"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.

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Comments (8) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
Lydia - March 18, 2007 6:58 PM

So you are saying that if someone is hungry within a few hours that is not real hunger? Isn't being shaky a sign of low-blood sugar? Most people I know that are really hungry get stomach cramps.

True enough, we all need to eat a healthy diet, but I don't really understand your version of "true hunger".

Anne Marie Barakat - March 23, 2007 8:44 AM

I think this article makes perfect sense. When at home we have "nothing very natural" to eat (by that I mean a great variety of fruits and vegetables and of whole grain products), I don't feel like eating but I "try" and I end up eating a lot of animal products (milk, cheese, eggs, ham...) and white bread/pasta. I end up digesting them really fast and feel hungry and stressed and even shaky most of the time. I also wake up at night, sometimes more than just once, because I feel hungry. Lately, I've been feeling like I want to eat "only natural" foods and I will try my best. Thank you for your article.

Mr WRIGHT - June 16, 2007 7:35 PM

Well...in order to LOOSE weight , one needs to go on a DIET , which means , eat fewer calories than needed , so then the FAT comes in to play.Anyway the body is designed to become overweight with an abundance of food. This is a survival mechenism ; if you have more food than you need , your body will store it as fat for a rainy day.

tony - August 25, 2008 9:56 AM

Does coffee cause hunger

John - December 9, 2008 11:33 PM

Coffee can cause "stress hunger', but not "real hunger". I know personally, that after i haven't had coffee for a couple of days, i tend to get withdraw headaches and shakiness, which i may choose to cure by eating.

Mary Olson - August 20, 2009 12:46 PM

Last week coffee started to cause me to be ravenously hungry for no reason. I don't sleep enough and rely on it to stay awake during the day. Before this occurred coffee actually helped me eat less, so I think whether coffee causes hunger or diminishes it depends on a person's body. Also, I have to say I don't agree with the author's description of "true hunger." I can honestly say I have never experienced this version of "true hunger," which I think would be nearly impossible as I am recovering from an eating disorder and have spent a lot of time hungry...

Bea - August 29, 2009 11:18 PM

This article makes a lot of sense. It has always been a mental battle with me when it comes to regulating my food intake. There was a time when i even convinced myself that rice is tasteless therefore not worth eating. I lost 20 pounds with that mindset in less than 2 months. However, i gained back all 20 pounds after 2 years. It started when i allowed myself to eat 2 spoonfuls of rice, which became half a cup, which became 1 cup, which became 2 cups... i missed eating rice so much, i completely let myself loose! 2 weeks ago i decided it was time again to figure out how to outwit my mind and to once again be in control. i went without food for several hours, allowing my self to feel past the gnawing, empty stomach sensation and lightheadedness. After a few hours, these uncomfortable sensations were gone. I allowed my self a small portion of my favorite pasta, giving it all my attention, enjoying how my mouth watered upon contact with that bit of food "melting" deliciously inside my mouth. After 3 forkfuls,i noticed that i was not salivating as much anymore so i stopped eating. I was completely satisfied even if i just consumed barely half of my meal. So since 2 weeks ago, i've been tuning in to my body. I'm using the mouth watering sensation as my guage to determine if i've already eaten enough. And i'm happy to say i've lost 5 pounds in 2 weeks while still enjoying my favorite foods :)

Aidan Torrence - August 21, 2010 5:10 PM

I must agree with the first commenter because sometimes I don't eat at all a day until 5 in the evening and the symptoms that I have when I get hungry are the symptoms that the writer said are symptoms of digestion. I don't think that is correct because it doesn't take 20 hours to digest food. Feeling shaky and weak are true hunger symptoms.

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