“…we eat too much because we’re too dammed hungry.”

We don’t eat too much because we’re more gluttonous than our grandparents. We eat too much because in the 1970s because the McGovern committee convinced us we need to live primarily on low-fat grains and other starches. We eat too much because our insulin levels are too high. We eat too much because we’re storing too many calories as fat.

Tom Naughton.

Yep, as I have said, it's all about hunger. It's been a different world for me for a long time, now, and it's the primary reason I know it's for life. If you eat lots of "whole grains," even fair amounts of sugar, and load up even moderately on other forms of carbohydrate, it's very likely that you and I don't mean the same thing when we talk of hunger.

But I think I know what you might mean. For, I remember a day when hunger was nauseating. It was debilitating. It was: eat something now, and all attention turned to that. It's one reason I talk less about fasting to beginners at this. One day I realized that I had been eating pretty decent paleo for 3-4 months before I did my first fast, I had been eating somewhat "clean" for months before that.

So, now, I recommend that people go until they realize hunger isn't the same anymore ("I could eat, or, I could wait — even a long time… and hey, I kinda enjoy this feeling.") and then try their hand at a fast. Fasting gives you, as I have said, high resolution into your own hunger.

That resolution is the key to making this a style for the rest of your life, and you'll never look back.

Back to Tom's good post linked above.

…emphasis should be shifted toward encouraging people to drastically reduce their consumption of carbohydrates; do that, and the “eating less” will take care of itself.

Richard Nikoley

I'm Richard Nikoley. Free The Animal began in 2003 and as of 2021, contains 5,000 posts. I blog what I wish...from health, diet, and food to travel and lifestyle; to politics, social antagonism, expat-living location and time independent—while you sleep—income. I celebrate the audacity and hubris to live by your own exclusive authority and take your own chances. Read More


  1. Patrik on May 15, 2009 at 14:44

    That is exactly why you get some variant of white bread before your meal at most restaurants. If you weren't all that hungry before you got there, after a slice of bread or two, you sure as hell will be.

    I am as susceptible as the next person, that is why I tell the waiter to not bother bringing it.

  2. Patrik on May 15, 2009 at 14:59

    BTW this is spot-on:

    But I think I know what you might mean. For, I remember a day when hunger was nauseating. It was debilitating. It was: eat something now, and all attention turned to that. It's one reason I talk less about fasting to beginners at this. One day I realized that I had been eating pretty decent Paleo for 3-4 months before I did my first fast, I I had been eating somewhat "clean" for months before that.

    Before Paleo/Hyperlipid, when I became hungry — I HAD TO EAT. Right then. Not 30 mins later. It had to happen. RIGHT NOW or the world was coming to end.

    If I didn't, not only would my mood suffer horrifically, but I would incur massive migraines that would persist even after having fed myself.

    Paleo/hyperlipid is unbelievably liberating. If I am hungry and either cannot tend to it or the food choices around me are not Paleo — I'll put my hunger on the back burner and eat when I get around to it.

    This also frees me from the fetishization of food that is now omnipresent in our culture, be it 6-small-meals-a-day body-building style or even measured Zone blocks.

    And this is how it must have been in our evolutionary past.

    Don't get me wrong, I love eating, but we simply didn't have 3 squares-a-day, God forbid, 6! Not only that, we didn't measure how much we ate.

    Granted our food options are exponentially manifold now – but the point remains, fetishizing food is not healthy.

  3. Stephan on May 15, 2009 at 14:59

    I couldn't agree more. It's not as if our ancestors had some iron will that they exerted over their caloric intake that we've lost. They ate until they were full, just like we do. It just takes us more to be full because our appetite control systems are screwed up.

  4. kloepm on May 15, 2009 at 15:42

    So true. Great article.

  5. Patrik on May 15, 2009 at 16:18

    With regard to "listening to standard medical advice", read Barry Grove's book, "Trick and Treat".

    His blog here:

    He eats "hyperlipid" and is proud cholesterol skeptic, and in his book he details just how backwards "standard medical advice" is when it comes to things like diabetes. Not to get bogged down in an inane conspiracy theory, but sometimes it seems almost as if the medical establishment doesn't want to cure you….

  6. Andy on May 15, 2009 at 16:26

    Ironic, but I was just reviewing my year of Paleo eating and the change in hunger cravings is astounding. It is not uncommon for me to do an intermittent fast, come home and still take the time to prepare an involved meal. Pre-paleo, either the solution was take-out or to just go wild and attack anything in the cupboard.

    I think this is one of those issues that people really need to experience to believe. Either that or I'm not a convincing enough salesmen for eathing properly.

  7. Brock on May 15, 2009 at 16:36

    In my experience it's not all carbs that cause the hunger problem you describe; just fructose (and doubly particularly, refined white sugar and HFCS). I think this is an evolutionary adaptation to gorge on fruit when you find it to store calories before the fruit rots and goes bad. It's an advantage to convert a time-sensitive resource (fruit) into a time-insensitive resource (body fat), particularly right before the lean times of fall and winter.

    I falsify your suggestion that carbs are the problem by pointing to all those rice-eating thin people in Asia. They didn't get fat until they got Coca-Cola.

    Caffeine, alchohol and refined flours play a role too.

  8. Brett on May 15, 2009 at 14:23

    I certainly have found this to be true. Sugar is a drug.

  9. Richard Nikoley on May 15, 2009 at 14:27

    Yea. An appetite stimulant.

  10. Aaron Blaisdell on May 15, 2009 at 21:59

    I agree, too. So long as I stay away from bread, pasta, cereal and crackers my hunger is well under control. I eat potatoes quite regularly with my braised or stewed meats and I feel full very quickly…and remained satiated for many, many hours. Same with a little bit of white rice with my curries (always made with two cans of coconut oil, thanks to Richard's suggestion). When I got home tonight, I heated up the last of the braised ox tail (with all the fat) in the fridge. While it was heating up, I downed a small bowl (probably about a half cup in total) of rice porridge (Chinese style) and that didn't alter my hunger in any way. Needless to say, I've never been anywhere near a metabolic syndrome state, so these non-fructose carbs have never had much pull on my appetite. Just the ones I started this reply with–bread, pasta, crackers, and cereal. I don't eat the bread at restaurants anymore, either, and it's been the best decision I ever made.

  11. Richard Nikoley on May 15, 2009 at 15:09

    Me too, and wife and most immediate family are now on board. We send the bread back.

    Credit to Art for that. Of course, it's not a novel idea, but when I read that's what he does, it was easier for me to do the same thing and I've done it for a year now without even flinching.

    Hint: if it comes wrapped in a white napkin, don't look, just send back. You won't miss it after a minute.

  12. Richard Nikoley on May 15, 2009 at 15:11

    The essential message: liberation from debilitating, consuming hunger.

  13. Monica on May 15, 2009 at 15:44


    My mom was recently diagnosed with Barrett's esophagus. My grandmother has it and I believe I had the beginning stages about 5 years ago. I told my mom about two weeks ago to cut all carbs out. My parents have basically eaten tons of crap, boxed and canned foods, their entire lives.

    Well, my mom was pretty scared of getting esophageal cancer, so she did exactly what I told her to. She's lost 5 pounds… and all her indigestion. I'm sure she'll have future indiscretions but this is the exact opposite of what patients are told to reduce their acid reflux. They are told to cut the coffee, tomatoes, and citrus and not eat fat. UGH! If she was listening to standard medical advice she would definitely not be moving of Prilosec, which she has been taking for years.

  14. Richard Nikoley on May 15, 2009 at 16:28

    My dad, I and all my brothers had heartburn fro teenage years. My dad suffered fro decades, easily dropping a pack of Rolaids per day for years and years. Then he found the GERD meds and has lived heartburn free for many years. Now he found paleo (or 90%, as he call sit) and he's off his GERD meds, zero heartburn.

    Only time I get it now is when alcohol is involved.

  15. Richard Nikoley on May 15, 2009 at 16:59

    I love to take hours to prepare a complex meal for my break fast. Really amazing, the insight you get into yourself.

  16. Richard Nikoley on May 15, 2009 at 17:04

    I fully agree with you. Tom is still a bit carb centric, as I used to be. But I've said many time that I don't think it's ultimately about the carbs (though maybe so for those already on the throws of metabolic syndrome a-la type 2 and other conditions).

  17. Natalie on May 16, 2009 at 01:26

    Brock – geez, the ol' chestnut of the Asians eating plenty of carbs yet remaining thin comes up every time.

    Ok – but this post wasn't about staying thin, it was about the urgency of hunger. How urgently do Asians experience their hunger? Do you know? Personally, the only urgency I can comment on is my own. My hunger on my starchy vegetarian diet was so bad I was considering going to a psychiatrist to see if I had some kind of mental illness because I constantly felt crazy and was convinced I had ZERO self control and was compulsive about eating. That sounds flippant, but I cannot express in words the crazy-making feeling of carb hunger. YOu have to experience it yourself and I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy. Changing to a primal diet got rid of all that and even at 220 pounds I can easily go a day without eating. Like it's nothing. It's 10:20 am now, and I've been awake since 07:00 and I haven't eaten yet, I don't feel the need. 6 months ago I would have made it through several rounds of toast by now…

    Anyhoo – back to Asians – Sumo wrestlers (also Asian) eat up to 1,000 grams of carbohydrates a day and keep fat to about 9% of their diet, and gain massive amounts of weight, so Asians can gain weight on carbohydrates just as the Western world does. Asians in general eat something like 300g of carbs a day of rice, just as the western world eats about 300g of wheat, etc. And thirdly, just because Asians eat rice and stay thin, this doesn't mean they are HEALTHY. What are the cancer and heart attack rates in the Asian world? How are they in Thailand where they mitigate carbs with excellent fats like coconut milk? Gosh, or even in India where legumes and rice are balanced with raw milk, butter and eggs?

  18. Jeff on May 16, 2009 at 06:20

    You are on the money with this post. I recently listened to a podcast from a famous low carb podcaster who was discussing intermittent fasting. It was a short podcast where he says he was miserable doing 2 24 hour fasts in 4 days. Couldn't concentrate. Fantasizing about food, brain fog, etc. My takeaway was that his insulin was too high and the "low carb"
    diet wasn't working fully. It might be fake sugar drinks, etc.

    In my mind the 24+ hour fast is a test of how good your diet is. If you can't make it 24 hours without extreme hunger then something is wrong. I don't even bother to suggest to people to try fasting until the diet is in order since I know from experience that the cravings for food will be too high.

    godd stuff,


  19. Brock on May 16, 2009 at 11:38

    Whoa there Natalie, I was just commenting on the inference in the post that "carbs" are the source of hunger without being more specific as to the source of carbs. I know it's Gary Taubes' thesis that all carbs are bad, but the evidence does not support that. There are many cultures which enjoy a rich source of starchy carbs (rice, potatoes, corn, tubers and even wheat) without suffering from metabolic syndrome, excessive hunger or poor digestion.

    As for Asians and hunger: Have you seen Japanese portion sizes? If there's one thing they do not suffer from, it's excessive hunger. And their heart health is fine. All the symptoms of metabolic syndrome come together. I'm pretty sure the hunger your vegetarian diet induced was caused by the absence of good fats and proteins, not the presence of starchy (glucose-only) carbs.

    Sumo wrestlers are a really bad example of anything except Sumo wrestlers. They force-feed every day throughout their entire lives.

  20. Joanne of Open Mind Required on June 6, 2009 at 06:59

    >>>.but sometimes it seems almost as if the medical establishment doesn't want to cure you….<<<

    The medical establishment is informed by the pharmaceutical cartel, which only makes money when there are symptoms to suppress.

  21. Joanne of Open Mind Required on June 6, 2009 at 07:06

    I came to understand the importance of diet through a natural hygiene perspective, but I just couldn't seem to make the vegan, raw diet stick. I obsessed about food and gorged on fats at night.

    Only recently have I learned about the paleo diet, and convinced of its merits, gave it a try. I started eating meat and eggs and bacon. I can't believe how LIBERATING this diet is. I don't obsess over food anymore.

    And the best thing that happened is a pain in my right hip that I've had for about a year (arthritis?) and which had been getting steadily worse is now gone.

  22. Monica on June 6, 2009 at 08:39

    Unfortunately, this is largely true. I produce some needs assessments for medical education grants for physicians. It's changing slowly but practically every grantor approached is a pharmaceutical company. The med ed providers know that there are other important educational projects to be funded, but they can't seem to think outside the box. The ACCME is another big problem. They're a quasi-governmental organization that has created an enormous bureaucracy that unnecessarily complicates provision of good med ed to physicians.

  23. Richard Nikoley on June 9, 2009 at 10:13

    Thanks for sharing.

    I included this comment in my roundup this morning.

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