Concluding our series on the understanding of hunger, it is important to address other factors that can contribute to out of control hunger and different things that we can do about it. In our last two articles, we addressed toxic hunger caused by certain foods as well as by behavioral and psychological triggers. Both subjects are worthy of some time and effort to work on, so if you missed either article, look under “my articles” on the website to read through them and make some changes if necessary. Today I want to discuss a few other patterns that affect our hunger. Some are controllable, while some are not. The ones that you can’t control are still worthy of working on your response to. Often times, we cannot change the catalyst, but we can change our response to it.
- Lack of sleep – Adequate sleep actually balances our hormones and lack of it can cause imbalances that lead to what feels like hunger. Studies have shown that people who sleep 5 hours per night compared to those who sleep 8 secret less of the hormone leptin and too much ghrelin. Leptin is secreted by our fat cells, and too little of it signals our bodies to think they are starving so the “turn off” mechanism for the appetite is disrupted making it hard to stop eating even when we are full. Ghrelin is produced by the stomach and is an appetite stimulant. The more ghrelin we have, the more hungry we will be. Bottom line, sleep is an absolute priority if weight control without fighting toxic hunger is your goal.
- Temperature – It is no accident that you crave warm, filling, comfort foods during the winter months. Food gives your body energy (calories) which have to heat up in order to be burned as energy. When your body is chronically exposed to cold weather, it starts to crave more calories to compensate. Although most people don’t have the option to just pick up and move to Florida during the winter months, choosing comfort food makeover dishes can go a long way toward compensating for the colder weather’s affect on high calorie cravings. Just a few ideas are:
- Exercise – For the most part, exercise is a great way to stay healthy and maintain or lose weight, but it can have the unwanted side effect of a voracious appetite. Unfortunately, our hunger level response to exercise is never on par with how many calories we actually burned (though it is super easy to justify it in our head). Be sure that when you exercise, you are aware of how much exercise you can do without gaining the result of a runaway appetite. Sometimes, LESS is MORE when it comes to exercise. Moderate exercise and a good strength training regimen that doesn’t stoke the appetite is far more beneficial than a 6 day a week bootcamp that makes you ravenous and eat double dinners. Examine your cost v/s benefit when deciding how much exercise is actually good for your lifestyle and hunger patterns.
- Medications – There are too many medications to list that can cause an increased appetite, but a very common class of drugs in this area is antidepressants. For those who need to be on them, this is just a side effect to be aware of. Both increased cravings and increased appetite in general are well known side effects. There are more natural solutions that actually help curb cravings, so talk to your naturopathic physician if you are interested in trying something that does not have the side effect of increased appetite but will still help with mood symptoms. If you are on these medications, making sure that you have enough healthy fat and moderate levels of carbohydrate in the diet are key to balancing neurotransmitter levels. Being careful not to overdo, starch choices like 1/2 cup of butternut squash, potato, or one slice of Ezekial bread can help with the body’s serotonin production. Adequate fat levels (think grass fed butter and organic coconut oil) help to feed the brain. The structure of the brain is known to be at least 60% fat and thrives on fat, so feeding out brain adequate fat can also help with appetite.
- Hormones – (look back through your last few months of articles to see a breakdown on which hormones affect weight loss and hunger). Leptin, ghrelin, estrogen, progesterone…..these are just a short list of a few of the hormones that cause our hunger to fluctuate. Take some time to go back through your web articles on this subject at there is a LOT to learn and a lot you can control about your own hormones.
As you have seen through this latest series of articles, there is a great deal to be learned and a great deal that we can control about our own hunger levels. The better we understand our bodies and how they work, the more we can make informed choices that make our life walk with health less of a fight. Our goal is freedom … not perfection… and never fighting an uphill battle. The more you learn, the better choices you can make. You may not always be able to control what causes your hunger, but you can always take steps to control your response to it.
STEP(S) FOR THIS WEEK:
- Learn, learn, and keep learning. Hunger is just one of the many things to continue learning about within your body. Pass on what you have learned, not only knowledge that you have obtained by reading, but strategies you may have developed along the way. You never know who might benefit from your knowledge!!