When most people try to lose weight, they find that after a period of time, they lose their willpower. They start off strong for maybe a day or two or even a week or two, and then WHAM! Hunger, cravings, inability to feel full, etc. Nothing is more frustrating than feeling an amazing surge of motivation only to have it followed a few days or weeks later with a serious uphill battle that you were not fighting before. Hang on to your hats … THERE IS HOPE! Let me explain …
When we embark on a weight loss journey, we start out with the best of intentions, usually see a little bit of weight loss in the beginning (typically water), but once the body starts to lose fat, it is a whole different ball game. When the body begins to sense that it is eating its own fat (yep, cannibalism inside of your body), it starts to get a bit nervous because that is HARD WORK! No matter how much extra weight you are carrying, the body does not “know” that you don’t need it and your body wants to hold onto every ounce of its stored fuel … so what does it do? It upsets your hormones!
If you haven’t already, go back and read the previous two articles about leptin resistance and the ketogenic diet before you finish this one. (They are saved under “my articles” on the website). When your body senses that it is about to have to eat its own fat for fuel, it naturally decreases leptin (appetite turn off hormone) and turns on ghrelin (appetitie turn on hormone) leaving you feeling like you are legitimately hungry. NOBODY likes to be hungry, and this is especially true when you are trying to lose weight as hunger turns on feelings of deprivation and feeling like “I can’t live this way!” So what’s a person to do?
Understand and plan. When you understand that what your body is doing is completely normal and will pass, it is more likely that you will push through those moments of hunger and frustration, but there are several helpful tips to mitigate the hormonal upset so that it has less of a willpower inducing effect.
- Slow down cowboy! When you get that dose of motivation, it is tempting to do everything at once, but that is one of the biggest culprits in hormonal upset and “falling off the wagon.” Instead, start with one change the first week and add one new change every week until you are at a good weight loss pace (no more than 2 lbs per week). This is the premise behind Heart In Motion, one change per week. Pick 4 steps for the next 4 weeks. Some examples might be things like walk 4 days a week, make a high protein breakfast daily, not eat after 7:00 or cut out processed foods. Whatever you do, don’t do it all at once. Keeping your changes at a moderate pace is the best way to lose weight without your body catching on and causing a hormonal upset.
- Embrace late night hunger. So I know you’re wondering why I am now telling you to embrace hunger. Here is the reason. As we have talked about in other articles, our bodies are designed to burn fat while we sleep (resting state) and are fasted (not eating while we sleep). This process takes 7-8 hours to begin, so eating right before bed keeps that process from happening. Try cutting off eating by 7:00, and if you get hungry before bed, see it as a sign that your body is about to go into some serious fat burning. Drink some water and get yourself to bed! If you are up so late that you feel like you are starving, you might be staying up too late anyway which brings me to my next point.
- Go to sleep. Studies have shown that adequate restful sleep contributes to healthy regulated leptin and ghrelin levels. Going to sleep helps you lose weight in so many ways, but understanding that sleep regulates your hunger and satisfaction levels may lead you to turn in a little earlier tonight.
- Manage your stress. You may not be able to change the circumstances in your life, but you can change your response to them. Prayer, meditation, yoga, journaling, listening to music, and other relaxing activities are just a few ideas to get in the habit of doing on a regular basis. The lower your cortisol (yep, another weight loss/gain hormone), the more regulated your leptin and ghrelin will be.
- Don’t kill it at the gym. This goes without saying. Intense exercise causes intense hunger. Try instead doing short bursts of exercise followed by a relaxing rest period before you leave the gym (think 20 minutes of interval training followed by yoga). And listen to your body. If your new exercise regimen is causing you to have to fight hormonal hunger, then it might be time to back off the exercise. Remember that the majority of weight is not lost through exercise, but by creating an insulin sensitive environment in the body by eating protein and slow burning carbohydrates in vegetables.
- Eat proactively. Traditional wisdom says to listen to your hunger, but when you are trying to lose weight, those cues can get messed up. Instead, eat 30 minutes before you would typically get hungry. This can help to circumvent the natural hunger cycle that comes with weight loss by giving your body a ready fuel source. Be careful to choose protein and veggie options though as processed snack foods are just going to cause real hunger.
- Make sure you are eating enough. Consult a dietician, wellness coach, or use an app like lose it to track what you are eating. Under eating can be as big of a culprit in weight challenges as overeating.
STEP(S) FOR THIS WEEK:
- Read and seek to understand. If weight loss related hunger and satiety is still a struggle for you, read through and follow the steps above to see if you are doing all of them. Every step matters. Our bodies are hormonally driven. Learn to balance your hormones before they get the best of you!