Thursday, July 5, 2012

Crazy Hunger Hormones

Something struck a chord in me yesterday.  While scanning through Shape magazine, I stopped on an article entitled '6 Surprising Diet Slipups'.  Needless to say, all 6 slip ups hit home.  But #5, 'Hunger Pangs', seemed all too familiar lately.  (Let's be honest, didn't you always think it was hunger 'pains'?  Yeah, me neither...   :)

I've been struggling to make myself eat breakfast lately.  I know I should because it jump-starts your metabolism, but I just don't feeeeeel like eating when I wake up!  I usually drink my cup of coffee and have a granola bar or string cheese.  It's certainly not enough and I've been working to change my mindset.

I've also struggled with waiting too long until my next meal... or skipping meals altogether.  That's a BIG no-no!  I get a headache and become crabby and angry.  After a while I begin feeling ravenous - even DESPERATE - to find food.  And when I do, it's rarely ever the healthiest kind... and I usually don't stop at one sensible serving.  The whole scenario has "Bad News" written all over it.

But when you feel those hunger pangs do you get excited, thinking it's a sign the pounds will be dropping off soon?  Unfortunately, starving yourself only sets you up for more challenges. 

Going too long without eating leads us to obsess about food (what we'll eat, where we'll eat, when we'll eat, etc.).  Research shows it can also trigger powerful changes in our "hunger hormones" which can potentially drive us to lose control and pig out when we finally eat.

The key is to manage our eating throughout the day, rather than thinking of hunger as proof of dieting success.  The article suggests ranking the intensity of your hunger on a scale from 1 to 10, with 1 being chewing-the-furniture starving and 10 being I-couldn't-eat-another-bite stuffed.  We shouldn't let our appetite drop below a 3, the level at which we'll enjoy the food without attacking it like it's our last meal ever.  If we clock in at 4 or higher, we should drink water or take a walk to buy some time.  Once we've done this for a while, we'll learn our body's patterns - when and how much we want to eat at various points throughout the day - and it will become easier to stay on an even keel.  Try not to go more than three to four hours without some kind of snack, and include both protein and complex carbs to feel full longer.

Grab a copy of the July edition of Shape to see the other five surprising diet slip ups!  In the meantime, here are some tasty, low-calorie snacks to help keep your hunger in check...

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