Are you sure you are ready and have enough time right now for this step? If not, just click the button below to go back to the safety and comfort of the last step or click here for more help.
If you are sure that you want to move on and feel 100% confident that you have learned and mastered the last step, then read on!
Now that you have learned about the mechanics of cravings and have used your habit training to take their power away, it’s time to learn about hunger, so you can decide when it’s real or just fake.
Because understanding how your hunger mechanism works will help you become the master of it, especially now, using your new habit loop skills and tools!
It’s actually quite simple when it’s broken down into these 5 types of hunger:
- Blood sugar
Hydration hunger is the trickiest and most common type of hunger. Most people aren’t really hungry when they think they are. They’re actually thirsty, but their thirst mechanism isn’t working right. The body is trained for this when it experiences chronic dehydration (like most people are, most of the time). It the learns a nifty little coping mechanism: to extract the water it needs from food. Over time, it gets really good at it too and makes that the primary signal.
Then, when the body needs more water, it tells the brain that it’s hungry instead of thirsty, so we go get some food to extract the water we need. The remedy to this, of course, is to drink more water because then the thirst mechanism comes back online and works properly, telling the brain to get water instead of food.
Blood sugar levels drop in most people who are not “fat adapted” as the body burns glucose for fuel. Then the brain tells us to look for fuel, usually in the form of cravings for sugar or carbohydrates. If blood sugar levels drop too low, the mood can be affected (AKA “Hangry”) as well as a sense of urgency. The remedy for this is to eat fewer carbs and more fat so blood sugar levels are more consistent.
Mental Hunger encompasses lots of different aspects such as:
Mental fatigue – especially in the evening as your brain (mainly your PFC) becomes tired from the day’s doses of decisions, stress, focus, etc.
Triggers, as you learned about in the previous lessons, are programmed in your brain, to make you think you are hungry when you really aren’t. The most common trigger that causes us to stumble is social triggers, where we eat the wrong things because we are out with our friends again, or at a family reunion, or visiting mom and her cookies, etc.
Emotional state is huge because we often try to medicate ourselves into a different state with food. It works too, for a short while, and then it’s worse. “Comfort food,” usually consisting of carbs with fat and salt, or just carbs and sugar by itself does indeed change our state for the next 30 minutes or so and can even get us out of “hangry” temporarily. This hunger can happen when you are sad, glad, bored, or just zoned out while watching TV or movies. It can also be triggered by stress, hangry, or the afternoon slump from low blood sugar or PFC fatigue.
The subconscious loves emotional state hunger because it’s all about instant gratification and it has a great quick fix for this one. It tells you that comfort food or sugar is the solution because it has learned from experience that every time you eat that, you feel better pretty fast. Then you do, and it’s reinforced even deeper into the subconscious brain. It essentially says, “See, I told ya!” Then an hour later you feel worse, but it doesn’t have the ability to reflect on the cause, so it just says, “More comfort food now!” The PFC can override this because that’s where rational thought and reflection comes from, but if it’s weaker than the subconscious, or tired from the day’s stresses, the subconscious wins.
Past programming like when mom gave you a lollipop when you were hurt, or to shut you up, or to keep you busy, taught your brain certain lessons and connections were made. It wasn’t her fault though, she didn’t know any better. All she knew is that it worked like a charm, but the result was that you programmed it in your brain and it became an unconscious reflex, following you through life, but now you know what to do with it!
Learned hunger comes from the lessons, patterns, and habits we developed from watching friends and family as we grew up. These habits can be quite strong and unconscious, so this hunger can feel real, even though it usually isn’t.
Hormonal hunger relates to things like PMS, leptin, ghrelin, insulin, and periods in life as we change through age. These hormones are amazingly powerful and can highjack our hunger mechanisms, real or not. Sometimes they are real, as with ghrelin, which is responsible for telling us when the stomach is empty. Then leptin does it’s best to tell us when we’ve had enough food, but it’s easily drowned out by the other hormones, so we have to be very aware of what is real and constantly become better tuned with our body.
Cellular hunger is usually real but can be easily misinterpreted. If your cells are dehydrated, for instance, you can feel hungry, even though you are really thirsty. If your cells are telling you that they need more protein, your hunger signal might crave garlic cheese bread. If you are craving a certain vitamin or mineral, like magnesium as an example, you might crave a chocolate bar, which does have a bit of magnesium, but another healthy food could provide more of that nutrient (like spinach). Heck, even low electrolytes can cause a cellular craving. If you are keto and aren’t eating enough salt, you might crave pizza, even though salting some broccoli would solve the problem.
“OK, I get it. Now what?”
Glad you asked!
Remember when you called out your cravings and gave them names, taking their power away? Simply do the same exercise here! Use the questions below to help with that and be sure to notice the video links to help you even more:
- Which hunger type(s) are operating here?
- What name can I call it/them? “Hydration Hank” might work for when you haven’t been hydrating properly, or “Mandy Mental,” as a couple examples.
- Is this true hunger? Click here to watch a video that can help you find out.
- Could this sensation pass? Click here to watch a video that can help you decide.
- Could I do something else instead of eating right now? Find a new routine for that trigger, like reading for 7 min. then 14 min. the next time, then 21, etc., until reading is the new automatic routine for that trigger. Then write that plan down, so you remember it next time: When _____(trigger)_____ happens, I do _____(new routine)_____.
- Can I take 3 minutes right now to meditate and clear up some space in my PFC so I am able to think more rationally?
- If you truly are hungry, then eat some healthy food, based on what you really need. And make sure to do it consciously. Click here for a video on that: part 1 and part 2.