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THE HUNGER MECHANISM
and How It Can Derail

Most commonly, the deregulation of the hunger mechanism involves interpreting a different stimulus (such as anxiety, boredom, or depression) as a need to take in food. For certain individuals, the act of eating may relieve these conditions, so they learn to associate this relief with food intake. As such, whenever the person experiences these states, he or she is likely to respond by eating. In the long-run, then, these states become synonymous with the sensation of "hunger" and evoke a common response: Food Intake.

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For some people, the simple act of socializing becomes associated with food intake. Going to a movie becomes associated with having a bag of popcorn and a large pop. The tension of a business meeting is alleviated by having the meeting over a meal. A date becomes more comfortable is it includes socializing over drinks. Hanging out with one's friends is more relaxing in the coffee-shop. Etc, etc...
If we examine our lives, we will find a great many occasions when we really don't need food, but we take it in anyway, as a matter of fat. Such occasions are frequent, they happen on a daily basis, and become our modus operandi (i.e., our way of relating to food intake). Oftentimes, we consume high calorie foods on such occasions, and don't even count it as food intake, since it constitutes an automatic act. At the end of the day, we may forget, for instance, the 2-3 slices of pizza we ate at the office just because someone ordered a pizza, or the Frappucino we drank in the coffee shop hanging out with our friends. Unfortunately, food won't return the favor: It will not forget us.


Solutions:

Generally, the deregulation of the hunger mechanism indicates a lifestyle problem, and as such requires the "rewiring" of one's attitude towards food. First and foremost, it requires increased awareness. Try to apply these 2 rules:

  1. "Everything I ingest constitutes food and brings in calories. I will not ingest anything unless I really need it."

  2. "Whenever I feel hungry, I'll take a moment to think:
    • Am I really hungry, or just looking for something to do?
    • Am I really hungry, or just under tension?
    • Am I really hungry, or just feeling down?
    If I answer 'really hungry'- I'll go ahead and eat. If I answer otherwise, I'll step away from the food and look for another solution to my problem."

Applying the 2 rules above consistently may be enough to solve a lot of weight control problems.

Of course, there are instances where the drive to eat is deregulated due to medical problems, such that the person feels 'really hungry' much more often than normal. One such problem is increased insulin in one's blood, which decreases blood sugar levels and thereby makes one feel hungry. Increased insulin (or hyper-insulinemia) occurs in certain tumors of the pancreas which produce insulin. It also occurs in diabetes type 2, syndrome X, polycystic ovary, hyper- cortisolism, etc.
Increased insulin in one's blood predisposes to weight gain. This is why the disorders mentioned above are all associated with certain degrees of obesity.


The Mechanism of Type 2 Diabetes:

On this page, we will dwell briefly on the mechanism of diabetes type 2 - a condition which is ramping up at incredible rate in our day and age. Diabetes type 2 is closely linked to obesity. In fact, it appears to be largely triggered by weight gain. Once established, diabetes type 2 will then determine more weight gain, in a vicious cycle which is self-accelerating.
Here's how it happens: Increased food intake (particularly of sugars and saturated fats), leads to increased levels of glucose and fatty acids in one's blood. The body responds by secreting the hormone insulin, which has the mission of transporting glucose and fatty acids from the blood into the cells. Once inside the cells, glucose is either burned for energy, or converted to glycerol (a precursor for the formation of fats). Glycerol combines with fatty acids to form triglycerides (fats), which are then stored in fat deposits, resulting in weight gain.

In conclusion: Eating foods rich in sugars and saturated fats will result in high levels of insulin in one's blood. And, as described above, high levels of insulin promote weight gain. Our body, however, has its own way of dealing with this situation: When constantly subjected to high insulin blood-levels, the body down-regulates its cellular insulin-receptors. These receptors are the ones enabling the insulin to transport glucose and fatty acids into the cells. If the number of such receptors goes down, insulin will not be able to complete its task, and therefore a higher amount of glucose and fatty acids will remain circulating in the blood. This condition is called insulin resistance. It results in higher blood glucose levels (diabetes), simply because less glucose is transported into the cells by the hormone insulin. In turn, depletion of intracellular glucose reserves will cause one to feel hungry more often - resulting in more eating, more insulin secretion, more down-regulation of cellular insulin receptors, more glucose circulating free in the blood, etc. Thus, the vicious cycle is accelerating.

Oftentimes, the cure for type 2 diabetes is simply weight loss (accomplished by switching to healthy foods, i.e., foods with low sugar and low saturated fat content, and limiting portions to a reasonable amount.

 


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