Are You Really Hungry?

Do you find yourself bingeing on junk food more often than you would like to? Tarang Sinha lists the five hunger motivations that might be prompting you to eat more than necessary.

An obese girl is eating pastries while waiting for her result.
“I thought you were on a diet?” one of her friends says.
“Oho, reverse ‘Desserts’. Doesn’t it become ‘Stressed’? I am stressed!” The girl replies.
This dialogue from a movie got me thinking about the fact that it’s not always your stomach that feels hungry, sometimes, it’s your brain too! We feel hungry when our fat levels drop or when our stomach is empty. That hungry feeling is caused by the release of a hormone, the hunger hormone, called ghrelin. Psychology says that when we eat, we are not necessarily hungry. There are several hunger motivations and they are mostly external. It’s these triggers that manipulate us to reach out for junk food. So, the next time you are tempted to reach out for that bite, watch out for one of the triggers listed below.

Loneliness or Idleness
You are alone at home. Feeling bored. You browse through different television channels, reposing on the couch. Suddenly, you think getting a packet of chips or biscuits or chocolate would be a more comforting idea and you end up munching on them. Sounds familiar?
Yes, loneliness is a big hunger motivation. Idleness is the biggest culprit of over-eating, even when you are not hungry. Studies show that loneliness enhances ghrelin, the hunger hormone, secretion and incites you to eat. Eating is a social activity. People like to eat together, so, when people feel socially disconnected, they choose food/eating to fix this disconnection.

What you can do:
- Try to keep yourself busy.
- Read something you enjoy.
- Drink water.
- Sometimes, when you feel you are hungry, you are actually thirsty.
- Studies tell us that keeping your body well hydrated kills the false signal of hunger.
- Talk to someone over the phone.
- And, if you have to eat something, then opt for fruits or corns or nuts.

Stuffed kitchen closet
There is no bigger attraction than a stuffed kitchen closet or fridge. If you are aware of the delicacies stored in your kitchen, you keep visiting your kitchen. I remember, while preparing for my board exams, I would stock up on biscuits and cakes. And even when I wasn’t hungry, my entire attention hovered around those packets. I couldn't concentrate until I finished them off!

What you can do:
l If you are on a weight loss mission, refrain from keeping junk food at home.
l Avoid stuffing your closets/fridge with cream biscuits, chips or cold drinks or any other high calorie food. It’s easy.

Emotional eating can also be one way to beat stress. Stress triggers hormones that can cause hunger. There is evidence that there are complex hormonal symptoms involved in hunger and fullness and appetite that are influenced by stress.
Kavita Devgan, nutritionist, weight management consultant and author of Don’t Diet explains how we are stressed, our body secretes a hormone adrenaline. Adrenaline triggers the metabolism of fat reserves to release energy. When stress recedes, cortisol, the stress hormone, takes over. It increases our appetite to ensure that our body can replace the used-up energy, and we end up eating to make up for the lost energy that isn’t lost actually.

What you can do:
A kitchen/fridge devoid of high calorie delicious appetisers will help you in this case.
- Or, just go for a walk.
- Just make sure that you are not walking around any food zone. It all comes down to being conscious of this trigger and refusing to give into it.

Staying up till late at night
A study done by NorthWestern University classifies people into two categories; late sleepers and normal sleepers. Researchers found that late sleepers consumed more calories a day, twice as much fast food, drank higher calorie sodas and had a higher body mass index (BMI) as compared to those with a normal sleeping pattern.
If you stay up late at night, you are mostly lonely and bored, and more likely to eat even when you are not hungry.

What you can do:
- Brush your teeth right after you eat dinner.
- It puts a psychological effect on your mind and prevents you from eating anything after brushing.
- Drink green tea. It’s super healthy and somehow resists your desire to eat at night.
- Try to sleep on time. Remember, your day can be more productive if you start your day early in the morning.

Food that’s good in appearance, aroma, and taste can pique your interest and desire to eat.
Appetite/craving is different from hunger. Hunger is a physiological need, but appetite is something that can be triggered by various factors such as thought, sight, feeling,
or sensation. Hunger can be satisfied but appetite, sometimes, can go on unnecessarily adding up to your weight.

What you can do:
- In this case too, point number 2 will help you.
- Even if you have a well-stocked kitchen, you should control your cravings. And, it’s not a tough thing to do.

“If you can learn to ignore the urge, cravings typically lasts not more than 10 minutes,” says Kavita Devgan.

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