Out Of Control Cravings & Hunger? Here’s Why + The Secret To Fixing It
For most patients in my functional medicine telehealth clinic, it's been a while since they’ve felt a sense of peace with food. Many of them are struggling with food sensitivities, digestive issues, and blood sugar issues that cause constant hunger and cravings that make them feel like victims of their eating schedules.
If you feel the same about food, you’re not alone. There are certain aspects of our modern lifestyles — like high-sugar foods, long workdays, lack of exercise, and our snacking culture — that can mess with our hunger signals and our intuition about what to eat, when, and how much.
This increasingly common struggle with food is one of the reasons why I wrote my new book Intuitive Fasting. It acts as an introduction to the world of intermittent fasting — but is written in a way that encourages you to connect with unconditional love for your body and throw guilt, restriction, and punishment away for good.
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Metabolic Inflexibility — The Worst Thing For Your Hunger Signals
Do you ever feel hungry and irritable if they go a few hours without eating? Or feel like you need consistent hits of sugar, caffeine, and carbs to get you through the day? These are some not-so-subtle signs that your metabolism has become inflexible, which means it’s lost some of its ability to maintain consistent energy levels regardless of the type of food you’re eating.
What does that mean? Think of it like this: Your body is a fire, and sugar is kindling. Sugar as fuel provides short, effective bursts of flames to get the fire started, but it's quick to burn out and you have to constantly replenish it to keep the fire going. In contrast, fat is like a log of firewood. You can put a log in the fire and know that for hours you'll have a slow and steady fire burning. When your body is desperate for sugar because it can't rely on burning fat for fuel, you'll be “hangry” every few hours, no matter how much you eat.
That’s the bad news. The good news is that by making a few key lifestyle changes, you can help restore metabolic flexibility, which means you can keep your fire burning strong and steady whether you’ve eaten 6 minutes or 6 hours ago.
Metabolic Flexibility — The Key to Food Freedom
As we already learned, metabolic flexibility is your body’s ability to supply your brain and body with energy using either glucose or fat for fuel. When you’re metabolically flexible, you’ll be able to draw on these two fuel sources at will and it will give you a sense of freedom over food. Why? Because it will help you fend off fatigue, brain fog, cravings, crankiness, and blood sugar dips that you experience when you are metabolically inflexible.
So, how do you become more metabolically flexible? You have a few options. Metabolic flexibility is one of the main goals of the ketogenic diet or my plant-based Ketotarian version. Another strategy I recommend is intermittent fasting. With flexible fasting practices, you can help retrain your body not to rely on constant hits of sugar for energy and become more metabolically flexible.
4 Weeks to a More Flexible Metabolism
In Intuitive Fasting, I created a 4 Week Flexible Fasting plan that introduces you to the world of time-restricted feeding, which is the easiest way to start exploring intermittent fasting. With time-restricted feeding, you simply extend the time between dinner and breakfast the next day. You don’t focus on eating less or counting calories — you simply shorten your daily eating window to give your metabolism and gut health a longer break overnight. This — combined with eating fewer simple carbs and more protein and fat — can help your metabolism reset and recharge to be more adaptable.
Each week of the plan tailored to focus on a different aspect of your health and by the end of the four weeks, you’ll have taken major steps to support your metabolism and hormones so that hunger signals and cravings FINALLY feel under control. And that, my friends, is the key to finding peace of mind with food.
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BY DR. WILL COLE
Dr. Will Cole, IFMCP, DNM, DC, leading functional medicine expert, consults people around the world via webcam and locally in Pittsburgh. He received his doctorate from Southern California University of Health Sciences and post doctorate education and training in functional medicine and clinical nutrition. He specializes in clinically researching underlying factors of chronic disease and customizing a functional medicine approach for thyroid issues, autoimmune conditions, hormonal imbalances, digestive disorders, and brain problems. Dr. Cole was named one of the top 50 functional medicine and integrative doctors in the nation and is the best selling author of Ketotarian and The Inflammation Spectrum.