Hunger. That rumble in your belly, raw ache, and dip in energy levels that reminds you it's time to fuel up. Physiologically, hunger is an important and protective mechanism, caused by a cascade of hormones that both prepare the body for digestion and signal the brain to get you motivated to seek food. Hunger can feel unpleasant precisely because it needs to be remedied.
But how often do you really feel hungry? Many diet dictums tell us to "eat every three hours" and strong associations that seem to originate in childhood align food with activities, rituals, and even emotions. The physiological drive to eat, get hungry, and then eat again is controlled by both the "hunger hormone" ghrelin and the "satiety hormone" leptin. But this simple cycle is complicated by our food associations. The key to weight loss and management is returning to our basic need for food and stripping away these unnecessary properties we often unconsciously attribute to food. Think it sounds too simplistic? Ask yourself what stops you from losing weight:
Cravings? These are the body's physiological response to unbalanced blood sugars. Blood sugar stabilizes when we follow the body’s natural cues to eat or not to eat and cravings are eliminated.
Temptation? Foods we deem "bad" for us are often associated with particular times of the day or activities. We can come to see these as rewards. What if you took that power away from food and ate when you were hungry and stopped when you were full? This new perspective might even mean a slice of birthday cake is part of your healthy lifestyle.
Emotional eating? We tangle food up with the many reasons we feel stressed out and overwhelmed. So what if you found a new and more positive outlet for stress and overwhelm? What if you dealt with the core issues cutting away at your quality of life and let food simply be food again?
Hormones? A scale that won’t budge can often be attributed to an imbalance in the body. Returning to states of hunger can help to balance and reset hormones.
If these sound familiar, I hear you. Many of these frustrating weight-loss obstacles are tied to different types of hunger and are keeping you from your ideal weight. Here are three types of hunger that I've identified, how to distinguish between them, and what to do about each: