Is Hunger a Bad thing? [by ben greenfield]

A few days ago, I was spinning inside and  watching the 1993 replay of the Hawaii Ironman triathlon. A portion of the video was devoted to “Chuckie V“, the crazy 1990′s bad boy of triathlon who sported a mohawk and actually got banned from racing in Ironman Hawaii due to some controversial race antics.

As Chuckie is standing on the road stuffing his face post-workout, he jokes through mouthfuls, “The only thing that sucks about eating…is having to take the time to “breathe.”

How about you… Do you finish one meal and immediately begin thinking about or planning your next meal?

And is being hungry all the time like this bad or mean something is wrong with you or your physiology?

Is Hunger A Bad Thing?

Starting from the time when you were a baby, if you never got hungry, you’d have very little incentive to eat. No eating would mean no nutrients or calories, which severely limits your growth and survival.

But if there is no physiological need for hunger, and you have ample energy stores from food or own fat stores, then there’s probably something wrong if you’re constantly hungry, and here’s what I’d recommend you do:

Food cravings are normal... but there are ways to curb them

Food cravings are normal… but there are ways to curb them

1) Re-sensitize yourself to leptin (aka satiety signals). Try 4-8 weeks of completely changing your lifestyle and eating patterns that may be contributing to leptin resistance. Here are some top ways to do it:

-Avoid fructose sugars – they tend to be a real trigger for leptin resistance…

-Exercise in moderation (no stressful marathon workouts) – try this workout instead…

-Control stress and cortisol – I recommend a mix of Chinese adaptogenic herbs and a stress-relieving activity like regular nature walks or Yoga…

-Try cold exposure – check out this podcast episode to learn more about how cold exposure may help with leptin sensitivity, and read some practical cold exposure tips here.

2) Avoid Hunger Triggers. Certain eating patterns and foods have been proven to be correlated with higher amounts of hunger. Here are some tips for controlling those triggers:

-Keep sweets and snacks out of the house or hidden in opaque containers…

-When you’re eating, keep any extra food on the countertop, or put it away (i.e. into the fridge) before you begin your meal…

-Avoid higher carbohydrate or fast sugar release foods that spike the blood sugar and cause a hunger response very soon after a meal…

-Limit your options by having small amounts of simple, real, raw foods around the house – no big Costco variety packs or easy to grab cans and bags.

3) Know What You Ate. As mentioned earlier, food memory and knowledge of calories consumed is enormously helpful in controlling hunger. Try:

-Keeping a food log. I personally log all my food for my clients. The way I do it is I have a free, private blog on Posterous.com – then I just send a daily e-mail with what I ate, and it auto-posts to that blog.

-Using photos. DietSnaps is a great app for taking food photos and recording what you ate, if writing isn’t your thing.

-Not snacking too frequently. It’s almost impossible to keep track of food and calories if you’re snacking 5-10 times a day (as many  nutritionists sadly suggest). Instead, just eat 2-3 square meals, and then, if you have a workout, only eat either before or after the workout.

-Making your own food. The less you eat out at restaurants, have other people prepare your food, or eat out of packages and containers, the easier it will be to keep track of and know what you ate.

Summary:

Being hungry is not a bad thing if it is because you have a biological need for more calories or nutrients. But if not, it usually indicates a hormonal imbalance or psychological trigger that may need to be addressed.

Additional resources:

5 Powerful Calorie Control Tricks To Help You Eat Less Food (article/video)

12 Dietary Supplements That Can Massively Control Your Most Intense Carbohydrate Cravings (article)

How To Stop Carbohydrate Cravings In Their Tracks (audio)

5 Ways To Suppress Your Appetite Without Taking Any Special Pills or Capsules (video)

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