Hunger, it is such a necessary and primative urge and most of us cannot imagine life without that tummy growling feeling guiding us through our day.
For many of us (myself included) who have been on the diet yo-yo wagon over the years hunger has been our downfall as we just have to follow our body's cries to 'eat more NOW'.
For me learning how hormones work together helped me understand the hunger signal and ultimately this helped me on the way to finding a balanced weight.
There are two hunger hormones leptin and ghrelin. Ghrelin is produced mainly in the stomach and responds to our stomachs being empty, this hormone is high before eating and low after eating, it is responsible for the growling stomach sensation. When people go on restricted calorie type diets ghrelin will be constantly telling us to eat more.
Leptin is a hormone crucial for us maintaining a healthy weight . It is produced by our fat cells, so the more fat you have the more leptin you produce. If this hormone is able to work correctly leptin with decrease your hunger and speed up your metabolism so your body naturally and effortlessly loses weight and finds its healthy weight balance.
Unfortunately other hormones can 'trump' leptin. Our chronic stress hormone cortisol will do this, if we have high levels of cortisol our bodies with respond by holding on to fat.
High insulin levels will also block the action of leptin explaining why so many people find it hard to lose weight. Insulin is the fat storage hormone and is produced in the body in response to carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are broken down in to glucose which nourish our cells but very often these days people consume too many processed carbs which raises our blood sugar level rapidly. When insulin is too high in the body we are unable to access our natural energy/fat stores so losing weight becomes impossible.
This explains why when people first give up sugar they can feel really hungry. At this point their insulin level is really high still so energy from fat cannot be used and leptin has not kicked in yet to reduce hunger, speed up metabolism and access stored energy.
So what to do to help our hunger and weight hormones rebalance...
- Eat plenty of the right stuff, good quality protein and healthy fats help us feel full for longer
- Avoid simple sugars and carbs and choose wholegrains instead which burn slowly so having minimal effect on the blood sugar
- Eat plenty of nutrient dense foods that nourish our cells, such as raw foods, greens, nuts and seeds
- Don't cut calories, many people put on a little weight before they naturally start to lose weight
Finally trust your body, it knows what it is doing, just keep working with it, rather than against it 🙂