We evolved to live in a world where there were no fridges or freezers, no Tesco down the road. We evolved to deal with times where crops failed, there were less animals to hunt and eat, where there was real food scarcity. And the way our bodies deal with this is by kicking in the feast-famine cycle.
Whilst this mechanism is built into all of us, most of us don’t know about it and I think not knowing about it is one of the biggest reasons we worry that we can’t be trusted around food, that we are ‘just greedy’ when actually that is a sign our bodies are doing exactly what they are meant to do.
Your body doesn’t know the difference between you not getting enough food in because you are on a diet or not getting enough food in because there isn’t enough food around. It sees both situations as famine and so your body is going to respond in the same way, wanting you to feast as soon as you can!
When I first read about this in Tabitha Farrar’s Rehabilitate Rewire Recover it just made so much sense, gave me so much reassurance that I wasn’t weird or greedy. So I hope that this helps you too!
Here’s some of the things our bodies do that are part of the feast-famine cycle (and nothing to do with being greedy!)…
Wanting to eat all the high-energy foods
Evolution has wired our brains to seek out high-energy foods after a period of famine. This is why those biscuits, ice cream, cake… all call your name, and why you drool over food TV or whilst baking for your office colleagues.
And whether we call it feasting or, as it is better known by, binge eating, it actually isn’t a bad thing or anything to be ashamed of. It is exactly what your body wants you to do! It wants you to feast/binge so it can build up energy reserves while it can so it can tap into them during the next famine (aka diet!).
Our metabolism adapts
During famines/diets, the body’s metabolism becomes more efficient, conserving energy and slowing down to reduce energy expenditure. This allowed our ancestors to survive on fewer calories and make the most of their stored fat reserves.
This is why the more you diet/restrict, the harder it is to lose weight and why it feels like you can ‘get away with’ eating less and less calories. Your body isn’t broken, it is adapting to keep you alive!
We can feel really on edge
During a ‘famine period’ we experience way more anxiety and become way more risk averse. This is because historically we needed to conserve the energy we had for when we needed it, for example to run away from a lion or wooly mammoth.
So all of these things that we beat ourselves up for because diet culture tells us we should ‘do better’ are actually just your body doing what it is meant to….
- Yo-yo dieting (essentially the feast-famine cycle on repeat)
- Binge eating
- Feeling out of control around food
I know it can take a while to wrap your head around especially with diet culture being so prevalent and persistent but it makes so much sense doesn’t it?!
Please remember that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to the way we eat or move our bodies. If we all ate the same and exercised the same, we’d still all look and feel different, your body is the only thing that can truly tell you what you need and I hope reading this and understanding the feast famine cycle helps you on your journey to trusting your body again and breaking the cycle for good.
Want to know more… Episode 1 of my “It’s Not About The Fucking Food” delves into this subject more and explains why it is one of very few times when it actually IS about the fucking food.
🎥 Watch on Youtube
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