Are You REALLY Hungry?
If you’re trying to drop some body fat, chances are you complain about being hungry… a lot… even when there’s no one there to hear you complain. Fat loss comes from eating in a caloric deficit – meaning you’re consuming fewer calories per day than your body expends. Well of course you’re going to be hungry! Expect to be hungry, it’s not something that is going to jump out and surprise you. We all know what hunger feels like – but how many of us really understand what’s going on? Understanding hunger helps you deal with it. So let’s talk about recognizing what kind of hunger you’re feeling.
How many times have you found yourself watching television and a commercial for pizza comes on and suddenly you’re starving and would pretty much punch a baby for a hot steamy slice of pizza with melty cheese and a slightly garlicy crust that’s so soft it almost melts in your mouth? Pretty sure I’m not the only one who that happens to – but just think, were you even hungry before the commercial came on? Usually not, it’s the mere image of pizza that made you hungry. The same thing happens if you smell someone else eating or cooking something that appeals to you, you’ll find yourself feeling hungry.
Here’s a quick quiz for you – how much water should one person drink in a day? We’ve all had that notion of 8 glasses of water a day pounded in our heads for years. Although that’s a good place to start that’s not the correct amount for everyone, especially those of us trying to shed some body fat because typically we’re sweating more than the average person as well as consuming more protein which requires extra water for digestion. Take your body weight in pounds, cut that number in half. That is the bare minimum number of ounces of water your body needs to keep your organs functioning at maximum efficiency. Therefore I suggest that people aim to double that number when they’re dieting to account for the additional sweat and digestive needs. So why do I bring up this water talk? Simple – are you meeting your body’s hydration requirements I just listed? If not, this will often appear as hunger! Hunger and thirst are very closely related! Your digestive tract has receptors in it to tell you when it’s empty. Drinking water can help signal to those receptors that your stomach is not empty and keep your hunger at bay.
Now put on your nerd glasses and bust out those pocket protectors because I’m about to drop some science on you son! Hunger can be series of chemical reactions in your body. You produce two hormones that are believed to be responsible for hunger – leptin and ghrelin. Leptin is produced in the fat tissues in your body and signals to your brain to consume more food. When leptin is plentiful in your system, this tells your brain that you have ample fat storage so you don’t have to eat as much. However, when your body fat decreases, the amount of leptin you produce decreases which sending the signal to your brain to eat more because your body fat (your backup energy source) is running low! This is why the longer you diet, the seemingly more hungry that you get. Leptin’s counterpart is grehlin which is a peptide produced by the cells in the lining of the stomach and pancreas. The more leptin you have in your system, the less grehlin you produce, and vice versa. Grehlin not only signals your body to consume more food, but it also tells your body to store some of it as fat. So as your dropping body fat, you’re producing less leptin and more ghrelin which leaves you feeling hungrier with a body that’s wanting to try to store fat. Sounds horrible, doesn’t it? Well that’s why we have refeed days kids! It’s not just because we’re gluttonous people who want to eat 6 donuts for lunch (I’m not the only who does that, right?) – those days of surplus calories help send a signal to our bodies that we’re not starving so trying to store any calories we consume as fat isn’t necessary because we’re still feeding it enough to survive.
Learn to assess your surrounding when you’re feeling hungry. Pause and give yourself a moment to think if you’re actually hungry, or did someone just put something appetizing in your head? Did you drink enough water today? Or maybe you’re just hungrier because your body fat level is decreasing and your hormones are adjusting. Whatever the case may be – stop reminding yourself that you’re hungry or “starving.” Your next meal is always just around the corner and you can hold out until then!