You might have just eaten an entire Thanksgiving dinner. You are stuffed to the gills. But when the pie comes out, you suddenly have room to try three of them. What gives?
The human hunger drive is complicated. Our caveman brain is always on the lookout for something worth eating, even if we just ate. And what it thinks is worth eating is whatever has the highest calories in the smallest packaging.
Unlucky for us, desserts made with sugar and fat (usually butter) fit that bill perfectly. So even when you are full, your caveman brain is working overtime to save you from starvation. Never mind that you are at exactly zero risk of starvation and are more likely to be suffering from the exact opposite problem – over consumption.
Humans have the natural ability to cram (that is the official term) calorie dense foods because we don’t want to risk other members of the tribe eating it before we do. In the caveman world, eating more when it was available was better for survival and that trait got passed on to all of us.
Even if you are eating the Whole Food Muscle Way you can still cram on sweet treats when you’re not hungry. Foods like dates, nuts and nut butters are very calorie dense and are great cram-food according to your caveman brain.
And when you give in to that temptation you will have three days of cravings to contend with before the memory starts to fade.
So, what can you do to avoid the cram monster?
- Don’t keep fat and sugar laden treats in your house. There is a reason there isn’t chocolate (yes even dark chocolate) in our house. Because I will eat it!
- Notice when the cram monster sneaks up on you. Sometimes just realizing it’s happening is enough to laugh it off.
- Ask yourself if you’re actually hungry. If you just ate a full meal, the answer is likely no.
- Keep a journal or calendar of how often the cram monster gets the best of you and what you ate. Knowledge is power when it comes to fighting monsters.
- If you decide to give in, choose something whole-food (dried fruit is a good option) and be emotionally ready to deal with the cravings for the next several days.
- Don’t guilt on yourself about it. Guilt never helped anyone accomplish anything. Figure out why the monster won and make a plan to do something different next time.
To your caveman brain, hunger is just a message to go look for food. If food is already available, hunger has nothing to do with eating.
What next -
Are you finally ready to deal with your food cravings and emotional eating? Email Health@RnRJourney.com to set up a free 15-minute chat with Dr Robyn and if see she is the right coach for you.
Dr Robyn is a former competitive volleyball player turned psychologist with continuing education in nutrition. Russ is a former competitive bodybuilder and trainer on the Mr. Olympia Tour. They are the co-founders of Whole Food Muscle and the authors of How to Feed a Human The Whole Food Muscle Way. To work with them one on one to improve your health and fitness or to have them speak at your event or organization email them at Health@RnRJourney.com.