Home Clean Eating Boot Camp Avoiding That Starving Feeling

Avoiding That Starving Feeling

by Erika Nicole Kendall

When I first began phasing processed foods out of my life, the most difficult part was the fact that I always felt hungry. Sure, I was eating three square meals a day, but I was always starving. I mean, we’re talking “OMG I HAVEN’T EATEN IN 3 MONTHS (or hours, whatever) I’M GONNA DIEEEEE” starving, here. It was bad.

So bad, that I tried a “modified” version of that “grazing” business that everyone was talking about. By “modified,” I mean it was literally eighth-hand information.. and I tried it. It was like diet advice passed down through a game of telephone. By the time it got to me, I was thinking it was acceptable to cook a giant container of macaroni salad and eat it all day whenever I felt like it.

Clearly, this did not work. I’d forget to eat, eat the wrong things or I’d eat too much while eating. Either way, this was all bad news for me.

Grazing is the idea of eating outside of those three square meals each day. I’m not sure where the idea to restrict ourselves to three meals a day came from anyway, but its highly impractical for someone who’s converting from foods that used to give us that “stuuuuuuuuffed” feeling. Sure, a properly-built veggie dish can and will fill you up, but what if your veggie dish isn’t “properly built?” You will be hungry, and you will be hungry much sooner than you would be if you were eating your old foods. And since hunger sometimes forces us to make decisions we wouldn’t make otherwise, it’s highly likely that you’d wind up reverting back to old foods… and old habits.

Yesterday, I wrote:

Once [a processed food] meets your saliva and enters your body, it breaks right back down to the goo… with no fiber inside to help push it out. It essentially deflates inside of your system, making it easier to consume more calories because you’re “not full yet.” Couple all of this with the fact that it takes approximately 20 minutes for your brain to get the signal from your digestive system that you’re “full,” and you start to see why a food that breaks down this quickly is a recipe for disaster – a breaded chicken breast on wheat bread breaks down much more slowly than a chicken patty sandwich on white bread, takes longer to chew (buying you time until that 20 minute mark… see what that 30 bites was important?), takes longer to digest (thus leaving you feeling fulfilled longer), and keeps you from overindulging.

This is why portion sizes have doubled and tripled over the past few years… the more processed our foods have become, the more we have to eat in order to remain full and the more our bodies compel us to eat because the foods lack the nutrients our bodies are looking for. That’s important. A processed food diet relies heavily on that “full feeling” to identify when we are “satisfied,” as opposed to the naturally-occurring chemical and neurological processes of the body that tell us to stop eating. So, in being ruled by both of those instead of just the natural processes of the body, our compulsion to overeat multiplies. All bad.

When I eat on a 6-meal schedule instead of a “three meal a day” ideal (which, if you ask me, isn’t ideal at all), I avoid that “hungry” feeling. We all know the “hungry” feeling. It’s that feeling you get when you think you might eat your desk,or you start wondering what your arm might taste like with a little A1 on it. The “hungry” feeling compels us to overeat because we’re simply shoveling food in our faces until it goes away.

So, it goes something like this. We start feeling like we’re “starving.” We get a plate of over-processed food. We start shoveling it in our faces hoping to curb that hunger. That food breaks down faster than it should. The chemicals in that food interfere with our ability to recognize that we’re eating and getting full. We eventually wind up eating too much and taking in too many calories. We become overstuffed (and wind up stretching out our stomachs, thus expanding how much food we need in order to achieve that “full” feeling we desire) and, well, overweight.

My black bean quesadilla,with pepers, onion, cheese, black beans, and a little chili pepper. Yum.

This is why I’m an advocate of grazing. In fact, if you’re doing it right, you should never feel hunger pangs again. If you do encounter a hungry feeling, you’re definitely doing it wrong.

Now… I have to admit. I hate the term grazing, even though it’s appropriate in this case in a nostalgic kind of way. Grazing usually applies to herbivores (like cows) who kind of just eat as they go along. You don’t see them going for extended periods of time eating, and then out of nowhere scarfing down an entire lawn’s worth of grass. It’s not necessary because they don’t do it. Their eating is not controlled by hunger.. it’s controlled by the fact that they need food to fuel their bodies. And while I don’t subscribe to the strict “food is fuel” mantra – I think food can be healthily enjoyed because I think all parts of life should be enjoyed – I do think it’s an important mantra to keep on hand.

If food is to be used as fuel – a proper energy source for your body – then why only fuel up three times a day? Kick it up a notch and go for more!

When I first began to successfully change my eating habits, I ate six meals a day. I ate a 7AM meal, a 9:30AM snack, a noon meal, 3PM snack, 6PM dinner, and a 9PM snack. It was truly what I was looking for. At 7AM, I’d have an omelette with peppers and onions. 9:30? Maybe a bowl of raw broccoli with french dressing. Around noon, I’d make a CLT on wheat (chicken, lettuce and tomato… #teamANTIbacon over here.) At 3, I’d give myself a spinach wrap with tomato and ranch dressing. Dinner was usually whatever I felt like having, and my 9PM snack was mainly a fruit. Completely unprocessed, well within my calorie budget. It worked out wonderfully for me.

As I said earlier, I went so long without feeling “hungry” that the rare days that I couldn’t abide by my schedule, my hunger pangs didn’t control me. I wasn’t compelled to overeat like before. I wasn’t drawn to crave processed food. I knew what a respectable portion size looked like, and I knew when it was quitting time at the table. I knew about the 20 minute time frame it takesmy body to recognize that it’s full, and I did what I could to take my time and appreciate my food. Life just became easier. I had more control. I’m never giving that up again.

Show a little love by voting for me in the Black Weblog Awards for Best Health or Wellness Blog category! That’s right – BGG2WL is a finalist thanks to you! Let’s do what we can to bring it home!

Do you eat on a schedule? What kind of eats do you enjoy? Let’s hear it!

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CHARRON August 13, 2010 - 11:09 AM

this is yet again another great article..question..i know its probly a lie..or not really that much fiber..but i eat this mexican veggie bowl ..and it says it has 4 grams of fiber? so do u think thats not true..or not sufficient? just asking!..its hard for me to get on scheduled eating cause i dont start till 9am some times later..and im not a morning person, so i think its great u can b up at 7..to get ur day started..and i think what you do and how you eat is awesome..ill give it a try and see if i can stick to a schedule of eating 6 times a day
thanks erica!

Erika August 13, 2010 - 11:14 AM

That’s a decent amount of fiber, but seeing as how a half-cup of black beans by themselves has something like 5g of fiber… I’m wondering if you couldn’t make this mexican veggie bowl on your own? Or maybe if you told me the ingredients, I can help you come up with a better recipe for it?

What’s probably in it? Black beans, red peppers, maybe some corn, avocado, cheese, chili powder, tomato, rice? Shoot, while you’re playin’, that sounds like my dinner tonight. LOL

Adrianne August 13, 2010 - 11:10 AM

I have to eat on a schedule due to issues with hypoglycemia. If I’m not noshing every couple of hours, it gets ugly. And there’s nothing worse than feeling completely ravenous and just scarfing something down to make the shakes go away and immediately regretting it.

Janine January 24, 2013 - 8:09 AM

Feel you there, I have that problem too. 🙁 even the most ‘craveable’ foods taste bad if you’re eating them to chase away the shakes.

Janelle August 13, 2010 - 11:32 AM

Thank you for this post! I’ve been dealing with the ‘hungry feeling’ the last few days towards the end of the day and I haven’t known how to fix it other than eat whatever’s near and then get mad later.

I’m going to use your eating schedule and see if it works for me!

Darlicia August 13, 2010 - 12:01 PM

When I decreased my processed foods, my hunger pangs were basically gone. I tend to eat 3 meals with a snack or two. I always have a protein with each snack, and usually try to combine a healthy fat, too. For example, an apple with 1 oz of unprocessed cheese or almonds work very well. I also LOVE Fage greek yogurt (plain). It has more protein and less sugar than regular yogurt with the benefit of probiotics. I eat it with strawberries sweetened with stevia with 2 eggs for breakfast, and that will keep me satisfied a large portion of the morning. I will even put it on top of a sweet potato instead of sour cream. For me, sticking to whole wheat and natural sugars combined with adequate protein and healthy fat keeps hunger away. I find that excluding processed foods will allow you to eat a much larger volume which, in turn, keeps hunger at bay, the metabolism running,and my life much happier!

Randi August 15, 2010 - 10:16 PM

I eat on a schedule and attribute my a big chunk of my success to my schedule. When I know when and what I am going to eat I am not driven by hunger even if I do get to busy to pause and eat a snack or a meal.

I always tell people when first starting to have a set schedule and to pre-plan meals. Once your body is on that schedule it’s really smooth sailing.

CHARRON August 16, 2010 - 3:49 PM

hey erica i hadnt realized you responded..i didnt see your post only the other ladies was emailed to me that they responded..ok but in answer to your question i could probably make this on my own, BUT..i am a hair stylist..i stand for long hours and finish working late some times 10pm at night..this is easy to fix (throw in the microwave) and not jack in the box or some other fast food. what do you think? any suggestions? for some one with an schedule like mine? it has no meat, but yes black beans, corn `cheese and maybe some onions and lil masa or tortilla in it.
thank you so much for responding!!!

Erika August 17, 2010 - 6:24 AM

The days that you do have free time, use cooking as a cathartic measure – spend a little time making some meatballs for the week! Prep some veggies in freezer bags! You have a busy schedule, so you know you have to PLAN! You’re worth the extra time. Trust me. 🙂

CHARRON August 17, 2010 - 2:52 PM

@ erica.well thank you for ur response..ill see if that helps..hmm meat balls for the week..nice concept..im giving it all a try this week..working on eating 6 times a day..that black bean quesadilla is the BOMB!! SINCE I DONT REALLY EAT MEAT ITS GREAT!! i tend to eat ground turkey every now and then so i guess i could try some meatballs with the ground turkey! thanks so much u r a blessing!

Suzette July 26, 2012 - 8:47 PM

Hey Charron-Trader Joe’s sells these turkey meatballs that are tdf! They come in a package of I think 24 for $2.99. I usually put a whole package in the oven to bake and trust me, they go a long way. I cut ’em up on omelettes w/veggies, or cool them in spaghetti sauce then serve over whole wheat pasta. They are very versatile and can work in many ways.

Bianca June 4, 2013 - 2:11 PM

Trader Joe’s also has vegetarian meatballs

Jennifer January 3, 2011 - 4:36 PM

Thanks for posting this information! I thought I was going through a “menta thing” since I switched to clean eating. By the way, that black bean quesadilla looks scrumptious and I will be trying that tonight with some chicken.

Question: I saw that you make your own salad dressings, do you also make your own bbq sauce or ketchup?

Jennifer January 4, 2011 - 10:25 AM

Thanks Erica! I will check them out!I hate typos, I meant to say “mental thing”, LOL

atribitt June 9, 2011 - 5:50 PM

My biggest thing is planning meals/snacks and not getting bored with them. I’ve got dinner covered. But is there a website to go to with a list of great EASY, SIMPLE, AND QUICK breakfast/snack/lunch ideas?

milaxx June 10, 2011 - 4:53 PM

Yup, but I do 3 meals and 2 snack. I started this because I am not a morning person and while I like breakfast foods, eating early in the morning sometimes made me nauseous. even worse if I was having a lazy day, I could go until 8 pm without eating a single bite. Of course you know that means dinner was crazy because you think you can eat whatever to make up for not eating all day.

7:30 Wake, take vitamins/allergy and meds for bladder issue with 16oz of water

8:15 Snack. Usually almonds and fruit Sometimes vegan protein powder w/ tbsp of almond butter added

9:00 (4x’s a wk) – Water aerobics

10:30 Breakfast

1pm Lunch

4pm Snack

8pm Dinner

I am typically pretty full at this point and spend the next hour trying to make sure I got my 8 glasses of water in. I have to stop drinking by 9 or I won’t get any sleep.

One thing I have notice is between eating on a schedule and eating as clean as possible, my sugar cravings are virtually nil and on the rare occasion I do get sweet cravings, I can think straight enough to not binge.

Marion@affectionforfitness June 10, 2011 - 6:05 PM

Hi! There are some very good points made in this post. No matter how many meals you are eating, you have to make yourself responsible about the calories per day. Regardless of whether you are eating 3 meals or lots of little meals, if your calorie amount is too high, you won’t reach your weight goal.

I totally agree that refined foods are what is giving everyone cravings. When I stopped eating all of the crap, my cravings ENTIRELY went away. I mean ENTIRELY–make no mistake. You might be thinking that you would miss all of the 20+ ingredient refined mystery crap, but once it is out of your system, you can walk right by cookies or cake and it stops saying, “Here I am, your best buddy.” No more cookie voices. It’s liberating and I don’t want to be best friends with a cookie.

Regarding regular meals or 6 small ones, as long as you follow your calorie guidelines, that’s up to you. Unlike Erika, I always felt starving all day long with 6 small meals. I prefer at least 2 meals a day, lunch and dinner, where I feel good and satisfied afterward. Because I like 2 substantial meals (of about 500 calories), that means that I cannot eat very big snacks. I usually have an apple or a banana for a snack. But the trade-off of having some bigger meals is really worth it to me. It has helped me stick to my food choices better. This is a personality difference. Experiment with both and do what works for you.

🙂 Marion

michele sandelinaustin May 29, 2012 - 11:46 PM

I am so glad to come across this site, 10lbs is off and I’m workin hard. I have type 2 diabetes so it a little hard for me, I also have COPD and Sarcoidosis since 1994. I cook the right things and don’t eat fast food (about 2times a month) and very pick about that, so can you give me some tips please, Thank You for your Help, Peace/Love!!!

Kenyetta July 26, 2012 - 8:31 PM

My typical food schedule.

5:30 – raw vegan protein powder with almond milk
7:30 – banana
9:30 – simply fiber cereal with almond milk
12:00- trader joes granola bar or a piece of fruit
3:00- kale salad w/tuna and hummus
5:00- fruit or trail mix
8:00- salmon and veggies

Kaylee Robinson July 26, 2012 - 9:06 PM

Nice post! I actually eat every few hours to keep my metabolism burning and stave off hunger. My workouts are pretty intense and sometimes I opt for workout 2x or 3x a day. I can’t do that with hunger pains! I also had a thyroidectomy and take Synthroid, so my metabolism can be unpredictable and usually too fast.

I start eating around 7am and finish no later than 8pm. I picked up a bad habit that when I’m at work I have to have food in reach. I started doing food prep once a week to make it easier to pack my food everyday. I keep things like almonds, granola, dried blueberries at my desk and then bring in everything else – boiled eggs, yogurt, sweet potatoes, steel cut oats, fruit, veggies, salads, etc. This way I’m not tempted to go for junk food or candy.

But as you said, whatever type of eating regimen you follow – being accountable for your calories, portion size, and the overall healthiness of your food is crucial. Great info!

mo January 24, 2013 - 12:43 PM

Hi, I stumbled across your post on facebook, was impressed and decided to join your blog. I’ve been trying to loose weight for the longest, but this year I’m more than determined- coupled with the fact that I’ve just been asked to be a bridesmaid in a family friends wedding this May! I need to loose at least 25lbs so I can feel confident in a strapless dress (something I’ve not done since I was like 12!) any tips on how to acheive this? i just started running 1mile each morning, watching what i eat.. and will be going to the gym over the weekends… my major problem areas are upper body – arms, chest and stomach. Help!! (p.s. i bought a juicer, any tips on how to use it and what juice combinations will help. Thanks!!! 🙂

Erika Nicole Kendall January 27, 2013 - 1:10 PM

I’m not a juicer or smoothie person, so I can’t help you there. I’ve got just about everything else covered, though. 🙂

Jennifer June 13, 2013 - 6:34 AM

Increasing meal frequency is good but you can also try eating food that makes you less hungry. I swear by legumes and peanuts. I can take one tiny pouch of peanuts for lunch and not feel hungry at all—I can even skip lunch occasionally.

Erika Nicole Kendall June 13, 2013 - 4:24 PM

Very good point.

DianaB June 13, 2013 - 4:44 PM

During the week days – and a rigid break schedule at work I keep with the 5 times a day/grazing schedule. Oatmeal at 7:45, half a grapefruit and green tea at 10:30 am, lunch at 1pm, snack at 3:30 and depending on if its a gym night or not dinner at either 6:45 or 7:30. My problem is on the weekends when my schedule isnt as planned and rigid. Sleeping in, going out with friends, too busy running errands – that’s when the grazing doesnt happen.

zsnaani November 23, 2013 - 7:51 PM

Thanks for the article. I was wondering why I was always hungry since I began eating cleaner :-).

Aishah @ Coffee, Love, Health January 30, 2014 - 11:14 AM

Hi Erika!

I just read this great post of yours. I would like to mention I’ve recently taken on this type of routine, trying to eat every couple hours and limiting processed foods as much as possible. I have found that I do feel more in control, more “full” and less deprived. It’s nice because I don’t feel like the thought of food is controlling my mind and that is the most freeing feeling in the world. I have been cutting sugar, at first I tried to do completely no carbs but that made me dream about brownies all day (lol) so I decided to incorporate them into my diet in a healthy and mindful way. I initially did low carb while losing weight but once I started exercising I realized I simply can’t enjoy exercise while feeling so low on energy and deprived of good food.

Jessica December 17, 2014 - 3:30 AM

Hi Erika!
Thank you for writing such a great article, I,ve done the meal plan for a while now and so far its worked beautifully. I did have a quick question though, one I’m not sure if you can answer. I am a sophmore in college and I have thankfully avoided the freshmen 15, however In times of stress I really crave the processed crunchy and/or spicy stuff. I was hoping you have a healthier alternative because my peppers and cucumbers arnt doing it for me. One other thing is, I have noticed that alot of weightloss recipes include tomato, which is my least favorite fruit. I was wondering if you had any suggestions on how to get the same nutritional value as a tomato, or a positive alternatives.

Erika Nicole Kendall December 17, 2014 - 5:13 PM

Maybe red peppers? Totally depends on the taste.

You don’t like tomatoes at ALL? A good, ripe, deep red tomato? There’s NO way that a tomato can be prepared that would be enjoyable to you?

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