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Part of what motivated me to complete my first couple Ironman Triathlon 5 or so years ago was blogging my experience. It didn't matter that no one was reading it motivates me by being accountable each and every week...
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Is it OK to be hungry?
I am constantly hungry. I wake up, I’m hungry, have a large breakfast and drive to work and when I get there, I’m hungry, I have to force myself to wait until 12pm for my lunch every day because I’m hungry; you get the picture.

Is being hungry all the time like this bad and mean that there is something wrong with me? Is it OK to be hungry?

Time for my usual google search to see what I can find on the subject and try to pull all the information, plus my thoughts on the subject, together in one place. I found a couple of interested articles on the topic but one in particular titled how to track calories in which at the bottom on the article the question was raised around hunger. I have summarised below:

Why do you get hungry in the first place?

When you eat, the fat cells in your body release a hormone called leptin. Increased levels of leptin reduce your desire and motivation to continue eating or eat more. Once you’ve finished eating your leptin levels are high which suppresses hunger. Within a few hours after you’ve finished eating, your leptin levels drop, and this drop in leptin causes a release of a different hormone, ghrelin, which is released by your stomach and pancreas and makes you feel hungry.

One reason why many people have a harder time controlling their appetite or stopping after they’ve eaten enough: they’re leptin resistant. 

In addition to spending much of your life eating too much, other lifestyle choices that can cause a leptin-ghrelin imbalance include lack of sleep, stress, and – even if you’re not over-eating – eating “hyper-palatable foods”, such as processed or packaged foods that were designed to be addictive (Dorito’s, anyone?).

So is hunger a bad thing?
First, it’s important to understand that in a normal situation, the leptin/ghrelin interaction and the hunger it produces is completely necessary for our survival. However, if you have ample energy stores from food or own fat stores, then there’s probably something wrong if you’re constantly hungry, and here’s what is recommended you do:

1) Re-sensitize yourself to leptin. Try 4-8 weeks of completely changing your lifestyle and eating patterns that may be contributing to leptin resistance. Here are the top ways to do that:

- Avoid fructose sugars – they tend to be a real trigger for leptin resistance… These can be found in most tree fruits, vegetables, sauces, beverages and processed foods. For a full list check out this site.

- Exercise in moderation, avoiding chronic cardio and stressful marathon-esque workouts, and instead using short HIIT sessions with full recovery….

- Control stress and cortisol – more info here

- Try cold thermogenesis – cold exposure may help with leptin sensitivity, these can now be found at a lot of gyms usually called ‘plunge pools’.

2) Avoid hunger triggers. Certain eating patterns and foods have been proven to be correlated with higher amounts of hunger. Here are some tips for controlling those triggers:

- Keep sweets and snacks out of the house or hidden in opaque containers…

- When you’re eating, put any extra food away (i.e. into the fridge) before you begin your meal…

- Avoid higher carbohydrate or high glycemic index foods which cause a hunger response very soon after a meal…

- Limit your options by having small amounts of food around your house – no big bulk Costco food purchases or easy to grab cans and bags.

3) Know What You Ate. Use online or mobile calorie counting tools to create some amount of awareness, even if just for a short period of time. Two additional strategies you can use to know what you ate are:

- Not snacking too frequently. It’s almost impossible to keep track of food and calories if you’re snacking 5-10 times a day (as many nutritionists sadly suggest). Instead, just eat 2-3 square meals, and then, if you have a workout, only eat either before or after the workout.

- Making your own food. The less you eat out at restaurants, have other people prepare your food, or eat out of packages and containers, the easier it will be to keep track of and know what you ate.

Finally, if you want one more reason not to fret about eating when you’re hungry, then you should know that in active people, energy restriction and cutting calories actually makes you fat.

That’s right.

Chronic calorie reduction in active athletes like gymnasts and runners has been proven to increase body fat percentage. This is because the combination of exercise stress and calorie restriction puts your body into starvation mode, where it becomes more necessary to store fat than to build or maintain muscle. Don’t believe that restricting calories can make you fat? Just read this study, in which energy deficits of as little as 300 calories per day below what was required for meeting activity requirements actually decrease metabolism and increased body fat percentage in both runners and gymnasts.

In summary, being hungry is not a bad thing if it is because you have a biological need for more calories or nutrients. In this case, simply pay attention to your body and eat more if necessary.

For the full transcript of the above article you can read more here at how to track calories.

Good luck with the detox and weight loss.

All the best
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