The other day I was at a meeting that went much later than I expected. I’d missed lunch by a long-shot and I was so hungry I could barely think straight. I had a long ride home ahead of me and it was rush hour in LA. Luckily, there was a Trader Joe’s nearby, so I went to get a snack to hold me over. I grabbed some roasted almonds and a banana, as a seasoned Health Coach might do, but then my body took over and I lost control. I passed by some fruit juice sweetened blueberry oat muffins and I couldn’t resist. When I got back to my car, I ripped open the muffins and started eating. The first one barely made a dent in my hunger, so I quickly ate a second. Almonds? Banana? Forget about it. I still felt starving after the second muffin, so I went ahead and ate a third. I didn’t feel in the least bit satisfied, and could have eaten the fourth, except for the fact that I was starting to feel sick; I was light-headed, a little nauseous, and I was beginning to get a headache from the blood-sugar rush, so I threw the muffin in the back-seat where I couldn’t reach it, while I spent the next 45 minutes in traffic.
By the time I walked into my apartment, I had a throbbing headache, I was irritable, and I was just as hungry as I was before I ate the muffins.
After I finally got some real food into my system and recovered my senses, I realized that I had just done exactly what I tell my clients never to do; let yourself get past the point of hunger so you can’t make a rational decision about what to eat. In fact, a client of mine had just finished telling me the day before how she bought fast food for the first time in months; she had forgotten to bring food with her during a busy day of meetings, and accidentally let herself get so hungry that, in the moment, fast food seemed like a good idea.
Your body is powerful. We are biologically wired to avoid starvation. If you get past the point of hunger (if your blood sugar level dips too low or you are nutrient deficient), your body’s survival instinct will kick in and over-ride your intellect. We are no match for our bodies!
When your blood sugar level dips too low, we don’t have enough fuel for our brain; we literally can’t think straight.
Our bodies will always try to get what they need to stay in balance. That’s why cravings are so difficult to fight. In my case, my blood sugar level had gotten too low, so my body was craving glucose, our body’s main fuel for energy. Sugar is the quickest form of glucose. I don’t eat sugar, but the refined flour in the muffins is a close second, which is why I bought them and felt compelled to eat them over the almonds. Unfortunately, our bodies and brain need a steady flow of glucose to function properly- not a rush of too much glucose all at once, followed by a blood sugar crash. Furthermore, the muffins I ate contained very few nutrients and little to no protein, so my body still felt hungry; but the more muffins I ate, the more I spiked my blood sugar, which eventually made me feel sick.
It had been so long since something like that had happened to me that I forgot what it felt like to be over-powered by my body, even though I talk to my clients about it all the time. What a great reminder!
So what should you do to avoid my mistake? It’s simple:
Always be prepared. Bring solid nutritious snacks with you that will stabilize your blood sugar when you’re going to be out and about for long periods of time, like nuts, whole grain crackers, fruit, avocado, or pack a healthy lunch.
Take it from me; don’t let yourself get past the point of hunger!