Saturday, December 6, 2014

The Nutrition Debate #268: “Help with Cravings”

‘John,’ the ‘bot who (that?) is the “coach” I selected at, sent me my first “coach email” a few days ago. (Fit2Me is a website that I learned about through a TV ad and signed up for. It is sponsored by AstraZeneca, the drug company.) So, I thought I would read it and offer this critique of ‘John’s’ approach to mentoring me. It’s a fairly short email, with introductory paragraph, three bullet paragraphs, and a summary wrap-up with some rah-rah encouragement.

“Cravings can be tough,” John begins. “It’s not just because the food is right there, but many times it comes out of nowhere and that’s really hard to handle. That’s why I thought I would reach out to you with some suggestions.”

Cravings. What are they anyway? For me cravings fall into 2 categories: 1) hunger cravings, which I never, ever have; and 2) ideas about eating something, which I frequently have, usually before or after supper. I am excluding opportunistic eating from the category of cravings. That is when I see food. My eye and my brain then conspire against me to eat food, usually too much. The buffet falls into this category too. The solution is simply to control the beast. I’ve not always been successful.

Hunger craving are non-existent because I eat a Very Low Carb, high-fat diet. When you eat this way, you will not be hungry. You will have no “need” (from hunger cravings) to snack between meals because your blood sugars will be stable.

     “It’s not easy,” John says, “but a little preparation can really help deal with temptation. Keep some type 2 diabetes friendly snacks with you. There’s plenty at Fit2Me. These can really come in handy when you are tempted because it is much easier to say ‘no’ when you have something to say ‘yes’ to.”

This makes no sense at all to me. First, if you eat LCHF, you will not be hungry so the only thing you will be “tempted” to do is to eat an unnecessary snack just because you know you have it with you! In fact, you are not saying ‘no’ at all; you are actually saying “yes.” You are actually caving into temptation, not hunger. That is not the best way to control the beast.

     “If you’re going out to eat with friends or the work crowd, look ahead at the menu and know what you are going to order. It really helps to keep you from having to choose on the spot, plus it gives you more time to hobnob with the ‘in crowd.’” (That’s funny. In social network theory, our type 2 diabetic person would appear to be an outlier.)

Once again, ‘John’ (I’m talking to a robot!), I think this is a bad idea. If you look ahead at the menu you are just going to be thinking about food too much. Everyone on a diet knows this. It is easy to obsess about food. It is better to just pick up the menu, select an appetizer or a salad and be done with it. Just avoid all fried foods and most prepared salad dressings.

     “Remember your trade-offs. If you think you are going to be in a situation where you have to eat more than you want to, just try to keep the portions small, plus plan on how you’re going to burn off some of those extra calories with an exercise. There are lots of activities to use to trade-off some calories on Fit2Me,” ‘John’ says.

Oh great! Plan to fail. Plan to be in a situation where “you have to” eat more than you want, and then rationalize this planned indulgence with a “Hail Mary” around the track. Does anyone think that exercise is a good way to lose weight? Penance is great, but penance doesn’t shed weight; it just sheds guilt. To repeat, the solution is simple: control the beast.

John’s summation: “Temptation comes in a lot of forms and at all times of the day. Stay ahead of temptations by planning ahead. Use your meal planner, build an activity plan to help you with trade-offs, and keep some healthy snacks ready. It’s all there with Fit2Me. After all, we know that you are going to have to deal with cravings, and that’s why we built Fit2Me to be all about you. Remember, I am behind you every step of the way.”

Now we’re talking “temptation” again. That’s a different subject from “cravings,” whether “hunger cravings” or just ideas about snacking before or after supper, where ‘John’ and I began. Temptation is still tough for me. I am a trough feeder. But cravings are easily managed: 1) eat LCHF and you won’t get “hunger cravings,” period. You won’t need to snack, honestly.
Then, if you want a drink (and a snack), and have a habit of having them before supper, (as I do)) pick a LCHF snack like radishes with salt and butter. And after supper, to break the habit of “nervous eating,” simply control the beast. Just plant another idea in your head (if a “snack” impulse comes up), e.g. think about that fasting blood sugar you will have in the morning if you resist the temptation. Last week most of mine were in the 80’s and 90’s. I even had an 82 one morning!


  1. So you do not experience cravings. If you do not have them, you are lucky. I have had periods without cravings, and periods with cravings. They are a non-rational desire for something, or an insatiably appetite, even on NO carb. This suggests that there is some unknown biological cause, but nobody knows the cause of cravings. Small amounts of greens never gave me any relief from them either.
    No carb actually makes cravings worse for me. I need a few carbs, but I was only classes as pre-diebetic before I went low-carb. It looks like AstraZeneca is pushing conventional "wisdom".

  2. You're right about AstraZeneca, Fred, and about irrational 'desire' for food sometimes. And I also agree that it is from some unknown biological signal, including brain signaling. I think we could also agree it is not about 'hunger' in the sense of stomach rumbling from being empty. The only times I eat irrationally is after a full dinner (I call it supper to talk myself into a smaller meal). It is triggered by a 'cue,' which is usually the thought of some food I know is in the kitchen. It could also just be the 'sight' of food, either actual or imaginary. But my 'bot doesn't have this knowledge that you and I have, and so my blog piece was just to show how little the medical industry and Big Pharma understands what we know. Thanks for commenting, Fred.
    PS: There is an ongoing debate about whether fat or protein is more satiating. Personally, I think it is fat, and I think it is because that is what our bodies need ('crave') most. It is the most efficient thing we can eat (9kcal/g vs. 4kcal/g for protein and carbs), making it the best thing we can eat to store energy for a famine or a non-growing season. And protein actually uses about 10% of it's value in calories to digest it vs. none for fat and very few for carbs especially if they are already mostly digested as our processed foods are today. Besides, almost half of protein that is not taken up by the cells goes to the liver for storage and converts to glucose when the body needs it, so type 2s need to limit protein (unless they exercise very vigorously almost every day, which I do not). LOL.

  3. I think satiating has more to do with the absorption rate that the caloric density, according to Satiation, from Gut to Brain. Small amount of fat or oil will kill hunger for a couple of hours.
    Some of early hunger is the gut cells switching from being fed from the gut side to blood side. But you are right that low carb of most any kind greatly reduces hunger issues. The other issue is where is the fat stored at? Gut fat is freed at 1.4 time faster that subcutaneous fat. That is one reason why early weight loss is so much easier that those last pounds.

    Protein vs fat is a red herring. Which fat? Which protein? Protein is broken into peptides and some proteins, and the liver allows circulation of some needed proteins. It is really all about the individual insulin response.

    1. I think I take a more 'ancestral' view of what drives our eating/storage needs, hence the density argument.

      Re the' imperative' aspect of craving, I have read in a couple of books (the Jaminet's PHD diet comes to mind) that we may eat UNTIL our body is satisfied that it has all the essential nutrients it needs (including EFAs and proteins it cannot easily construct). Hence, we eat more nutritionally poor foods (carbs) to the point of obesity. This specialized craving hypothesis has a certain appeal to me.

      I find that a breakfast of just eggs and bacon and a little H&H in my coffee can easily carry me all day long w/o hunger. I usually eat a can of sardines in olive oil +/-5 hrs after breakfast just to avoid muscle wasting. I follow Bernstein's protocol on eating the same thing for breakfast and lunch almost every day, for blood sugar stability as well.

      Your 'gut fat is freed' point is very interesting. Can you cite your source? I'd like to know more.

      Also, I will also read Satiation, from Gut to Brain, another subject of interest to me. Thanks again for commenting

      PS: Matjes (red) herring has both protein and fat. ;) It is always on our Christmas smorgasbord. (Did you mean to say 'peptides and amino acids'?