Eat More Real Food

What’s the problem?

It turns out that being low or deficient in certain micronutrients — vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants — can lead to you craving everything from cheese and steak to chocolate and curly fries.

Your insatiable hunger and frequent binge cravings may very well be a sign of nutrient deficiency.

It’s usually caused by:

  • Eating food that’s lacking in nutrients (like fast or overly processed food).
  • Cutting out whole macronutrient groups, such as carbohydrates, from your diet.
  • Choosing the same familiar, safe foods over and over again.
  • Being overstressed, overworked and just overdoing it in general.

This is something you definitely need to consider if you have an issue with binge eating. If you’re constantly feeling hungry despite consuming enough (or more than enough!) food, take a look at the quality of the food that you’re eating.

If your food is lacking in adequate nutrition, feeling properly satisfied after eating is next to impossible.

Stephen O’Rahilly, Professor of Clinical Biochemistry and Medicine at Cambridge University, has a great way of putting it:

“People talk about feeling full, but that’s not actually what they are feeling, as the stomach capacity is huge. The feeling of fullness, usually generated in the brain, is a response not to food volume, but to nutrients. The gastrointestinal tract registers the contents of food we consume, then produces different ‘anti-eating’ hormones, which travel to the brain and trigger a feeling of fullness.”

So even if you’re consuming enough calories, you may still experience severe binge cravings. They’re your body’s way of crying out for what it needs. Mere bulk (such as eating four packets of rice cakes) isn’t capable of providing a feeling of real satiety and satisfaction. Only adequate nutrition can do that.

This is simply how our bodies work. It’s a part of our inbuilt survival mechanism. We need nutritious food to survive and function. If your body is deprived of nutrition, it will fight back!

Okay, what’s the solution?

The solution here is to eat a wider variety of real food.

Real food is loaded with important nutrients. Real food is packed full of vitamins, minerals, probiotics, protein, carbohydrates and fat – or, in short, everything that you need to satisfy and nourish your healing body and dramatically reduce those binge cravings.

So what exactly is real food?
The answer is simple. Anything with one ingredient that hasn’t been created by a man (or a woman) is real food. For example, the only ingredient in a lemon is… a lemon. The only ingredient in an onion is the onion itself. Real food is simply whatever the heck that food is – and that’s it.

Here are some handy examples of real foods that can provide you with the three main macronutrients:

  1. Protein:
  • Grass-fed beef.
  • Chicken.
  • Lamb.
  • Wild salmon.

2. Complex carbohydrates:

  • Asparagus.
  • Broccoli.
  • Carrot.
  • Kale.
  • Sweet Potato.
  • Other vegetables and fruit.

3. Healthy fat:

  • Olive oil.
  • Coconut oil.
  • Avocado.

It’s important to realise that eating real food has nothing to do with restriction, dieting or ‘clean’ eating. You’re not expected to eat fresh, whole foods exclusively.

This isn’t about avoiding any specific type of food. You don’t have to eat perfectly and you don’t have to turn this into a strict, restrictive rule. An attitude of subtraction just doesn’t work here, so I encourage you to focus on addition instead.Think about all of the wonderful whole foods that you can add to your diet!

Think about whole-wheat bread, plenty of fresh fruit and veggies, a variety of grains, nuts…
You don’t have to cut any of your other favourite products out of your daily ration. As long as your biological needs are satisfied, enjoying any type of food is absolutely okay.
After all, this is the very essence of balanced eating.

Science & Studies

If you’re carrying around some extra weight and losing a few pounds would benefit your health, you may find this next study interesting. Researchers (Bolio et al., Obesity Research 2004; Vol. 12: A41) have proven that individuals who eat a nutrient-rich diet can lose weight without the need for calorie restriction.

The participants of this study had to eat 2,100 calories per day. If they were still hungry, they were allowed to eat some more. Despite the absence of food restriction, these people still managed to lose weight and reduce the amount of fat around their waists over the course of the experiment.

It’s clear that weight loss can occur in the absence of a low-calorie diet if people allow their bodies to have access to adequate nutrition.

In one 12-week study, a number of diabetic or pre-diabetic people were put on a paleolithic diet containing lots of fresh meat, fish, fruit, vegetables, eggs and nuts. At the end of the experiment, their blood sugar levels had reduced by 26%. Blood sugar levels play a big role in our cravings, so it’s not difficult to imagine what a huge difference this can make to those of us who are suffering from problem eating!

Our bodies have evolved over millions of years to know how to process real food. They recognise these foods and know exactly what to do with them.

Pick a new habit

Choose a new habit to work on from the list below. Learn more about habits here.

Include a vegetable source in each meal

Get into the habit of adding some vegetables into each of your daily meals and snacks. Not only are veggies packed full of nutrients and fibre, but they will also help you to feel fuller and more satisfied for longer!

Some ideas of how to do that include:

  • Have a salad as a snack or a light lunch.
  • Combine some carrots, celery and other veggies with hummus for a balanced and filling snack.
  • If you’re eating a sandwich, make sure to include more than just ham and cheese in it. Tomatoes, avocados and cucumbers work great in this case!
  • Throw some vegetables into your meat stew.
  • Use veggies when making green smoothies.

Develop a habit of cooking real food

Find a few simple recipes that are based on whole ingredients (fruit, veggies, whole grains, nuts, beans and the like) and try them out over the coming week. They might be as simple as a fruit salad or a vegetable soup – in fact, the easier it is to prepare them, the better.

As you get into the habit of cooking real food, you might want to try and purchase a couple of handy kitchen appliances to make your food preparation even more pleasurable. Things like slow cookers, steamers, blenders and vegetable spiralizers are all great places to start.

If you’re not used to cooking, the prospect of making your own food day in and day out might seem pretty scary. Trust me, it isn’t at all as difficult as it might seem at first. On the contrary, cooking real food can be extremely enjoyable!

Snack on real food

It’s an excellent idea to try and snack on things like fruit, veggies and nuts. They’re easy to carry around with you, there’s little or no preparation involved and they’re great sources of lasting energy.

Here are a few suggestions of whole, balanced snacks:

  • Dried fruit and nut mixes.
  • Various veggie or fruit salads.
  • Green smoothies.
  • Whole fruit, like apples, berries, bananas, peaches and anything else you can think of!

Buy more real food when shopping

Get into the habit of buying more products from the fresh food section of the supermarket. Just do what you can to purchase the least processed versions of your favourite foods. For example, regular oatmeal is preferable to instant oatmeal. However, even instant oatmeal is a whole grain, so it’s still a good choice.

Here are a few other products that you could purchase during your next shopping trip:

  • Whole-wheat bread.
  • Whole-grain pasta.
  • Brown rice.
  • Various grain mixes.
  • Quinoa.
  • Bulgur.
  • Barley.

Helpful tips

  • Keep it simple. It doesn’t matter if a head of broccoli has more nutrition than a carrot. There’s no need to worry about specific nutritional values. Just focus on eating more real food. By doing so, you’ll naturally start making more balanced choices.
  • If you’re stuck for ideas, think about the types of food that your grandmother or great-grandmother would have eaten and use that as a guideline.

Ready to move on?

Eating more real, fresh food is an ongoing habit. You may have already developed it as you worked on your previous modules. If that’s the case and you’re absolutely sure that your body is being properly nourished, then you’re more than welcome to move on to the next step.

However, if your daily meals are still lacking in proper nutrition, I encourage you to try and spend more time focusing on including plenty of real food in your diet.