your thoughts on this, Mark. It’s a topic I have never seen addressed. It prevents me from unequivocally recommending paleo/primal to my friends.

      MKK wrote on August 1st, 2012
      • For the people who are experiencing no appetite from primal/paleo.. are you all working out regularly? Just curious.. I always work out in a fasted state (early morning) and am quite hungry afterwards.

        mars wrote on August 1st, 2012
        • I never have no appetite which is probaly why I’m skinny. I never get sick so never even lose it that way. I was even hungry giving birth. This is so whether I eat “clean”, whether I give up brown carb and eat primal or whatever. Even when I have very stressful days abroad giving 7 hour talks to stranges in obscure countries when you’d think nerves might play apart… I still want food. I look on with jealousy at the people who lose appetite but perhaps I just have an efficient body and should be grateful for it.

          What is clear is if I’m careful I do lose weight and much more importantly feel happier and healthier when I eat good foods and my lapse for the last year led to weight going on and am a sugar addicit so no trouble over eating on that and even now sometimes on fruit.

          It is not problem for me to eat 1000 calories of pecan nuts or 350 grams of blueberries. It all gets rammed in. Chicken? Great, let’s have a leg, then breast, let’s have some more.

          Not snacking which is a key thing to avoid for sugar addicts always helps but is hard for me.

          I do want more research into women and food, women who have PMT as I do, women who aer having babies, b reastfeeding. Women in menopause but not taking HRT or other drugs. Women post menopause.

          I have a feeling our male ancestors were out hunting and often finding nothing and often not eating, whereas women were digging for roots and fruits and insects and eating a lot more often (and probably doing most of the work and providing most of the basic food as hunters often come back with nothing)

          EnglishRose wrote on August 4th, 2012
      • I never had a real issue with hunger, but I found that increasing my fruit intake increased my appetite. I could eat a lot more meat in one sitting when I had fruit in my diet, then when I took it out.

        Food for thought.

        Eytan wrote on August 1st, 2012
      • What exactly have you been eating? Are you confusing primal with low carb? Because you can eat carbs and still be primal (sweet potato for example).

        Lizzy wrote on August 2nd, 2012
    • I just finished a Whole 30 and this was my experience throughout. No appetite or, worse, nausea but never real hunger.

      Anne wrote on August 1st, 2012
    • I would also love a response to this. I have the opposite issue. I have never been a high-carb-er, have difficulty eating enough, not too much. I just started eating a potato in the evenings because I have been very-low-carb-ing for a long time but not deliberately.

      If I don’t pay attention, I will eat between 15 and 35g of carbs a day. It takes effort to add in enough carbs to keep me from starvation-mode symptoms like hair-loss, low thyroid and adrenal exhaustion and the ridiculously long list of symptoms that go with that.

      I breastfeed as well, and this doesn’t seem to increase me appetite or cause carb craving at all except for the first few months, but then, I’m back to not feeling like eating any.

      My caloric intake is not low, to be clear. My body’s signalling has kept me on too-low carb-intake. After reading at Stefani’s blog ( ) about fasting and low-carb-eating and their effects on the female body, I am overriding those signals with my intellect to ADD carbs. :/

      After two days of scarcely getting 112g of carbs in, I am sleeping better and feeling better overall, regaining ground I lost in my adrenal/thyroid recovery from a week of extra stress and sleep-deprivation.

      I wish there were more info for women specifically, because somehow I’ve been eating in a way that is ideal for most men, but really detrimental for most women, and apparently me. :(

      Imogen wrote on August 1st, 2012
      • imogen – thank you for linking and sharing. I’ve been avoiding the MDA for a few months because the seesaw of my experience was on one hand, great (lost weight, gained energy) but some other effects I was stumped by. Distressed by actually.

        But Stefani’s blog looks fascinating. Thanks!

        j wrote on August 1st, 2012
        • Hi there! Please come by our community if you think it would help! We’ve got lots of self-love and health and nourishment on our minds, and would be happy to welcome you. :)

          Stefani wrote on September 9th, 2012
  10. As someone who’s struggled with hypoglycemia, I appreciate these points. And thanks so much for pointing out that sleep deprivation screws with your body’s signals. I have a hard time remembering that when my cravings get out-of-whack.

    Anne wrote on August 1st, 2012
  11. Wonderful article!! I read it a few times to let it all soak in…Can’t wait to share this information!!

    Beth wrote on August 1st, 2012
  12. Ok, the Sour Patch Kids reference made me laugh. Wasn’t I just thinking about eating something sweet like that?

    I ended up making a Blue Mango green tea instead.

    Not quite the same, but certainly loads better for me than candy.

    Happycyclegirl wrote on August 1st, 2012
  13. For myself, whenever I feel an intense craving strike, the first thing I do is think about what I have eaten in the last couple of days. More often than not, I’ve left something vital out. I only stock my refrigerator and cupboards with Primal foods, so lucky, the worst I can do is go on a black berry or almond butter bender for a few minutes. 😉

    Lea wrote on August 1st, 2012
    • ^ So true. If you think ahead even when the worst happens its not all that bad. I mean berries and almond butter are fairly self limiting in their own right.

      Scott wrote on August 1st, 2012
    • Be careful with the almond butter. Like most nuts, almonds are high in inflammatory O-6 fats. Just 1 T of the almond butter has 1.9g of O-6 fats. No one knows exactly what a healthy amount of O-6 is to eat, but it’s a fact that in the 1930’s, Americans ate about 15g of O-6 fats daily, and there wasn’t yet an epidemic of inflammation-based diseases (arthritis, heart attacks, certain cancers).

      The O6:O3 ratio in the 1930’s was already 8.4:1, while our Neolithic ancestors ate a 1:1 ratio, as far as we can tell. Given that we were probably born with damaged systems after 3-4 generations of poorly-advised eating, we probably don’t have the metabolic slack to indulge in a high O6:O3 ratio for very long.

      jake3_14 wrote on August 2nd, 2012
  14. Eat a tasty meal and sleep? Twist my arm why dontcha!

    Paleo Bon Rurgundy wrote on August 1st, 2012
  15. I think you need to copyright “Big Ass Salad” :)

    Groktimus Primal wrote on August 1st, 2012
    • I was thinking the same thing :)

      Nancy wrote on August 1st, 2012
  16. It is amazingly powerful to know how to listen to your body! I’ve experienced the hypoglycemia and cravings since I have PCOS. Going primal has allowed me to listen to my body and begin healing myself. This has been one of the most important changes I have made in my life and cannot imagine gong back to a SAD diet or lifestyle.

    Stormi wrote on August 1st, 2012
  17. Lots and lots of protein. Fat does not satiate me at all. Also, avoiding at all costs combining carb and fat. That’s a recipe for eating twice as much as lean protein and carb. I really, really tried with fat, but just like sugar, it is a caloric no return nutrient for me. I feel the best on meats without added fat, skim dairy and no sugars (no fruit as well), but eventually I get depressed.

    leida wrote on August 1st, 2012
    • I won’t go as far as what you say, but I found when I upped my protein intake, it seemed to get me to satiety more decisively. My protein intake actually was a bit below what PB recommends and I didn’t realize until I tracked for a while.

      The other thing along with lack of sleep is too much stress. I got some bad news today and found myself reaching for chocolate and more chocolate…

      Tom B-D wrote on August 1st, 2012
  18. So important…sometimes I slip up and my body DEFINITELY lets me know it isn’t ok…I get really grumpy with gluten, my gut nearly blew up after snacking on some quesedilla’s the other day and other lovely side effects…oh and my 3yo goes CRAZY with gluten.

    My biggest challenge, is definitely the sleep…which is an issue that is caused at least in part by too much coffee in the morning … but my competing commitment is to be awake and present for my three kids and it just feels like a need so much of the time.

    Working on making enough meatballs that I have a supply on hand for these moments for a healthy snack…hard to do the bacon with my wiggly 1yo in my arms.

    Kristin wrote on August 1st, 2012
    • Cook bacon in the oven (400 about 10-15 minutes) comes out perfect and no flipping required. Much easier when dealing with young wigglers. :)

      Angela wrote on August 1st, 2012
      • Oh I love cooking bacon in the oven. We actually cook a whole pound or two that way (organic and no nitrates), store it in the fridge, and then heat it up as needed in a small convection oven (with a heater/fan in the lid). The Pyrex baking pan has to be soaked which is why I like to cook a big batch. We got rid of the microwave years ago.

        Roberta Saum wrote on August 4th, 2012
    • Oh, I am so with you with having little ones and truly needing coffee. I’m drinking it right now, and it’s four in the afternoon here. I figure, I do what I can. I’ve got the food down, I’m getting there with the exercise and stress reduction. I’ll get there with the caffeine someday.

      rabbit_trail wrote on August 1st, 2012
    • I sympathize on the sleep issue. I have the stress of long-term unemployment (10 mo.s and counting), and getting a full night of sleep has eluded me for months. My food is OK during the day, but come the evening, I’m prone to grazing. It’s been mostly paleo foods, and I’m grateful I haven’t packed on the pounds.

      jake3_14 wrote on August 2nd, 2012
  19. If I listened to my body I would lie in bed and eat bonbons all day.

    onewomanband wrote on August 1st, 2012
    • Me too, except make that cheetos and chocolate frosting.

      rabbit_trail wrote on August 1st, 2012
    • I know THAT feeling!!!!

      greenruby wrote on August 1st, 2012
    • Absolutely! Except for me I’d be in the contradictory situation of lying in bed, trying to sleep while guzzling yummy hot coffee!

      Kitty wrote on August 1st, 2012
    • Oh yeah.

      Greta Blamire wrote on August 1st, 2012
    • +1 completely.

      LESLIE wrote on August 2nd, 2012
  20. There are other hormones in play re: appetite, at least for us ladies.

    I have at least one PMS day a month where I have to just ignore my body, because I get no satiety signals at ALL.

    fitmom wrote on August 1st, 2012
    • Yep!

      Dena wrote on August 1st, 2012
    • I’m the same. Between one and four days each month, and it’s torture. Absolutely miserable unending hunger.

      DeeDee wrote on August 1st, 2012
    • Me too!

      MissJenn wrote on August 1st, 2012
    • My wife gets that day, too. We call it ‘steak day’. I use it as an excuse to go wild (paleo wild!) in the kitchen, making comfort foods, as well as trying out new creations. I basically don’t stop feeding her until she tells me to stop, or until I pass out.

      Erok wrote on August 1st, 2012
      • You are a good man, Erok!

        mab wrote on August 1st, 2012
      • How sweet!

        greenruby wrote on August 1st, 2012
      • You are the man Erok!!
        ! Made me laugh out loud.

        Bex wrote on August 1st, 2012
      • Erok, How do you feel about renting yourself out as a chef for paleo women, one or two days a month? Think we are all jealous of your wife!

        Tansy wrote on August 2nd, 2012
    • Me, too!

      Angela wrote on August 1st, 2012
    • Me too! For a solid week before the day, ALL I want to do is eat. And eat. All Primal stuff, because I am now happily creeping up on 4 months Primal, but STILL. I listen to the hunger to a point, but if I didn’t put on the brakes, I’d eat instead of sleep.

      Nicole wrote on August 1st, 2012
    • 1 REALLY, you are so blessed. I have a week!

      LESLIE wrote on August 2nd, 2012
  21. Wow! Great article there today .. I learned a lot and there is much about this that I need to get in my Primal Game. Thanks Mark!

    Rob wrote on August 1st, 2012
  22. I really appreciate how the last two MDA posts are about how paleo eating in itself is not always the perfect or final answer.
    Health benefits ensue even if weight loss does not, but for many insulin resistant people (including me) paleo is not panacea for weight loss.
    Understanding that carb cycling may be required, that estrogen loss along with fat loss can upset the hormonal balance for some time, and that cravings can still crop up even when a person is 100% compliant over a significant period of time (among other things), is necessary to get past the plateaus and perceived sense of failure. Mostly, that ‘faileo’ can still be physiologically driven, and thus an integral part of the process, and tweaking is required.
    It is not a personal failure of the person to adhere strictly to the paleo way of eating and living. It is still the body’s way of speaking to us. We just have to figure out how to respond, and I think we’re still learning (with Mark’s help) about the various mechanisms at play and how to respond.
    Anyway, it is the encouragement I need to keep at it.

    Andrea wrote on August 1st, 2012
    • Most of us didn’t start our life eating this way, otherwise things such as sugar or grain cravings may not be an issue at all. We all bring a varied history into this life change and sometimes this history comes back to haunt us, in the way of cravings and temptations. If you never ate chocolate in your life, why would you be tempted to eat it, or crave it? Paleo/Primal is not supposed to be the “answer” to or for everything. But I can’t help noticing in my life, and others who comment here, the more they follow it, the better the results.

      Anthony wrote on August 1st, 2012
      • Two generations here to speak to this, Anthony! I raised my daughters with no sugar (besides the stuff in foods, because we didn’t know better in the 80’s), and only when they got into school were they introduced to it. And not by me! I wasn’t aware of grain issues and the rest until about five years ago.

        Point is: my girls never asked for cakes, donuts, etc. because they never had them. When I baked, I used honey, and it tended to be veggie breads and cookies with (shudder) unbleached, whole wheat flour. After they were exposed to the other kids’ treats, I had to be like a jailer to keep them out, so I just tried to limit them.

        But me? I was raised during the height of changing from real, whole foods to processed non-foods. I remember the first TV dinners… etc. I have been a sugar-burner my whole life, without realizing it.

        Fast forward to now: I’ve been Primal for three years. My daughters saw my health gains, but continued to chant the CW Mantra. My son-in-law is now a convert, and I have high hopes for my grandchildren being raised with healthy lifestyles!

        Becky wrote on August 8th, 2012
  23. I tend not to eat enough and have to constantly make sure I keep my intake up, especially greens so many of these points resonated with me.

    I got so sick of hearing the ‘listen to your body’ mantra that so many people spout as justification for eating a brownie that once I told someone ‘yeah, like a addict’s body tells her to crave heroin. I don’t think so.’ We have to be informed and so conscious of what we eat if we are to remain healthy in this non-primal world.

    Alison Golden wrote on August 1st, 2012
    • ‘yeah, like a addict’s body tells her to crave heroin. I don’t think so.’

      perfect! I always want to say just because you want it, doesn’t mean your body is needing it!

      Graham wrote on August 2nd, 2012
  24. Ok, I get what’s being said. I’m insulin resistant and I’ve been eating primal for 18 months and seeing a looooong, sloooowww improvement in my insulin and blood sugar levels. Cravings have gone way down. The problem I now have is craving fat. Just gave up dairy 3 days ago because I was abusing butter (grass-fed) and cream because I craved it all the time. What does this mean because I have no idea!

    Julie wrote on August 1st, 2012
    • Love how you admit “abusing” butter and cream. I was there too. Finally cut it out a couple weeks ago. My skin had gotten better without it and worse with it. Now it’s better again. Can’t help you with your cravings but I do sympathize. I simply feel like eating most of the time. That’s how i got fat in the first place. Don’t know where I fit as far as insulin sensitivity goes, but I do know I have to count calories to not gain weight. Blasphemy, I know. Paleo 1 year. Good luck.

      Jennn wrote on August 1st, 2012
      • Counting calories is NOT blasphemy! I track EVERYTHING I eat on my phone with an app. Not only to keep calories in check, but also fat/protein/carb grams and fiber, sugars, sodium and vitamins. Just because we’re primal/paleo doesn’t mean we can’t overeat. I’m only 5’2″ so I don’t have a lot of “room” to overeat! Also, there is such a thing as too much fat and protein…

        mars wrote on August 1st, 2012
        • I track, as well! I like to make sure I am getting enough protein, and I’ve learned that my calorie count matters, too.

          I abuse berries in heavy cream. Put on 3 lbs last week. I realized where my error was (sadly, but thanks to my app) and I have 2 down, and one to go.

          Nicole wrote on August 1st, 2012
        • I totally agree. Eating too much “good” food does not help a bit. Eating the right amount, having discipline, and giving yourself a break from food is good. My doctor had me stop eating processed sugar years ago because of adrenal fatigue and insulin resistance and I’ve felt great ever since. I’ve never been a fast food or snack eater so I’m not even tempted by that stuff. I LOVE simple home prepared food. I grew up on it and it’s stuck with me for 51 years :)

          Roberta Saum wrote on August 1st, 2012
      • Agree -counting calories is not bad -unless that’s a real chore for you. I’m a total data hound… it makes me happy to enter what I ate, the exercise I’ve performed… my weight, in CRONoMETER (great web-based program)… and look at several weeks’ worth of data. You can extrapolate so much! What’s missing? Where did I go overboard? I was really crabby that day -what did I eat? What nutrient is missing? Fascinating. But my wife, for example, could’t be bothered, so I get it.

        Stéphane wrote on August 2nd, 2012
    • Maybe it is not fat, but dairy. I went through a period of serious cream and butter cravings. I could easily drink 2 cups of cream at a sitting and want more. I cut out dairy and switched to coconut oil and grass-fed tallow. Delicious, but I don’t CRAVE it like I do the dairy. There’s something special about dairy!

      Lal Beral wrote on August 1st, 2012
      • Sounds like a lactose or casein allergy-addiction.

        Clark wrote on August 1st, 2012
      • Like you I just love double (heavy) cream. I can drink it from the carton and butter is delicious with lots of things. Unfortunately I have come to the conclusion that I will have to give them up.

        Annakay wrote on August 2nd, 2012
  25. While driving cross country I had time to observe what happens after I eat something. I ate only food I brought myself, and it was all low carbohydrate fare like pemmican or lettuce wraps. I kept the food in the back of my truck so I could only eat when I stopped for gas. Usually an hour or so after eating I would get really hungry for a while. Then it would subside. I wonder if that is reactive hypoglycemia? I’m finding that I’m fighting hunger right this minute and it’s about two hours after breakfast. Breakfast was meat and vegetables. So, if I can just not give in, I ought to feel okay in a half hour or so. Is there some way to cure this kind of hypoglycemia? It is really annoying to be so hungry so often. I’ve been on this diet for a year now and have lost plenty of weight, but hunger still dogs me.

    Diane wrote on August 1st, 2012
    • I find that, if I am eating enough fat with every meal, drinking a glass of water afterward staves off hunger. I feel like my body is telling me it needs water to process everything. That’s just me though!

      Carrie wrote on August 1st, 2012
    • the same thing is happening to me where I get oddly hungry about 2 hours after a meal. At first I thought it was because my meal was too small but even with a BIG meal it still happened and I’d be spooning almond butter into my mouth. Not a good way to loose weight, perhaps I’ll try and tough it out, and then feel satisfied once I start to digest. I think this may be the case since the hunger wanes off later for me as well.

      Liz wrote on August 1st, 2012
    • I second the extra water protocol. My foods have a lot of water naturally (except the meats), so it’s easy to not drink enough with a meal. I make sure to get 1C of water down in the hour after the meal, and it’s helped with the post-meal hunger, both immediate and at the 1-2-hour mark. But like Diane, I have reactive hypoglycemia, and sometimes, chewing on two sticks of SF gum is the only way to cope.

      jake3_14 wrote on August 2nd, 2012
  26. Another time I’ve noticed ‘fake’ hunger is when quitting smoking. I’ve heard many stories of withdrawal symptoms being mistaken for hunger.

    Sarah wrote on August 1st, 2012
  27. Help – hey guys, does anyone ever have the feeling after they eat that they’re never truly full? I’ve been eating Paleo for a while but occasionally (weekends) binge to get that feeling of satisfaction. It’s usually high carb crap and sweets. I can’t seem to kick it…which just isn’t me. Anyone else go through anything similar? I’d love to get over the hump!

    Ryan wrote on August 1st, 2012
    • I understand to a point. I find that (family) BBQs are the place where my satiated button gets lost. I’ll eat until I think I look like a glutton getting up to get more. Sometimes that’s on my 4th trip to the grill. I am not proud, but I’ve accepted this flaw, and my only solace is that everything I eat is still Primal. It must be due to my years-long habit of being very good during the week and being an animal on the weekends.

      Perhaps if you tried filling up (I cannot in good conscience suggest binging) on more Primal foods? Dark chocolate and fruit if you really need the sweets?

      Nicole wrote on August 1st, 2012
    • That’s totally me! If anyone has any ideas how to get over that, I’d love to hear’em.

      kimmypoo wrote on August 1st, 2012
  28. I’ll be careful about listening to cravings when it comes to fast food/junk food.

    But I have experienced good things after eating a pizza, or getting wings laden in HFCS hot sauce when I really felt I wanted it. The cravings to eat these things again are minimal for me fortunately. The bready parts didn’t do anything for me, and I had no desire to eat any more of it, which was cool.

    Kamran wrote on August 1st, 2012
  29. Great read! I’ll be sharing this with everyone with whom I’ve been trying to explain the importance of understanding insulin.

    Nathan wrote on August 1st, 2012
  30. I used to have really bad reactive hypoglycemia and now, even if I carb binge, I don’t get that problem and here’s why: Generally each day I stay in ketosis and I also do CrossFit. Breakfast is normally eggs/meat; post workout is normally a protein shake with almond milk; lunch is cold meats, cheese, olives, nuts/coconut; dinner is something meaty or very similar to lunch. When I stay in ketosis for more than three days, I see my satiety go WAY UP (as in I can’t make myself eat sometimes) and then if I have a high carb day, I don’t have any hypoglycemia problems which I think has to do with already having such easy access to my own fat. It’s like when the carbs are all burned through (which I think CrossFit helps with)my body is like, “alright, back to fat.” and that’s the end of the story. It took a while for me to get here but I’m so glad I did. Also… fun fact: In ketosis, I notice that my stomach gets very flat – LOVE!

    Emily Mekeel wrote on August 1st, 2012
    • After nearly two years of being primal and not really seeing much change in body fat (naturally skinny guy, slightly high body fat 18-19%) I have finally worked out that having a carb binge once or twice a week (after a big workout) makes all the difference. Hunger comes back, body fat goes down.

      Your comment, “Alright, back to fat” is spot on. Low carb is great, but a carb refeed every now and then seems to reset the system.

      JpGrok wrote on August 1st, 2012
  31. Hi. Just read today’s post and the part about feeling faint because of low blood sugar jumped out at me. I’ve been pretty primal for a couple of years and have lost all the weight I gained eating low fat for years. My weight has been stable for about two years now and suddenly the scales are creeping up and I have been having moments where I get dizzy and almost pass out. Its scary. Makes me wonder if for some reason I have quit burning fat as fuel. The only changes I have made recently have been to cut back on brown rice and eat a few berries. Argh. Any ideas?

    Lorraine wrote on August 1st, 2012
    • Hey Lorraine, I don’t have a great answer for you except to note that if I overeat on fat, the scale starts creeping upwards. Have you tried intermittent fasting? Probably not a good idea if you’re having any dizzy spells, as Mark says, but you may want to try it. If you hate the idea of skipping a meal, you may not be fat-adapted yet. (This coming from a person who never thought skipping a meal was possible until a few months ago.)

      Maybe cutting back on the rice has stimulated some systemic changes that will hopefully be temporary. I used to get that crappy, dizzy feeling regularly when I was not eating low carb but it’s mostly gone now. However, it does happen occasionally which I figure is not a big deal as long as it’s not regularly. Hope that helps a little!

      Tina wrote on August 1st, 2012
    • Mark,long term reader, first time responder here. Long story short, we switched as a family to traditional/primal eating about two years ago (we eat a high calorie diet of 60-75% clean saturated fat, 15-20% protein, lots of veggies and few carbs) We experienced the amazing benefits of being fat burners rather than sugar burners long before we had ever heard of the concept. What you say here is true. No doubt. We quickly and easily lost a ton of fat, headaches and sickness disapeared, easily put on lean mass, felt SOOO much better, got control of our appetites and cravings and so many more benefits.

      Your posts are always excellent, this one especially so. Thank you.

      Gene wrote on August 1st, 2012
    • I have been a very serious low-carber for years now and have had the same issue with feeling dizzy and feeling like I’m going to pass out. When your body gets low on fluid (low-insulin due to low-carb intake will cause you to hold on to far less fluid), you get dehydrated and don’t even know it. When this happens your blood pressure can get low and you will have issues like you’re talking about. Check your heart rate when this happens and see if it goes up. if it does, your body may be trying to compensate for low fluid volume. You can try to remedy this situation by eating a lot more salt (2 – 5g’s more per day) and taking that salt with some carbs to ensure your body holds on to it. This will help your body rehydrate. Even though I felt great low-carb, I’ve had to up my carbs to keep these scary episodes from happening.

      jess wrote on August 1st, 2012
  32. Pardon me for bringing up a sensitive subject, ladies, but I’m genuinely curious about primal women’s experiences here (or anyone with any insight as to the biology or anthropology of it).

    Every month during my wife’s period she develops an absolutely insatiable appetite. She simply cannot get full, she says. And it’s always for carbs – pizza, french fries, chocolate, cake, etc. So she can be “good” the rest of the month, but for one week she has seemingly no control over what and how much she eats. I mean, I guess she does, technically, but she says it’s really painful to resist and she doesn’t really want to.

    She gets support from all her friends who say it’s the same for them. Anyone know why this would be? Ancestrally, if once a month women simply could not get enough food while on her period (which means there was no baby, so it can’t be that) how did that help us? Is it a “real” phenomenon for women here as well? She gets really mad at me when I tell her it’s just willpower and she doesn’t have to give in. She says it’s greater than that.

    Kris wrote on August 1st, 2012
    • I’m a primal woman for over a year now and. However, after a few years of learning how my body works and balancing out my hormones, I personally don’t food craving like your wife during my period. If your wife is eating pizza fries etc, and I say this from my heart, she is not being primal just yet. And I believe Mark talks in the most recent blog about listening to your body. Sometimes people think hunger means more carbs or more food. Not always the case. When I did more supplementation and got the proper protein / carb mix in my diet, I still eat generally the same during my period but add a little more protein during that week. That’s it! It’s all about attitude and belief. Think of it this way: It’s like people who are pregnant and gain to much weight, afterwards. As my cousin tells me (and she’s well proportioned, fit and has two kids) Prego women think that they could eat way more food or they use that as an excuse to eat whatever they want. In truth they only need to add a few hundred calories into their diet a day because your eating for an infant that will be average 5-8lbs.

      Again, I say this respectfully, your wifes friends that same it’s the same for them are making excuses to eat whatever they want. I stopped drinking pop 15 years ago and I don’t eat much sugar. I don’t miss it. Because I can tell how crappy I will feel when I eat it. The body is a barometer that will quickly tell you what it feel when eating certain things, when feeling or thinking certain thoughts. It’s about know which habits are given you a result and which need to be broken.

      During a women’s period our bodies are definitely working harder to release things in the body. That’s one way to look at it. I do know when I’ve eaten well that month my periods are light. When I’ve eaten bad my periods are unpleasant and my body is punishing me for having put junk in it. It’s directly proportional and easy to pay attention to once one has committed to the primal way of eating. It’s not just about diet it’s really about well-being (mentally and emotionally).

      Best you don’t judge or categorize your wife. Support her gently and let her figure it out. It’s the most empowering way. Each woman is different as each person that has to work diligently to determine the best diet for themselves. It takes time, patience and practice. Best of luck.

      Abby wrote on August 1st, 2012
      • Abby, this is a beautiful, thoughtful, and kind post. Thank you so much. I hope readers will take this to heart and practice the patience and practice you advise. For myself and my friend, we noticed the need for very high quality protein and alot of it; grass fed beef, pastured eggs; and tons of greens.

        Mary Anne wrote on August 1st, 2012
    • Yep, I always know when it’s about to be my time because I have intense cravings for sweets and chips (not sure if the latter is for the salt or the carbs) whereas I can go the whole rest of the month not craving either. As far as why, perhaps it’s because your body is expending energy shedding it’s lining so it wants to replace it as quickly as possible? Or it wants a boost of energy to start production on the next nutrient-rich one? Or it wants you to “bulk up” now so you have plenty of energy to conceive when you are again able in a few weeks?

      Whatever the reason, I wish it would go away! I try to satisfy my cravings with raw veggies and dips to replace the chips, and fruits for the sweets, but it is never the same.

      junebug wrote on August 1st, 2012
    • During the luteal phase of a woman’s cycle, the body is preparing for egg implantation/pregnancy. While the body increases energy expenditure during this time, it also frequently demands more food (often carbs). There are biologial reasons for this — if there is a fertilized egg that gets implanted during this phase, the body is going to need all that extra energy to start growing that egg into a person. And you cannot assume that just because there is a period that there isn’t also a pregnancy — they are not always mutually exclusive, despite any mansplaining to the contrary. The hormonal cycles that come with menstruation are different for everyone, and it seems that your wife’s levels are highest during menstruation itself.

      As to your wife’s uncontrollable cravings, well, I can’t say that part of that isn’t just her brain’s pleasure center demanding that chocolate cake. It’s just exacerbated by the increase in hormones. See “When You’re Addicted to Junk” above.

      Ava wrote on August 1st, 2012
      • Since the topic came up, I’ve noticed that my last 2 cycles have increased from 28 days (always like clock-work) to 35 days and then 42 days. I’ve been primal for only about 10 weeks. Is it the diet or is it coincidental? I’m 44 years old and have never given birth. My sister told me that not having children can cause early menopause. Thanks!

        Ara wrote on August 2nd, 2012
    • This has not really ever been my experience. Yes, there are times of the month when I’m a lot more hungry and times when I’m less hungry, but I’ve never felt driven to eat chocolate cake or other similar female binge foods. I therefore can’t advise from any real experience, but it might be worth it to NOT give in to such cravings and instead choose primal foods and see if that helps at all.

      As far as getting support from her female friends, I’ve noticed when a group of women get together they’re all really supportive toward each other regarding PMS and binging on chocolate and similar things and it’s always baffled me. It’s like being in a secret society and everybody nods about their shared experience. Only I usually feel like a total outsider having not shared that experience, but I’ll nod along with them just to be a part of the group.

      Diane wrote on August 1st, 2012
    • It’s the hormonal flux each month that increases hunger and causes cravings. One option for your wife is for her to visit a bio-available hormone center to have a complete hormone panel done. She could be deficient in one hormone or have too much of another. They can help correct the imbalance, and in turn it will help to regulate her appetite and her moods during her monthly cycle. Hormone fluxes can start in the mid-30s. It’s very common.

      Rokzane wrote on August 1st, 2012
    • I think mark once did a Q&A (although, my bad, it could have been Robb Wolf) in which a connection between carbs and seratonin was made, relevant to hormone balance a certain points in the cycle.

      Lauren wrote on August 1st, 2012
    • Personally, I think a lot of this is psychological, but some of it is hormonal. I’ve been there, when my stomach just feels like an empty pit. I’ve been primal for the last 3 months, and the first two months followed it to a T. I didn’t experience the weird cravings and the insatiable appetite those two months. The third month I fell of the wagon so to speak, and bam, the week before Aunt Flow I had a terribly difficult time not downing a loaf of bread and an entire pizza (hyperbole, but you get the point). Now, was it because my hormones were once again out of balance because I had not been primal the previous 2 weeks? Or, since I had not been primal the previous two weeks, I thought, “Well, I ate all that crap LAST week so I want it this week too…its my damn reward for putting up with this!” Who knows…but I DO know when I stick to primal I don’t get those urges, whether they are caused by my mind or by my hormones.

      Stacie wrote on August 1st, 2012
    • This used to happen to me. Not so much the overeating part, but the carbs and sugar cravings. Once I stopped eating that way and got over the hump, I don’t experience that anymore.

      I do have chocolate cravings, but I only eat dark, dark chocolate (80%+) or a certain brand of dark chocolate sweetened with stevia if I am really desperate.

      I do tend to eat more greens because I tend to have low iron so my body craves that which is a good thing.

      Carla wrote on August 1st, 2012
    • I remember Mark once posting something along these lines, I always remembered if I felt like I “needed” carbs it was just my silly body.

      I do, however, eat like an animal a week before my period. I am just HUNGRY, and always tend to eat more. I went on a dark chocolate spree once, and did not stop until I felt ill. That did it for me, and it was the last time I tried to stave of the insane hunger with chocolate.

      I just up the good stuff. I’ll up my dinner portions or eat more red meat than normal. I also load up on cheese because of all the protein. If she stays Primal, the cravings for carbs may change — mine did.

      Nicole wrote on August 1st, 2012
    • Thanks everyone, for the great insights and for sharing your experiences. It sounds like we’re both kinda right – it’s a common though not universal reaction, that gets better for most women the cleaner their diet is.

      Pushing her to do stuff never works, especially with regards to diet, so as suggested I will just support her and hopefully she’ll figure it out one day. I would give her some grief before because of the unhealthy choices, but it just made her mad. A big part of it was just astonishment that she could really eat that much. I’d be throwing up long before I finished an entire cake or whatever! According to her, women don’t necessarily eat because they’re hungry, there’s like, some special reserve of space where you can continue eating just because you crave something or it’s good. She gets mad and rolls her eyes when I pass on dessert or something for being full. :p

      Kris wrote on August 1st, 2012
    • Has to do w/ progesterone levels and how they affect basal metabolism–a woman’s BMR can be as much as 400 cals/day higher at end of cycle compared to the middle at ovulation time. A PMSing body is actually demending more calories–almost NOBODY knows about this. I believe it’s a survival mechanism–high progesterone levels during pregnancy would help make sure that mom and baby got enough to eat.

      shrimp4me wrote on October 26th, 2013
  33. Everyone has an all powerful “Force” within them. For example, we have decided to forgo yohgurt before bed. So far so good, but after awhile we are in the dairy dept buying milk and the “Force” takes over, we go on autopilot, and drift toward the yoghurt…..not the nonfat stuff but the 300/cal super yummy yoplaits. Once the “Force” is with us we are next driven to the chip section….and on it goes.

    SHAMROCK wrote on August 1st, 2012
  34. I had amazing success with Paleo for several months, until my period stopped and I went into a downward spiral of ice cream, cookies and whole baguettes drenched in olive oil. With a lot of the weight back, impossible cravings and a gluten belly, I am less and less a believer of the “all in moderation” statement. If some people can do it, great for them, but it is scary when I can go through a pound of cake with 80g of butter after dinner and ice cream. I am sure now that whole foods are the best I can give my body and I am ready to start it aaall over again. It will be worth it! :)

    Marcela wrote on August 1st, 2012
  35. I gave up dairy a month ago as I wasn’t getting the raw good stuff (just regular organic) and I was concerned about the eostrogen content.
    I get bad PMS and thought it might help.
    Maybe I’m being impatient but after a month without dairy I now have PMS WORSE THAN EVER! Cravings galore that I just can’t ignore! And I’ve been doing so well eating clean and primal for well over a coule of months most of the time.
    I despair with this curse! I really thought cleaning up my diet would help but it just hasn’t at all : (

    Sally wrote on August 1st, 2012
    • Hi Sally, if you have given up dairy have you replaced the fat you were usually getting when consuming dairy? I find that a few days before & during I need to up my fat quite considerably otherwise I suffer terribly too. I am dairy intolerant so I rely on coconut oil & avocados to reduce PMS. Just a thought.

      Tania wrote on August 1st, 2012
    • Calcium is really important for preventing or helping PMS.

      Sara wrote on August 1st, 2012
  36. “When you are compelled to eat junk, don’t listen to your body. Eat something Primal, something nourishing, something that approximates what you’re craving only using real food.”

    This is exactly what I do, and it feels SO much better than stuffing my face with oreos or ice cream.

    Carrie wrote on August 1st, 2012
  37. Finally someone has put this important way the body functions (or malfunctions) into a logical, concise read. Great job, Mark and thanks so much!

    Chet in Buffalo

    Chet wrote on August 1st, 2012
  38. The other night with Diners, Drive-ins & Dives on, the dude was eating a bacon chili burger. A big ass one. My wife looked at me and said, I want that burger.

    We have both been primal for a solid 7 months or so and I said I will think of something.

    She went out for a bit and when she came home I had prepared a big ass salad with a big ass Bison burger, topped with uncured bacon, avocado slices and a fried over-easy egg. Drizzle some olive oil and balsamic vinegar on it all and it hit the spot. Craving satisfied.

    Matt wrote on August 1st, 2012
    • I’ll be around for dinner tonight.

      Kitty wrote on August 1st, 2012
  39. Definitely still a “sugar-burner,” and my lack of total adherence to the paleolithic diet is to blame. Even after I’ve eaten, I still have this underlying hunger that seems to only be satisfied by grains/carbs. I am athletic and slim, but I sputter out quickly after ~30min of endurance exercise and my sleep hasn’t been good.

    Long story short… I need to kick it into gear and follow the paleo guidelines, ie – stop making excuses.


    Ryan wrote on August 1st, 2012
    • I had this problem at first an I got over it and went totally primal (about 2 months now lost almost 15lbs!) by babying myself with foods that I never used to allow myself to eat because I thought they were bad for me. Example: a whole pound of Applegate farms bacon with guacamole to dip it in. massive omelets with tomatoes and onions. And steak, ribs, even Mongolian BBQ if you bring your own oil. I love eating like this but in hte past I though fat was so bad for me that I never ate more than maybe 2 slices of bacon at a time and only lie once a month. Now its practically a staple. That’s a good way to start. you may need to make slightly wiser choices to continue to loose weight, but it’ll help you kick the carb cravings.

      Liz wrote on August 1st, 2012
      • A pound of bacon isn’t good for anybody.

        mars wrote on August 1st, 2012
  40. I find that I usually feel hungry when my energy is low. I try and eat high protein at that time and it does seem to help. For the guy that never seems full, I’d recommend that you try baking with almond flour. I’ve found almond flour products to be very filling. I use the Paleo Breakfast Bread recipe for our treat on the weekends. And, I have made an almond flour birthday cake. It was the first cake I’ve made where you could not eat more than one slice. You were just too full to have more.

    Teri Pittman wrote on August 1st, 2012

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