What is Hunger?

For the past nine months I have been experimenting with various diets and eating habits. It started with 16 / 8 intermittent fasting on something of a standard american diet. Sense then I have experiments with a slow carb diet where the number of macronutrients is not the concern, but rather the quality of the macronutrients. I also experimented with a low carb diet where regardless of the quality of the carbohydrates, you want them to be low. This then was an easy bridge into the keto diet. During this time I have also experimented with one meal a day which is essentially a 23 hour fast every day and then eating all your food within a one hour window. It is also very important to note that during this same time I usually included a single cheat day each week.

I have kept careful track of total calories, the amount of time I am spending exercising along with the types of exercises, and also body composition changes. I have seen great results in terms of body composition, strength, and energy levels. However the benefits did not stop there, I have also seen great results in terms of a vastly increased range of foods that I now enjoy that I used to hate, the ability to resist food cravings, the ease of fasting, and the benefit that I now want to discuss, which is the ability to understand and recognize hunger.

Our language is part of the problem when it comes to hunger. We only have one word for a multi faceted phenomenon. Do you have an empty stomach? We call that hunger. Is your blood sugar dropping and you are feeling sluggish and feeling the corresponding cravings? We call that hunger. Are you craving certain foods despite having no good reason to eat it? We call that hunger. Are you sitting at home bored with a kitchen full of foods to entertain yourself with? We call that hunger. Are you out with friends or at a family get together and their is social pressure to eat? We generally call that hunger as well.

In fact, I do not think that any of the aforementioned scenarios are actually hunger. True hunger is a response that your body has when in need of food. This is something that we rarely feel. The legacy concept that you should eat six small meals a day gives rise to the inability to recognize true hunger, and gives rise to all of these false-hunger feelings and temptations. Eating a high carb diet, or even a diet that does not have lots of carbs but the carbs it does have are unhealthy carbs, also makes you prone to not knowing the difference between true hunger and these other feelings such as cravings, dropping blood sugar, empty stomach, and social pressures.

It should be noted that being hungry in the true sense of the word means that your body is telling you that in order to keep up your energy demands it needs food. If I eat a high carb meal and then do a 24 hour fast I will usually feel the dropping blood sugar in the first few hours. Then at about the 12 hour mark I will feel the empty stomach. I will go through one or two periods where others are eating and I am not. This will give rise to cravings or social pressures to eat. None of these feelings are hunger. Then around the 24 hour mark I will feel the need to eat. This is hunger. This should not be viewed as an unhealthy feeling to have.

Feeling true hunger through fasting is very beneficial for the reasons that are easy to find all over the internet. I am no doctor so I will not go over all those details here, but things such as decreased inflammation, fat loss and muscle gain are all associated with fasting. However there are other benefits that I have not heard discussed as much. These are appetite control, craving control, time and flexibility added to your daily routine when you do no longer have to prep, eat, and clean up multiple meals, and the ability to recognize false-hunger feelings such as cravings, dropping blood sugar, an empty stomach, and social pressures.

The empty stomach thing is a big one. You feel a gurgle in your stomach, you can sense that its empty, and you response is to fill it again. I would argue that this automatic response that we have is not the natural response to an empty stomach, but a response that we develop from years of having quick access to food at all times, which is a situation that human beings have only been in for a number of decades. Your stomach is empty. You are carrying less weight, your body is going to be producing ketones soon which will give you mental clarity, your body is not spending energy on digestion; You are primed for action. This feeling should be the feeling that causes us to respond in productivity and should be a call to action. Over time we can develop this response as being our normal response to the feeling of an empty stomach.

The problem that most people have is that coming off of a standard american diet the cravings are uncontrollable, the empty stomach feeling is ultra distracting and hard to manage, the dropping blood sugar makes them insatiable, and the social pressures are unbearable. Each of these is a wall in front of someone preventing them from being successful in changing their diet and eating routines in order to gain the benefits that I have mentioned. While each of these may deserve a blog post on its own, I will quickly cover the basic outlines of how to deal with them based upon my own personal experience.

I starts with record keeping. Take daily or weekly notes on your progress so that you can be conscious of what you are doing and have a historical record. Then, begin with a 16 / 8 intermittent fast two or three times a week. This is way easier than it seems. Two or three times a week stop eating a 8pm and do not eat until the following day at noon, and adjust the hours based upon your own schedule and lifestyle. Move from a standard american diet to a slow carb diet where you just remove the unhealthy carbs. Replace these carbs with tasty meats or vegetables, and learn some quick and easy meals that you can make over and over.

From there attempt a 20 hour fast where your previous meal had almost no carbs and was filled with fatty meats and oils. During this fast avoid social settings that would cause you to eat. Ask your family members to assist you during this fast. Do this once a week until you can routinely do a 24 hour fast. Then begin doing this multiple times a week. At this point you will now having removed the barriers, and will have gained the self control that opens up a world of possibilities. At this point you now know through experience the difference between true hunger and the false-hunger feelings and have learned how to deal with them. This gives you freedom in your diet and lifestyle.

I hope this helps!

As always: I am not a doctor so consult a healthcare professional before making changes to your diet.

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