The tough part of trying to lose some pounds is that you still have to eat. At least with quitting smoking, excessive drinking, drug abuse, or gambling, you don’t need to do them even a little bit to stay alive. Furthermore, so much of our culture includes celebrating holidays and special occasions with excessive tasty foods that can make you feel like a party-pooper if you don’t indulge in them along with everyone else. Moderating food choices can feel a bit like paddling up stream while everyone else is floating with the current. Being aware of your hunger type will put you in charge of your health destination instead of letting life direct your course.
We have all experienced that stomach growling hunger that gnaws at the belly and clears the head of any other thoughts other than the need to GET FOOD NOW. This kind of hunger happens after going more than 4-5 hours without eating, when ghrelin levels, our hungry hormone, are high and blood sugars are low. If blood sugars are low enough then people may experience shakiness as the nervous system is stimulated to get the body to release its stores of sugar for the brain. People may feel irritable as a result of the low blood sugar which makes them want to fix the problem as fast as possible. If that candy bowl or the leftover donuts from the morning meeting are visible you can bet that those foods will be scarfed.
Solution: Keep healthy foods like packaged almonds, a nut granola bar, an orange or some whole grain crackers that are not too tempting (like WASA or Rykrisps) near by and eat if it’s been about 4-5 hours since you last ate, before you experience this kind of hunger. These foods are high in fiber and will take the edge off your hunger until you can eat a real meal.
Two Hours After A Meal Hunger
This hunger is a physiological hunger caused from eating too many simple carbs like donuts, candy, sweet cereal, white rice or pasta in a meal that results in an initial rise in blood sugar making you feel good, followed by a sharp plummet in blood sugar, leaving you with food cravings.
Solution: What keeps you fuller longer, avoids the sugar spike and prevents weight gain is when you eat meals that have fiber, some healthy fat and lean protein. Meals should include foods made with lots of whole grains like quinoa, brown rice, steel cut oatmeal, nuts, fresh fruit and vegetables, and lean protein sources like chicken, plain Greek fat-free yogurt (put your own fruit in), lean cuts of meat and fish. Click here for a Sample Menu.
This hunger happens around 3-4 pm when the end of the day is in sight, dinner is still a ways off and there’s a hint of dread at having to finish up a few more things. This is not physiological hunger, this is get-me-through-the-day hunger.
Solution: If possible, do the things you dislike the first half of the day when you have more energy and are refreshed. Make sure you are staying hydrated. Thirst is often times disguised as hunger. If your urine is not light yellow, then you are not drinking enough water. Take a few to talk to a coworker or friend. What you really need is a break, not a mouth deposit.
This is probably the easiest hunger to control. This happens when you are not even hungry but you have the visual cue that stimulates desire and leads to mindless eating, losing track of all the calories consumed because it happens out side of meal time. And people don’t realize how much they eat when these treats readily available. Those little Dove chocolates come at a calorie and health cost with 5 pieces containing 205 calories and 7 gms of saturated fat, that’s almost a third of your daily allowance of saturated fat for a 2000 calorie diet.
Solution: Clear all visual cues. Plain and simple. Keep them off the counter and get rid of candy dishes. Get coworkers to agree on healthier desk top foods like nuts, fresh fruit, or even air-popped popcorn.
This hunger happens when you feel you have too much to do and you are not feeling in control. Your pulse rate may be elevated, stress hormones are circulating and you want this feeling to go away. The quick fix is to enjoy the sweet tasty morsel of candy, or the crunch of a chip or cracker, or the soft melting sensation of a warm cookie or cool ice cream. Ummm, now doesn’t that feel better? Yeah, for as long as you are eating it. But then when your splurge is over, not only is the stress still there but you are now feeling guilty on top of it!
Solution: First, identify all the components that are making you feel stressed. Then, separate the areas you need to address immediately and shelve the areas that can wait. Separate the emotion from the action. You may feel stressed but tell yourself that you are doing the best you can and doing your best is all you can do. Literally, put them out of your mind and focus just on the present. Then address the physiological symptoms of stress. Stress causes the release of cortisol which raises blood pressure and increases heart rate. Both these symptoms can make someone feel anxious. Take a few minutes and do some slow deep breaths. Deep breathing increases oxygen to the brain and has a calming effect. When you are calmer, you feel more in control, you get more done.
This is probably the most common of hungers and can develop within an hour of eating! All those visual cues of food commercials just make the kitchen call out loudly! And even if there are no visual cues, you know if you have ice cream, cookies, chips, candy or crackers around. That is one thing our minds just never seem to forget!
Solution: This is where you do some environmental control. You make your home environmently safe. You keep tempting foods out of the house. You find substitutes like low fat popcorn, fruit or even herbal teas to get you through. You keep your hands busy with a puzzle, knitting or some other handy work. I have one client who takes his Synthroid after dinner which means he can not eat for two hours afterwards. This prevents him from splurging. You could even try turning off the TV during commercials, change stations or even just go to bed early and read.
Are You Floating or Paddling with Purpose to Your Health Destination?
What do you want for your health? Do you have a plan to get where you want or are you just floating along not taking charge of your destination? If you are trying to lose weight, then you need to know your types of hunger and have a plan in place for all of them if you want to reach your health destination. Otherwise, you are just floating and you’ll never be prepared for the rocks and waves up ahead.