Hunger! What is it?
If you've been
trying to shed some pounds, you know the biggest obstacle to
overcome is that nagging hungry feeling! Have you ever said,
only I didn't get so hungry, I could stick to my diet!"
Hunger is a basic
physiological function necessary to preserve the species - one
of many normal, natural, instinctive survival mechanisms shared
by all animals. Hunger enables us to thrive. If we didn't get
hungry, we wouldn't want to eat. When the body doesn't get enough
food, a complex biochemical system stimulates the brain to send
out hunger signals and the body says "feed me." Mother
Nature has ensured hunger to be an uncomfortable feeling that
causes us to seek food to make the discomfort go away.
the Dysregulated System: If it's normal to be hungry, then is it abnormal
not to be hungry? We know that people who are severely ill don't
get hungry - the sight or smell of food makes a sick person queasy.
People with serious emotional or psychological illnesses also
don't get hungry and may lose weight from not eating. But the
body can't thrive without food. And so, the Theory of the Dysregulated
System says it's not normal not to be hungry.
If it's normal to be hungry, then hunger must be a good thing! Right?
But, when you can't control your hunger and it causes excessive
eating which leads to extra body fat, it's difficult to convince
anyone that hunger is desirable.
a look around you. You'll see that
all species of animals spend a lot of time
doing what they like best -- eating. Eating is a
pleasurable experience common
to all animals.
Long ago, hunger was thought to
be a simple mechanism
the stomach contained no food, or was empty, it caused hunger,
and if the stomach were full, hunger would go away. To test this
theory, researchers dropped an inflatable balloon into a hungry
subject's stomach and pumped it full of air until it completely
filled the stomach. The subject reported that it helped briefly
to cause a feeling of fullness, but feelings of hunger soon returned
even though the balloon remained fully inflated. Researchers
began to realize that hunger is not a simple process.
We now know of
many mechanisms in the body that stimulate hunger, and we're
learning of new ones that we suspect also contribute, although
these are not well understood. We know that blood sugar levels
have a direct effect on hunger. Sugar, or glucose which comes
from carbohydrates, is the main source of energy for the body
and brain. When blood sugars drop, a complex biochemical system
tells the brain that the body isn't getting enough food and the
brain sends out hunger signals. We also know that during hunger,
Just the smell of food can cause your stomach to growl, and the
or thought of food can cause your mouth to water.
kind of hunger called psychological hunger for which no physiological condition
can be found. This kind of hunger may be mostly imagined and
you may think you're hungry when you really are not. Food cravings fall into this category, something we
all feel from time to time. However, research has not been able
to prove a physiological reason for craving certain foods and
has disproved the theory that the body craves a food because
it needs it.
been conducted with people who claim to crave certain foods. Here are some of the results:
- Subjects who
said they craved carbohydrates were allowed to choose from a
variety of foods and eat as much as they wanted. However, they
selected a predominance of high protein, high fat foods that
contained no carbohydrate at all.
- Blood taken
from subjects who claim to crave sugar or salt shows their blood
levels of sodium and glucose are normal.
- In a study done
with women who were iron deficient, foods with a high iron content
were offered but were not chosen.
occurred in studies with rats. When offering foods fortified
with vitamins and minerals to vitamin/mineral deficient rats,
the rats did not eat the fortified foods, and instead opted for
the high fat, highly sugared foods that contained little or no
who study human behavior know
that people will buy products they feel they can relate to or
"connect with." Certain fad diet books, like The Carbohydrate
Addict's Diet (Click
to read more) promotes the theory of food cravings and claims
to have a cure. Many people will buy these books because they
feel the connection associated with craving certain foods.
10 tips to cope
with that nagging hungry feeling!
food cravings real? No one knows, but do you really think your
body needs a chocolate candy bar? The next time you're feeling
! from a
sugar craving, eat fruit instead of candy. Like candy, fruit
also provides sugar to the blood, so if your body really is craving
sugar, the fruit should satisfy the need.
1. Get used to
feeling a little bit hungry! Body fat is not mobilized and used
as an energy source until the body's main source of energy, glucose,
is no longer available. When you're hungry, that means you're burning fat.
2. Avoid high
protein, high fat FAD diets! You can't lose fat by eating fat!
3. Eat five to six small
meals a day
dieting. Never try to diet by eating one or two meals per day.
Several small meals provide the body with a constant source of
sugar to help promote normal blood sugar levels which prevents
the brain from sending out hunger signals.
4. Eat slowly. Take at least ½ hour to eat a
meal. Give your stomach a chance to feel full.
5. Decrease the amount
of fat in your diet and
replace it with lower calorie complex carbohydrates (fruit, vegetables,
6. Increase intake of dietary
fiber is heavy and weighs down on stomach receptors to create
a feeling of fullness.
7. Many people mistake thirst
think you're hungry, drink a large glass of diet soda or water
and see if the hunger goes away.
8. Eat your largest meals
during the early part of the day to provide energy when you need it most. Never
eat a large meal before going to bed!
9. Go to bed a little bit
hungry and sleep on it! It's
better to be hungry while you're sleeping than during the day
when you're most apt to feed the hunger.
10. Exercise decreases hunger. You don't have to overdue
it. Jogging or bicycling one mile four or five times a week can
help eliminate those nagging hungry feelings.
Where do you get your nutrition
information? Most states now have licensure laws for Dietitians
and Nutritionists. Be sure your nutrition advisor is "Licensed"
by the State as a Licensed Dietitian (LD) or Licensed Nutritionist
(LN), or in states that don't have licensure laws, a Registered
Barbara Herondorf, L.D.
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