There are a number of factors that contribute to a grumbling stomach and that urge to nibble.
While it seems like odds are stacked against us, there are some simple things that we can do to help our bodies find balance. While there are some psychological tricks you can employ let’s start with the physiology of your body, and work towards health from the inside out.
In order to get your hunger cues in line with your energy needs, your hormones must be regulated and your nutritional needs met.
Here are some ways to ensure that your body’s response to food are in line with its needs:
1. Sleep! Adequate sleep is ESSENTIAL to hormone regulation. Lack of sleep amps up “hunger hormones” and leaves you craving quick digesting carbs for back up energy. No good!
2. Along those same lines, get your circadian rhythms in order. Living by the sun is your bod’s favorite. Limit light from your digital devices at night, and leave your curtains open.
3. Eat Whole Foods. Aside from getting adequate nutrients, whole foods are anti-inflammatory and don’t stress the immune or digestive system. Conversely, processed foods drive inflammation and throw gut bacterial balance out of whack (bad bacteria takes over causing all sorts of problems).
4. Fill on Fiber. Fiber helps you feel full. Make sure to drink adequate water so you don’t get…stopped up, so to speak.
5. Exercise. We know. Everyone says to exercise. But it seriously affects all your functions. So get to sweating.
6. Try short bouts of Intermittent Fasting (try 16 hours between your dinner and breakfast). Doing so gets your body burning fat, instead of carbs. And less fat means less leptin (that out of whack “feel-full” hormone). Which means less leptin resistance. Which is a good thing.
7. Go sugar free. Sorry! But sugar spikes insulin and throws hunger cues all amiss.
8. While you’re at it, limit processed carbs. Same deal as sugar. No go.
9. WATER. Seriously. A lot. Drink it like you’re getting paid by the sip.
And what about those cravings?
Those can be the product of anything from unmet nutritional needs to sensory cues.
Here are some ways to keep those in check:
1. Eat a High Protein Breakfast. Start the day with protein (aim for 15 grams or more) to stay satiated throughout the day. You’ll cut cravings big time!
2. Eat Fat. That’s right! Eat a bit of healthy fat at every meal (nuts/seeds, avocado, coconut oil, olive oil, fatty fish…). Fat slows down digestion and makes you feel full. Without it, your body will never be satisfied.
3. Purge your Instagram. Sounds crazy, but all those #foodporn pictures are turning on your brain and causing a secretion of those hunger hormones. Unfollow the offenders, and better yet, start following healthy ‘grammers to keep nutrition on the mind.
4. Beware of smells. That bakery on the corner can permeate the whole block with a delicious aroma that your brain just can’t resist. Similarly, fast food restaurants manufacture smells that scientifically are meant to turn on parts of our brain and cause cravings. If you know what’s good, avoid the scents. Walk on another block!
5. Supplementation -- Cinnamon has blood sugar balancing effects that keep hunger in check. Sprinkle some in coffee, on your breakfast, or sip cinnamon tea. Chromium, available in pill form, is great for stopping sugar cravings, as well.
As you can tell, eating isn’t as easy as it should be!
With obesity on the rise and chronic health problems out of control, it’s important to understand the mechanism behind why we continually stuff ourselves with low quality foods at such high quantity. If we work with our bodies instead of trying to fight against them, we’ll all be healthier, happier, and in turn, probably a few jean sizes smaller.