Do you ever feel hungry a few minutes after a meal? Do you ever eat then get ravenous an hour or two later? Do you find yourself feeling dizzy, lightheaded or nauseous if you don’t eat every 3 hours? Do these feelings cause panic in you? Unless you are truly hypoglycemic (a medical condition that your provider can diagnose), this is likely due to a misunderstanding of your hunger signals due either to the foods you choose or to confusion over physical versus emotional hunger. In my post last week I discussed the differences between physical and emotional hunger. If you haven’t already read that article, I highly suggest you do. You can find it here.
You can get the symptoms described above if you regularly eat foods that elevate your blood sugar such as sugar and white flour. When blood sugar levels rise, the hormone insulin is released into the bloodstream to help the cells take up the glucose, some of which will be used for energy with the excess stored as fat. After this rapid uptake of glucose, you might experience a “crash” that feels awful. So, the more you eat sugar and foods that raise your insulin like sugar and flour, the more your blood sugar will spike and crash. Not only does this lead to feeling fatigued but it also may sabotage your weight loss goals.
Certain foods can mess with your natural hunger signals
Sugar and other sweeteners (like honey, molasses, maple syrup, agave and artificial sweeteners) over time will mess up the “hungry hormone,” ghrelin and the “satiety hormone” leptin that go from your stomach to your brain. Flour, alcohol and processed foods, MSG and other excitotoxins (a chemical added to food which stimulate your brain and can also wreak havoc on your gut. Examples include: autolyzed yeast extract, autolyzed wheat extract, yeast extract and more) will also interfere with your hunger signals.
Foods can act like a drug
Sugar, flour and processed foods act on the reward centers in the brain like a drug. Food manufacturers are well aware of this and design their foods for maximum pleasure. Here’s how it works: when we eat sugar, we release opiods and dopamine (a feel good neurotransmitter) in your brain. The more we eat sugar and other quick pleasure foods (like flour and processed foods), the more the dopamine receptors start to down-regulate and you need MORE AND MORE to get the same feeling. And, when you stop eating these foods you can have uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms.
Try an experiment
Stop eating all flour, all sweeteners and all processed foods for one week and see how you feel. You might feel a bit off for a few days and likely you will get cravings for those foods. Some people call this sugar withdrawal and there are numerous theories as to what causes it such as neurotransmitter changes (e.g. dopamine) and fungal (candida) die off. This can last several days. Whatever the reason, I’ve had clients complain of moodiness and cravings. But, this will pass and you may notice that you feel lighter and more energetic. Just give it a try. Sit with your cravings and your feelings, I promise they won’t hurt you!
Do you want to learn more about managing hunger and cravings without feeling deprived?
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About me: I am a functional and integrative Physician Assistant and Certified Nutrition Coach. And I am a working mom who had her mid-life weight loss journey. I finally figured it out and I want to share my strategies with other woman. I help women maintain weight loss with a nutrition plan and weight loss coaching them and helping them learn to eat in sync with their body’s innate patterns to bring them to their natural weight.