How to Hack your Brains Reward Mechanism - Choose which foods you crave

A craving is your body communicating that it needs nutrients or energy, aka micronutrients and macronutrients. This article is about understanding how to respond to cravings in a way that makes your life easier and your booty more spank-able. 

Using food to self-sooth is a different type of craving. That is more emotional and I wrote about that here. 

MICRO-nutrients are substances that sustain life. They’re needed for ongoing tissue building, repair, metabolism and trillions of cellular processes that keep you alive. Minerals: iron, magnesium, zinc, potassium, sodium etc, and vitamins: A, B, C, D etc, are micronutrients.

Think of them as microscopic power tools your cells use to work on your body. This is obviously an extremely oversimplified metaphor. But, my goal is to simplify complex ideas about health so others can apply them to their life.

The human body is one big bag of old cells dying and new cells growing. Having micronutrients in the body helps the new cells grow strong and healthy. Being deficient in micronutrients leads to disease.

  Bone suffering from osterporosis

Bone suffering from osterporosis

MACRO-nutrients fuel everything from metabolism and cell growth to running and even sleep. Carbohydrate and fat are the main energy macronutrients which our bodies convert into usable energy. If the micronutrients are the tiny power tools, macronutrients are the electricity powering them. 

Energy Cravings – Low energy (macronutrients) causes cravings. If you're a sugar burner, which most people are, your cravings are for carbs or sugar. Carbs and sugar convert to glucose in the body. This raises blood glucose providing energy. The pancreas secretes insulin which lowers blood glucose and energy drops. Low energy causes another craving and the cycle repeats until bedtime. This is what I call the glucose roller coaster. Ups and downs in energy all day. Sound familiar?

  Stole this from Ted Naiman's twitter feed - A seriously cool doctor I've learned a lot from  @tednaiman

Stole this from Ted Naiman's twitter feed - A seriously cool doctor I've learned a lot from @tednaiman

Escaping the glucose roller coaster

The truth is you are never low on energy. You have hundreds of thousands of calories of energy on your body in the form of fat cells. You can survive without food for months. I wrote about an obese guy who fasted for 382 days in this post. All he ate was vitamin and mineral supplements…micronutrients. He got his energy (macronutrients) from body fat.

I regularly fast for several consecutive days (here are my notes). Sometimes I forget to eat all day. People dont believe me. Most people can't imagine life without cravings. I couldn't before I was fat-adapted either. 

When my blood sugar gets low, which is pretty much 24/7, I don’t experience cravings. I just burn body fat. The feeling of being full all day long without eating a single thing is the coolest part about keto. 

Nutrient cravings – The SAD diet (Standard American Diet) is comprised of nutrient poor “foods.” Bread, cereal, granola, oats, grains, potato, corn, soy and other forms of flavored, beige glop. This beige glop contains plenty of energy, in the form of carb and sugar, but not much micronutrients. This is what we call “empty calories.” When the body is craving micronutrients and you feed it energy, you’re not satisfying its need, and cravings return. The answer is nutrient dense foods.

Eating nutrient dense foods satisfies the body on a cellular level. By eating nutrient dense foods, far fewer total calories are needed.

A nutrient dense food is like the tiny, but heavy, present under the Christmas tree…maybe a nice watch or the latest tech gadget…score, thanks Grandma! Nutrient poor foods are like the large but weightless present. A BRAND NEW...comforter…bah humbug.

I'm185 pounds, relatively muscular and I have a high energy expenditure. I’m very active but I don't eat a lot of calories. I estimate, I eat half the calories of a man of similar size and energy expenditure, who follows the SAD (Standard American Diet). But, I do eat a lot of micronutrients. 

  Calories in calories out is bullshit

Calories in calories out is bullshit

Reprogramming cravings

If you’re thinking, 

“This asshole doesn’t understand, my sweet tooth is intense!”

I grew up eating Ego waffles covered in maple syrup and honey bunches of oats for breakfast. Talk about kick starting the glucose roller coaster. I would wake up starving and go straight to the kitchen to eat as much carbs and sugar as possible. By the time I made it to school, my pancreas had secreted a truckload of insulin. By second period my blood glucose was at the bottom of the Mariana trench and I was starving again. Luckily for me, Mom packed peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and chips, glucose city. This kept that rollercoaster moving. I love you Mom, you didn’t know better.

If you’re a lifetime sugar-burner, like I was, you’ve been rewarding your body with carbs at every craving. You’ve trained your body to crave and expect carbs when it’s low on energy or nutrients. Bummer.

The good news is you can reprogram your craving and reward mechanism for fats and nutrients instead of carbs. This is simple but not easy. It’s the only part of my diet that actually requires willpower. This is fat adaptation. This is Bio-Hacking.

Here’s how it’s done in a three steps:

1.       Select several high fat, low carb, nutrient dense snacks and meals that you absolutely love. Choose salty and sweet foods and be sure to include variety. It’s important some are convenient snacks that don’t require any prep.

2.       Stock your kitchen with these items. Have them handy at all times during the reprograming phase. While you’re at it, donate the processed, nutrient poor, sugary carb crap. Get itout of the house. This decreases your chance of a slip up when willpower is low.

Here’s some of my favorites:

Salty: Cheese, beef jerky (low sugar), salami, olives, guacamole, smoked salmon, macadamia nuts, chicharrones (pork rinds), bacon, shrimp, deviled eggs and cover everything with grass-fed butter.

  Smoked salmon, avocado and kombucha

Smoked salmon, avocado and kombucha

 Chiccarones, mexican style pork rinds

Chiccarones, mexican style pork rinds

 Raw white cheddar and salted grass-fed butter

Raw white cheddar and salted grass-fed butter

Sweet: 90% dark chocolate, chocolate fat-bombs, coconut milk, high-fat chocolate and nut smoothies, Low carb/sugar-free cheesecake, coconut butter, sugar-free almond butter and my all-time favorite, sugar-free vanilla whipped cream.

 Sugar free chocolate cheesecake brownies

Sugar free chocolate cheesecake brownies

 Sugar free vanilla whipped cream, wild blue-berries, nuts, seeds, coconut flakes and cinnamon

Sugar free vanilla whipped cream, wild blue-berries, nuts, seeds, coconut flakes and cinnamon

Your meals will follow the same guidelines: Low carb, low sugar, ultra-high fat, nutrient dense and delicious. Think ribeye steak covered in butter, salt and pepper with a side of artichoke to dip in garlic avocado mayonnaise. Still have a craving? Have seconds. BAM! craving crushed.

The Trick

3. Go completely savage mode on these foods every time a carb or sugar craving hits. Make every single craving your bitch. This is the fun part. Eat an entire block of cheese covered in butter and wrapped in bacon, if you have to. That was my go-to snack during the reprograming phase. As long as it’s not carb or sugar, I give you permission to eat truckloads of it.

There’s only so much steak, shrimp, cheese, butter, bacon, eggs and cream you can eat before any craving disappears.

Reward your body with fat and nutrients at every craving instead of empty carbs and sugar. Every craving is a chance to retrain your brain. You literally rewire your brain to crave whatever foods you choose. It just takes time.

This hack only works with high-fat, nutrient dense foods. You can’t reprogram your cravings for celery because it has no substantial energy or nutrients. The body needs to associate the reward with usable energy and nutrients. This is why low fat diets fail and why they are so unsatisfying. The body knows it needs fatty foods and nutrients to thrive. This is also why high fat diets are so rewarding and delicious. They nourish the body.

Once you re-program your craving reward mechanism, you enter into the coveted “No Willpower Diet.” From then on, all your cravings will be for foods that you’re supposed to be eating. It’s glorious. 


·         Cravings are caused by low energy or low nutrients.

·         By becoming fat-adapted you can access almost limitless energy from body fat.

·         By burning fat, you eliminate the need for sugar and its cravings, escaping the glucose roller coaster.

·         Eating nutrient dense foods reduces cravings and satiates you with fewer total calories.

·         You can reprogram your cravings to your high-fat, nutrient-dense "diet" foods. 

Thanks for reading,


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