The primary source of fuel for the human body is food. When the body is receiving food regularly throughout the day it gives clear signals when it needs more fuel and, when the body receives the best fuel possible (good, healthy, natural, whole foods), it has all the energy in the world. It is able to rise early and accomplish everything that needs to be done without becoming overly tired, dizzy, anxious, etc. The most recognized signal that the body needs more fuel is that of hunger pangs – the growling that occurs in the stomach. But when this signal is ignored the body must turn to alternative signals in an effort to obtain the fuel it needs to complete all of its processes like breathing, pumping blood, moving, etc.
Some of these alternative hunger signs may be things like headaches, depression, fatigue, irritability, anxiety, dizziness, etc. One problem is that most of us do not recognize these as signs of hunger. We take a pill of some sort and go about our day ignoring the real problem – we’ve failed to properly feed the body. This failure will result in the body taking control to accomplish it’s primary goal.
The body’s primary goal is survival and it will do everything in it’s power to accomplish that goal – including reducing the amount of calories needed in order to function (aka slow metabolism). When it takes things to this extreme it may be difficult to find the energy necessary to even prepare a meal. So, how do we go about turning things around so we feel better and have the energy we need while getting rid of the alternative hunger signs?
The answer is actually simpler than most think – EAT! Believe it or not, it is better to simply “grab something” than to eat nothing at all and when one is working on rejecting the diet mentality this is exactly where one must begin. The only exceptions will be those who have a known food allergy or sensitivity. In time we will be able to focus on honoring our health and that will be when we will be able to truly FEED the body all the glorious foods that contain within them the vital nutrients required by the body to function properly from second-to-second, minute-to-minute, hour-to-hour, day-to-day, week-to-week, month-to-month, and year-to-year. But, these food choices do not need to be consistently made with every meal throughout the day in order to properly fuel the body.
In the book, Human Health & Homeostasis, the author, Emanuel Cheraskin, MD, DMD (1999), talks about The Nibbling Effect:
“All of the evidence (and one must admit it is not plentiful) suggests that nibbling is the most stabilizing method of ingesting of food and drink…….Dr. Paul Fabry and others have shown unequivocal evidence of some of the normalizing benefits of eating smaller amounts more frequently. His work suggests that consuming six smaller meals equivalent in calories to the more standard three daily meals produces amazing clinical and physiologic profits. Some of these benefits include weight loss, reduction in serum cholesterol, and an improvement in the glucose tolerance pattern….The concept was rediscovered in 1989 and published in the New England Journal of Medicine. The claim now is that nibbling may be healthier for the heart than the conventional three-meal-a-day gorging.” (p. 81)
In the same book, Human Health and Homeostasis, the author talks about a study where 7 men ate 2500 calories a day for a two-week period of time. They ate 3x daily. They took a 14-day break and then consumed the same number of calories BUT ate 17 daily snacks; eating once an hour. They did this for 2-weeks. Their choloesterol lowered by 9% and their low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL) by 14%. Other significant effects included the decline in insulin by approximately 28% and the urinary cortisol levels lowered by 17%. The subjects were not given any specific “dieting” rules specific to lowering their cholesterol.
So, it appears as though the key may be to eat often throughout the day. Just as thirst has been shown to actually be a sign of dehydration, I believe that hunger pangs are actually a sign from the body that it’s gone too long without fuel. At first, this may seem contradictory to what’s been learned over a lifetime but within a short period of time the hurdles will be cleared and frequent eating will occur spontaneously. You’ll hear people comment about how you always seem to be eating. This is as it should be and is to be encouraged….when was the last time you ate something?….
Cheraskin, E. (1999). Human Health & Homeostasis. Birmingham: Natural Reader Press