“Hungry? Grab a Snickers!” We see and hear this from Snickers ads quite often. Nothing against this candy bar, they are quite good actually.
This is one example of how we’re constantly bombarded with reminders to eat, and eat often.
So it’s no surprised that a lot of us end up being hungry frequently. Even after large meals, it doesn’t take long for us to get those hunger pangs again.
Especially when we smell certain foods or think about specific snacks that we crave.
And that’s the keyword there: crave.
We’re going to be addressing a feeling and thought that all of us have, and that most of us wish we have less of throughout our days: Hunger.
More specifically, we’re going to see how to address the feeling of being hungry all the time. We’ll introduce a bit science, and then see what we can change in our daily routines that helps improve our hunger regulation.
3 Ways To Beat Hunger
First of all, hunger in itself is not a bad thing. In most cases, it’s the way our body tells us it needs energy to keep functioning. More importantly, it gives us cravings for certain foods when we’re deficient in certain nutrients.
But in today’s society, hunger has almost spiraled out of control.
I’m don’t even need to address the old 6 meals a day plan that ravaged the health and fitness industry for years.
“Keep the metabolism going!”, “Burn more calories with constant digestion!” and other statements encouraged the masses to eat as frequently as they can, even grazing on food throughout the entire day.
But as explained in the meal frequency article, that logic has no merit whatsoever. And it definitely is NOT the way to deal with hunger.
Just wanted to get that out of the way so we all understand that while hunger is a vital sign from our body, we need to see it in the proper light and know what to do when it feels like hunger, but we know it’s not.
Knowing TRUE Hunger
The first and most effective method in combating “hunger” is to identify when our hunger is real. What I mean is differentiating the feeling we get when we’re truly hungry and when we just want something tasty.
Most of us are all too familiar with the feeling we get in our stomachs when we smell the aroma of chocolate brownies, or our favorite pizza, or any dish smothered in our favorite sauce.
What a lot of us don’t realize is that our brains are giving off chemicals to signal us to eat when we detect such delectables.
So how would we know if we’re truly hungry when we’re faced with such temptations? After all, we are getting the signals to eat and the thought of eating those specific foods seems very satisfying.
One of the easiest ways is to remember the last time we ate. Ask ourselves these questions:
- Did I just have a meal a few hours prior?
- How large was the meal?
- What physical and mental activities have I been doing since that last meal?
- Was I satisfied right after eating that meal?
True hunger is when our body is yearning for nutrients and fuel that it needs to keep going, but more so on the nutrients. Why that is will be explained in the later sections.
So if we just had an average size lunch and felt very satisfied afterwards, and then we’re feeling hungry again 2 hours later because we smell freshly baked cookies. Yet, all we’ve done up to that point is sit in front of a computer screen, we can all see it’s not hunger, but our taste buds calling out to us.
I don’t need to explain why giving in to our taste buds is a bad idea. We all know by now that’s the easiest way to gain weight and wreck our health.
Now that we know what true hunger is not, let’s look at an example of what true hunger is.
If you haven’t been eating for over 6 hours, have been doing some decent physical activity, and starts to get this empty stomach feeling, then it could very well be actual hunger hitting you.
This is a distinguishable feeling from that of cravings we get from tasty treats. When we’re tempted by our taste buds, we can usually tell that’s the case because our stomachs doesn’t feel particularly empty. Next time you experience specific food cravings, pay attention to how your stomach feels. Is it really calling out for food?
It’s important that we remember the feeling of true hunger also. Next time we are experiencing true hunger and feel the intense need to eat, and our stomachs are indeed in need of food, remember it. It’s a sure sign at that point that our body is asking for food.
Another tell-tale sign of true hunger is there isn’t one particular food we’re focused on, but more so just getting something in our stomachs.
Sure we might prefer to have something we like, but the feeling of true hunger usually calls for generally nutritious whole foods instead of one or two specific types of foods (e.g. mac n’. The latter typically means it’s our taste buds that’s working us. That’s easily confirmed with thinking about other whole foods and gauging if we have the same desire to eat those as well.
If not, then we know it’s not true hunger.
One last thing before I close out this section, just a word on when true hunger sets in.
A lot of people liken thirst to hunger, claiming that just like thirst, by the time we feel hungry, our body is already in a state of undernourishment.
This is yet another claim by the constant, frequent eating advocates.
And if you’re not too interested in the science, simply think about how our body works and what makes sense and what doesn’t.
The modern human species has been around for hundreds of thousands of years. Whether we believe in evolution or not, it’s evident that our bodies have developed ways to adapt and better survive in our environment over that time. If not, we wouldn’t be here.
So when our ancestors were roaming about in the wild, did they always have the food and water available for frequent eating and drinking? It’s not surprising if they went for days without food and minimal water.
I’m not suggesting we starve ourselves on purpose and go for days with no eating, but there’s something to be learned from the way humans have lived for most of their time here on Earth and the way our bodies have been adapted to function.
Eating Is NOT Entertainment
Our society today has definitely made eating much more desirable than before. Unless you’re a professional eater, eating should not be a form of entertainment (tell that to the fans of the Wing Bowl, Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest, and every other gluttonous event).
Eating for fun, or for entertainment has changed the way modern society looks at eating.
Although most of us are aware that eating the way that professional eaters do is unhealthy, and we don’t ever planning going that far in our personal diets, constant exposure to this type of “entertainment” can change our attitude towards eating.
It becomes easier to justify in our minds that eating a bit more is harmless just because something tastes good, even though we’ve had our fill.
Or we might see a fries eating contest, and something along these lines might pop into our brain: “If those guys can eat a crapload of fries and be fine, it certainly doesn’t hurt if I have a few handfuls.”
We all know how that can turn out. Not only do the few handfuls turn into multiple times that, but we start to justify that those foods aren’t that bad after all, even in the amounts we’re having.
This leads us to ignoring the cravings we get even when it’s not real hunger. It makes it that much harder to combat those urges that feeds not our bodies, but our taste buds.
Along the lines of entertainment is focused eating.
This is something that a lot of us take for granted. Eating while watching TV, working on the laptop, or even driving can lead overeating (not to mention it’s dangerous to drive and eat).
The overeating comes as a result of not paying attention to the food and our act of eating.
WHAT?!? Who pays attention to… eating? Isn’t it just a matter of putting food in our mouths, chewing, and swallowing? Why focus on that when we can multitask? I’ve got work to do!
While we might not have the time to focus on eating, consider this.
When we’re distracted while eating (doing anything else along with eating), our focus and attention to shifted to that activity. However, we’re still consuming food during that time.
Due to the lack of attention to our bodies and how we’re feeling, the satiating feeling sent to our brains aren’t detected as easily. We continue eating even though our body is telling us we’ve had enough.
This makes it feel like the hunger never goes away, or it takes a whole lot more food to get that satiating feeling.
Instead, try to focus on your food and how you feel the next time you eat. If you’ve never tried this, I guarantee that you’ll eat less and feel satiated much quicker than before.
No need to completely stop everything and only focus 100% on your eating at first. It’s easier to cut down on the number of activities you’re used to doing while eating.
Maybe step away from the computer screen, or put down the phone, or bring your food to an isolated spot and try eating by ourselves. These teaches us to feel for when we’ve had enough and keep away the mindless eating habits.
Eat More Fats And Less Carbs
This third method might not appeal to those of us still hung up on the “Fat is bad and causes heart disease” notion, but please visit Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 about low carb first. You might also enjoy the Mediterranean Diet article while you’re at it.
Fats are the most satiating out of the 3 major macros, and the more of it we have in a meal, the less we need to feel full and the longer we stay full.
Needless to say, make sure the fats are from organic sources with no artificial preservatives or sweeteners. Grass-fed butter, macadamia oil, salmon, nuts like Brazil Nuts, and other foods are great sources of healthy fats.
Carbs, particularly refined carbs on the other hand, is just the opposite. They are digested the easiest out of the 3 major macros. Our stomachs empty them faster than protein and fats.
The reason why eating lots of carbs, refined or not, leaves us feeling hungry all the time lies in the way our body processes it and how our body uses its fuel sources.
Time to geek out, just a little bit.
Just A Bit Of Science
I promise it won’t be too bad. We’re going to discuss a bit about how insulin plays a role in not just fat gain, but uncontrollable hunger. Since I’ve explained some of this in a previous article, I’ll be brief here.
When we ingest carbs, 100% of it gets released into the blood as glucose. Only 10% of fats are released as glucose and a bit over 50% of protein.
In order to get the glucose out of the blood, our pancreas secrete insulin to carry the glucose to our muscles and liver, where they’re stored in the form of glycogen.
Once those stores are full, the resultant glucose are stored inside our fatty tissues.
If we’re used to eating lots of carbs, our body has become reliant on using glycogen for fuel. Our brains are primed at that point to use glucose as its main source of fuel as well.
So whenever these fuel sources run low, we get the signal to eat. This is especially bad for sedentary people involved in a lot of mental activity. The reasons are 2-fold:
- The obvious lack of exercise
- The high amounts of mental activity
Our brain is responsible for using up to 25% of our total energy. And if it’s primed to use glucose as its fuel of choice, lots of mental activity can deplete that pretty quickly.
So when we get brain fog or hit the wall, what do we do? We eat more carbs, which gives us the glucose rush our brains were craving. And we know that meal usually consist of more carbs than we really need, so there’s some more fat gain.
At the same time, our insulin spikes up again, driving more glucose into the fat cells since we’re sedentary, we’re not using much glycogen at all.
Thus the vicious cycle of fat gain and constant hunger continues.
So Exercise Makes High Carb Okay?
Not exactly, especially if we’re trying to fight hunger pangs and lose weight.
With all else being equal, exercise is better than no exercise. But even with the glycogen depletion, the high levels of insulin is detrimental to health and fat loss.
Many people fast to lose fat. The only way this works is when our glycogen levels are low enough, and our body starts turning to our fat stores for fuel.
There are specific enzymes responsible for releasing the lipids from our fat stores so they can be converted to fuel for our bodies.
The reason why high carb diets makes it hard to lose fat is that the presence of insulin prevents that enzyme from doing its job. Simply put, high carb = high insulin = low to no fat loss.
That’s why if our bodies aren’t primed to tap into our fat stores for fuel, we get the terrible brain fog and cranky when we fast. Our brains are screaming for more fuel, but the insulin spike from our last meal is preventing us from using our fat stores efficiently.
That’s another reason why a high fat, low carb diet works so well in promoting fat loss and optimal health.
Personally, I fast on a regular basis. Intermittent fasting actually.
This daily routine has helped me sense when I’m actually hungry and when it’s just the sweet tooth looking for attention. Weekly fasts of 24-48 hours are also great not just for health, but mental clarity as well.
It’s definitely tough at first, but the benefits are well worth it.
I highly recommend giving fasting a try. Simply start with the 16 hour fast, leaving ourselves with an 8 hour time frame for eating.
See how we feel and slowly cut down on the time we’re allowed to eat.
At the very least, give the 3 methods I mentioned above a shot. They’re guaranteed to provide results and might be just what we need to fight those dreadful hunger pangs!
Besides, who doesn’t like cutting down on cardiovascular disease just by making small changes in the way we eat?