- 1 Book Summary - Always Hungry? Conquer Cravings, Retrain Your Fat Cells & Lose Weight Permanently by David Ludwig
Book Summary - Always Hungry? Conquer Cravings, Retrain Your Fat Cells & Lose Weight Permanently by David Ludwig
Being overweight or obese is a real health issue that affects a large number of Americans. This is partly because the standard American diet is one that is high in carbohydrates, especially refined and processed carbohydrates, which cause weight gain. Many diets promote calorie restriction as the solution for weight loss, but most people struggle to stick to these restrictive diets and end up overeating.
Rather than simply restricting calories, the Always Hungry Solution offers a weight loss plan that focuses on eating a nutritious diet high in healthy fats. It is also accompanied by lifestyle changes and progress tracking, in order to identify habits and increase accountability.
In Phase 1 of the Always Hungry Solution, the dieter cuts out unhealthy foods in order to better control and understand their food cravings. In Phase 2, the dieter begins to reintroduce certain foods back into the diet, while paying attention to the body’s response and remaining mindful of craving triggers. In Phase 3, participants personalize their diets, gradually reintroducing foods to an individual eating plan that is sustainable and provides the opportunity for long term weight loss success.
Why People Gain Weight
Weight gain is not always as simple as eating less and moving more. The nutritional quality of the food that people consume plays an important role. The body needs certain nutrients to function, and a calorie restricted diet that doesn’t provide these nutrients will not be successful. Instead, people should focus on consuming food high in essential nutrients, like lean proteins, healthy fats, fruits, vegetables, and plant fiber, and staying away from processed carbohydrates.
High-carbohydrate foods, especially processed carbohydrates, disrupt the body’s insulin production and lead to weight gain. People crave carbohydrates because they generate glucose in the body, which creates a rush of short-term energy. However, it also causes a spike in insulin levels, as the body rushes to absorb the excess sugar in the blood. After the spike, the body interprets the low blood sugar levels as a sign that the body needs more energy. This causes more hunger cravings and can slow metabolism, which leads to weight gain.
Stress is also a major contributor to weight gain. Research from the Institute of Psychology at Liverpool University has shown that overweight people sometimes eat more because of the stress of being overweight and the stigma attached to living in an overweight body. This stress can trigger overeating in already overweight people.
Obesity can lead to significant health problems over time, including chronic inflammation, insulin resistance, and even Type II Diabetes.
External Factors Also Contribute to Obesity
The federal government has contributed to the rising consumption of unhealthy food in America. Official government dietary recommendations, like the Food Pyramid Guide and Dietary Guidelines, promoted the consumption of simple carbohydrates over protein, healthy fats, and fruits and vegetables. The Food Pyramid represents the recommended daily nutrition intake for the average American. For years, the largest block at the bottom of the pyramid was carbohydrates, while fats were at the top of the pyramid. The accepted American diet was one that was high in carbohydrates and low in fat. Schools and food companies adopted these recommendations, which led to an increase in the production and consumption of unhealthy, overly processed, low-fat food in the American diet.
These government recommendations are only updated once every five years, even when studies emerge invalidating previous government guidelines. Regardless of government recommendations, food companies continue to make unhealthy food and market it in such a way that it continues to be attractive to consumers, such as promoting smaller portion sizes or creating organic versions of products.
While the federal government could take steps to improve the nation’s nutrition policies, such as taxing unhealthy foods or funding nutrition research, ultimately each individual is responsible for their own diet, and must choose healthy options and maintain a healthy lifestyle for themselves.
Benefits of the Always Hungry Solution
Most conventional diets focus on calorie restriction as the main tool for weight loss. However, these diets are often unsuccessful because they leave people feeling hungry, deprived, and stressed, which often leads to overeating later.
On the Always Hungry Solution, dieters will not focus on restricting calories. Instead, they will eat when they are hungry, but will focus on eating more nutritious, whole foods with healthy fats, and fewer carbs, sugars, and processed foods. Although they have been demonized for years, healthy fats are actually essential to a nutritious diet, and even help the body absorb essential nutrients, like Vitamins D, A, E, and K.
Lifestyle Supports and Tracking
Diet is not the only part of the Always Hungry Solution. Participants must look at the entirety of their lifestyle habits, not just their diet. These “life supports” include improving sleep, exercise, and stress management habits, along with diet. Combining life support changes with improved eating habits increases the chance of long term success.
Dieters should also establish their “Big Why,” or their reasons for undergoing this diet and lifestyle change. Keeping this “why” in mind, they can visualize scenarios where they might be tempted to make wrong choices and plan ahead to prevent it.
Keeping track of progress is also a useful tool for dieters. Using the Daily Tracker and Monthly Progress, Always Hungry Solution practitioners should record not only their diet and life supports, but their physical and mental health as well. This helps to maintain motivation, chart progress, identify patterns, and keep themselves on track.
Progress tracking also helps people identify habits that may be preventing them from reaching their goals. People who use food diaries tend to lose more weight than people who don’t, because food diaries encourage accountability and mindfulness around eating.
The goal of Phase 1 is to recalibrate food cravings and lower the body’s insulin levels by cutting out all unhealthy foods that trigger the overproduction of insulin. For two weeks, dieters should completely eliminate these foods from their diet. These foods include potatoes, grains, highly processed foods, and foods high in sugar.
Instead, dieters should aim to only eat real, whole foods, like protein, fresh fruit and vegetables, legumes, and lots of healthy fats, such as those found in olive oil and nuts. They should aim for about half of their diet to be healthy fats, and the other half should be split evenly between protein and healthy carbohydrates.
While this is the most restrictive phase, dieters should still not feel deprived. There are no calorie restrictions on this diet. They should eat enough food so they feel satisfied and are no longer hungry. Healthy snacks are permitted, and dieters should drink lots of water. Light exercise, such as a brisk daily walk, is also encouraged. Just don’t overdo it.
Also in this phase, dieters should look not only at what they are eating, but at what psychological triggers are pushing them to eat, such as stress. By identifying the source of triggers, dieters can learn to avoid them and establish healthier routines that do not lead to cravings.
In Phase 2, dieters should begin slowly reintroducing healthy carbohydrates back into their diet. The goal is to slowly train the body to adjust its insulin and blood sugar levels by gradually adding carbs back into the body.
These foods should be unprocessed carbs, like starchy vegetables, tropical fruits, and whole grains. Dieters should aim to increase their carbohydrate intake to 35 percent of their diet, with another 40 percent coming from fats and 25 percent from protein.
Because this phase is less restrictive, dieters can also increase their physical activity if they choose. They should aim for around a half-hour of moderate exercise per day.
Phase 2 is a necessary step between Phases 1 and 3, because it allows the body to slowly readjust to eating some potential trigger foods, while still restricting some foods to ensure the dieter does not fall back into old, unhealthy habits. This phase should not be rushed, as it can take some time to truly conquer food cravings. It can take from one month up to six months, or sometimes even longer. The dieter should feel that they are in control of their cravings and have a healthy mindset around food before moving on to Phase 3.
In the final stage, Phase 3, the dieter should be able to personalize their eating plans, reintroducing carbohydrates and even some sugars to their diet, in order to optimize the plan to fit the individual’s lifestyle and be sustainable in the long term. The key here is to remain mindful of food choices, and to be sure not to replace healthy fats and proteins with unhealthy carbohydrates.
Foods should be reintroduced gradually, with only one new food item being reintroduced per day. Food should be reintroduced in order of their sugar content, beginning with fruits, which have natural sugar, before progressing to whole grains and simple carbs, and ending with the most sugary foods, like desserts and alcohol. This will make it easier to track the effects the reintroduction of certain food has on the dieter, and for their body to adjust gradually to the new diet. The goal is to have around 40 percent of the diet be made up of healthy fats, another 40 percent be carbohydrates, and the remaining 20 percent be protein.
As always, being aware of triggers, eating mindfully, and getting regular exercise is essential for long term success.
The Main Take-away
Many Americans struggle with excess weight. However, simply restricting calories rarely leads to sustainable weight loss, because people end up feeling hungry and deprived, which causes overeating. Instead of focusing on calories, the Always Hungry Solution focuses on eating whole, nutritious foods, including lots of healthy fats, protein, vegetables, and fruit, and reducing processed carbohydrate intake. These diet changes, when accompanied by progress tracking, long term lifestyle changes, and mindfulness of the body’s needs, will lead to long-term weight loss and improved overall health and wellness.
About the Author
David Ludwig is an endocrinologist, researcher, and professor at Harvard Medical School and Harvard School of Public Health. He also serves as director of the New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center at Boston Children’s Hospital.
Dr. Ludwig focuses his research on the impact of diet, nutrition, hormones, and metabolism on body weight. He is also active in policy work that aims to improve national nutrition and prevent obesity.
He published his first book, Ending the Food Fight: Guide Your Child to a Healthy Weight in a Fast Food/Fake Food World, in 2007. He is also a contributing writer for JAMA and has published over 150 scientific articles.
Dr. Ludwig and his wife live in Brookline, Massachusetts with their two children.