Hunger is both a hormonal and behavioral sensation. When you don’t eat for awhile certain hormones are triggered that make you desire food. This desire is often felt as an emptiness in the gut. But there is a close interaction between the brain and the digestive tract. Hunger is a combination of the gut hormones signaling time to eat, AND the brains programming of your routine eat times & other environmental cues. If you tend to eat at 8am everyday, you are far more likely to feel hungry at this time simply out of behavioral habit.
Hunger is also social and responds to environmental cues. This is why seeing a commercial for a breakfast sandwich, or watching a co-worker eat M&Ms, or watching Cupcake Wars can make you hungry. The social/environmental cues for hunger are very powerful and can trigger hormones that falsely make you think you are hungry. I’ve posted about the interaction between insulin and the body’s ability (or lack thereof) to burn fat in the presence of elevated insulin. Well watching a commercial or TV show, seeing a billboard, or watching a co-worker eat candy, can all create a salivary response and the body will release insulin which lowers your blood sugar and makes you want something to eat.
Hunger will be at its worst when the hunger hormones are high AND the behavioral, social, and environmental cues are also prevalent.
To get hunger and cravings under control try these two tips:
1) Control the hormones first by eating more of the right things more frequently. The main hormonal control that I’m talking about for fat loss is controlling blood sugar and insulin (which in turn will control cortisol). This takes half of the “hunger battle” out of the equation and is an immediate effect.
2) Now with the hormonal urges lowered you can practice being more mindful about the other behavioral factors of hunger. This is where practicing not eating when others are, or being mindful about the impact of an advertisement for your favorite ice cream come into play. This one works in the long-run. Over time, you become aware of “hunger cues” and can more easily avoid them and/or control them.
In the weight loss world it is all about force of willpower. In the fat loss world that I live in it is about toning your skillpower. Which world are you living in?