I was hungry when I woke up. I was very hungry before I went to bed. And I was even hungry not long after a big meal. Thankfully, I was not obese. I was younger then and I liked to exercise. But I did carry about 20 pounds too many. And I had a round face and a soft belly.
I was eating and drinking a full menu of high-density carbohydrates back then. Pizza, cereal, bagels, sandwiches, chips and soda were all on the list. I consumed plenty of calories. Yet, I was still hungry.
And not only was I frequently hungry, but my mood and energy levels would swing wildly. I would become irritable… sometimes depressed. And I always felt like I needed a nap about two in the afternoon. But there was one thing that always seemed to boost my mood and energy – more carbs!
Then, about 10 years ago, I began to study the diet of our Paleolithic genetic ancestors…
Before that, I had not thought much about what I should eat to remain healthy and lean. But I didn’t like the fact that I was gaining weight.
I quickly learned that high-glycemic carbohydrates are foreign to our metabolism. Especially when we consume them in large quantities – as we have since the dawn of the food processing revolution. This is a drastic departure from the diet on which we evolved.
Therefore, I decided to make my own drastic departure. I didn’t go on a “diet” or start counting calories. I didn’t buy meals from Weight Watchers. And I didn’t join the Atkins revolution, with all of their artificial sweeteners and fake, processed foods.
I just decided to start eating real, organic, whole foods. I ate lots of leafy green salads and a variety of colorful vegetables. I made my own vegetable juices. I snacked on fruit, nuts and seeds. I ate eggs (The whole egg, of course. You don’t think our ancestors would have thrown the yolk away, do you?). Grass-fed beef, pastured poultry, raw cheese and dairy. And lots of wild salmon.
My hunger and cravings simply vanished (along with the spare tire around my belly)…
Within about two weeks, my cravings for food were almost completely gone. I had energy that lasted all day. I didn’t need a nap in the afternoons. My moods were stable and upbeat. My mind was sharper and more alert.
And my excess body fat simply melted away. Within about eight weeks, I lost more than 20 pounds. I reached my ideal weight and have remained within three or four pounds of that target ever since. My experience taught me first hand that hunger is about a lot more than just an empty stomach.
There are two types of hunger…
Physical hunger builds slowly and occurs several hours after a meal. This is how you feel after exercise or a long period of work, when you have depleted your energy stores. You feel discomfort. Your stomach growls. You might feel tired and your brain doesn’t work as it should. This is your physiological need for nutrients and energy. Food provides relief from this feeling almost instantly.
Hormonal hunger comes on suddenly. It often has nothing to do with mealtime. In fact, hormonal hunger can strike right after you have had a meal. Have you ever wondered where that “extra room” for dessert comes from? Hormonal hunger can cause strong emotional cravings for specific foods – especially carbohydrates. It can also cause mood swings and low energy. And it creates a near continual desire to eat.
I don’t take credit for the term, “hormonal hunger.” Fitness and nutrition author, Rob Faigin, coined it in his superb book, Natural Hormonal Enhancement. He points out that hormonal hunger has nothing to do with a real need for food. It is the result of the interplay of various hormones in the body.
To avoid physical hunger, eat before you become hungry. To avoid hormonal hunger, you have to know whatto eat.
Foods that are high on the glycemic index (60 and above) are those that convert to blood sugar very rapidly. That’s what you want to avoid. When your blood sugar spikes, the hormone insulin spikes too. This can provide a burst of energy, but it is fleeting and followed by a crash. The whole process puts us on a hormonal roller coaster that causes us to become hungry and consume food, even when our body does not physically need it.
That’s why most of the foods we eat should score low (20 and below) on the glycemic index. These foods take longer to break down and they contain fewer carbohydrates, so the secretion of insulin is lower. Eating these foods will get you off the hunger cycle and curtail the constant cravings.
Insulin is just one of the hormones that affects our hunger mechanism and fat storage. Leptin is another. It was discovered in 1994 by researchers who were studying a genetic line of mice that continually consumed food until they became morbidly obese.
The scientists discovered that these mice were missing a particular hormone. When the researchers injected this hormone into the animals, it curbed their appetite, stimulated their fat-burning metabolism and restored them to a normal body weight.
They called the hormone leptin, derived from the Greek word for “thin.”
We have now come to understand that leptin is a powerful messenger hormone. It helps perform countless functions in the body, two of which are extremely beneficial when it comes to hunger and body fat:
It sends a signal to your brain that you are full. This shuts down your hunger mechanism.
It also signals the fat inside your cells to break down into a usable form for energy.
When these signals are working, you stay feeling full for longer. And your fat is burned for fuel, helping you to stay slim.
To Your Health
Jon Herring Editorial Director Total Health Breakthroughs
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