Is Willpower To Blame For Overeating? | Tips To Help You Manage Your Hunger Hormones

You may be relieved to know that your hormones and the signals from your brain are more to blame than your lack of willpower.

As you may have guessed, the two main reasons we eat are:

1. Hunger

2. Pleasure

 

And our decision to stop eating is determined by a number of factors including:

1. Fullness

2. Boredom with taste

3. Portion size

 

Hormones released from your gut play a major role in making you feel hungry or full. These hormones can be categorised into two groups:

  • The hunger hormone 
    • The only known hunger hormone, ghrelin, is released from your stomach just before meals and in most people, its levels go down after meals to stop us from feeling hungry once we’ve eaten.

 

  • The fullness hormones
    • Two main hormones released from the intestine that signal ‘fullness’ are PYY and GLP-1. The more you eat, the more you release PYY and GLP-1, and the fuller you feel.
    • Leptin is another hormone that is released from your fat cells that also signal fullness.

 

These hormones travel to the ‘satiety centre’ in your brain allowing for perception of hunger or fullness. But…it doesn’t end there! In the brain, there is always a battle between the ‘satiety centre’ and the ‘pleasure centre’. If the satiety centre wins, we eat out of hunger/fullness, but it seems that the ‘pleasure centre’ often overrides the ‘satiety centre,’ making us eat for reasons other than true hunger!


 

How are hunger/satiety hormones different in obese individuals as compared to lean individuals?

 

1. PYY and GLP-1 levels are lower in obese individuals meaning they may feel less full after meal.

2. Ghrelin levels don’t quite go down after consuming meals in obese people, explaining why they may feel constantly hungry despite having had just eaten.

3. Obese people develop leptin resistance. More fat cells in obese people mean that more leptin is released and hence by definition they must be feeling more full. However, their cells don’t quite respond as well to leptin.

 

Can we influence our gut hormones through lifestyle?

The answer seems to be YES. The 3 main factors that can influence your gut hormones, and hence how hungry or full you feel, are the following:

 

1. Food you eat

  • Protein - The king of macronutrients (carbohydrates, fat and protein) in terms of effects on the fullness hormones is protein.
  • Dietary fibre - Fibre found in oats and other wholegrains seems to decrease the hunger hormone and increase fullness hormones

 

Tip: Consume a high-fiber, high-protein diet to feel less hungry and fuller for longer. 

 

Examples of high-protein, high-fiber foods:

  • Breakfast: Overnight oats
    • Mix oats and a handful of nuts of your choice with yogurt. If you wish to sweeten it, you may add some grated apples. Let the mix soak overnight in the fridge.

  • Lunch: Scrambled eggs with vegetables
    • Saute your vegetable of choice (e.g. mushrooms, peppers, spinach) until they are almost cooked. Beat together eggs with a splash of milk. Add the mix to the vegetables. Cook the mix to your liking.

  • Dinner: Roast chicken, chickpea and quinoa salad
    • To cook the quinoa, saute the quinoa in olive oil, with seasoning of your choice. Then add water. Bring the quinoa and water to boil, reduce the heat and let it simmer with the lead on, until the water is absorbed. Mix the quinoa with the roast chicken and canned chickpeas. You can add a handful of fresh coriander and some feta cheese to make it tastier.

 


Explore our Metabolic Balance Programme


 

 

2. Sleep

You may have noticed that you are more likely to make poor food choices and eat more, after a poor night sleep. This is because sleep deprivation increases ghrelin levels, so you are more likely to feel hungry during the day.

 

Tips:

  • Try dimming the lights a few hours before bedtime
  • Avoid watching TV or looking at your computer or mobile phone screen just before going to bed
  • Try going to bed at the same time each night to reset your ‘brain clock.’

 

3. Stress

Although stress can lead to overeating for a myriad of reasons, recent studies indicate that exposure to stress increases levels of ghrelin and hence make us feel hungry

 

Tip: We can’t really avoid being exposed to stressors in our daily lives, but what we can do is to change the way we react to stress. Having a daily meditation routine is a great tool to help with stress management.

 

In conclusion, our biology plays a major role in determining what and how much we eat and we may be able to modulate it through making small changes in our lifestyle.

 

It is also important to acknowledge the important role of various psychological, social and genetic factors in determining our eating behaviour.

 

Finally, our inability to stop overeating, goes over and beyond lack of will power…you can now stop blaming yourself!

 

At WeightMatters, our Nutritional Therapist offers a holistic approach to health, closely examining not only your diet but also other aspects of your lifestyle which may be influencing your appetite and your food choices.

 

Our therapists can help you achieve your weight loss goals through helping you with stress management. We also offer Metabolic Balance, a structured nutritional programme that rebalances and resets your metabolism and speeds up your body’s natural ability burn fat.

 

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