If you’re trying to manage your weight, you’ve probably spent a fair amount of time thinking about how to control and fight cravings. How can you train your body to eat less?
Are there ways to control your appetite? How do other people do it? How can you learn to distinguish between real hunger and the urge to eat? Today The Woman Post brings you three different ways the body register or experiences hunger.
One of the reasons the diet fails is a constant feeling of hunger. A study in the medical journal Obesity notes that this helps explain why it’s so challenging to maintain a low body weight long-term.
The big drawback is that many have wrong ideas about food and ignore that snacks are why they cannot lose weight. In addition, some feel constant anxiety that leads them to overeat. Here are three pillars of appetite that will help you understand how cravings work and why your body reacts the way it does when you’re hungry.
The 3 Pillars of Appetite
Researchers Scott M. Sternson and Anne-Kathrin Eiselt from Howard Hughes Medical Institute in Chevy Chase, Maryland, published a study titled “Three Pillars for the Neural Control of Appetite.” Sternson and Eiselt describe three neurological mechanisms that suppress appetite.
1. Low Glucose: When our glucose levels drop, we experience unpleasant sensations that increase in intensity until we eat something. Interestingly, these sensations start to diminish when we have access to food, even before consuming it.
2. Stretched Stomach: The second pathway is triggered by proprioceptors in the stomach that tell us that our stomach is full. As our stomach stretches, we feel less comfortable, decreasing our desire to eat.
3. Our Senses: Our senses trigger the third appetite control mechanism—the sight, smell, and taste of food trigger pleasurable sensations that lead us to eat.
Avoiding Pain vs. Seeking Pleasure
The first two pathways (low glucose, which increases the urge to eat, and a stretched stomach which decreases the desire to eat) are known as aversive signals. In both cases, our behavior (eating or not eating) is triggered by the desire to alleviate an uncomfortable sensation. On the third path, the presence of attractive foods is precisely the opposite. In this case, our response is governed by the desire to experience more than one pleasurable stimulus.
The first two paths seem purely functional. For example, when an animal needs food, the pain of hunger drives it to look for it. The discomfort of having a full stomach prevents that animal from eating until it physically harms itself. The third path, however, is more hedonic. That is, what drives us to eat is governed not by the physical need to eat but by the availability of foods that give us pleasure.
What is the function of this? Perhaps when food was scarce, this may have motivated animals to take advantage of occasional windfalls of nutrients or energy. However, we are now surrounded by excessive amounts of calories. Consequently, many foods have been manufactured to trigger our pleasure centers.
If the presence of certain foods will trigger a strong desire to eat or continue eating (separate from our biological need to eat), we must resist the temptation. According to researchers, controlling our food environment is essential, rather than relying on our willpower.