I have had a raised consciousness about food and feeding since I began writing this blog. And one of the things I have observed is when I feel hungry. Of course, hunger is not an emotion; it is a physiological signal that has been sent and received that motivates us to eat. The signal travels from our stomach, where the hormone ghrelin senses it is empty, via the vegus nerve to the hypothalamus in the center of the brain. That is the central place where hunger signals are interpreted and controlled. It’s from there that the signal is sent. And we act. We eat.
The “empty stomach” message works well whether you have a normal glucose metabolism or a disregulated glucose metabolism like so many of us have developed. It has become disregulated because, as recommended by our government, for most of our lifetime we have eaten the Standard American Diet (SAD, ironically). According to the Nutrition Facts Panel on boxes and bags of food products, that diet is 60% carbohydrate, 10% protein and 30% fat. That’s 300g (1,200kcal) of carbohydrate, 50g (200kcal) of protein, and 66.6g (600kcal) of fat. Total: 2,000kcal.
It’s 60% carbohydrate in part because the government wants us to reduce the fat in our diet. So, what are you supposed to do? Your only choices are to increase carbs or protein. And if you eschew animal products, to avoid saturated fat and cholesterol, as Big Brother would have you do, what can you eat? More carbs, of course.
To feed the disregulated metabolism our contemporary lifestyle offers us lots of packaged, pre-processed, and easily digested “food” to choose from, most of which are carbs. We eat them, we digest them quickly, we get quick energy, and then as they quickly empty from the stomach, we get the “hungry again” signal. That’s why carb eaters and especially carb addicts are always hungry. That’s why many diets recommend between meal snacks, or even 5 or 6 “small meals” a day. If you have done these diets, you know it is because you are hungry. Now you know why.
So, why am I not hungry? I eat a restricted calorie diet that is very low carb. Most of the time I think I am in a mild state of ketosis. That allows my body to burn fat instead of “sugar” (glucose) for energy. Stored energy, my body fat, is my targeted fuel source. That’s why I need to eat a restricted carb and a restricted calorie diet. I need to be in negative calorie balance to lose weight. I am doing this without hunger and – take note – without exercise.
I am not hungry at breakfast because, allowing a few hours for digestion, my body has been in a mild ketogenic state for maybe 10 of the 14 hours since I last had a meal or anything to eat. That means I didn’t eat a bed-time snack. When I am in ketosis, my body is happily burning fat for energy. It doesn’t need ‘sugar’ (glucose) for fuel, so it doesn’t send a hunger signal to the brain. This is a natural state, called ketosis.
But, if I eat a breakfast anyway, I eat a small ketogenic meal: fried eggs, bacon and a cup of coffee with full cream and stevia powder. After that small meal I can easily go ‘till late in the day without hunger because I am still in ketosis. But again, mostly for cultural reasons, for lunch I eat a very small meal of zero carbs: just protein and fat, usually a can of sardines in water (with added salt), or a can of kippered herring, and iced tea –and I stay in ketosis.
Then, an hour or so before supper, I sometimes sit down to watch the news and snack on radishes with salt and a “schmeer” of ghee or butter. At other times, I’ll snack on celery and anchovy paste. The idea is to eat just a little fat to satiate, or bulk to distend the stomach, to short circuit a tendency to eat too much supper.I always used to eat too much at the evening meal. Again, I think it was a cultural thing. For most Americans, dinner is the big meal of the day, and cultural habits require a conscious effort to break. Dinner has always been a big problem for me. My wife put too much on my plate (Sorry, Honey), and I always ate it all. (I can’t blame her for that!) We learned as kids not to leave food on the plate. (Blame it on our parents instead.) Now, with my wife’s help (Thanks, Honey!) I am eating a small supper, and I am passing up 2nds (even with really “palatable” food, as it always is). We have a vast choice of menu options: fatty meats, poultry, and seafood (fin fish and crustaceans), plus a low-carb vegetable roasted in olive oil or finished with lots of butter. In other words, another small ketogenic meal. This makes losing weight easy. I’m burning body fat for energy balance. And that’s why I’m never hungry.