Season 3 Episode 3:
Strategies for Addressing Hunger and Cravings
with Michelle Shapiro, RD & Nicki Parlitsis, RD
In today’s episode, Michelle and Nicki explore the two nutritional theories that divide opinions: the "muscle your way through it" group and the "compassionate" group and shed light on the various factors that can drive our cravings and appetite, ranging from biological and sensory cues to the emotional satisfaction we seek from food.
Michelle and Nicki address cravings, creating structure around eating, and understanding the intentions behind our food choices. They also discuss strategies for managing stress levels throughout the day and share tips on safeguarding against situations that can trigger intense hunger and cravings.
-The difference between emotional eating and balanced eating
-Factors that drive food choices
-The concept of "volume eating"
-Personal factors that impact food preferences
-Emotional eating vs binge eating
-Factors that contribute to intense hunger and cravings
-Not using willpower as a tool to stop appetite or hunger
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Strategies for Addressing Hunger and Cravings with Michelle and Nicki (Part II)
We really kind of left the last episode on a cliffhanger.
Very much so we just had too much to get in. We couldn't fit it all.
I know. And we just got so excited about the studies, you know, we got so excited about leptin, we got so excited about the different hormones. A big goal of every single podcast episode we have is for the listeners to leave with some tangibles and something to really kind of walk away with and utilize. So that's going to be the heart of this episode is tying up all the loose ends of all of these kind of theories and nutritional philosophies and biology that we talked about in the last episode and giving people some really tangible ideas that they can walk away with after this episode.
Yeah, and that's always I like that we kind of started out with the physical information, like the actual pieces of scientific data that kind of lays out the groundwork for what even appetite and hunger are. Because if we just went straight to the solutions it would be kind of hard to figure out why those are solutions or why those things would be helpful. So this kind of gives you the full picture in terms of what's actually happening in my body and now what am I supposed to do about it.
Absolutely. And if we look at the landscape of what happens in the kind of different nutritional theories of how we should view our bodies or do things, and we separate them into those two groups that we always talk about, which is more of like the kind of diet, culture, muscle your way through it group versus the more compassionate or sometimes coddling group of all of this is coming from your mental relationship with food. None of this is coming from the physical and if you just deal with the mental relationship with food, everything else will kind of fall into place. What we uncovered in the first part of this two part series, the last episode, was that our cravings and our appetite can come from both biological cues. It can even come from sensory cues as in something that we see or it can come from a time when we feel like we are just undereating. So it really can come from that way too. So I think the more structured allopathic nutritionists will tell you to avoid overeating or to avoid excessive hunger. Have a tremendous amount of protein and vegetables and that will help to fill up your stomach, which will help to kind of satisfy ghrelin and not then be releasing so much more of it, which is that gremlin we talked about in that first one.
So keep that stomach nice and full and then you will lead to less binging. On the flip side of that kind of from the intuitive eating view of things, the exploration of hunger should really come from absolutely those body cues, but also really from those thoughts that you're having around food and kind. Of encompassing both of those things and adding an element to recognition of our nervous system is what I hope we can lead to today, which is that it's not either or. It's end. So we can incorporate all of these strategies to understand our hunger cues better and to make more fulfilling food decisions. And when I say fulfilling, I mean from a mental perspective, emotional perspective, and from a physical perspective.
And to your point about these two different approaches, as a listener, if you've tried one or the other and found like, this was not helpful for me and know, maybe you've tried each of them at different times and maybe each of them didn't feel so helpful. Just know that it's always like you were saying, Michelle. A combination of both the physical and the emotional piece. So it doesn't necessarily mean that one piece didn't work for you. It might just mean that you were only kind of working at half the problem. And so by looking at this as like a holistic perspective, as we always do, we're addressing all of the different potential roots of the problem. And so usually the answer, as is the case in every other situation, usually the answer is in the middle somewhere, like taking little chunks of everything and piecing them together, because we are humans and very complicated human beings in general. So usually a comprehensive approach is necessary to get to the root of all of these issues.
Absolutely. And let's kind of walk through an example of what a day might look like for someone who's experiencing excessive hunger and where they might run into a couple traps throughout the day. So we're going to do like a little experiment, Nikki. I'm going to walk through kind of what I've seen as a client experiment and then maybe you can give us some feedback on where we weren't tapping into the hunger cues, where the excessive hunger or appetite or cravings might have come from. And let's just play a little bit on this because I want people to feel like they've been in this before so that they'll know how to walk out of it kind of through an example. So I'm going to take the example of someone who is really eager to lose weight, but also someone who really wants to not have a restrictive relationship with food or one that feels dangerous or unsafe. And they might start their day with this idea of, I'm going to eat really healthy today, I'm going to stay on plan, but I'm also going to really fill myself up so that I don't feel excessively hungry. So the first thing that they might do is say, I'm going to have a really filling breakfast, and I'm going to have a really, really filling breakfast.
I'm going to have three eggs, a breakfast sausage. I'm going to have two slices of toast and I'm going to have some avocado right on that toast. Because I know that if I eat a really good breakfast in the beginning of the day, I am going to then later in the day, hopefully not feel as hungry. So they eat a really big breakfast when the day starts, because they've also learned that at some point in time to make this food decision, breakfast is really important. And maybe intermittent fasting isn't good, but I'm thinking about intermittent fasting. But all right, they make the final decision. They're going to eat a really big breakfast. They end up going around at around lunchtime, this person realizes that they're actually not hungry at all for lunch because their breakfast felt really big.
And they're honestly so stressed at work, they just have to kind of not eat. They said, I have to just push through this and move through through that day. They end up skipping lunch and then dinner rolls around, which is actually after they get back from work. And once they get home from work, they kind of get that feeling that I describe of like when you take your backpack off after school as a kid, and you're just like that kind of feeling. And then they find themselves kind of grazing throughout the night. They also find themselves having these conversations, assessing their hunger cues. Am I hungry? Do I actually want this? What am I craving? What do I want? And trying to do the tools of intuitive eating, but finding themselves feeling so high in craving so much appetite, so much hunger, that they end up what they feel like is emotionally eating or overeating what they plan to eat. And I'm going to use the word overeating with some quotes because we don't really always know what's over or under for ourselves, but this person felt like they really overeat by the end of the day.
Vicki, can you walk us through a couple different troubleshooting of this day that we heard from a client who feels like my appetite is so big at night, even if I eat the biggest breakfast in the world and I try to save some calories or some whatever nutrients for the end of the day, I'm still kind of feeling excessive hunger. Walk us through what some of those kind of trip ups might be.
So the first thing that can be really helpful is, again, as we mentioned in part one, and as you mentioned in the beginning of this episode, there are those two pieces. So when it comes to hunger, there is that physical hunger, that actual biological need for food, and then there's the emotional hunger, or what we call appetite. So maybe work was stressful, and we know that food makes us feel a little bit better. And so in a situation like this, where now we've gone a really long time without food. So even though we had that delicious, beautiful breakfast, amazing. We had our proteins, fats and carbs, all of our micronutrients, it still is only able to hold us over for so long because our bodies need a certain amount of food on a daily basis. So even though maybe we weren't super hungry at lunch, which is okay, maybe now by the time we got home for dinner, we've just gone so long that our body physically needs food. So now we're physically hungry.
The problem here comes when we have that physical hunger paired with that appetite. So now we have some stress that's built up over the day. We have all of these other reasons outside of that physical piece as to why we're reaching for foods. So now maybe the types of foods that we're reaching for are different. So maybe now instead of reaching for some satiating proteins, some foods that are really going to fill us up in terms of those nutrients that our body needs now, maybe we're reaching for those foods that are going to help give us some dopamine, some serotonin that make us feel a little bit better, help to calm our nervous system. That maybe our body's been giving us signals throughout the day that it's really stressed out or overwhelmed, but we're just busy and distracted at work and we've kind of been quieting those signals and now they're all overflowing by the time we get home. So the first thing to do is I always find it easier to focus on the physical piece first, just because there's less tied to it. So we can in that moment or after we've eaten, so it doesn't have to be in that exact moment.
If it feels too heavy for you, we can look backward and see when was the last time I actually ate. So if it's longer than depends on the person, I would say longer than like 5 hours or so. Maybe it's time to have a snack. So maybe that's a situation where we could have had maybe a later lunch or maybe brought in an afternoon snack, even if we didn't feel super hungry. Maybe we just eat something that's a little bit more tolerable in that moment to hold us over. You might notice a huge difference by the end of the day if that's the case. Now, sometimes we can look back and say, okay, I did eat 5 hours ago, but maybe the quantity that I had just wasn't enough to hold me over. So maybe it's when we're eating, but maybe it's also how much we're eating at that time.
And then maybe it's what we're eating at that time. So as Michelle as the client in this situation, beautiful, gorgeous breakfast. Proteins, fats and carbs. Maybe if we missed a couple of those components and we just had a hard boiled egg or just had two eggs for breakfast and then it's like lunchtime and we're so starving, maybe then it's the content of what was in that breakfast. Maybe we missed a piece. So I always like to start with the physical, looking at what, when and how we're eating, like the pattern and the timing of how we're eating as the first step in figuring out okay, why did this happen and now how do I prevent this from happening again.
Absolutely. And I think if we started that day all the way at know it's interesting Nikki, because some of us can eat a massive meal, and I'm not describing that as a massive meal, but maybe a meal that for us feels really large. But if we're not feeling satisfied by it, or even if we are feeling satisfied by it, some of our bodies just operate on a rhythm. That the rate of our digestion. The way that our bodies take foods in, we actually might need to eat more frequently. It might happen during different times of the menstrual cycle. We might need to eat more frequently. Our hormones are dependent on that.
So it could be that a very large breakfast might hold you over one day, but your blood sugar could be more unstable another day. Or even just, again, that meal I described as being very savory, maybe one day we just would need a little bit of blueberries on the plate or something like that too, just to diversify the flavor a little bit, because we're not listening to what's satisfying to us too. So I think that even having a really big breakfast to try to kill hunger might not be super effective for people. And what does happen is it might kind of kill your hunger a little too much and then when lunch rolls around you can't eat anything. That's not really setting you up for success either, I think, and I just totally agree with what you're saying on that too. So eating more and trying to fill your stomach up and trying to get volume of food, which a lot of people do by eating a tremendous amount of vegetables or trying to eat a lot of protein, can also lead to low satisfaction, which can then lead to more cravings anyway. So I know a lot of people describe themselves as volume eaters, which can also be a sign of disordered eating. I'm sure Nikki, you could go into that a little bit too, but it's not always so.
There's times where people just are volume eaters and that's just the way it feels good inside of their stomach and everything like that. But sometimes if a person's pattern and what feels comfortable for them and what they need is to eat more frequently, eating very large meals can actually lead to more hunger. And if you miss that hunger cue, what I missed in my little story or my example of a client is that usually what's going to happen is then around 03:00 p.m., we're reaching for whatever random candy bowls in the office, right? Especially in these environments where there's really not other food in the office and you kind of have to stay in the office for meetings and you can't really go out. We are going to pretamange and we are getting like those if it's the only thing on the block and we're in New York and we're going to pretamange and we're getting like that one cookie, whatever that thing is. Or we're going to grab from the candy bowl in the office. And just especially like Halloween's coming, I'm thinking of but those things that are highly available and then those foods that we talked about can then increase our craving and desire for those more hyper palatable foods too. So what ends up happening is we missed our lunch, now we're going to be left hungry. We don't have the food with us.
We're going to grab whatever is accessible because we're evolutionarily smart and we want to survive. So we're going to eat what's in front of us as always, right? And that's going to lead us into potentially more cravings at dinner and also at that point by the time we get home from work, so many of us are so dysregulated. Like you said, Nikki, when hunger is really high and also the desire to eat is really high, from an emotional perspective or your appetite or your cravings are really high, your body is most likely going to favor the sensation of not feeling in pain and discomfort over making a food choice that in the long term is going to help you basically. And I think that that's the time where we choose those high reward foods a lot more when we are feeling excessively hungry. This is something that is acknowledged pretty much across all aisles of the nutrition world, which is that if we let ourselves get too hungry and we have really strong cravings, it's very likely that it's not going to come down to willpower. At that point, your body pushes your hand a little bit more. So eating foods that are both satiating and nourishing is really important and also eating I think, according to what your body wants. I don't know about you Nikki, but you have a lot more muscle mass than me.
So it might be actually different and interesting to talk about. But for myself, I've always been a smaller meal eater. I have naturally very low blood sugar. It's not like a humble brag. It's like a frustrating thing that's always been and for me, if I don't eat pretty frequently, my blood sugar, it doesn't drop, it just stays pretty low. So it just stays low and then I'm not going to feel as energized. So I have to eat pretty regularly like every three or 4 hours versus there's really not been a time in my life, even at peak health, where intermittent fasting works really well for my body and I just know that. And it's not even that it leads to binging, but it really starts altering my hunger cues.
And for me, not feeling hunger is actually threatening to me. I like to feel hunger and like to feel like and be in touch with my body. And that can really blunt because if your blood sugar gets too low, you can either experience excessive hunger or no hunger. And so for me, I just stopped really experiencing hunger which then confuses my communication between me and my body. So do you find for yourself, Nikki, that you're the type of person who can eat like a big meal and then feel satisfied? As big as the meal is, you can proportionately feel satisfied for that many hours.
You know what's funny? I'm not, which is why I like to use a range. Like even if I'm talking with clients, we'll say it's ideally eating something every three to 5 hours, which that's like a two hour range, which can be a big difference for a lot of people. But I find that there's some people that are like a two and a half to three hour person and then there's people that are like a five hour person and they're totally good. And I think that trial and error is important because it's really hard to know which type of person you are, what your body needs if you're not paying attention to it. It can be really difficult. So kind of play around with what works for you and see also if I have I had a client that we were talking about just white rice versus sweet potato. I love white rice, I'm all about my white rice. But she just very neutrally said, I notice that I can go a little bit longer when I have sweet potato versus when I have white rice.
I notice that it holds me over a little bit more. And so we had the fiber conversation and talked about kind of what those complex carbs mean in terms of kind of holding you over. But again, it will come down to what's your blood sugar, what type of person are you, what types of foods are you eating? Also, like you had mentioned during menstruation, we aren't as good at regulating our blood sugar, just hormonally. So you might notice, oh, I usually love more of like not a sweet, sweet breakfast, but I usually love a sweeter yogurt bowl or like an oatmeal bowl in the morning. But I notice when I'm in my luteal phase, which is the last week or two leading up to your menstrual cycle, maybe that's a time where you really just need a savory breakfast. Otherwise you're on that blood sugar roller coaster all day, so it can really come down to stress hormones again, even you're the same person in the same body all the time, but what your needs are might shift depending on what you're feeling or what stage you're in in your cycle, et cetera.
And that's true for really what we're talking about from the standpoint of hunger and certainly appetite. I think cravings we've kind of put into a place of outside of like, mineral specific needs. Cravings often come from a more emotional standpoint. So we will give some kind of tools and strategies for how to kind of differentiate between hunger and cravings too. But certainly your natural baseline is really important to understand too. And I think intermittent fasting is really interesting in this conversation of hunger and appetite because I have equally as many clients who say that intermittent fasting created space for intuitive eating because it allowed people to experience hunger in a way that was really helpful for them. And then for other people like myself, intermittent fasting caused such disastrous impacts on hunger because it really can blunt your hunger, actually. So it can make your hunger a lot lower.
So the goal with hunger and appetite that we're working on is not just to lower it, it's not just to remove hunger and appetite, which everyone listening is like, I'd love to have less of an appetite and hunger and cravings. Michelle I totally disagree with you, but it's really to access and understand what is driving our hunger, appetite and cravings. And that could be, again, because we're eating hyper palatable foods that are increasing our cravings. It could be that we're just freaking hungry, or it could be that we're trying to regulate our nervous system, or it could be that we've restricted food so much that our body is now fighting to get those foods back because it doesn't want to feel restricted in that way anymore, do we? Nikki how would you have someone start to differentiate? Why am I currently feeling like I'm binge eating or overeating? Why do I feel like my cravings are out of control? What's the first place you'd have someone kind of look? And then let's explore that conversation.
So, like we were saying in the example before, I like to start with the physical piece first. So seeing like, are we going long periods of time without eating? Now, a lot of times that's not happening. And so we're still having that urge or those cravings. And it can be immensely confusing and frustrating for people because they're like, I'm doing all the things I'm eating every three to 5 hours, my meals are balanced, what's going on? And so from there, I like to get a sense of what are we feeling prior to the eating event. Now, some people use the word binge. Sometimes it's not a binge. Sometimes we can emotionally eat an objectively smaller quantity of food and it does it with, yes in quotations. But really, what it comes down to for me when I'm looking at it with other people is what's the intention behind it? So it doesn't necessarily matter to me more so the quantity of what we're eating, but it matters why are we eating that thing? And if why we're eating it is coming from an emotional standpoint on a relatively frequent basis, then that's where the problem arises, even if it's not fitting, like a diagnosis of something eating disorder wise.
So from there, I like to look at after maybe sometimes later on, when we're not feeling that sense of urgency, we can kind of rewind the tape and look backward and try to see what was I feeling in that moment? So sometimes it can be helpful as a journal prompt, even if you kind of have a notebook in front of you and you're jotting some of this down and trying to identify, what does it feel like when I'm physically hungry? So what sensations is my body giving me that's telling me that it needs food from a physical so?
And what could some of those be?
Nikki, walk us through? Some people get very frustrated because when we're growing up watching cartoons, it's like, stomach is rumbling. I'm hungry. Now. I'm one of those people that even if I'm on a desert without food, my stomach just doesn't rumble. It just doesn't happen. So sometimes that's just one thing that might happen. Now, we might be getting some brain fog. We might be getting just very lightheaded or dizzy or shaky in terms of our blood sugar dipping.
We might be getting even just like some people get an increased salivation, not from an appetite standpoint, but just their body's kind of preparing for food. It's like, where is this food coming in? And so that combination of signals might look different for you. So jotting that down can be very helpful. Now, if we're thinking of it almost as, like, two columns, right? So that's the column on the left. Now the column on the right is, what are the signals our body is giving us when we have an appetite? So when we have maybe not so much the physical hunger, but that emotional hunger, that emotional drive to eat. So what does that feel like for you? Now, we were talking before about how for some people, the emotional hunger is more urgent. It feels like this urgent, uncontrollable drive. For some other people, that's what they've experienced physical hunger as.
So as you're kind of differentiating between the two, you can jot down like, oh, when I'm feeling really overwhelmed at work, I start to get really antsy, and all of a sudden I feel like I want to crawl out of my skin, even if I ate an hour ago. Now, that might be a signal that your body's giving you that it wants food to calm your nervous system. It wants food for an emotional purpose.
And there's that intention.
The intention of the food in that case is to make me feel more calm. And that's also a clear cut one, which is like, all right, I ate an hour ago. This is a cult for me to come home and pay attention inside my body and paying attention to what's going on.
If you want to just throw this in the Notes app of your phone again, it's not something to become obsessive over. We're not thinking about this all day long. But if you have an experience like that and you're like, oh, okay, that's a new one. Haven't heard that one before from my body. So now I'm going to jot that into my Notes app just as a way for me to just be aware of it when it happens again. And so we can then start to have this list, which all it really is, is us diving into our body and deeply understanding what are the signals that it's giving us and what does all of this mean? How do we even interpret all of this? And the first step is just observing, just seeing what's going on, and so we can start to see what those different signals are. And then once we become more familiar with them, that might be a situation where now it's 03:00 p.m., you're in the break room. You had a really hard conversation with your boss.
Let's say maybe it's 3 hours ago. Maybe you're like, oh, I'm in that three hour window, but now you're noticing, okay, but even though it's been 3 hours, it's not those physical symptoms of hunger. I know that I just had a hard conversation. I know I'm feeling overwhelmed and stressed, and I know that reaching for this thing is going to make me feel better. And so in that situation now I view that as a huge win because now you just made this connection that maybe you weren't aware of in the past.
I wonder if they can cut that up. Just say I started from I consider that a huge win.
I consider that a huge win because now we're in a situation where you are understanding and interpreting your body signals, even if you were never able to do that before. And so this is just now you're at this new frontier where you're able to really take the next step because you have this deep understanding of your body.
If I was on a podcast and you know how at the end of some podcast they ask a question? This is not the end of the podcast, by the way. I'm just mentioning an anecdote. You know at the end of some podcast how they'll ask someone like, all right, what's your number one tip for health for everyone? And when it comes to hunger, appetite, anxiety, gut issues, anything the word and you used so beautifully, Nikki, in our conversation right before we started filming was just introducing pause. I think our biggest struggle as chronic illness sufferers, as people who feel like they don't have control over their health, whether they do or don't, the perceived lack of control over their health is that we do not accept or tolerate discomfort in any way, and we are constantly seeking solutions for that. And I. Think that the first step to understanding your hunger or appetite or cravings is to pause, observe, and reflect on what you're experiencing. It's very rare that the clients that we're working with are going to be experiencing what is true hunger. Hunger is like a very and by the way, there are many of our clients who come to us absolutely undereating.
It's actually more common than people who are just overeating or anything like that. But what I mean by that is the experience of hunger. By the time we get that hungry, most of us, and this is not all of us who have access to that food are going to eat squash it sooner than they will sit and pause and reflect with it. Now, I am not suggesting and this is not medical or nutrition advice anyway, but I am not suggesting that someone create very much physical discomfort within their body and have to tolerate it. But I think what I'm always wondering and thinking about is if we could tolerate maybe 1015 seconds of discomfort to understand more of what's going on. Because I feel like if I have kind of a vision of appetite, cravings, and hunger, I feel like at the top layer is cravings, which is like our most conscious experience is cravings. Right? Those are like the loud, you have to eat, chocolate kind of sounds. That's what we hear the most.
And then under that is that appetite. So that's like a little more subconscious. And then underneath on the very, very subconscious, that connection that's very broken is our hunger. And what happens by the time we're kids, until the time that we're adults, very commonly in most people, is we lose the connection of understanding what our body is asking us for and understanding what hunger is. I observe my nephew, who's now about to be one years old, in ten days. I observe him like a hawk. I want to understand what he's doing because I want to understand what were we like as babies before we learned all of this crap that we now have to unlearn. Right? Well, he sometimes plays too much, and then he doesn't want to eat because he's, like, too into it.
And he's like, it's not like, not right now, please. But it is fascinating to watch someone eat when they're hungry and acknowledge those signs of hunger. And that's something that we really lose in favor of making decisions about our food. So until we're able to get into that subconscious level and we can descend into that, I think that it's really okay to just make some structure around eating while you're exploring and while you're experiencing a little bit of discomfort around it, and only the discomfort enough to understand and to reflect. But I feel like since cravings feel like the most conscious experience, we usually have to go through the consciousness before we can experience the connection of our bodies, which should be the reverse. We used to be able to do that as babies. We used to be able to experience hunger first, but now we experience our solution to hunger first, which is those cravings and those very conscious thoughts around, let me fix this problem. Let me fix this problem.
And when anyone finds their brain seeking, the question is, how can we come back to acceptance and come back to pause and come back to reflect? Because that's how we'll actually understand what our hunger is. So if you always also do not accept the discomfort and do not observe the discomfort, it's very hard to understand anything but your cravings if you're only listening to conscious thought. Because our thoughts are we have like 60,000 thoughts a day. Our thoughts are not always truthful, and our thoughts are not always correct. They are just all these little protection mechanisms to keep us alive in so many ways. So sometimes our cravings are real, especially when it comes to minerals. Apparently, we've really uncovered. And sometimes our cravings are a story, and sometimes our cravings are habit, and sometimes our cravings are visually what we're seeing in front of us.
Sometimes they are just literally, this food is in front of me. I smell this food. I see this food. That's the food that I want to have. So I think for us to listen to the conversation, pause, reflect, tolerate a little bit of discomfort, do never starve yourself, never put yourself in a dangerous position, ever with your blood sugar or anything like that. But maybe ten to 15 seconds of very safe reflection when you're not in emergency state can provide a little bit more understanding of building that bridge between hunger and your brain again, because we want to get back to what we've already known, which is that we know when we're hungry. We do know this. We get sleepy.
Our belly aches a little bit. As adults, sometimes we get a little bit of reflux, and we get that annoying feeling, and then appetite goes away, and we feel like what happened? And then it comes back really strong. We do know these things. We just have to kind of unlearn a lot to relearn what we already know.
Yeah, there's so many good points in what you said. And I think one thing that I always like to bring in when we talk about taking that pause, when we have a craving, sometimes there can be a tendency in that pause to think, okay, I'm using this to not eat this thing. And so if we think that it's like the kid with the cookie jar, and it's like, no, no cookies for you. But it's like sitting right in front of the kid, and they're like, oh, my God. Now it's all I can think about with that experiment where they put the marshmallow in front of the kid, and they're like, they don't eat it. And they're like, oh, my god, now it's all I can think about. So we're not introducing the pause as a way to say you are not able to have this food that you're craving. What we're introducing, that pause, the purpose that pause is serving is to really just take a second to dive into, what are my emotions? Why do I want this thing? We can certainly reach for that thing after we take this pause.
We're just introducing a moment between a trigger and a response. So the trigger being, what emotion am I feeling? The response being, my hand is reaching for the bag of chips, and it's an out of body experience, and I don't know whose hand this is. So if we're putting a pause.
Know, I had a client I had a client once who was like, I feel like I'm reaching for something, and I feel like it's not my hand, it's someone else's hand. You said no, it didn't track.
Please leave this laughing. And also what immediately came up was the song, the Jewel song, my Hands, but they are not yours. I don't know. That was the funniest sentence in this podcast history of, like, you know, that feeling that very identifiable when it's not.
Your hand, your hands, and they're not.
Your I'm like, I have I just.
Don'T explain this is what happens when you record a podcast at five.
Exactly. No, they're really funny, and they could leave in me saying this right now, not this sentence, but before that's.
Oh, my God. Okay, sorry.
But yes, when you feel like that out of body.
Exactly. So it's really just we're saying, okay, we have this learned trigger and response. It's like something that's been it might have been ingrained for decades. I mean, this might have been a response that's been going on since you were a child. And so now we're just slowly, like you said, 510, 15 seconds, just pausing in between. And even if it's hard to figure out what emotion am I feeling? So even if you can't pinpoint, oh, I'm stressed or I'm sad or I'm lonely, sometimes that's like two steps ahead. Sometimes it can be helpful to stop and just assess, oh, my chest feels tight, or, oh, I feel like I have this ball of energy that's going to burst out of me. And so when we're looking at it as just identifying the exact signals our body's giving us without even piecing them together into a diagnosis of this is loneliness, that itself can be helpful in identifying now, oh, okay.
I think I want this thing because it'll push down that ball of energy, or I think I want to reach for this thing because it's going to make me feel comforted. And so then we can start to really get some deep insight into why we're doing what we're doing.
In our first season, we had Stephanie Mara Fox, who said this incredible sense. She said, Somatic eating is the step before intuitive eating. And the amazing Stephanie Marafox says that because it's easier when we feel like there's a crazy intense conversation going on in our head. Again, the problem is we always want to go logic, Nikki. We always want to go to the solution in our head. But it can be messy when we're feeling dysregulated. It's too much sound going on in our head. So what's easier and more comfortable is tap into your body as opposed to tapping into your head.
What is my body feeling? And again, it doesn't have to be those classic hunger cues. It doesn't have to be my stomach is growling. It can be, like you said, there's a balloon that's about to burst or my hands are no longer my own hands. It can be any of those feelings. But it's just important to experience what does that out of control or hunger feeling feel like for you. And it could feel different for every single person. And what's so beautiful is that in that pause there will be reflections that are going to show up as patterns, right? And again, you can be triggered to overeat quote unquote, by literally seeing a twizzler, not even the best candy, I don't know, Sour Patch, is that a more enticing candy? Something like that. Or it can be something like you didn't have that hunger or you didn't have that strong of a meal during the day and then you had excessive hunger or you had a really dysregulating conversation.
It doesn't really even matter what the source of it was because now you're in that situation where you have the opportunity to pause and you said something so important, Nikki, that I need to reiterate, which is that the intention of the pause is not to fix the situation, it's to explore the situation. The answer to how do we balance our hunger is that we explore our hunger. We are not afraid of our hunger. We boldly invite it in and invite questions about what it means to us and what it feels like inside of our body. More importantly, but when you're already in that state, right, of should I eat this? Should I not eat this? I want you to picture there's almost like a little person in your head with like a megaphone. And then another little person comes out, it's like, you shouldn't eat that, it's really bad for you. Another little person comes out and says, no, you definitely should have. It's going to make you feel better.
A third person comes out and says, oh, stop talking about this. Just eat the damn thing. And it becomes this very loud, overwhelming conversation as we rely on our brains to solve these problems, when our body is really going to be that strong armor and that strong place for us to go. So I guess when it comes to excessive hunger or cravings or appetite, our real first step should be potentially. And it's going to be different for every single person to pause, reflect, and be inside of your body as much as possible in that experience. If it becomes overwhelming, step out of it, great. But just notice what's going on inside of your body. Again, we're not talking about any sort of formal somatic experiencing or anything like that, just to literally take a second and check in and notice what's going on inside of your body.
And it doesn't have to be those formal hunger cues. The pause is the magic. Because the kind of answer I guess people are looking for, for hunger, is the experience of being inside your body. That's what's going to help you to understand your appetite and your cravings and your hunger and to transform it. The transformation is not forcing transformation. You can't just be like, don't be hungry anymore. Let me will myself to not be hungry. Let me will myself to not have cravings.
It's inviting the answer from your body to why you're having them in the first place. And that in and of itself, when anytime you pick up that phone between your body and brain, your nervous system is regulating. Like, the second you pick up that phone, your nervous system is regulating. So it's just create that open conversation between your body and your brain. And you can literally pick up a phone, a figurative phone, or pick one up and just go, hi, body, what's going on down there? What do we got? Our hands are not our own. What's going on down there? What's happening? Pick up that phone and open that conversation. That's the pause. And if you can tolerate 10 seconds of discomfort, that will also dissipate some of the discomfort, because some of the discomfort can be from the fact that your body feels like you're ignoring them.
Whatever your body is, right, whatever part of your body it is, but it's your body being like, please listen to me. And the second that you say, hi, I'm listening, your body can start to come down.
Yeah, I love that. Even we talk about it with working with a good provider. It's like you're being a good support system for yourself. When you're with someone, like a friend who's really listening to you, even if they give you no advice at all, just having them listen to you is therapeutic. And so if you think about like, oh my gosh, I've been ignoring my own self for a really long time, that doesn't feel so good. And I noticed this too, with especially if we're really busy, we just have a lot going on, and we just don't have the time to look internally and to reflect. Sometimes that can be a trigger also because we don't really have the opportunity to look into what's going on in our body. And so you had mentioned having something that overwhelming feeling come in when you get home from work and I notice a lot of the time that happening, partially because we deal with a lot of stressors at work and throughout the workday, even if they're not all work related.
Like, maybe we don't feel so good, or maybe we had a family situation come up, and now we're thinking about that while we're at work. There's so much that happens throughout the day, and we're just bottling it up. Bottling it up, shoving it down, and then all of a sudden, like you said, you get home, maybe it's your safe place, maybe it's not. And so if it is your safe place, it's like, oh, okay, now I can release everything's coming up. Or if it's not your safe place, it might just be another stressor that's adding on to everything that you're experiencing. And so now we have a situation where we are feeling all of these things, or maybe we're trying not to feel all of these things coupled with access to certain foods. Like, maybe when we're at work, we don't have that type of access. And now when we got home, we have this kitchen with all we have our pantry, we have our significant other bought cookies at the grocery store, and they're sitting on the counter.
And whatever situation you're walking into, now we have this emotional experience coupled with easy access to foods that we know from a past experience will temporarily calm us down and make us feel nikki, it's probably going to be what you're going to say.
Yeah, well, you brought up something that I want to just reemphasize, which is that actually there's some studies that show that depression medications, SSRIs specifically, are effective. And for the people who they are effective for, let's say they tend to gain weight. And maybe the question was, is this a cortisol metabolism thing? Is this an insulin thing? What is the deal? But what people also found was that people who are happier tend to eat more because something that can also increase our cravings and our hunger and appetite is just feeling, like, safe, too. That also can do that. So sometimes coming home to a really safe environment, that feeling of, let me take my backpack off, it's like, how can I keep the good times rolling, right? It's like, this feels really good. So I think this image of us only eating emotionally out of hunger or eating emotionally out of cravings, we think of as being a very negative experience. But sometimes seeing the person we love the most is like, oh, I can finally let go and finally listen to my body and finally tap into all of those cravings. And I just want to say that what's a really important thing for people to understand from this episode is there is no moral value to eating what you're craving or to what we would call emotional eating or binge eating.
There's nothing about it that makes you bad. There's nothing about it that is bad inherently, not in the slightest bit. Really what we want to explore and have been exploring in these two episodes is what really drives that human behavior. And it's funny because any slew of emotions can drive hunger and appetite. Like, again, there's people who feel extremely stressed. I'm one of them. The second I feel stressed, I can't that, sorry, the second I feel anxious, I can't eat. But if I feel stressed I'm like, let me oh, that'd be good to kind of suppress that a little bit.
How we all experience hunger, appetite and cravings dependent on our own biology is going to vary. Which means that if Nikki and I had the same exact experience, but it was a different day of our cycle, or we had the different people around us, or we were in a different environment, how that information is going to be translated to our bodies is going to be very different. Again, if I get low blood sugar or something, for me I end up feeling not hungry, which is so weird for someone like and then really hungry later on for someone like Nikki it could be the exact opposite. So what's important is not what the cues are, it's what the cues are to you. It matters what happens when you get hungry. That's why the pause and the reflection is so important in the journaling because everyone experiences symptoms totally differently. Our bodies all communicate with us uniquely, so hunger can look totally different. But if you notice every single day at 04:00 p.m..
You come home and binge. Okay, then it means for you. We want to look at what's happening at that exact moment and then earlier in the day too to understand those hunger, appetite and cravings. So hunger, appetite and cravings look completely different for every single person. But there are some very scientific things that are pretty across the board. For instance, gluten free oreos. For myself, I feel chemicals surging inside of my body when I eat gluten free Oreos and I'm like, oh, they're doing something with this food. Like I literally am eating it and I'm like, something's really happening with this food.
So I just know that about myself. And I don't know, someone else could be like, oh, these are gluten free, I don't know, these don't taste as good as the other ones. But I know that for me that's going to be something that's I wouldn't call it a trigger, but it would be some alarm will go off in my head to say, hey, you should eat more of this basically. And I think because I also removing the word trigger for people because I want people listening to know that if something triggers you one day, it's not necessarily going to trigger you another day, but it's still really important to acknowledge patterns and just to know yourself in that way. And that's where again, that pause and that reflection comes in so handy. It's also okay if you're not comfortable pausing yet to just do things to safeguard yourself. And what I mean by that is, hey, I know I can't. I'm a person who no matter what size breakfast I eat, this is me.
No matter what size breakfast I eat, I'm going to have to eat in 3 hours. It doesn't really matter. So I'm not really going to have the biggest breakfast in the entire world because it's not even like it helps me that much because I'm going to feel equally as hungry 3 hours later. It just doesn't matter. So I might eat something that's a little in between to make me really full and satisfied and happy and satiated and then kind of move into a couple of hours later having my next meal. And I also am like all of us, if we are hungry and we don't have food available and there's a candy bowl in front of us, we're going to eat the candy bowl. Because you're human and you want to survive. So that's just normal human nature, no morality attached to it.
So knowing that if you're in an office space where there is a tremendous amount of foods that you're really not interested in consuming on a daily basis and aren't even that satisfying or interesting to you, but they're just there, maybe just do something as simple as bringing food for yourself, knowing that you might encounter that. Or if you know there's a very stressful person in the office, or a stressful situation that you're going to encounter, making little 22nd breaks in the day to just acknowledge how you're feeling throughout the day too. So you can really safeguard yourself from all of these things that can kind of lead to that moment of really high hunger and really high appetite. You can eat things that are satiating and filling that will help with that. Things that eat on your schedule of what your body's telling you to do. Safeguarding by having foods available to you or having a plan if you get really hungry. Like, hey, at least I know there's I don't know why I keep bringing up predominant, but there's a predomage down the block. I can go there no matter what.
I know I'm butchering.
Oh, no. I was literally just about to say I'm really glad you brought that into this conversation because I've never known how to say the name of that place.
I don't. No, I know. And we have some French listeners who've reached out to me and I'm like, please humiliate me on this. I'm completely comfortable with that. I just say Pratt saying like, yeah, I should just but if you know again that you need those things and that there's those situations around you, there are ways to safeguard yourself. If you're not feeling like the emotional reflection part is your time or you don't feel ready to tolerate the discomfort and you don't want to, and it's not safe for you. You can just do things that will help with hunger and appetite. Like eating higher protein meals, eating higher satiating things that you actually like to eat, making sure you're getting enough minerals in, making sure you're eating frequently enough, making sure you're checking in with yourself before you're eating and asking and assessing what's going on in your body.
Those are things you can do. If you're not ready to kind of feel things, it's okay to just also not go that route and just start by doing things that are just like, yeah, I know this about myself. I know if I don't eat, I'm going to grab the candy, or something like that. It's okay to just be prepared, then. That's okay.
One thing that you had mentioned before that I wanted to touch on, because I think it's important for people to realize because it can be confusing. Let's say you had mentioned when you feel safe, sometimes you're like, okay, I'm craving certain things because I feel safe. I can feel, like, calm in my body. Some people find it confusing if it's like, well, when I'm stressed and I eat this cookie, it makes me feel really bad. But when I'm at my grandmother's house and it's her recipe and she makes these cookies and I sit with her and we're drinking tea and I have a cookie with her, I can stop. Like, I can stop at one cookie. I feel satisfied, and I feel really good afterward. But when I'm stressed and then she gave me some to take home, I'm eating four of them, and I don't even feel good.
And I don't know why that happened. So the setting and the intention, again, behind why we're eating and how we're eating this food and what this food means for us in this moment can also shift how it's impacting us mentally and physically. Go ahead.
I have to just add this in for what you're saying. And this is a phrase that if you're taking notes on this, I really want you to listen and hear this, which is that there's a right food for a right person at the right time and during the right environment. In the right environment.
I love that.
So it's not that gluten free Oreos are always bad for mish. It's that if I'm feeling emotionally vulnerable and I haven't eaten, they're gone. And that's the truth. So it's like, you have to know, is it my time? Is it my food? Is it my environment? Am I the right person for this? And just know that I actually just.
Got goosebumps when you said that, because I just think, like, ten years ago, if I heard that, it would have been so impactful. I feel like that's something that's never really talked about that much. We see stuff on social media that, again, it's like this thing is healthy or not healthy or good or bad, and we lose that nuance. In terms of food is cultural. There are certain foods that if we are, again, at, for me at least, my Italian grandmother's house, and there's a certain food that she makes, and I'm enjoying it. I'm enjoying the company. I feel fulfilled not only by food, but I feel fulfilled by the social setting and by the energy, and I'm being fed in other ways outside of the food. And now I'm sitting there and able to be present and actually feel, how does this cookie taste in my mouth? How does it melt on my tongue? What are the tastes and the textures of this cookie? And it meets that satisfaction component.
And so now I can actually identify when am I satisfied? When have I feel like, yeah, I'm feeling pretty good. I can stop now. That met its purpose, and I feel great. Versus, like you were saying, when we're very distracted or we're using the food as a coping strategy, we're not even really tasting it a lot of the time. We're not getting the satisfaction piece. We're kind of using it as a tool instead of being there in the moment and experiencing it. And so, again, it ties back to exactly what you were saying, how it might not be the exact food. That's the problem in a specific situation.
That's why pausing and looking internally even after we eat something, maybe we didn't take the pause. That's okay. If you weren't able to take the pause or you forgot or it was just too difficult and then you ate. We can get a lot of wisdom from how we feel after we ate just to inform us going forward for maybe the next time we're feeling that emotion.
Absolutely. And for so many people, the feeling of hunger and our reaction to hunger can feel so scary. So what I want to just have people hear from me is that we can all do hard things, but the hard things don't have to be hurting ourselves. What I mean, do hard things. It doesn't mean saying, you better not eat that willpower. That's not the hard thing I'm talking about. The hard thing is feeling uncomfortable for 15 seconds. So focus more on doing the hard thing of reflection and less on doing the hard thing of just stopping yourself from eating things.
Don't use willpower as a tool to stop appetite or hunger. Don't use force. Use reflection. And I know it doesn't seem like it works or it doesn't seem like it's fruitful or helpful, but it truly is like the walking back towards what we already knew about ourselves. And in the same way, for a lot of people, again, intuitive eating feels too validating for what and it's really not a system that's meant to be like, eat whatever you want. That is not what intuitive eating is about at all. But it still feels like too validating to the mental game. I think, for people and less of that focus on that body, which is really important to people.
And I think that also leaning into the hard question of is intuitive eating enough for me if I have other things going on and is forcing myself to stop eating something enough for me? And I think where the marriage of the two kind of that middle of doing something hard without doing something mean or doing something harsh to your body is just really like listening to your body over. What an intuitive eating practitioner is going to say or over what a diet culture practitioner is going to say or over what a functional medicine doctor is going to say. Listening to yourself is always the right path forward, I think. And so if you can afford to have those 15 seconds of discomfort or those 15 seconds of exploration, sometimes it's not even going to be that uncomfortable. That recreating that connection between your mind and body is like kind of the money. It's kind of the money. That's what I would say in the exploration of hunger and appetite. Sure.
A lot of the tools that we gave in episode one in ways of the way we're thinking about this, from a leptin perspective, a ghrelin perspective, the very scientific part of this, we are still substantiating through this. Conversation too, in that these simple tools of guarding yourself or arming yourself with the right foods at the right time for the right person that feel satisfying and you feel like you have that safety net of whatever that food you need. And also that emotional piece of pausing, reflecting, and then going into those intuitive eating tools or whatever. System works really well for you. It kind of pulls together, we're hoping, the science of the last episode from the tangibility of this episode.
And one thing I did want to just note before we end so that if you're kind of noticing, okay, I have tried pausing and I notice I'm feeling all of these emotions and I don't know how to regulate them without the food. That can be another exploration in itself. And noticing like sometimes when I go for a walk that helps me or sometimes calling a friend helps me. You can even make a list of the things that help calm you down in that moment when you are pausing. It's just giving you that moment to really figure out what am I experiencing, what is my body telling me it's dealing with and then what is it also telling me it needs and then trying to figure out ways to meet those needs in addition to the food. So the food is a coping strategy. We know that. Exactly.
And a safe one.
Exactly. Anytime you but a toolbox isn't good with just one tool in it. So we're trying to just add more of those tools to that toolbox so that the next time you are experiencing a similar emotion, there's other things to turn to as well.
I mean Nikki also a lot of times when people have binge eating disorder, a lot of practitioners will actually ask them to please continue binging so that we can actually learn more about what's going on during those moments. So you can't fail in this way. So it's the hardest thing to do and it's the least bang for your buck in ways of immediate validation. Sorry. I want to be really clear about something. Pausing and reflecting on what your body is telling you is not going to immediately make you feel better. But the goal is to eventually draw that bridge and that connection between your mind and body that creates a very safe nervous system response and then can create different habits over time. But it's not like fun and it's not like easy and it's inviting people to be bold and it's inviting people into an opportunity, but it's certainly not the easiest way out and certainly not what I think our intuition tells us.
We think our intuition tells us after so many years of ignoring our bodies. Which is like kind of the saddest part of this conversation, I think, is just that there's so many things in our environment, in our food system, in money hungry corporations, not only in the food world, but in the diet world, that are so attacking our ability to listen to ourselves and attacking our ability to understand ourselves. That the scariest thing in the world for some of us is actually understanding ourselves. And that is like the weird philosophy behind all of this. And I had like an alternate slogan for Quiet the Diet when I first made it which was Quiet the Diet mastering your Health by Listening to yourself. That was like the other low key slogan that why wouldn't you use a slogan for a podcast? Not a thing. But for me, I think all of understanding hunger, appetite and cravings is a call home back to the body and it's really hard to do that and there are so many factors externally that influence it. But the foolproof method is always that you're always right and you always know.
And the more that we can tolerate not from a pain perspective and just really from this feels weird and unusual perspective when it comes to this kind of exploration. I think the more long term benefits we get but again, you're not going to get the short term. Which also means that sometimes yeah, just binge and then explore what happens during a binge. It doesn't mean stop yourself from doing these things. The pause is not the action, the pause is the system.
I love that. Just know that like you were saying when you were saying there's really no wrong way to go about it. This is a journey and we use that word for a reason. You're going to get different insights along the way. Maybe there's a really tough week where you get no insight, but then maybe you engaged in some different eating behaviors during that week, and now the next week, life is a little bit less chaotic, and you can then look to the week prior and figure and see, oh, okay, I'm now noticing why all of that stuff happens. So even if you feel like you're hitting a plateau or you feel like you're not progressing in terms of your understanding about your body, just know that every single experience that we're going through and every single eating event that we have. Everything is just informing us, giving us more information for the future to learn more and more about ourselves along the way.
Absolutely. And there is no wrong way to learn about ourselves. There is no wrong way to experience our lives. And I think the final comment I'll give is that in all of this, learn what has hijacked your ability to experience appetite, hunger and cravings in a way that feels neutral. So is that hyper palatable foods? Is that not listening to yourself? Is that too much stress that's then making your hunger and different things make you rely too much on the brain activity and too many thoughts. Learn what's hijacked it and then learn your system against it, whatever that system is. For some people, again, it's prepping food. For some people, it is listening to ourselves.
For some people, it's intuitive eating. The tool has to match whatever hijacked you. And just know, I think that we are all so abundantly capable of changing and understanding our bodies, and it is like the greatest gift we can give to ourselves. And I know that the invitation to pause can be overwhelming and scary, but I am so confident that we all can learn what our bodies are asking us and tap in. Also, just need to say this is a big one where this is not medical or nutrition advice. Really work with your provider. Especially this is certainly not therapeutic advice. This is certainly not trauma therapy advice.
Certainly work with your provider. Never take this as face value ice. We're just exploring ideas that have worked for us and our clients and discussing them. But thank you for listening to this episode. I might lose my hand soon if we don't, I'm going to be laughing the whole week.
I'm just going to think about it and start laughing.
I haven't had a daughter like that in a while. That was amazing. Thank you. And we'll see you guys next week. Bye.