Thursday, August 7, 2014

Are You Hungry?

I'm hungry right now. As I type this. My stomach is growling and rumbling. But it's not mealtime for me, so I'm not going to eat.

In fact, I'm about to go for a forty-five minute brisk walk with my husband and our two Akitas. While we're walking, I'll drink a liter of water. This will fill up my stomach temporarily and hold off my hunger for another hour or so. At that point, I'll probably have a light meal.

If you are trying to reduce your fat percentage and release weight (I'm using the word "release" and avoiding the word "lose") then taking a closer look at hunger and the role those sensations play in your eating patterns could be useful. Because hunger (for those of us who have plenty of both food and bodyfat) is not an emergency. This is important to remember. Consider how much excess fat you are currently carrying on your body. This fat is a source of energy and calories that you want to burn, right? But if you are also feeding your body all the calories it needs, then that excess fat is not going to be mobilized.

I have found, if you want to burn the fat on your body, you have to allow yourself to experience hunger. I repeat, it is not an emergency.

I say this because I believe most people will avoid hunger like it is the end of the world. A tiny pang of hunger and I think I may be starving to death! Better eat quick! (Even though I know I have pounds of fat just sitting there, on my thighs, doing nothing!)

I will admit, I have struggled with adjusting to that hunger sensation and not immediately cramming a fistful of something into my face. Low blood sugar is not pretty. But there are ways to avoid the headaches, dizziness, irritability, and homicidal rage.

1) Eat enough protein and fat with every meal and snack. For a small woman, get at least 20 grams of protein in each meal. This is about 3 ounces of turkey breast, tuna, salmon, or chicken. Bigger bodies, athletes, and older folks should aim for closer to 30 grams. Not a huge amount, but enough to last 4-5 hours. The amount of fat can vary, but make sure you get some. Even a teaspoon of grassfed butter or chopped walnuts added to your meal will help hold off your hunger. If you are very active, you can add more fat to your diet without having to worry about gaining weight. (These numbers are based on the Zone Diet by Dr. Barry Sears.)

2) Nix the sugar. The more sugar you consume, the more likely it is that you will spike your blood sugar levels and then quickly see those levels crash. You'll set yourself up for cravings, ugly mood swings, constant hunger, and weight gain. Whereas protein and fat will keep you satiated, sugar and refined carbs (baked goods, white bread, pasta, bagels, waffles, muffins, etc.) will do the opposite.

3) Make your carbs count. That is, eat plenty of HEALTHY carbs. And this means VEGGIES! Choose leafy green veggies at least once per day. Then add cruciferous veggies like broccoli and cauliflower. Root vegetables are fine if you are active, but keep in mind that carrots, beets, and sweet potatoes contain much more sugar than leafy greens. And don't overload on fruit which is even higher in sugar. Sure, fruit is natural and yummy. But if your goal is to release excess fat, too much fruit can hold you back. Ditto for grains. If you must eat grains, make sure they are a whole (this means not ground into flour!) and sprouted is even better. The process of sprouting grains makes them more digestible to humans.

4) Eat every 4-5 hours. This is how long your meals should last before you begin to experience hunger again. If you are hungry, dizzy, or irritable sooner than that, you probably didn't get eat the right balance of macronutrients (protein, carbs, and fat) in your last meal. Keep a food journal and track which meals and food combinations seem to work best for you. If you're training for a marathon and running ten miles per day, you'll probably have to eat more than if you're watching twelve hours of Honey Boo-Boo in bed. Adjust amounts accordingly.

5) Stick to a schedule. If you eat your meals and snacks at the same time each day, your body will know when to get hungry. When you mix things up, your body gets confused! And the end result could be more hunger.

6) When all of the above fails, employ distractions! Go for a walk, read a book in your hammock, call a friend on the phone, write a letter or an email, scrub your kitchen floor, or brush your dog. It doesn't matter what you do, as long as it doesn't involve shoveling chocolate-covered peanuts into your mouth.

Let me know if any of these tips do the trick for you. A little bit of hunger might be necessary in the process of lowering your bodyfat, but daily headaches and tantrums should not be the norm. Good luck!


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