“I’m hungry…all the time,” the overweight and obese person frequently says when trying to lose weight on a restricted- calorie, low-fat (high-carb) diet. But is this really hunger? “Hunger,” Wikipedia says, “is a condition in which a person, for a sustained period, is unable to eat sufficient food to meet basic nutritional needs.” It precedes this definition with, “In politics, humanitarian aid and social science…” Wiki is talking, of course, about the condition preceding starvation, which is often a precursor of death. Fat people are not “starving.” They may be malnourished, but they are not actually starving.
So the “hunger” a fat person experiences is different from that which a starving person experiences. A person who, for a sustained period, is unable to eat sufficient (or any) food will, for a few days, experience stomach rumblings (“pangs”), but then those pangs will go away. As the body adjusts to a lack of ingested food, it transitions to another source of “food” for energy: body fat and muscle. After the available fat and muscle have been consumed, the body enters into a period of “wasting” in which the organs begin to fail. But if you are overweight or obese, you want your body to consume body fat.
In that sense, fat people have a biological advantage. Their bodies can run for a long time on “stored energy,” providing that energy comes from stored body fat. But before they get to use it, they will feel “hungry” for a few days. Why? Because their gut hormones (ghrelin, et al.) are sending the brain a signal to seek food. It’s part of a normal fed/fasted cycle. The stomach is empty and the ingested ingredients have been almost completely absorbed from the small intestine into the blood stream for distribution. It’s time to seek more nourishment (and yet conserve stored energy).
The glucose component of these nutrients (the “sugar” that carbs break down into) requires insulin to transport it in the blood, and such elevated insulin levels tell the liver that stored fat is not needed (and in fact is blocked from breaking down by the elevated serum insulin). So, if you eat things that break down to glucose, your body will tell you it needs more glucose (carbs to break down) because your body fat is locked up. Ergo, YOU Will Feel Hungry (for more carbs).
On the other hand, if you cut back carbs, especially processed, highly refined carbs, and sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs), the “sugar” in your blood will not be elevated and neither will your insulin. In that case, knowing that “sugar” (carbs → glucose) is unavailable, the liver will release your stored fat (“triglycerides”) to break down to smaller free fatty acid (FFA) molecules that pass into the bloodstream. Your energy will flow as well, if not better, than if you had eaten carbs. Whereas, if you are Insulin Resistant, as almost all fat people are, eating carbs will cause your blood sugar to spike and then crash, leaving you tired and hungry. But when burning body fat, you energy level will be high and your blood sugar low and flat.
When you are in this steady state of ketosis (fat-burning) – a condition your body, especially the brain, really likes – you can go for days, weeks and months with high energy levels and stable blood glucose all day long. When I strictly followed the Bernstein program (designed for diabetics) some years ago, I lost 100 pounds in 50 weeks. Before that, in the first 9 months on Atkins Induction, I lost 60 pounds. Altogether, over several years, I lost a total of 170 pounds, without hunger.
Of course, it was hard for me to give up so many of my favorite foods – foods that I had eaten for a lifetime. But it wasn’t because I needed to eat them to stave off hunger. I liked them. They were available and convenient. And they were often prepared, take-out, packaged, drive-up, processed and sweetened, and when I ate them, I was hungry all the time.
Once I figured out how to lose weight without hunger, and get control of my blood sugar and type 2 diabetes – and I learned that by eating a certain way all my health markers would dramatically improve – it was a “no-brainer.” All I had to do was develop new habits about what I could eat and what I should (try to) avoid. A good way to do that is to get into the habit of eating the same thing for breakfast almost every day. For me that’s eggs and bacon and coffee with a little H&H and stevia powder. For lunch (if I eat it), I usually eat a can of Brisling sardines packed in olive oil. And that’s all folks.
For dinner (we call it supper), we usually have a protein portion and a serving of vegetables either roasted in olive oil or tossed in butter. At the moment I’m on a fresh campaign to lose some of the pounds I have added back over the years (about 1/3 of the total lost). I’m doing that by reducing my eggs at breakfast from 3 to 2, eliminating lunch about half the time (I’m never hungry), no snacks before supper (radishes with salt and ghee) and never eating anything after supper.I’ve been doing this for a week now. I’ve lost 6 pounds, and my fasting blood sugars are steady and under 100mg/dl again.