“Dad’s in the cage!”

That’s what my kids used to say about me when I was pre-diabetic and struggling with obesity. I was always hungry and my desire for food would become so intense that I became like a wild caged animal.

I was eating too many carbohydrates along with too much sugar and the combination put me on a roller coaster of highs and lows, including intense hunger pangs that made me extremely irritable and temperamental. This type of binge overeating is not uncommon, even for those of us without diabetes. When people are very hungry they tend to overeat, hence the adage: Never go food shopping when you’re hungry.

When I first started learning how to deal with obesity and manage diabetes, I was introduced to “grazing,” which is eating smaller, frequent meals throughout the day rather than the standard three big meals.

I experimented with grazing, and while it was effective in quelling my appetite, it kept my blood sugar levels higher than I wanted, so I adjusted my grazing to a series of healthy snacks that kept both my appetite and blood sugar levels under control.

I tested different foods and found that avocados, hard-boiled eggs, and chunky peanut butter (not together!) kept me from being hungry without spiking my blood sugar. Although it causes a spike, sometimes I’ll eat a banana after heavy exercise and slices of yellow peppers are another treat that’s tasty and doesn’t raise my blood sugar levels. Another reason for my intense hunger had been bad food choices, which I also adjusted, but going too long between meals is not a healthy choice no matter what diet you follow.

When I speak to diabetics and people battling obesity, I always stress that they should find a method that works for them as individuals rather than a regimen strictly prescribed by a book, trainer, doctor or nutritionist. Professional advice is crucial, but properly adapting it to your own body and metabolism is equally important.

If you are constantly hungry, irritable and overweight, ignoring the reasons will only make matters worse.

The door to the cage is unlocked. You merely have to step out.