Is Raging Hunger Symptomatic of a Weak-Willed Personality or Food Addiction?
If we are over weight we need to control hunger. Most of us have experienced raging hunger. It is when we feel so hungry that no amount of will power can stop us from hitting the refrigerator. And after we eat something we really are not satisfied and so we hit the refrigerator again and again and again.
And because some of us are a little ashamed about this behavior we try to hide it by eating when we are alone. I can remember hiding food in a bag, taking it to the bathroom and locking the door and eating while sitting on the toilet. And as a result I became very fat.
A lot of us really get down on ourselves for this behavior. We think we are weak-willed or addicted to food like an alcoholic is addicted to alcohol. But the addiction model does not quite fit. As I am writing this article I am in the fifth day of a pure water fast and I am feeling absolutely no hunger at all. Yet last week I was, only slightly jokingly, saying that watermelon was like heroin for me.
Have I cured my watermelon addiction in only one week? Probably not.
Raging hunger may in fact be symptomatic of a medical condition unrelated to any character deficiencies or addiction. Most overweight people experiencing unrelenting hunger may in fact be pre-diabetic and be in danger of developing Type 2 diabetes. The medical condition that they already have is called insulin resistance. It is a very common condition; at least 60 % of the American population is overweight and most overweight people are insulin resistant.
What is insulin resistance? It was once thought that type 2 diabetics had bodies that could not produce enough insulin and so it was thought that their treatment simply involved injection of additional insulin into their bodies.
What was discovered that Type 2 diabetics have no problem producing insulin, but they do have problems using it. Insulin is a hormone that carries energy from the food we eat to the cells. For Type 2 diabetics the problem is in the cell receptors that are unable to process the insulin in such a way as to efficiently use energy from the things the diabetic eats. The type 2 diabetic can eat a lot and still feel like they are starving because the energy is not getting to the cells. Like many other overweight people they suffer from insulin resistance.
But insulin resistance is not limited to diabetics. If you are overweight there is a good chance you suffer from insulin resistance and are at risk for developing diabetes at a later time in your life.
Winning the battle against raging hunger starts with understanding that it is high levels of circulating insulin in your blood that is in part what causes the problem. Last week I was, only half jokingly, comparing watermelon to heroin and yet today I am sitting in front of my computer with absolutely no sensation of hunger at all. And the reason for this is that this is my fifth day of pure water fasting and it is unlikely that there is any insulin in my blood at all. Sugar and starch is what stimulates insulin production and without the nibbling of watermelon I described in my article, Ketotis, it is unlikely there is any insulin in my blood at all right now.
So how does insulin stimulate appetite? Exactly how isn’t completely understood. But one of the things that can cause hunger is a kind of unstable blood sugar; the blood sugar shoots up after a meal and then plummets back down. This condition is known as hypoglycemia.
In order to control this condition and the raging hunger that goes with it you need to smooth out these blood sugar spikes. As suggested earlier fasting will smooth the spikes because there is no intake of carbohydrate. But we cannot fast all the time.
When eating the best way to smooth out blood sugar spikes is to reduce the intake of foods that raise blood sugar in the first place. These are foods that contain starches and sugar and include things like pasta, soft drinks, fruit, fruit juice, bread, crackers, potatoes, corn etc. It is believed that even artificial sweeteners can cause sugar spikes.
Spikes in blood sugar are what cause raging hunger. Raging hunger is not caused by a weak willed personality. What we call food addiction has a physiological component.
In earlier posts I indicated that one of my heroes is Dr. Richard K. Bernstein who pioneered work in the stabilization of blood sugar levels. Bernstein has pointed out that people do not go out of control with protein and fat. People do not crave an additional helping of olive oil or second helpings of eggs or fish. It is sugar and starch that cause the desire for second helpings because sugar and starch raise blood sugar levels.
Where some people get led astray is thinking just because a food is “healthy” that it is OK to eat. Many foods we think are “healthy” will cause blood sugar spikes. Examples are whole wheat bread, granola, “organic” fruit juices, fresh fruit, whole wheat pasta, legumes, and “organic” cereals. All these foods can cause raging hunger.
I had a disastrous experience when I decided to go on a pure vegan diet eating nothing but raw fruits and vegetables. This diet was nearly 100% carbohydrate and I loved it. And it caused me to gain about 40 pounds in about 10 weeks! It was not a diet for me and I did overeat because of raging hunger; I ate grapes, melon, pineapples, and pears by the pound!
Most people can get out-of-control eating in check by simply cutting their carbohydrate intake. The average American consumes about 300 grams of carbohydrate a day. Reducing this to about 50 grams a day will go a long way towards curbing raging hunger. It is not as hard as it sounds and frequently involves fairly simple substitutions. For example rather than having a glass of orange juice and Special K for breakfast eat instead an omelet stuffed with vegetables. Cut out bread and pasta and learn to enjoy big vegetable salads with maybe a little meat thrown in. This is what has worked for me: What to Eat
Controlling hunger may be no more difficult than controlling carbohydrate intake. The good news is that if you are experiencing raging hunger it may not mean that you have a psychiatric problem. You may not really be a food addict or a weak willed person either. You may simply be another over weight person with insulin resistance and whose blood sugar goes crazy when you eat too many carbohydrates.