Winning the mind game [FAQ Part 6]

The ultimate goal of hunger training is for you to develop a better relationship with your amygdala, or your inner lizard brain – affectionately known as “Lizzy”. 

Not only will you learn to tame Lizzy by giving it what it wants when it needs it, but you will also learn to listen to and trust the signals from your appetite. 

In time, you may become friends and even learn to dance together without the guidance of your glucometer that initially guided you to play nicely together. 

In part 6 of the DDF FAQs, we give you some tips to better understand and patiently train your inner lizard brain so you can both get what you want.

6.1  Quantified mindful eating

If you want to leverage the benefits of hunger training, you can make notes in the DDF app or keep a separate journal to record what you are learning and incorporate it into your routine in the future. 

Unless you want to be testing your blood glucose before every meal for the rest of your life, it’s a good idea to build some new skills and habits to ensure this is sustainable for the long term.  

Before you eat, you want to be hungry but not starving to the point that you binge.  When you eat, you want to be full and satisfied but not completely stuffed.  

 

When you feel hungry and think of eating, rate your hunger.  Take a moment to imagine what your blood glucose might be if you tested it based on your physical symptoms of hunger (e.g. grumbling tummy, weakness, light-headedness, etc.)? 

This process of reflecting on your hunger signals and calibrating them with your need for food is a central component of Hunger Training.  In the DDF app, before you record your blood sugar, you can rate how hungry you feel on a scale of 1 – 5 (not hungry to extremely hungry).

 

Before long, you will start to understand the factors that can influence your blood glucose (e.g. exercise, stress, hormonal changes, etc.).  If you are hungry and your blood glucose is below Your Personalised Trigger, go ahead and eat. There is no need to be a hero.  If you are not overly hungry, you are less likely to overeat and more likely to make better food choices. 

6.2  The psychological impacts of data-driven fasting

The ultimate goal of Data-Driven Fasting is to become more attuned to your hunger signals.  

While testing your blood glucose may sound like a hassle, a tiny amount of pain and inconvenience from the blood glucose tracking is not such a bad thing.  It forces you to be more mindful and question whether you need to eat.  It interrupts habitual mindless eating and adds a quantitative check to see if you need to refuel. 

While many people find that calorie counting harms their mental health, Data-Driven Fasting puts you in control of your hunger and appetite with a precise fuel gauge. 

Like a roulette wheel or a slot machine, a little bit of measurement gamifies the intermittent fasting process as you wait for the green light on your blood glucose meter. 

There is a little bit of luck (due to the many factors that affect blood glucose) and a bit of skill involved (managing your eating routine and food choices).  But the prize is excellent metabolic health (not to mention looking and feeling great). 

6.3  Hunger is not the enemy

With Data-Driven Fasting, your goal is to become more acquainted with your hunger, not ignore it. 

You will grow to understand your hunger by giving it some attention until you understand it, and it will become your friend.  While extended fasting can lead to dysregulated hunger signals, Data-Driven Fasting will help you gain a better understanding of your true hunger. 

As your blood glucose stabilises, your body will become more comfortable with a small amount of hunger.  Soon, that little bit of hunger will no longer be uncomfortable.   You will ‘train’ your appetite and hunger as your lizard brain becomes comfortable with a lower level of energy in your bloodstream because it has learned to trust that you will provide it with quality food regularly.

6.4  Progress over perfection

Remember, your goal should always be progress, not perfection.   You don’t have to be militant about not eating if your blood glucose isn’t dropping and you feel like you are starving. 

If you have a bad day, that’s OK.  You don’t need to beat yourself up over it.  You will always learn something if you pay attention.  You can always catch up.  All you have to do is delay your meals to see your blood glucose below Your Personalised Trigger.

The goal of Data-Driven Fasting is to be below Your Personalised Trigger more often than not before you eat.  If your blood glucose is slightly above Your Personalised Trigger and you’re ravenously hungry, then don’t be afraid to eat.  It’s not absolute black/white, on/off or good/bad. 

Your glucometer is simply a tool to empower you with knowledge about whether you need to refuel, not to make you feel like a failure or wracked with guilt.  Hunger training using your blood glucose as a fuel gauge simply tells you if your hunger is real and you need to refuel.  The process will be more sustainable if you don’t lose your mind trying to be perfect in the first few days and weeks. 

You should approach this as a curious student, eager to learn how your body responds to food.  Data-Driven Fasting will help you realise the impact of those “bad days”.  Before long, the “bad days” will become less frequent.  You will learn that overeating and poor food choices will have a downside in the future, so you will learn to moderate your meals today.

Feel free to stop if you feel you are becoming obsessive or the process is consuming too much time or mental energy.  While some people love quantifying everything, others can quickly become overwhelmed.  We have designed Data-Driven Fasting to minimise the cognitive load as much as possible to maximise sustainability. 

If you feel ravenous, grumpy, light-headed, cold, or you can’t think straight, you have a report due or an important meeting, don’t be afraid to eat.  You can always catch up by skipping a meal tomorrow.  Your blood glucose will guide you, so you don’t need to stress. 

The goal is to gamify mindful eating using the most useful data we can get (i.e. your blood glucose).  Rather than relying on an external calorie counting app to tell you whether you are eating too much or too little, you are using your internal fuel gauge to tell you if you need to eat. 

As you start to skip snacks and delay meals, you will learn to become comfortable with a little bit of hunger and feel a lot more satisfied when you eat, especially if you prioritise protein and nutrients. 

6.5  Three steps forward, one step back

Don’t be surprised if you find yourself ‘backsliding’ occasionally. 

Weight loss is rarely a linear process.  It’s also natural to follow a fasting and feasting cycle that ebbs and flows with the varying needs of your body.  It’s normal and healthy to want to eat more sometimes, especially if you have been restricting a little too much.  It may take a few days to get back to where you were, but you should be able to deplete your glucose stores more quickly than last time because you have already burned off some excess fat as well. 

If you find yourself particularly hungry, there is no need to be ashamed of eating to satiety.  However, as you follow the process, guided by your premeal trigger, you will iron out the kinks in your routine and ensure a long-term trend towards your goals.

6.6  Follow the trend, ignore the noise

You will quickly learn that your blood glucose can bounce around.  While this noise can be confusing, keep in mind, you are working to manage the long-term trends.

While there may be plenty of scatter from day to day, you should see a trend over the long term as you wait for your blood glucose to drop below Your Personalised Trigger.  As blood glucose decreases, the weight comes off. 

While it’s helpful to track body fat to ensure you’re losing fat and not too much precious lean muscle mass, you should be aware that body fat data can be even noisier.  But, as you chase a lower premeal trigger by delaying or skipping meals, you will see your weight and body fat trend down. 

Follow the recommendations without overthinking it and accept that there will be some days when the data doesn’t go your way for no apparent reason.  You are free to use your brain to decide whether or not you need to eat, even if your blood glucose is above Your Personalised Trigger. 

While more compliance is better, you only need to wait until your blood glucose is below Your Personalised Trigger more often than not.  

6.7  Fasting is stressful

A little bit of stress can be beneficial (i.e. hormesis or eustress).  While your body likes consistency and routine, complete stagnation and monotony lead to weakness and atrophy.  You want a little bit of stress to continue to grow, but not too much all at once. 

In times gone by, the seasons (e.g. autumn, winter, spring and summer) naturally forced our body to go through cycles with different amounts and types of food available that forced us through natural bulking and cutting phases.  Any good workout routine involves periods of progressive overload interspersed with rest and recovery. 

However, too much stress beyond the point that we can adapt and recover (i.e. distress) is not good and forces our body to take evasive action.  Data-Driven Fasting ensures that our eating routine is punctuated by just enough stress to keep our body moving towards our goals.  As we incrementally lower blood glucose, weight, fat, insulin resistance, and improved metabolic health tend to follow. 

6.8  What if I fall off the DDF wagon?  How do I get back on? 

We tend to swing to extremes.  We desperately want to make progress, so we push hard in hopes of overnight success.  But then our survival instincts kick in, and we can end up rebound binging.  Afterwards, our initial instinct is to go even harder with more resolve and willpower.

But if you want to get off this all too familiar restrict-binge cycle, it’s better not to punish yourself after you ‘fall off the wagon’.  Just get back on the bike and keep chasing your trigger. 

If your glucose is above your trigger for a few days, you know you have plenty of fuel onboard and only require nutrients.  Prioritise protein and nutrients. If possible, try to have one less meal than usual each day until you catch up to your trigger again. 

DDF Manual – Index