OVERHUNGER. It’s a made-up word that accurately describes that feeling of hunger when you know you’re not really hungry. How much we eat is important part of our weight, but what we eat is more important. That old calories in, calories out mentality isn’t always right. It’s true that if you eat 8000 calories a day you obviously will gain weight. However, if you eat 2000 calories a day in candy, you’ll probably gain weight, but 2000 calories in vegetables, protein, and healthy fats you may lose weight. This all has to do with the hormones that regulate our fat storage, hunger, and fullness. There are many hormones involved in the regulation but let’s focus on the three big ones.
Insulin the fat storage hormone. The pancreas manufactures insulin to regulate the body’s blood sugar levels. It delivers glucose to our muscles for fat storage. Stored fat is useful providing energy to our body when we have no glucose in our bloodstream to burn. Here’s the issue though. When there’s insulin in the bloodstream the body can’t burn its stored fat for energy. Insulin is secreted each time food is eaten. Eating too much food, or too often, or foods that increase insulin cause insulin to be present in the bloodstream. Again, when insulin is in the bloodstream, the body can’t burn its stored fat. When the insulin never goes down the body stays in fat storage mode.
Leptin is a hormone that regulates body weight. It’s produced by the fat cells in your body that send signals to your brain to let you know that you’re full or satiated. When functioning properly, the excess fat cells produce leptin which signals the brain to decrease the appetite. High levels of insulin stimulate the release of leptin. Too much leptin can cause leptin resistance which negatively impacts the signal to the brain. Instead of the hypothalamus signaling that you’re full, it sends signals that you’re still hungry and not satiated. It signals you to keep eating.
Ghrelin is also a hunger hormone. It’s produced mainly by the stomach and signals to your body that you’re hungry, think hunger pangs. Eating highly processed foods that taste great but are high in calories and low in nutrients have an effect on ghrelin. Your stomach doesn’t feel full and your body doesn’t have the nutrients it needs, so more ghrelin is produced. Your hunger pangs are still there. You’re over hungry!
It’s easy to see how these hormones can get out of whack and cause us to not only gain weight, but prevent us from losing weight. Next up…Overdesire.