You may think there is only one type of hunger, maybe two at a stretch. Your stomach starts to hurt and you realise you haven’t eaten all day, so you head to the fridge and pick something to settle the beast. Hunger, unfortunately is a lot more complicated than that.
According to Michael Lowe, a professor of psychology at Drexel University, a grumbling stomach accompanies homeostatic hunger. Levels of the “hunger hormone” ghrelin rise, then become suppressed as soon as you begin eating. At other times, you just “want” food. In this case, hedonic hunger appears to have more to do with seeking pleasure than with needing calories.
These are not the two exclusive feelings. There are actually a variety of factors in hunger that can cause us to eat when we don’t really need to. Here are a few examples.
Staying late at work, looking after a baby who just won’t sleep or worrying about a family member. All of these factors can find you reaching for the fridge. Stress eating is no joke, but according to the Journal of Consumer Psychology, our natural urges to make indulgent food choices when we’re in a bad mood can be overridden.
The simplest way is to stop and think about the reasons why you’re avoiding ‘bad’ foods. Whether it’s to fit into an old dress or to lower your blood pressure, when you find yourself seeking relief from a greasy burger, stop. Remind yourself you’re in control of your temptations and a McDonald’s certainly won’t solve your issues.
Ever shouted at a friend for no reason, then realized how rude you’d been once you ate something? That’s hanger for you. When your blood sugar takes a dip, you become irritable. After not eating for 6 hours, your body runs out of glucose which your brain needs to function. This leads to your body emitting survival hormones such as adrenaline and can cause feelings of anxiety.
To tame the beast, don’t opt for a quick pick-me-up packet of crisps. Your body needs healthy carbs like fruit or crackers to boost those dropping blood sugar levels.
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Need something to do? Learn a new language, read a magazine, catch up on your favorite TV programme. Nope, head to the fridge and eat. Why? The reason might lie in our dopamine system. Eating food is a sure-fire way to get the dopamine in our body stimulated and therefore, when you’re feeling a bit bored or don’t feel like you have anything to do, your body craves the pleasurable electrode.
When boredom hunger strikes, we need allow ourselves to tolerate it. Use this time as an opportunity to relax. Read that book you’ve had no time to, go for a walk or call up an old friend and resist the urge to fill up your time with food.
Settling down on the couch with a bag of popcorn might seem harmless, but a 2013 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found eating while distracted can prompt people to eat more. This is because those watching television miss satiety signals which results in consuming around 10% more in one sitting than they would otherwise.
Avoid sharing your meal with your TV time. This can be harder for those who live alone, but use your meal times as a chance to relax and unwind. Put some music on in the background and enjoy the food you’re eating.
Mother nature gifted us with many things, PMS being one of the worse. Aside from cramps and tender breasts, irrational hunger is a side effect that we could all do without. Your body is getting ready for a potential pregnancy, so it wants to be prepared. Your hormones peak and trigger a hunger response. Coupled with an increased metabolic rate, it’s no wonder you’re desperate for a quick, high-calorie fix.
Don’t say no to your cravings. Instead, opt for iron-rich foods such as red meat, seafood or leafy greens. This will help to replace the iron you lose before and during your period. Or, invite your friends round and split all the calories!
There’s cake leftover on the side from Sally’s birthday, oh go on then, just one slice. This is a trap we all fall into. Having your lunch sitting in plain sight while you try and avoid it all morning, leaving the donuts out on the side of the kitchen, it all adds up.
The best way to avoid eye hunger is to ensure everything is kept out of the way. At work, keep snacks in your drawer, this way you won’t be tempted to scoff them down in one hit. Another way to avoid over eating is to pause before you do anything. Ask yourself why you’re reaching for the snack. Are you hungry or is it because it’s there?
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