When it comes to gaining weight or losing weight, the main factor is controlling our appetite. It’s our relationship that we form with food that will dictate which direction we will go. According to the Institute of Psychology, (known as the worlds premier school of nutritional psychology) , “the relationship with food is as deep and revealing as we might ever have”. A person that already feels full (versus a hungry individual) will see different things when they are looking at food, such as a plate of pasta.
There are other triggers for over-eating, like your environmental or cultural surroundings. In this article, we will analyze what initiates hunger and the so-called “bad cravings”. You’ll learn strategies for turning those negative urges into positive ones , so you can turn your body into a fat burning machine. After all, everyone’s goal is to live a long healthy and illness free life, (with a high level of fitness) that can be enjoyed with our family and friends.
What is hunger?
Technically speaking, hunger results from a certain balance of chemicals and hormones in our body. Most people feel hungry every waking hour of the day, and they are able to satisfy these cravings with fast foods and drinks. Hunger may get out of control with some people, who find themselves feeling weak, tired, irritable and very low energy. Eating too much food, or eating junk food, is typically the reason for this negative effect.
If you wake up in the morning feeling excessively hungry, it is probably due to eating too much carbohydrates the evening before. Resulting in low blood sugar during your nights sleep. What you eat for breakfast will now trigger what you eat throughout the rest of the day. Let us look at three different breakfast meal scenarios:
Coffee and water
Two Doughnut or 2 slices of toast
Three Egg whites.
All three of these people will be impacted differently. Individual number 1, who is having coffee and water will not feel full. However, will lose the morning hunger due to the caffeine stimulation in the coffee, and will not require food for a long period of time during the day. Individual number 2, who is having the 2 donuts or 2 slices of toast, will get more craving for carbohydrates and sugar within 1 to 2 hours of the breakfast and will feel hypoglycemic. This individual will need to replenish the sugar plunge immediately and will need to continue eating throughout the day as their energy level goes up and down with each carbohydrate feed. Individual Number 3, who is having the 3 egg white breakfast will feel full and no longer hungry, because of no carbohydrates being ingested. The egg whites are protein rich, and will stave off hunger because there was no carbohydrates ingested. This will keep the persons blood sugar level constant, and there will be no need for replenishing food throughout the day. Now let’s examine the 3 examples a bit further: There are 2 hormones that have been recognized to have a major influence on energy balance; Ghrelin and Leptin. Leptin is considered a “satiety hormone” and helps to suppress your appetite, because of what you would experience when having coffee or eating egg whites for breakfast. Ghrelin is a hunger hormone that impacts how you feel when you eat a carbohydrate rich meal like the 2 donuts or 2 slices of toast. Both of these hormones send signals to our brain, whereby Leptin primarily decreases hunger and Ghrelin increases hunger. The goal of my Cardillo SHREDDED NUTRITION program is to use these hormones to their best advantage, by staving off hunger during the daily 22 hours of fasting and the 2 hour feeding window. Is hunger psychological or physiological? What happens in our brain and body when you’re feeling hungry? While our psychological make up will impact what we eat, the main driver is the physiological response that we have towards food. The environment is the premier reason for this, like clever food ads that trigger a response, or the smell of freshly baked goods billowing out from a bakery.
As J. Stanton from the premier nutrition site Gnolls.org stated at the 2012 and Ancestral Health Symposium “hunger is the interaction of four biochemically and neurologically distinct motivations: likes, wants, satiation, and satiety”. Satiation occurs during a meal and it signals when you’ve had enough to eat. Satiety is how you feel after having a meal and is the length of time until you feel hungry again. Mr. Stanton also stated that “our resulting desire to consume is modulated by availability and willpower”. Exactly! The key takeaway here is that our food consumption is determined by the ability to produce satiety, which is a combination of a persons physiological response to nutrients in food and how well that person accesses stored nutrients when necessary. The problem is eating empty calories. You’ll feel full from eating junk food but you won’t get any valuable nutrients and there’ll be more calories that you need. These empty calories will cause weight gain unless you offset this with hours at the gym!
What Happens to Our Brain and Body when we Eat? When food enters our body, it goes into our digestive system: a series of hollow organs connected by tubes starts from our mouth, goes through our body to the stomach, and then to the gastrointestinal tract. According to a detailed study done by the premier scientific studies publication, Cell Press, they claim to have mapped out signals that travel between our gut and brain that generates the feeling of satiety after eating a protein-rich meal. Understanding in this constant back-and-forth loop between the brain and gut will help us to better understand the treatment and prevention of obesity.
Cell Press had this to say but appetite: “food intake can be modulated through mu – opioid receptors (MORs) on nerves found in the walls of the portal vein, the major blood vessel that drains the blood from the gut. What this means is that stimulating the receptors enhances food intake, while blocking them suppresses intake”. It appears that the peptides from digested dietary proteins blocks MORs, thus curbing your appetite.
How to feel full without over-eating
Here’s some food for thought: do you ever wonder why you may feel full after eating a large protein breakfast, (like 5-6 cooked egg whites) compared to eating a blueberry muffin? This is because the brain and stomach send signals to one another through the hormone Leptin, which causes a feeling of satiety after eating a protein-rich meal. Eating fewer natural foods, and opting for more processed food with lots of added sugar (like blueberry muffins), will stimulate more of the Ghrelin hormone resulting in more hunger. You’ll end up craving even more sugar, which creates a constant negative loop where you want to continue eating unhealthy foods all day.
On the flipside, eating naturally-occurring proteins like fish, chicken or beans, will have you feeling fuller longer and curb your appetite. Dr. Michelle Hauser, a certified chef and nutrition educator who attended Harvard’s premier medical school, nailed it when she stated that “one of the advantages of eating more protein rich foods is that people who do it also tend to eliminate overly processed carbohydrates, such as white breads and prepackaged foods like cookies and crackers”. Stick to foods that don’t have a long list of ingredients, like apples cucumbers eggs or a piece of fish. Dr. Hauser is right when she says “the closer the food is to the way it started out, the longer it will take to digest, the gentler effect it will have on blood sugar, and the more nutrients it will contain.
Then and now.
In the past, the hunter-gatherer generation rationed food that was caught, and they lived mainly in on protein and vegetables (which is similar to what serious fitness people now follow). Today we have a lot of negative social environmental influences that encourage us to grab junk food at the local local drive-thru, eat mindless in front of the TV or computer, and consume non-organic, non-natural things. We don’t need to eat a lot of the food in a day; the amount you need to function is much less than you may believe.
Intermittent fasting and weight loss
In my Cardillo SHREDDED NUTRITION program I advocate a 22 hour daily fasting period followed by a 2 hour feeding period.
The benefit of intermittent fasting is that it’s a powerful tool for weight loss. It helps curb the appetite, increases growth hormone production and reduce insulin levels. According to Chris Gunnars founder of the premier health, fitness and nutrition website Authority Nutrition, “intermittent fasting can have many benefits for your body and brain, such as weight loss, protection against Type2 Diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and even help us with living longer. All of my clients find that fasting throughout the day becomes easy after the third day. After they break their sugar dependence. They have more energy for their gym workouts and they enjoy their 7:00 to 9:00 pm eating window, where they can have a balanced meal without hormonal spikes or being worried about gaining weight.
Eating behaviour is caused by complex interaction of factors: psychological (emotional), physiological, (our internal system), social (friends and family) and environmental, (media, culture, etc). My goal for my clients is to create an eating plan with a healthy balance of complex carbohydrates, lean proteins and incidental fats for their evening meal. While their intermittent fasting will spike their growth hormone productivity and turn their body into a fat burning machine
Avoiding over eating and eating the “wrong” foods, which will negatively impact long-term health and energy levels. For example, a Ferrari requires premium gas to run efficiently to perform at its best. Imagine using the cheapest quality of no-name gas for your Ferrari; it wouldn’t just lose performance right away, it would break down over time. Why not treat your body like a Ferrari? The next time you eat, think of your body as the engine, and you may think twice about grabbing a chocolate bar or frosty at the convenience store. You have one life. Make it long and make count!