"Stress Hunger"--The Cause Of Obesity

Most people never experience the healthy sensation of feeling hungry. In fact, most people desire to avoid feeling hungry. I think feeling hunger is good to experience periodically. Hunger is important to aid in our enjoyment of food and get the precise signals from our body to know the amount of calories we need to maintain our lean body mass. When we eat when we are hungry food tastes much better and we are physiologically primed for proper digestion. Hunger, in the true sense of the word, indicates to us that it is time to eat again.

Consider that real hunger is not often experienced in our modern, overfed population. Most people no longer even remember or are aware what hunger even feels like. Most people are surprised to find that true hunger is felt in the throat and not in the head or stomach.

Instead of true hunger, people get detoxification or withdrawal symptoms that they mistakenly consider hunger. They feel shaky, head-achy, weak, get abdominal cramps or spasms, which are believed to be hunger symptoms because they are relieved by eating. I call this "stress hunger." Stress hunger is the symptoms a person experiences that are due to toxic wastes being mobilized for elimination. It occurs after a meal is digested and the digestive track is empty, and it could make us feel very uncomfortable.

Generally, we eat to get rid of these withdrawal symptoms and it works. In fact, this is one of the most important contributors to our population's overweight condition. We eat the wrong foods and just a few hours later we feel ill, stressed out, shaky, weak, mentally dull, and we are driven to eat again to relieve the discomfort. Did you ever hear someone saying they needed to eat because they feel so shaky? The question is, are these symptoms "true hunger," "hypoglycemia" or something else? I claim that these symptoms occur simultaneous to our blood sugar decreasing but they are not caused "hypoglycemia." Rather, they result from tissue sensitivity to mobilization of waste products which occurs when most active digestion is finished.

Let me reassure you here that I do not want you to go hungry and deny yourself food to achieve an ideal weight. However, there is another answer. When we eat a nutrient-dense diet, rich with lots of colorful vegetables we will better meet the nutrient needs of our body and the better nutritional quality of the diet will reduce and eliminate the uncomfortable "withdrawal" symptoms. High nutrient eating enables us to deal better with all types of stress, but in this case I am claiming that eating more high-nutrient foods will enable us to avoid "stress hunger" and not have the cravings and drive to overeat.

When our diet is low in nutrients, we build up intra-cellular waste products. So when digestion stops, our body goes through a period of "cleaning," meaning that our tissues release toxic substances into circulation for removal. Our cells can harbor toxic products that build up in the body when our diet is relatively nutrient-poor. Phytonutrients are required for the body to properly detoxify metabolic waste products, they enable cellular detoxification machinery. When we don't eat sufficient phytochemical-rich-vegetation and consume excess animal proteins (creating excess nitrogenous wastes) we often exacerbate the build up of metabolic waste products in our body.

The confusion is compounded because when we eat the same heavy foods that are causing the problem to begin with, we feel so much better. This makes becoming overweight inevitable, because if we stop digesting food, even for a short time, our bodies will begin to experience symptoms of detoxification or withdrawal from our unhealthful diet. To counter this we eat heavy meals, eat too often and keep our digestive track overfed to lessen the discomfort from our stressful diet-style.

When our bodies have acclimated to noxious agents it is called addiction. Try to stop taking the heroin and we will feel ill. In fact, we must have it or we will become terribly sick. This is called withdrawal. When we stop doing something harmful to ourselves we feel ill as the body mobilizes cellular wastes and attempts to repair the damage caused by the exposure.

If we drank 3 cups of coffee or caffeinated soda a day, we would get a withdrawal headache when our caffeine level dipped too low. We could take more caffeine again (or other drugs) or we could eat food more frequently which can make us feel a little better as it retards detoxification or withdrawal. In other words, the caffeine withdrawal symptoms can contribute to our drinking more caffeine products or eating more frequently as a means of managing the symptoms from caffeine withdrawal.

Likewise, a few hours after eating the standard low-nutrient diet most people begin to feel "hungry". They feel weak, headachy, tired, mentally dull, and have stomach spasms. I call it "stress or toxic hunger" because these symptoms only occur in those who have been eating a toxic diet. True hunger would not have occurred so early after the meal.

True hunger signals when our body needs calories to maintain our lean body mass. If we ate food demanded by true hunger and true hunger only, people would not become overweight to begin with. In our present toxic food environment, we have lost the ability to connect with the body signals that tell us how much food we actually need. We have become slaves to withdrawal symptoms and eat all day long, even when there is no biological need for calories.

Fortunately, this cycle of eating, and then avoiding the symptoms of detoxification by eating again, does not have to continue. There is a way out. When you restore the nutritional integrity and relative cleanliness to your tissues, you simply will not have the desire to eat to get rid of the toxin-induced symptoms.

In an environment of healthy food choices, we would not feel any symptoms after a meal until the hormonal and neurological messengers indicated the glycogen reserves in the liver were running low. Nature has made it so that our body has the beautifully orchestrated ability to give us the precise signals to tell us exactly how much to eat to maintain an ideal weight for our long term health. This signal I call "true hunger" to differentiate it from the "stress hunger" or "toxic hunger" everyone else calls hunger.

Feeding ourselves to satisfy true hunger does not cause weight gain and if people were better connected with these normal signals it would be almost impossible for anyone to become overweight. True hunger is felt in the throat, neck and mouth, not in the stomach or head. It is a drawing sensation. It is not very uncomfortable to feel real hunger, it makes food taste much better when you eat, and it makes eating an intense pleasure.

True hunger requires no special food to satisfy it. It is relieved by eating almost anything. We can't crave some particular food and call it hunger; a craving by definition is an addictive drive, not something felt by a person who is not an addict. Remember almost all Americans are addicted to their toxic habits. A disease-causing diet is addicting. A health-supporting diet is not.

In order to achieve an ideal weight and consume the exact amount of calories to maintain a lean body mass we do not have to carry around a calculator and a scale to figure out how much to eat. A healthy body will give us the correct signals. So in order to achieve superior health, maximize our longevity potential, and achieve our ideal weight, we have to eat healthy enough to get back in touch with true hunger and rid ourselves of this "stress hunger".

Every cell is like a little factory, it makes products, produces waste and then must compact, detoxify and remove waste. If we don't ingest sufficient antioxidants and phytonutrients from our food choices, our cells are unable to effectively remove self-produced waste. If we let waste metabolites build up, the body will attempt to mobilize them (discomfort) when it can; but it only can do that effectively if not actively digesting food. Eating makes one feel better because it halts or delays the detoxification process.

My book, Eat To Live explains how eating for health is the most effective way to reach our ideal weight and stay there permanently when you get there. There are lots of ways to lose weight, but only by eating lots of nutrient-rich foods as a method of choice for weight loss will we not have to fight off cravings and ill feelings.

In a portion controlled (calorie counting) diet it is likely that the body will not get adequate fiber or nutrients. The body will have a compounded sensation of hunger and craving which for most is simply overwhelming. It invariably results in people losing weight then gaining back their weight. Calorie counting simply doesn't work in the long run. Diets based on portion control and calorie counting generally permit the eating of highly toxic, low nutrient foods and then requires us to fight our addictive drives and attempt to eat less. This combination under nourishes the body resulting in uncontrollable and frequent food cravings.

Without an adequate education in superior nutrition and solid principles to stick to; these individuals are forced to flounder and fail bouncing from one diet to another, always losing a little and regaining. Frequently regaining more than they lost.

We must prioritize our food intake around nutrient dense, high fiber, high water content foods, which means fruits, vegetables and beans. For superior health and our ideal weight we must have the knowledge to know how to seek nutritional excellence in spite of our misinformed and confused population.

This is all about knowledge, not willpower. With the right knowledge base, we can get more pleasure from eating, not be on some diet, and protect ourselves.

Stopping Childhood Obesity--Thinking Outside the Box

As a result of the childhood obesity epidemic different strategies have been enacted to promote good nutrition and exercise in children:

The New York Times reports that some Los Angeles parents are turning to gyms instead of playgrounds to help keep their kids fit and healthy.

Unless of course you live in West Virginia where certain kinds of video game play are encouraged. The Associated Press reports that West Virginia boasts the United States worst obesity problems, so school officials are having all 157 of the state's public schools outfitted with the physically challenging arcade game "Dance Dance Revolution." A move designed to promote physical activity.

Over the pond the European Union (EU) has decided it's better to remove things from schools. Reuters reports that UNESDA, which represents a large part of Europe's non-alcoholic beverage industry, is complying with the EU's drive against obesity and will remove refreshment vending machines from primary schools and drop advertising aimed at children under twelve.

Don't sabotage your weight-loss goal with oily dressings and sauces.

Vegetables and salads are very low in calories. However, if you cover these healthy, low calorie foods with tablespoons of a high-fat, high-calorie, oil-based dressing, you turn vegetables and salad into weight-promoting foods. (Remember Dr. Fuhrman's equation health = nutrition / calories.)

Here's what Dr. Fuhrman says about this in the upcoming revised version of Cholesterol Protection for Life:

I know you were told that olive oil is health food. It is not. Keep in mind, oil is processed food, it is not a natural whole food. Oils, even if they are monounsaturated, should not be health food because they are low in nutrients and contain 120 calories per tablespoon, promoting weight gain.

Sure, olive oil and almond oil are improvements over animal fats and margarine, but they still are a contributor to our overweight modern world. Overweight Americans consume and average of three tablespoons of oil in their daily diet, adding and extra 360 calories to their food each day. You need to reach a thinner, ideal weight to achieve maximum protection against heart disease and to reverse heart disease. Use oil, even olive oil sparingly or not at all; certainly, do not have more than one teaspoon per day.

As an alternative to oil, you can make great tasting salad dressings from raw nuts and seeds, such as walnuts, pecans, cashews, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, pistachios and avocados.

Here are a few recipes to experiment with:

Hot Russian Dressing
1 small (4-ounce) can tomato paste
4 tbsp. raw almond butter
1/4 tsp. chili powder
1/4 cup soy milk
3 tbsp. ketchup
Blend all ingredients together. Works well as a sauce for steamed leafy greans; as a condiment spread for lettuce, tomato, and avocado pita pocket sandwiches; and as a salad dressing (serves 4-6).

Orange Cashew Dressing
2 peeled navel oranges
1/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup raw cashews
2 tbsp. of blood orange vinegar or pear vinegar
Blend ingredients until silkly smooth. Use liberally on salad or as vegetable dip (serves 4-6).

Pistachio Mustard Salad Dressing
1/3 cup raw shelled pistachio nuts
1 tbsp. dijon mustard
2 tbsp. Vegi-Zest or low salt vegetable seasoning
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 cup unsweetened soy milk
Blend all ingredients until smooth in a high powered blender (serves 4-6).

U.S. Cities Weigh in on Bad Diets and Obesity

Earlier this month DiseaseProof.com spotlighted The New York Times coverage of how NYC is facing increased diabetes, but New York isn't the only city concerned with expanding waistlines. Consider these other recent reports from around the nation:

From the Archives: The Economist Reviews Eat to Live

On April 5, 2003, The Economist reviewed Dr. Fuhrman's book Eat to Live. Here's an excerpt of the review:

The pitfall of most diets, Dr Fuhrman argues, is that they tend to regulate macronutrients--proteins, fats and carbohydrates. The focus of "Eat to Live" is on micronutrients--vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytochemicals that promote health. The goal of a healthy diet, he says, is to get the most micronutrients from the fewest calories.

Dr Fuhrman suggests almost eliminating fats and starches in favour of greens, beans and fruit. His regime even works if you don't do a lot of exercise. This reviewer, who has become something of an expert on diets over the years, lost ten pounds (4.5 kilos) in one month; the norm, Dr Fuhrman claims, is 15. Empty calories from soft drinks, dairy products, meat and starches or processed foods with little to no micronutrition are easily converted to fat and extra poundage. So-called "2 percent" milk claims to be a diet food, but 35% of its calories come from fat. On the other hand, green vegetables are an excellent source of protein as well as antioxidants that reduce risk of cancer and heart disease. By weight, the amount of protein they contain is insignificant, but in terms of calories broccoli is 45% protein, while a cheeseburger contains only 21%.

Sit up, George Bush senior, scourge of broccoli. Without the protein in greens, how else could your Texan cattle develop all that tasty muscle?

Dr. Fuhrman: Drugs Won't Solve Obesity Epidemic

Stephanie Saul of The New York Times reports that two new approaches to the nation's obesity epidemic are coming up for review by the Food and Drug Administration. Sanofi-Aventis will launch a prescription appetite blocker called Acomplia and GlaxoSmithKline is proposing an over-the-counter version of the weight loss drug Xenical, which will be renamed Alli. As Saul reports, overweight individuals are excited about the drugs despite the health risks of previous weight loss medications:

"I think if we could get obesity treatments to a situation like cholesterol where there are several different products, where one or two in combination might be successful, at least that would arm physicians with more than they have now," said Morgan Downey, executive director of the American Obesity Association, a patients' advocacy group in Washington.

The Food and Drug Administration has scheduled an advisory panel hearing for Jan. 23 to review Alli. And the F.D.A. could make its decision on Acomplia as soon as next month.

Both drug companies are seeking approval in a difficult regulatory environment, as the F.D.A. is moving cautiously in the wake of the Vioxx debacle. Any diet drug is up against a backdrop of safety issues from the past - most notably problems with the diet drug combination fen-phen. Fenfluramine, the "fen" half of the combination, was withdrawn from the market in 1997 after it was found to cause heart damage.

Xenical has shown itself to be moderately effective and has a long safety record. But Alli - a name the company has proposed because the drug must be allied with a weight-loss program - faces the higher hurdle required when prescription drugs are proposed for sale without a doctor's oversight. "You have to not only provide data that shows it's safe, you have to show that it's safe when it's misused," said Gerald Meyer, a former F.D.A. associate commissioner.

Can't wait for the FDA to rule? Consider this excerpt taken from Dr. Fuhrman's book Eat to Live:
New drugs are continually introduced that attempt to lessen the effects our nation's self-destructive eating behavior. Most often, our society treats disease after the degenerative illness has appeared, an illness that is the result of from forty to sixty years of nutritional self-abuse.

Drug companies and researchers attempt to develop and market medications to stem the obesity epidemic. This approach will always be doomed to fail. The body will always pay a price for consuming medicines, which usually have toxic effects. The "side" effects are not the only toxic effect of medications. Doctors learn in their introductory pharmacology course in medical school that all medications are toxic in varying degrees, whether side effects are experienced or not. Pharmacology professors stress never to forget that. You cannot escape the immutable biological laws of cause and effect through ingesting medicinal substances.

If we don't make significant changes in the foods we choose to consumer, taking drugs prescribed by physicians will not improve our health or extend our lives. If we wish true health protection, we need to remove the cause. We must stop abusing ourselves with disease-causing foods.

Your Doctor Lied: You Do Have High Blood Pressure and High Cholesterol

I know you were told that if your blood pressure is below 140/90, it is normal. Unfortunately, this is not true, either. It is average - not normal. This number is used because it is the midpoint of adult Americans older than sixty. The risk for strokes and heart attacks starts climbing at 115/70.

In societies where we do not see high rates of heart disease and strokes, we don't see blood pressure increase with age. In rural China the healthy elderly had the same low blood pressure readings as they did when they were kids. Almost all Americans have blood pressure that is unhealthfully high. At a minimum, we should consider blood pressure higher than 125/80 abnormal.

Numerous scientific investigations have shown that the following interventions have some degree of effectiveness in lowering blood pressure.1

  • Weight loss
  • Sodium restriction
  • Increased potassium intake
  • Increased calcium and magnesium intake
  • Alcohol restriction
  • Caffeine restriction
  • Increased fiber intake
  • Increased consumption of fruits and vegetables
  • Increased physical activity or exercise

Studies have shown controlling sodium intake and weight loss to be effective in reducing blood pressure, even in the elderly.2 How can you implement these interventions into your lifestyle? It's simple. Eat many more fruits, vegetables, and legumes; eat less of everything else; and engage in a moderate amount of exercise. High blood pressure is relatively simple to control.

I encourage my patients to do what it takes to normalize their blood pressure so they do not require medication. Prescribing medications for high blood pressure has the effect of a permission slip. Medication has a minimal effect in reducing heart attack occurrence in patients with high blood pressure because it does not remove the underlying problem (atherosclerosis), it just treats the symptom. Patients given medication now falsely believe they are protected, and they continue to follow the same disease-causing lifestyle that caused the problem to begin with, until the inevitable occurs -- their first heart attack or stroke. Maybe, if high blood pressure medications were never invented, doctors would have been forced to teach healthful living and nutritional disease causation to their patients. It is possible that many more lives could have been saved.

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Tuesday Health Notes

Sun Setting on the Mediterranean Diet

Expanding waistlines prompted Europe's health chief to issue a public invitation for suggestions to help tackle obesity, especially among children.

A European Commission survey acknowledges this bulging problem:

Obesity levels are increasing at an alarming rate, with up to 27% of men and 38% of women now considered to be obese in some parts of the European Union (EU). The number of overweight children is also growing rapidly, currently rising by 400,000 a year. Obesity is a risk factor for many serious illnesses including heart disease, type-2 diabetes, hypertension, stroke, and certain types of cancer. Poor nutrition and insufficient exercise are among the leading causes of avoidable death in Europe, and obesity related illnesses are estimated to account for as much as 7% of total healthcare costs in the EU.

Reuters reports that the problem of tackling obesity widens in Mediterranean or southern Europe:

The problem is worst in southern countries, as traditionally healthy Mediterranean diets give way to processed foods rich in fat, sugar and salt--although Poland and Britain have also seen steep rises in child obesity in recent years.
Spain, Portugal and Italy report obesity levels above 30 percent in children aged between 7 and 11, the Commission says.
Dr. Fuhrman's book Eat to Live offers insight on the devolution of the Mediterranean Diet:
In the 1950s people living in the Mediterranean, especially on the island of Crete, were lean and virtually free of heart disease. Yet over 40 percent of their caloric intake come from fat, primarily olive oil. If we look at the diet they consumed back then, we note that Cretans ate mostly fruits, vegetables, beans and some fish. Saturated fat was less than 6 percent of their total fat intake. True, they ate lots of olive oil, but the rest of their diet was exceptionally healthy. They also worked hard in the fields, walking about nine miles a day, often pushing a plow or working other manual farm equipment.
Today the people of Crete are fat, just like us. They're still eating alot of olive oil, but their consumption of fruits, vegetables, and beans is down. Meat, cheese, and fish are their new staples, and their physical activity level has plummeted. Today, heart disease has skyrocketed and more than half the population of both adults and children in Crete is overweight.1
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