Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Retrospective #277: What is hunger?

“I’m hungry…all the time,” the overweight person frequently says when trying to lose weight on a restricted- calorie, “balanced,” low-fat diet. But is this really hunger? “Wikipedia says hunger “is a condition in which a person, for a sustained period, is unable to eat sufficient food to meet basic nutritional needs.” That is a really bad definition.
The “hunger” a fat person experiences is different from that which a starving person experiences. Any person, fat or otherwise, who for a few days is unable to eat or any food will for a day or two experience stomach rumblings (hunger “pangs”), but then those pangs will go away. As the body adjusts to a total lack of food by mouth, it transitions to another source of “food” for energy: body fat. Body fat, plus water and salt, meets the body’s basic nutritional needs.
However, after all available fat and has been consumed, the body enters starvation” a period of “wasting” in which muscles are broken down for energy and organs begin to fail. But if you are overweight or obese, you want your body to consume your body fat. And when it does, even though you do not eat, you are not hungry because you are “fed.”
In that sense, fat people have a biological advantage over lean: Their bodies can run for a very long time on “stored” energy. It’s part of a normal fed/fasted cycle: The stomach is empty and the ingested ingredients (food by mouth) have been almost completely absorbed from the small intestine into the blood stream for distribution. It’s time to seek more nourishment (first choice), or transition to using backup energy to meet the body’s nutritional needs.
How does the transition occur? What is the mechanism? The glucose that carbs break down into requires insulin to transport it in the blood, and elevated insulin levels tell the liver that stored fat is not needed. In fact, an elevated blood insulin level blocks fat from breaking down. So, if you eat things that break down into glucose (carbohydrates), your body will tell you it needs more “food” to break down. But your body fat is locked up. Ergo, You WILL feel hunger, and if you eat more carbs, when they are used up, you will feel hunger again. YOU are making your body “hungry.”
On the other hand, if you cut back carbs, especially processed, highly refined carbs, and sugar-sweetened beverages, the “sugar” (glucose) in your blood will not be elevated and neither will your blood insulin. In that case, knowing that “sugar” (carbs → glucose) is unavailable, because your blood INSULIN level is low, the liver will release your stored fat.
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, your ENERGY LEVEL will be high and your BLOOD SUGAR LOW AND STABLE (i.e., balanced).
This steady state of fat burning is called ketosis – a condition your body, especially your brain and heart, really likes – you can go for days, even weeks, with high energy levels and stable blood glucose all day long. When I strictly followed the Bernstein program (designed for diabetics) many years ago, I lost 100 pounds in 50 weeks. Before that, in the first 9 months on Atkins Induction, I lost 60 pounds. Over several years, I lost a total of 170 pounds, all without hunger.
It’s hard to give up your favorite foods – foods you’ve eaten for a lifetime. But it isn’t because you need them to stave off hunger. You liked them. They were available and convenient. They’re often prepared, take-out, packaged, drive-up, processed and sweetened, but they’re mostly carbs, and when you eat them, YOU’RE 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 every day. For me that’s eggs and bacon and coffee with heavy whipping cream and stevia powder. For lunch (if I eat it), it may be a can of kippered herring in brine, or a can of Brisling sardines in EVOO. Supper is usually a protein portion (beef, veal, lamb, pork, chicken or seafood) and one low-glycemic, whole vegetable either roasted in olive oil or tossed in butter. No potatoes, bread, rice, pasta, corn, beets, peas or carrots. And no snacks between meals or after supper. And that’s all folks. You won’t be hungry, I promise.

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