It starts as a little nudge at 3 pm. By 3:30 that nudge has become a push, a tug…a pang.
You’re hungry. Again.
The problem is, you’re trying to lose weight and you know you’ve eaten enough. But those pangs of hunger just won’t go away.RELATED: RECOMMENDED PLANS FOR YOU
What many people on a weight loss journey fail to realize about hunger pangs is that they are not always what they seem. Indeed, those little nudges may not be about being “hungry” at all.
In fact, there are many surprising reasons that people “feel” hungry when really they are not. One of the keys to successful weight loss and healthy living is understanding those pangs for what they really are and combating them with something other than food.
So let’s take a look at seven common reasons for the pangs of hunger and what to do about them:
1. Hunger vs. Appetite
Hunger is a physical response. It is our body saying, “I need fuel to function”. Appetite is a psychological reaction where our motivation to eat is governed by factors such as mood, habit or environment.
Consider what is causing the pangs of hunger, your body or your mind. If it’s the later, alter your mindset.
2. Instant Gratification
We are surrounded by an abundance of unhealthy food and conditioned to think “now, now, now” in relation to everything these days. We don’t give ourselves time to weigh up the short-term versus long-term consequences of our food choices or even give ourselves time to decide if we’re really hungry.
Think before you eat and weigh the considerations. If you do eat, choose something high in protein, as protein takes longer to digest and suppresses the pangs of hunger.
When you are under chronic stress or sleep deprived your body produces cortisol. This is a fat-storing hormone and is often associated with excess abdominal fat. So, it’s important to get enough sleep, reduce stress and not confuse being tired with being hungry.
Many people mistake the pangs of hunger for thirst. Indeed, if you ever “feel” thirsty, you are likely already dehydrated. Before you eat, have a big glass of water. That may be all you need.
5. Ghrelin, Part 1
Ghrelin is the hunger hormone and severe calorie restriction makes it very angry! When you hear your stomach rumbling, that’s your ghrelin calling you. It helps to think of ghrelin as a baby. A sleeping baby is the best baby. But babies who are awake can sometimes be paciﬁed with just a little bit of attention. In the case of your ghrelin baby, a little bit of exercise (such as a ten minute walk) may be all you need.
6. Ghrelin, Part 2
However, we all know what happens when you disrupt your baby’s routine too drastically and don’t give it what it wants … temper tantrum! The best way to deal with a tantrum is to ignore it for as long as you can; giving in too soon only creates a precedent for the future. So too, with your grumbling ghrelin tummy.
Ignore it for ten minutes and it should behave itself, however if it keeps screaming at you for more than ten minutes, then you need to listen.
Leptin is the body’s “fat brake”. It helps keep the body in homeostasis (i.e. maintaining a steady weight). If you gain weight, the body produces more leptin so your cravings for rich fatty foods are reduced.
If you’re very overweight or have been overweight a long time, you may have developed leptin resistance, meaning that your body is less able to recognize feelings of fullness and thus you are more likely to gain weight. However, studies have shown(1) that, as you lose weight, leptin resistance decreases. So keep losing weight to start feeling full.
Combat the Pangs of Hunger
Whether you are actively trying to lose weight, or simply trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle, understanding your body’s signals is important. Feeling the pangs of hunger is natural, it is your body’s physical response to a need for fuel. However, not every “pang” is what it seems. Sometimes, it’s not your body, just your mind.
So remember to stop, think, and consider what that “pang” really means before your reach for a snack at 3pm or any other time of day.
(1) Reseland JE, Andersssen SA, Solvoll K, Hjermann I, Urdal P, Holme I, Drevon CA, ‘Effect of long-term changes in diet and exercise on plasma leptin concentrations,’ American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, February 2001, 73(2), pp 240-245.