(with Special Emphasis on ‘What is Phase 3?’)

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 by Chef Dawn Ludwig

While the New Year brings resolutions, diet enthusiasts, and a higher percentage of health and fitness goals than any other time of year, we at Always Hungry (AH) are also celebrating the one year anniversary of our book! We’ve noticed that our AH community now has readers in a wide range of Phases. Some AHers have been around for a year, reached their weight goals, and are now looking to really develop a sustainable lifestyle that incorporates Phase 3. We also have many AHers in the middle of their journey, who might have overindulged during the holidays and are looking to reset or get back on track. Many others did great over the holidays and are simply looking to recommit to their health goals.

The New Year also brings new readers. Welcome all of you who have just discovered Always Hungry for the first time! We now have a year of guiding our readers under our belt, as well as a Facebook group with over 8000 members! It’s now, more than ever, our goal to help you, wherever you are, learn to listen to your bodies, use your trackers, and move through the phases at your own pace.

Whether you’ve been with us since day one or you’re just discovering Always Hungry for the first time, one of the best recommendations I can give is to read our FAQ page from top to bottom. There’s so much there to guide you. We’ve developed these questions over the past year based on our readers’ needs. No matter where you are on your journey, it’s important to take a minute to remind yourself what each Phase can do for your body.

Phase 1: The Always Hungry Reset

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This is the time to train your body to become more trustworthy. Try to follow the recommendations as closely as you can. Really give your body a chance to shift into a new mode. The most important advice I have is to follow my Rule #1: to be gentle on yourself and others as you allow your body to adapt. If you’re someone who is extremely carbohydrate sensitive, or has more intense metabolic issues, you may need to stay in Phase 1 longer than 2 weeks. And in contrast, some readers don’t really start making progress until they move to Phase 2.

Phase 1 is about paying attention to your Non-Scale Victories (NSVs). These indicators often come even before the scale shows any movement. We have a number of Featured Reader Stories showing a variety of NSVs including everything from increased energy, reduced cravings and clothes fitting better to improved moods, better sleep and reduction of chronic disease symptoms.

Phase 2: Experimentation and maintenance

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This is the time for you to figure out which whole grains work most effectively for your body and how often your body will tolerate them. Find the ratios that work best for your body. In Phase 2, you broaden your diet a little bit to see how your body responds. Every person will be different. Some may find they do great with brown rice but not so much with steel cut oats, or vice versa. Phase 2 can even be eased into slowly as you add one new food at a time.

In addition, use Phase 2 to find your trigger foods. These might be approved foods, but they send you into a spiral of overeating, overindulging, or cause other negative symptoms such as sleep disturbance. Maybe it’s dairy, chocolate, or nuts. You might be fine eating a little chocolate early in the day, but if you eat any after dinner, you have difficulty sleeping. Maybe you need a more plant based diet or you’re more sensitive to saturated fat than other people. Phase 2 is the time to make these discoveries. It’s also the most important time to use your trackers, and really figure out what your body is telling you. Again, pay attention to NSVs. Notice how your body is shifting. Listen to its signals, needs, and responses to various foods. Find that sweet spot of balance.

Making Peace with the Ratios

In the beginning of the program, you may need to use apps to determine the macronutrient ratios of your meals, but the goal is to get your body used to knowing its own needs. When you finish a meal or at the end of the day, you’ll get to where you know if you’ve hit that sweet spot of balance. Pay attention: are you still craving fat, protein, or carbohydrates? Your desserts and snacks should round out your regular meals to make you feel satisfied. Change them up to fit your daily needs. Maybe you want a little cheese, fresh fruit, or cream. Your body knows what it needs, and you trust it to get you there. This is the final goal of Phase 2.

Remember that your body is changing, so learning to pay attention and adjust is one of the most essential parts of all of the Always Hungry Phases. For many of you, this might sound impossible. But it’s not! Many of our readers have already reached this point and are easily crafting meals to fit their own bodies’ needs. We encourage you to join our Facebook group to find people who are just like you.

Phase 3: Sustainable Lifestyle

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This phase expands flexibility. Once you’ve reached your health goals, or choose to take a temporary field trip into Phase 3, it’s easy to fall back into your old habits. This is the most misunderstood phase. Eating sugary cake at a birthday party is not a Phase 3 field trip. It’s an off road excursion. (No reason to beat yourself up, but it’s important to recognize that you’re not in Phase 3 and to remember that getting back on track is always one meal away). Ultimately, Phase 3 is not about going back to your old ways of eating, it’s about creating a new sustainable way of eating for life.

Our readers have found that the Always Hungry plan becomes a way of life that they never want to leave. How can Phase 3 be that lifestyle without going back to the standard American diet or your own previous diet? Well, simply by having the flexibility to incorporate ingredients that you might not have used in the previous 2 phases or by creating better quality foods that you love and can share.

Phase 3 Foods

In essence, Phase 3 looks pretty much like Phase 2, with the addition of a few new products and a bit more flexibility in ratios. However, it’s important to Continue to focus on quality. Here are a few Phase 3 ideas:

  • Use a good quality sourdough bread without added sweeteners.
  • Find a high protein pasta that uses a combination of wheat and bean flours.
  • Try a new muffin or other baked food recipe that uses bean flour and natural sweeteners.

Phase 3 is not about eating a sugary cupcake with buttercream frosting. It’s about finding better versions of the old favorites. While we discouraged too many “revised” foods and recipes in Always Hungry Phases 1 & 2, now is the time that you get to play and experiment with creating better versions of things that you find out in the world.

You can live a life of freedom while still supporting your body. With this in mind, our Apple Cinnamon Muffin recipe this week is an example of a better version. Although the ingredients are more Phase 2, the end product is more Phase 3. Continue to pay attention to how your body and mind respond and take this as a learning moment: is this a trigger food for you?

Phase 3 and Your Family

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Phase 3 is also the time to examine how you can create new ways of eating for your kids. My son doesn’t know anything different than my Apple Cinnamon type muffins, even as cupcakes for his birthday parties. This is his indulgence or special treat. While he’s allowed to have bites of other types of cakes and cookies at parties, he tends not to like them so much. Create an environment where these higher quality foods are the norm.

That’s what Phase 3 is about.

  • Ruth Ames

    I’m part of the fell off the wagon party for the holidays. I’m back focusing on Phase 2, with an emphasis on portion control. I found that I would indulge in on plan foods, but was still over eating. Here’s to being back on track.