It drives me crazy how people are so scared to try a 48 hour fast. I feel like this topic has been beaten to death, but seriously how can you justify continuing to eat when you are overweight and your body is storing fat? Do you REALLY need to know the science behind fasting and why it works? I don’t think you do.
The problem is that people are so brainwashed these days to think that they need to eat as often as possible to “keep their blood sugar up” or some other such nonsense. When did people stop trusting their instincts and making decisions on how they actually feel?
And I’m not talking about emotions here – that’s a terrible idea. Just because you feel like eating Cheetos doesn’t mean you should.
“OMG I have such a craving for <insert awful food here>! It must mean that my body NEEDS it!”
Food cravings are completely irrelevant
If you’ve ever fasted for any length of time, then you know that food cravings can hit you when you least expect it.
There you are, minding your own business, when all of a sudden you’re hit with a whiff of some incredibly smelling piece of food and your biology lights up like a Christmas tree. At that moment, the only thing you can think of is doing whatever it takes to stuff that food down your throat, even if it means body-checking your grandma to do it.
But even if the olfactory stimulus isn’t there, you might still be hit with a craving from time to time. You might be tempted to think that this is your body’s way of telling you that you “need” something.
I hate to break it to you, but you are wrong. Your body is wrong. Your brain is wrong.
This isn’t what happens and to succumb to this belief is just another way of justifying the weakness of character that has precipitated your horizontal expansion over the years.
In other words, food cravings FOR UNHEALTHY FOOD are total nonsense. They are not based on some primordial, inexplicable desire by your body to ingest peanut butter or ice cream sandwiches.
I first discovered this when I started eating raw meat regularly in Vietnam. I would spend the entire day fasting (with a few 48 hour fasts thrown in for fun), running on the beach and training in a local gym. By the end of the day I was RAVENOUS and ready to go berserk in whatever little convenience store happened to be there. I was imagining myself eating ungodly amounts of bahn mi sandwiches, pho, and whatever else I could get my hands on.
I was smart enough to have the foresight to buy a kg of raw meat at the local market every day, so I had food on hand. My inner Jew wouldn’t let me waste food that I had bought, so I always made sure to eat the raw meat before eating anything else.
I told myself, “Okay, after I eat this raw meat, I can go nuts and cheat and eat whatever I want.” The gym that I was training at was one of the best that I’d ever been to in my life, so I always got a gut-busting 2 hour workout in. I felt like I had earned the right to cheat a little bit.
Interestingly enough, after slamming a pound of raw meat, I had no desire to cheat any more. Despite not even really feeling that full, I didn’t even feel like I needed to eat anything more. The best way I can think to explain it was that I was saited.
Normally, I don’t get this feeling unless I am 2 hours deep into a Snake Diet refeed and bloated from stuffing myself with anything I could get my hands on. But after eating a pound of raw beef and a few hundred grams of liver, all of my cravings magically vanished.
And this was sometimes even after a 48 hour fast! What happened to my cravings? Why did they disappear? Didn’t my body “need” deep fried pig skin and Turkish kebabs?
No, it didn’t.
What causes food cravings? Being hungry
Before I started doing 48 hour fasts, I was on the Warrior Diet. The Warrior Diet is basically OMAD (one meal a day) where light snacking on low-GI foods is allowed as long as you keep your insulin levels low.
The refeed protocol for the Warrior Diet is like this:
- Start with raw vegetables (normally a salad)
- Then eat your protein
- If you’re still hungry, you can eat carbs
- After your big meal (at night), you are allowed to snack but try to keep it under control
Something interesting happened when I began to do this: I began to LOVE salads.
I was so damn hungry by the time night rolled around that I would happily smash whatever salad was in front of me and love every second of it. It’s not that I didn’t crave other foods, of course I did. But when my hunger levels were so high, I almost didn’t care what I ate as long as I got to eat SOMETHING.
This is the point: when you are hungry, anything looks good to you. You are much more suggestible and easily influenced by the promise of an upcoming meal that you’ll eat anything.
Food cravings for non-food items
When I was in the army, we often served on bases where there were only men. If there were women around, they were often kept separate from us (infantry), presumably to keep us focused on training and not on chasing tail.
The effect of this was that on the odd weekend we were allowed to leave base, we were so desperate for female attention that we often let our standards for quality fly out the window. Any guy or girl who has been through a dry spell can relate to this.
There is even a saying for it in Hebrew:
“In the desert, every flower is a rose.”
While this might be an amusing anecdote from a somewhat unrelated part of life, the concept applies to food cravings as well: when you are starving because you haven’t eaten anything, you’ll eat damn near anything and it will taste like the most delicious food on the planet to you.
How to use your food cravings to your advantage
I go over this a lot in my YouTube videos, but I don’t believe there is anything inherently “good” or “bad” in the world. In Buddhism they say, “Every truth is but a half truth,” implying that there are two sides to everything.
I believe this applies to food cravings as well. It is totally possible to use them to your advantage instead of letting them control you.
Interestingly enough, it seems like the answer to controlling your food cravings isn’t necessarily choosing the right foods per se. You need to take it one step further: you need to get some skin in the game and have real-world consequences for NOT eating the right foods during your refeed.
What I mean by this is that you need to identify some tangible consequence for succumbing to your food cravings. Without this, your commitment to weight loss and proper nutrition isn’t likely to have the necessary weight behind it (no pun intended) in order to stick.
To expand on the previous example, the rationale for eating raw vegetables first during a Warrior Diet refeed is that after a full day of fasting, eating a mix of carbs and protein is going to wreak havoc on your delicate stomach. The raw vegetables will get the digestive juices flowing and allow them to attack something that’s made of mostly water and fiber.
In other words, NOT eating the salad first had tangible consequences: an unpleasant stomach ache. That was my skin in the game. Without that, I wouldn’t have eaten the salad.
The dilution of the stomach acid will then cause less problems when you introduce something that’s harder to digest: carbs and COOKED protein.
The problem with this is that vegetables don’t have much nutrition value. From what it sounds like, Hofmekler never made mention of eating raw meat. Perhaps he does it now, but in TWD he never listed it as an option.
Crush your food cravings by getting some skin in the game
Getting back on track, the point is that it wasn’t necessarily Hofmekler’s specific order of refeeding that was the secret to the Warrior Diet’s success, but rather the fact that there WAS an order in the first place.
In other words, deciding ahead of time what you are going to eat is the secret to controlling your food cravings.
And to take it one step further, getting some skin in the game by purchasing the necessary food items will strengthen the likelihood that you ignore your food cravings even more.
I joked earlier that my inner Jew wouldn’t let me waste the $6 of raw meat that I had bought that day. But I wasn’t really joking.
I had accidentally stumbled upon what Hofmekler also seemed to have accidentally stumbled upon: by specifically choosing the foods that I would eat during my refeed (and getting some skin in the game by purchasing them ahead of time), I had circumvented my desire to give in to any irrational food cravings.
Perhaps the most challenging time to deal with food cravings is in situations where it would be “weird” to admit that you are trying to control them.
Most normal people don’t pay much attention to what they eat, are either overweight or “skinnyfat,” and rarely exercise.
To willingly hold back from ordering that Bloomin Onion (god I love those things) or rejecting your host’s generous offer of an aesthetically-arranged fruit plate seems socially awkward at best. At worst you’ll be viewed as rude, or – God forbid – one of those boring “fitness people.”
If you’re expecting me to tell you to be strong and resist the temptation to give in, you’re going to be disappointed. There are more socially fluid ways of slipping out of the obligation to eat unhealthy foods with your friends, and I’m going to list a few of them for you here.
Avoid food cravings by claiming food poisoning and allergies
This is one of my favorites to use in situations where there is food that I don’t want to eat.
The beauty of claiming that you have food poisoning is that IMMEDIATELY people will stop trying to force-feed you. You may get some Italian grandmothers who still try to pile food on your plate, but rest assured that it’s just for show and they don’t actually expect you to eat it.
Most normal people will leave you alone once you say that you’re recovering from food poisoning because everyone on the planet has experienced it. Knowing that eating a literal bread crumb will result in a 30 minute appointment on the toilet is not something that anyone would wish on another human being.
Another benefit of claiming food poisoning is that you’ll be allowed to leave the party earlier if you want. Nobody expects (or wants) someone with explosive diarrhea to stick around for very long against their will.
If you want to take a less aggressive approach to resisting your food cravings, you can claim that you have an allergy to a certain type of food. Broad all-encompassing allergies like gluten will give you a free pass to decline most desserts, crackers, pizza and anything else with wheat in it.
The beauty of the allergy card is that you can play it with almost any food item. Most people are so ignorant when it comes to allergies that they’re likely to just leave you alone when you claim you have an allergy to some kind of food that they’ve prepared.
Furthermore, people will actually FEEL GUILTY that they prepared something that you are allergic to! Watch them trip over themselves to accommodate you and tell you things like, “I’m so sorry! What CAN you eat? I’ll make it for you right now!”
I don’t know about you, but I think it’s kind of funny how people react so different to someone actively trying to better themselves by denying their food cravings compared to someone who “can’t” eat a certain food because of an allergy.
One of them takes no effort and is arguably admirable, whereas the second is the result of insufficient exposure to varied environments.
One is the result of proactive self improvement, while the second is the result of avoidance of new situations.
One is growth-oriented, the other is stagnation.
The growth is punished while the stagnation is rewarded.
Funny, isn’t it?
Just give in to your food cravings and eat the damn Bloomin Onion
The second potential approach is to stop being a sperg and just eat the damn Bloomin Onion.
You may think I’m joking, but I’m really not.
Sure, it’s admirable that there are people like Jeff Cavaliere who never cheat on their diet and only eat one piece of carrot cake on their birthday. But the rest of us are more likely to want to live normal lives that don’t center around making YouTube videos with our shirt off.
Yes, we all want to be healthy. And yes, we all want to lose that last little lip of fat around our midsection to reveal our Adonis belt.
But to quote many an Instagram post, “life is meant to be lived.”
And it’s entirely possible that when you’re on your death bed, you’re going to regret not spending more time with friends and family.
Even if you think they’re fake. Even if you look down on them for not being as committed to weight loss as you are. Even if you feel like they resent you for your desire to improve yourself.
Is it really so bad for you to eat that burger and fries once in a while if it means you get to bond with people who are close to you? Just fast the next day or do some extra cardio.
You might think I’m a Gains Goblin for saying this, but it’s really not that big of a deal.
It’s not so much that people want to feel like they have the power to make you give in to your food cravings and hold it over you while laughing maniacally. It’s really more primal than that.
When people are participating in an activity, eating while socializing for example, if you stand off to the side like some autistic gymcel, then you’re not just rejecting the activity, you’re rejecting them as well.
Even though you may love them and love spending time with them, you’re holding yourself above and saying that you’re better than them. You’re making the whole situation weird.
And look, if it’s REALLY that important to you to not eat the Bloomin Onion, don’t eat it.
But if you’re SO conflicted about it, then it’s also possible that you shouldn’t be hanging out with the type of people who would even consider eating one in the first place.
Those are harder decisions to make and don’t really have much to do with food cravings. But one thing you’ll realize as you progress through your fitness journey is that the lessons you learn from working out are able to be mapped over to virtually any area of your life.
Why do you think Arnold Schwarzenegger is so wise?
The final word about food cravings
I started this article with the intention of writing about 48 hour fasts. But as time went on, I realized that fasting is actually the easiest part of losing weight and staying in shape. How much can you really talk about not eating?
- Don’t put the food in your mouth.
- Don’t chew it.
- Don’t swallow it.
Done. End of story.
But there is another side to the story of fasting: the refeed.
To be honest with you, if you mess up during your refeed, it’s still not the end of the world. Eating unhealthy food is its own punishment.
You’re going to have stomach issues, feel lower energy, and have poorer athletic performance overall. You’re going to look like crap and your clothes won’t fit as well. You’ll sweat like a pig and be embarrassed about going up a flight of stairs. Maybe you won’t even fit in airplane seats.
But there’s something even more nefarious about giving into your food cravings: the giving in part.
Giving in means a crack in your armor of discipline.
If you give in once, you’re more likely to give in again.
And before you know it, that side of fries with your double double has turned into a large milkshake which has turned into a McFlurry which has turned into a box of triple-stuffed Oreos and a deep fryer right next to your bed.
Maybe an extreme example, but you should understand that how you do one thing is how you do all things. Giving in to your food cravings will weaken you overall. Maybe you don’t care about being weak, maybe you think that you’re just not “one of those fitness people.”
But believe me, when you’re at the doctor’s office and he’s recommending surgery, or chemo, or putting you on meds that will keep your dick from working, you’re going to wish you had spent more time resisting the temptation to spike your dopamine with processed sugar in favor of something more productive.