Controlling Hunger is Key to Weight Loss and Maintenance
Twelve tips to reduce hunger and lose weight quickly: The feeling of hunger is the major reason people have difficulty losing and maintaining their weight loss. You will learn to sort out the many causes of “hunger” (or what is perceived as hunger) including thirst, cravings, boredom, anxiety, low blood sugar, depression and habit. It’s much easier to control these feelings once they are recognized.
If you are hungry all day long, much of it is not real hunger. No one is hungry all day and all night. In overweight individuals the brain often confuses hunger with many other emotions and signals. Here are some simple guides to see if your feelings are hunger or some other emotion and what to do.
Many Causes of Hunger: Some Real others Misinterpreted Brain Signals
- Hormones Make Us Hungry
- Foods Make Us Hungry
- Signals All Around Us (sights, smells, etc.) Make Us Hungry
Use the checklist below to try to find the cause of your “hunger.” An easy way is to think about Why You are Hungry based on the time of the day you experience the hunger:
Miami Diet Doctor Answers: Why Am I Hungry? Separating Real from Imagined Hunger
Keeping in mind that the feelings we interpret as hunger differ throughout the day, this is what should go through your mind if you feel hungry. Use these 7 guidelines to help you distinguish true hunger from feelings that are not hunger at all.
Real Causes of Hunger
- Did I skip a meal?
Keep in mind that skipping a meal leads to loss of control, low blood sugar and more eating later. Eating regular meals interspersed with snacks does increase metabolism – it keeps your blood sugar even thru the day.
- Did the meal have a lot of rapidly absorbed carbs?
Items like bagels, donuts, rice, pasta, potatoes, sugary cereals, and sugary foods in general raise your blood sugar. This sugar spike is followed by a drop as the sugar turns to fat, and more hunger is produced.
- Was the meal too small?
A single piece of toast or cheese for breakfast or a can of tuna fish for lunch is not enough food. One would expect to be hungry if the meal was so small.
- It’s Normal to be hungry!
Hunger in the morning or late in the afternoon is normal. It’s not normal to feel hunger 30 minutes after eating.
Hunger that’s Not Really Hunger
1. Am I thirsty and not really hungry?
Always drink something first (a no calorie drink, of course), read more about the myth of over drinking of water also
2.Is the feeling not really hunger at all?
Many emotions masquerade as hunger. How do you know if boredom, anxiety or depression is fooling you into thinking your hungry?
It’s simple! If you have feelings of hunger soon after eating, and you eat something and 20 minutes later and still want more, that is usually
not hunger. The underlying emotion has not changed with eating and you end up back where you started – feeling guilty but still not able to do
much about it.
3. Is the feeling really cravings? Cravings are different than true hunger. They are intense desire for sweet and salty foods that cause pleasure
even when feeling full.
Weight loss maintainers who have kept their weight off for years often take deliberate steps not to be hungry. Here is what some of my patients do to prevent loss of control and even more eating when they are hungry:
- They carry snacks with them, keeping them in the office and even in their cars for the drive home after work.
- Their experience is that the most dangerous time is around 4-6 pm, when the shift is made from the day to the evening.
- Men rushing home hungry pick something from the refrigerator or a snack from the kitchen cupboard. They are more careful about this.
- Women are sampling while they are preparing the evening meal. They are more careful about this.
Tips To Reduce Hunger and Lose All the Weight You Want
Hunger is a normal reaction to the absence of food in our system; it is our body’s way of signaling to us that we need to eat. People who successfully lose weight and keep it off understand what is and is not real hunger. Hunger management is the key to losing and keeping off weight.
What tells a person to eat or not eat that piece of cake?
- Hormones such as grehlin from the stomach tell her brain to eat more.
- Leptin & adinopectin from the fat cells, and GLP1, PYY, and insulin from the gastrointestinal tract tell her to stop eating.
Hormonally, our bodies want us to EAT & EAT:
The fact that only a single hormone Grehlin tells us to eat more and many more hormones are required to limit our food intake tells us a lot: Our bodies are programmed to eat, probably genetically from caveman days when food was scarce.
Hunger vs. Cravings: What is the difference?
In order to successfully manage hunger we must first learn to recognize the difference between hunger and cravings. The “growling” of our stomach, often accompanied by fatigue, weakness and thoughts of food, is hunger. For most of us, almost any food or even drink will stop or at least lessen the hunger pains. Some foods are better than others to stop hunger, namely protein and fat.
Cravings are simply a very powerful, irrational need for specific types of foods which can occur even when we are not hungry. Even right after a big meal we can experience cravings.
Hunger is Determined by Two Different Systems: Internal and External
Internal factors tell us to eat or not eat. The numerous hormones made in organs all over the human body including fat cells, the pancreas and the stomach as well as emotional signals like anxiety, depression and habit tell us to eat or not eat.
Recent research indicates that many obese individuals may not be able to lose weight due to alterations in the balance or function of these critical hormones in the internal system. Some obese people never feel full because they lack some of these hormones, have too much of them or the appetite center in the brain does not recognize them naturally.
Leptin is the master hormone that sets the foundation for our eating patterns. Leptin, a hormone produced by fat cells, is in overall control of body weight on a long-term basis. Leptin tells our brain the status of our energy stores. Too much fat in our fat cells signals the brain to stop eating, while too little signals the brain that it is time to eat.
Other Hormones control our day-to-day and meal-to-meal eating. Interestingly, it must be easier for the body to EAT than NOT TO EAT, as evidenced by the numerous hormones needed to limit our eating. Those meal to meal hormones include grehlin, insulin, GLP-1 proteins.
External Factors That Can Influence Eating Habits
External factors that can cause perceived hunger include visual cues, time of day, smells, and other signs that encourage us to eat.
There is a very substantial group of overweight individuals that are subject to a constant barrage of external stimuli so great that they overwhelm their own hormonal control centers. This may explain the inability of these people to lose any weight and the absolute fallacy that willpower plays any role at all.
Many chemicals produced in organs throughout the body affect body weight. Working together, these signals control how often we eat and how much we eat. While the inability to lose weight may be due to hormonal abnormalities, it is clear that not every overweight person has these abnormalities. Moreover, it is almost impossible for anyone to manipulate these internal factors short of taking drugs.
The initial rapid weight loss seen in low carbohydrate diets is due in part to the high-protein foods. The cheese, sausage, nuts, and fatty meats produce fullness and stabilize blood sugar for hours.
Some Carbs Cause Hunger
Carbs, such as sugar, fruit juices, candy, cookies, cake, and those foods that quickly turn to sugar in the stomach, including white bread, rice, pasta, bagels, and potatoes cause more hunger. Eating these carbs raises the blood sugar quickly and produces instant energy. However, the rapidly rising blood sugar initiates a rise in insulin, which quickly causes the blood sugar to fall, producing hunger.
Where does the sugar go when it falls in the bloodstream?
If you are exercising at the time, it is used as fuel. Unfortunately, most people cannot time their exercise to their sugar spikes, and the excess sugar is converted into fat to be stored around the belly for future use.
Some Carbs Do NOT Increase Hunger
Most fruits, vegetables, and many whole-grain bread products, cereals, and even pasta can reduce hunger. The sugars in these foods are surrounded or encased in fibers that dissolve slowly in the stomach, resulting in a much slower release of sugar into the bloodstream. When sugar is released slowly — over hours instead of in seconds — the body is able to utilize the sugar for metabolism and activities.
Obesity prone individuals are more reactive to external clues to eat – such as time of day, smell, presence of and quality of food than lean people.
Hunger is our body’s way of signaling that it needs food:
If things were this simple, then weight management would not be so difficult – we would eat when we are hungry and stop eating when we are full. There would not be an obesity epidemic.
External signals to eat are new:
You do not have to go back to prehistoric times – just think of the 1940’s and 50’s to see the effects of external signals on eating patterns – fast food was virtually non-existent and food portions were smaller. The rapid increase in obesity is not due to any new “imbalance in hormones” but to the increasing effect of external signals telling us to eat. Virtually all of our senses can send powerful messages to the brain that signal us to eat.
Misinterpreting these signals as “hunger:”
Signals that tell us to eat more when we may not need more food results in rapid weight gain. This kind of eating makes a person feel “better” only for a few minutes and soon there is the need for more food to satisfy these urges, followed often by feelings of guilt.
Stress may or many not cause overeating:
It’s probably the nature of the stress that plays the most important role in overeating. Major stresses appear to cause less eating and minor ones more eating. This may have significant effects on those trying to control their weight due to the relative infrequency of “major stressors” in most people’s lives and the more frequent occurrence of “minor stressors.”
The type of foods desired plays a role:
The type of foods desired, usually sweet or salty snack foods, are sought over meal-type foods, such as meat, vegetables, or fruits. These snack foods are high in calories, rarely satisfy hunger and the net effect is the need for more and more – despite any physiological need and subsequent weight gain.
Fatigue can cause overeating:
As more and more people are working two or more jobs, or working and taking care of a family, it is becoming more and more important. Some people cannot distinguish between hunger and fatigue. When they are fatigued, they can be just as hungry after a large meal as they would be if they had not eaten for a whole day. Researchers have found physiological changes that may increase appetite and calorie intake in fatigued individuals by lowering their levels of Leptin.
Habits, time triggers and behavior patterns are among the most common triggers for what is perceived as hunger.
A Semi-Filled dinner plate:
More than 60% of overweight individuals are habitual plate-cleaners: they will eat whatever is on the plate and accept that portion as the appropriate amount to eat. With increasing portions, we eat more without even recognizing it. The normal hormonal signals to stop eating are ignored or overridden by these very powerful signals – in this case a semi full dinner plate!
It’s “time to eat:”
Some of these eating patterns were learned in childhood. Some of us feel hungry because the clock says it is lunchtime at noon or dinnertime at 6 PM; we believe it is time for a meal and tell ourselves we are hungry. Smart dieters do not eat just because it is a particular time of the day; they try to save the food for when they are truly hungry.
It’s there… might as well eat it:
Other eating is due to accessibility. Most obese people eat whatever is presented to them, often without even thinking about it. The old saying, “If it’s there I will eat it,” is true.
Thirst is often confused with hunger:
One reason is that most drinking occurs at mealtime and sometimes these signals become confused. Often it is a just physical feeling; the individual wants something in his mouth.
Thinking of food, smelling food, or seeing appealing foods is a hunger trigger:
Visual or olfactory images actually cause hunger by triggering past memories of pleasures and calmness associated with eating. Carbs and salty foods are usually what most people think about, rather than vegetables or fruits.
Whatever the reason, the smart dieter spends a second or two before grabbing whatever is in front of him thinking about the cause of his feelings. Then better choices can be made.