Controlling Hunger Part 1

Have you eaten a loaf of garlic bread, a bowl of pasta, and a dish of pistachio gelato and still felt hungry? Have you come home from dinner and then ate a bag of popcorn in secret to satiate you before bed?  You’re not alone.  I hear these stories from people every day, and I’ve had some of my own. Your mind is telling you that you are full because you must undo the top notch on your belt, but your stomach is still complaining it’s empty.  Some people continue to eat, sometimes all day long, until mere moments before they go to bed. They feel helpless and out of control, binging on foods they know they should be avoiding.

Then everybody knows people who are the complete opposite. Those people who eat half a sandwich or a small salad at lunchtime and then declare themselves completely stuffed. And they’re not trying to be modest. They are actually completely full. They won’t eat more because it is uncomfortable for them to do so. These people are often quite thin.

Many of our IDM Program clients have undergone bariatric surgery. Their appetites were so far out of control that they felt they needed invasive, expensive surgery to regulate their unruly bodies.  And despite all the promises of bariatric surgery to allow patients to lose weight and improve health, it fails almost invariably.  The stories are eerily similar.  Initially, they lose some weight, but after several months the weight creeps back on. But worse, they feel that their appetite is just as out of control as it has ever been. “How can this be?” they ask despairingly. “I’ve had my stomach physically stapled to make it smaller!”

They misunderstood the problem with hunger. It’s not about the size of your stomach. Hunger does not occur because your stomach is too big. And if that is not the problem, then surgically cutting it smaller is not going to help. Likewise, hunger is not about your willpower or self-control. You cannot will yourself not to be hungry. You cannot ‘decide’ to be less hungry. You are hungry or you are not.  Your appetite is hormonally driven. That is what we need to fix. Not surgically rewiring our intestines. Not counting calories. If you don’t regulate your appetite on a hormonal level, you’ll never regain control no matter how small your stomach is.

We are hormonally drive to eat (we get hungry) or to not eat (we get full). If people are given dietary advice that makes them hungrier, then they’ll eat more. That’s not their fault, that’s normal. What advice has been the cornerstone of dietary therapy for weight loss for the last 50 years? Cut a few calories each and every day by eating low fat foods, because fat is very calorically dense. We are also told to eat 6 or 7 times per day, or ‘graze’ rather than eating 3 main meals per day as all our ancestors used to do. Sounds pretty reasonable. Here’s why it doesn’t work at all.

There are certain hormones that make us full. These are called satiety hormones, and they are really very powerful. People often imagine that we eat just because food is in front of us, like some mindless eating machine. That’s far from the truth. Imagine that you have just eaten a huge 20-ounce steak. It was so delicious, you even ate a few extra slices, but now you’re completely stuffed. The mere thought of eating more nauseates you. If somebody set down another 12-ounce steak and offered to give you everything for free, could you do it? Hardly.

Our body releases powerful satiety hormones to tell us when to stop eating. And once these kick in, it’s extremely difficult to eat more. This is why there have always been restaurants that will offer you a free meal if you can eat a 40-ounce steak in one sitting. They aren’t giving away very many free meals.

The main satiety hormones are peptide YY, which responds primarily to protein and cholecystokinin, which responds primarily to dietary fat. The stomach also contains stretch receptors. If the stomach is stretched beyond its capacity, it will signal satiety and tell us to stop eating.

So how does the low-fat, calorie reduced diet eating 6 or 7 times per day stack up? By cutting out the fat, we don’t activate the satiety hormone cholecystokinin. Because protein is often eaten along with fat (like a steak, or an egg) then you are not activating the satiety signal peptide YY. This makes us hungry. So, a few hours we eat, we get hungry again. So instead of waiting until the next meal, we eat a snack. Because snacks need to be easily accessible, it tends to be carbohydrate based, like a cracker or a cookie.

It’s fairly simple to prove to yourself. Think about eating steak and eggs for breakfast, which is high in dietary fat and protein. Do you imagine that you would get hungry at 10:30? Now imagine that you ate two slices of low-fat white toast with low fat strawberry jam, and a big glass of orange juice. There’s virtually no fat or protein in this breakfast of champions, but you know as well as I that we are ravenous by 10:30, which sends us out on a mission to find a low-fat muffin to tide us over until 12:00.

Now, instead of eating 3 larger meals, we are eating 6 or 7 smaller meals, this means that we are not activating the stomach stretch receptors to tell us that we are full and should stop eating. While cutting our stomachs to a smaller size with bariatric surgery may seem like an option, the nerves that supply the stomach are often cut during this time, so they cannot provide those all-important satiety signals.

The standard dietary advice to lose weight was doing everything exactly wrong. It could hardly have been worse if they were trying. But it wasn’t a problem with the number of calories. The problem was that the diet we were told to eat for the last 50 years did NOTHING TO CONTROL HUNGER. The problem is not with the people, the problem is the advice nutritional authorities are giving to the people.

The problem is amplified if we are eating, as most people are, processed and refined carbohydrates.  Your blood sugar levels skyrocket telling your pancreas to produce a surge of insulin.  The job of insulin is to tell your body to store food energy as sugar (glycogen in the liver) or body fat. That huge spike in insulin immediately diverts most of the incoming food energy (calories) into storage forms (body fat). This leaves relatively little food energy for metabolism. Your muscles, liver, and brain are still crying out for glucose for energy. So you get hungry despite the fact that you’ve just eaten.  It’s the domino effect from hell if you’re looking to maintain or lose weight. Because these processed foods have removed all or most of the fiber, it does not take up much space, and does not activate the stomach’s stretch receptors. Because they are low fat, they’re removed most of the protein and fat. So, there’s no activation of the satiety signals, at a time when most of the ingested calories of food energy have been deposited in the body fat. No wonder we get hungry! After a huge meal, we can often find ‘room’ for dessert, which is usually highly refined carbohydrates, or we can still drink that sugar sweetened beverage.

For years you’ve been lied to.  You’ve been told that you lack the will power and that your obesity is your fault.  That couldn’t be further from the truth. You think your body is broken because your body doesn’t respond the way you’ve been told it is supposed to. You know you’re following the rules.  You’re eating what the authorities tell you to eat.  You’re barely eating at all to keep your caloric intake low.  You can’t lose weight and you’re hungry all the time. With about 70% of Americans overweight, is it possible that 70% of Americans are broken?

Eliminating processed junk foods and using intermittent fasting regulates the hormones that control your appetite.  People tell me all the time how they turned down bread or cake for the first time ever because they just didn’t feel hungry. So, reducing refined carbohydrates and enjoying natural fats and proteins can create long lasting satiety. But how can you further reduce hunger? The answer, counter-intuitively, is fasting. Eat nothing can shrink your appetite.

A young doctor at the IDM Program had struggled with his weight for many years but eventually lost some weight with a low carbohydrate diet. He wasn’t at his ideal weight, but he was happy to finally be experiencing some weight loss.  But he felt like a slave to food.

After spending the week with me and seeing all the ways fasting can benefit the dozens of patients, he was motivated to try a 7 day fast.  He started his fast without much difficulty, but he was nervous knowing his problem with hunger.  When I followed up with him, he said “for the first time in my life I turned down food because I just didn’t want it.  It wasn’t that I was abstaining because I was fasting, I just really wasn’t hungry. Megan, I’ve never turned down food like that before.”

Many people are frightened to fast because they think it will only increase their already out of control hunger.  We’ve had experience working with thousands of patients adding intermittent fasting to their daily routine. One of the most consistent comments after they start fasting, is how much their appetite has gone down. They always say, “I think my stomach shrank”.  They often report feeling full by eating only eating half the amount of food that they used to. No, their stomach didn’t physically shrink, but their appetites sure did.

The hormone ghrelin is also called the ‘hunger hormone’ because it turns on our appetites, so you want to lower it.  People assume that if you’re fasting, your ghrelin level is going to continue to rise, but that isn’t true.  And most of you know this by now because you’ve been hungry for years.  Eating all the time does not turn off hunger and lower ghrelin.  The answer to turning down ghrelin is the opposite – fasting.

Hormones are cyclical, meaning they go up and down throughout the day.  Circadian rhythm studies consistently find that ghrelin is typically the lowest first thing in the morning.  Patients are often not hungry in the morning but they eat because they’re told it’s “the most important meal of the day”.  Ghrelin also fluctuates throughout the day, which is why we tend to experience hunger in waves throughout the day.  If you are able to fast through the wave, you’ll find yourself no longer experiencing the desire to eat a couple of hours later. Research shows that over the entire day of fasting, ghrelin stays stable.  Not eating for 36 hours does not make people more or less hungry than when they started the fast.  Whether you eat or don’t, your hunger will be the same. Why? Because if you don’t eat, your body will simply take the food energy (calories) it needs from your stores (body fat). You are, in essence, letting your body ‘eat’ your own body fat. Perfect! Once you open up those stores of body fat, you are not hungry, because your organs have access to all the its energy needs.

Ghrelin is also observed to gradually decrease after three days of fasting.  This means that people are less hungry despite not having eaten for 72 hours! And we hear this from our patients every day. Hunger is a hormonally mediated state of mind, not a state of stomach.

What’s even more interesting is that there a greater decline in ghrelin secretion in women than there is in our male counterparts.  This indicates that women can expect to have more benefit from fasting because their hunger can be expected to decrease better than men.

Most of the complications associated with fasting are mind over matter.  People think they’re going to be starving and it’s just impossible.  I understand because at that point they’re eating all day long and feeling like they’re hungry from sunrise to sunset.  This is why I encourage people to just rip off the band-aid and try to do a 24 or 36 hour fast.

“Just try it once,” I tell them.  “If it’s that bad, then we don’t have to do it again.”

Never has anyone stopped after one fast. They’re surprised at just how easy it was and how satiated they feel.  Fasting can give you control back.

2019-04-11T16:20:56-04:0037 Comments

About the Author:

Dr. Fung is a Toronto based kidney specialist, having graduated from the University of Toronto and finishing his medical specialty at the University of California, Los Angeles in 2001. He is the author of the bestsellers ‘The Obesity Code’ and ‘The Complete Guide to Fasting’. He has pioneered the use of therapeutic fasting for weight loss and type 2 diabetes reversal in his IDM clinic.

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BobM
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BobM

There must be differences between people. I’ve tried both a Jimmy-Moore-style, super high fat, low carb diet, and a Ted-Naiman-style, much higher protein and lower fat low-carb diet (both with similar intermittent or long term fasts), and I have found that protein is filling to me and fat is not. I can just keep eating fat, whereas if I eat enough protein (even if the fat content is very low, such as using shrimp and mussels), I cannot eat any more, for a long time. I couldn’t eat more if you put a gun to my head. Meanwhile, give me… Read more »

Karen Speacht
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Karen Speacht

There are definitely some differences between people but do you cook your shrimp and mussels in butter? Most people do. So that is added fat that you may not be thinking about that can be helping to satiate you. Also, fat bombs tend to have sweeteners in them which just mimic carbs and will spike your insulin and make you hungry. Instead, try putting good fats on your meat and vegetables. Since protein turns to glucose, eventually, eating a bit less of that and more green vegetables with fats may still fill you up and you may be able to… Read more »

Jay
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Jay

Yep, you’re right. Protein is by far the most satiating macronutrient. Try eating a can of low-fat refried beans — you won’t be hungry for many, many hours (if at all). Same goes for lean chicken breast. This is how body builders do it when they are cutting. They ramp up protein intake and reduce fats and moderate carbs.

Etu
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Etu

Thank you for all your great work towards humanity. I have benefited from the many informations that your team had provided to thousands of people all over the globe.Today is the 42 day I’m doing my 36 hours of intermittent fasting and I’m enjoying it. Fat around my weist line just disappeared like melting butter, from wearing a size 42 trousers to size 34 now and size 3XL shirts to size medium. I don’t feel hungry even after completed my 36 hours fasting period. Your team deserves a Noble Peace price. Ka kite ano! from Christchurch NZ.

Debra Davis
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Debra Davis

I had barritric surgery May 2018. I lost 50 lbs and have 30 plus to go. I haven’t lost a lb in 7 months and I am hungry all the time. I wish I knew what to do. Barriatrc Dr said I need to walk and exercise even more. Very discouraged.. Debta

Sunitha
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Sunitha

Wow gonna try fasting

mimi_verschueren
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mimi_verschueren

I just don’t understand this in the article: “Because protein is often eaten along with fat (like a steak, or an egg) then you are not activating the satiety signal peptide YY”
I think if you eat high fat and high or moderate protein together you would problably activate both satiety hormones?

Alexa Conner
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Alexa Conner

I think it’s probably the phrasing that’s confusing you. He’s saying that when one doesn’t eat high fat they are also not eating enough protein because protein is usually found in the same things that are also high in fat, such as a steak or an egg. Therefore, the satiety signal peptide YY is not being activated. So you’re correct in your conclusion that eating high fat and high or moderate protein together would activate both satiety hormones.

mimi_verschueren
Member
mimi_verschueren

That sounds logical to me, thxs for your reply!

Joy Black
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Joy Black

I was also confused by that statement.

Adriana
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Adriana

A poorly written sentence in a poorly written paragraph,

freddie
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freddie

it’s not that hard: it means when you cut out the fat in a low fat diet, you are also cutting out the proteins normally associated with the fat in that food, and so, by reducing the protein you don’t activate the peptide YY

Robert Michael Lewis
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Robert Michael Lewis

I had trouble understanding that too. But I think it means if you cut out fat, you likely cut down on protein too – so you do not trigger either of the satiety proteins. I think it could be worded better – it sounds like they are saying protein blocks the satiety peptides.

S
Guest
S

I still haven’t understood what you intend to sell / convince / market through this article. This is information lost in transit

Sherry
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Sherry

I don’t think the purpose of this writing is to persuade (“sell/convince/market”). The purpose here was to inform and explain. Hard to believe, but the internet still contains some actual content that isn’t just barely disguised marketing. I don’t think anything was lost in transit. It’s an explanation, not a sales pitch.

rachel
Guest

Correct Sherry! This blog is just information for our readers. No purchase necessary!

Dev
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Dev

Hi guys just join your group. Started fasting 6 months ago. Friend from work lost 0ver 30lbs on IF and I wanted it to. I am 51, menopausal, lots of hot flashes. Fastings is easy for me, longest fast was 65hrs. Break it not because I am hungry but because everyone around me is eating. I have been doing IF for 6 months now, have not lost a single pound. My feeding state is bad, I start with a huge salad with avocado, eggs, blue cheese salad dressing, chicken, then chips and belvita cookies or chocolate chip cookies, sweet potato… Read more »

rachel
Guest

Try booking a free consult with one of our educators to see if you are a good fit for the coaching program. They are really great at troubleshooting problems so you can reach your goals. https://idmprogram.com/join/

ken
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ken

delete the following and see what happens: “…chips, fruit, cookies, peanuts, belvita…”…”packing it in”

slowly eat 2 brazil nuts and dont drink any water for 10 minutes and see what happens to your appetite as well

also: my dogs want a treat every hour, but i just dont give it to them because i care for them

ian peters
Guest

Join the discussion…

Nihar Ranjan Bhattacharya
Guest

Interesting, scientific, thought prvoking idea, narrated in common man language.
I am a Diabetes and obesity physician for last 30 years in Kolkata, India.
Nobody, not even our professors told us to to think in the way Dr.Jason has been telling.
I wish I cd read read his books
The Diabetes code and
The Obesity code years earlier!
Thank you Dr. Jason Fung and your team.
My patients are getting benifitted.
Now I know why my women pts showing better results with 20 hours fasting. I am yet to start 36 hours fasting.
But I read the Diabetes code book on 28/3/19 only!

Adriana
Guest
Adriana

Note to Editor: This sentence makes no sense. “Because protein is often eaten along with fat (like a steak, or an egg) then you are not activating the satiety signal peptide YY. “

Brenda
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Brenda

You’ve taken it out of context. Read the sentence before (By cutting out the fat we don’t activate the satiety hormone), then the sentence you’re not understanding (because protein is often eaten along with fat). When you cut out the fat you’re not activating the satiety signal; eating a steak (protein + fat) satiates. Take the fat out of the steak & it’s not as satiating.

Liz
Guest
Liz

I am not sure if this applies to all women. I used to be always hungry since being a child. I went on Keto diet and hunger diminished for two years. I had perfect compliance for two years. Than I tried fasting. And got so ravenously hungry like never before in my life. After three days of fasting, I was crazily hungry for two
Months. And I mean ravenously hungry. In other words, there is variance in the response to fasting. What shall people like me do???

Dana Bentley
Guest
Dana Bentley

I have a question. I fix the meals for my family, and it’s very hard to not eat what I have prepared. Is there any solution to this problem? I would like to fast for several days–and I need to fast, but it’s so hard to prepare a meal and then not eat it.

Kellie
Guest
Kellie

I have the same question. I have followed Dr. Fung’s advice and lost 20lbs. in a short amount of time, but I have two problems, one is same as Dana’s, I am the household food preparer for the family and it can sometimes be torture to prepare food and then not eat it, but even worse I found is on the days I eat I feel there is no end to my hunger even though I’m following the protein/ fat guidelines. Even before trying fasting I ate very healthy, all organic, stay away from carbs to the extent possible, but… Read more »

Meg
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Meg

I had to share this as it’s new to me. I’ve just had my substantial low carb, good fat breakfast and sat down to read Dr Fung’s blog. I was still hungry and contemplated having extra eggs (ugh) or a piece of cheese to feel satiated. I had to re read the article to “digest” the info so got up and made myself another cup of tea. As I began to re read and think about ‘skinny people who are full after half a sandwich’ I ACTUALLY fell a trigger switch off my appetite and I felt full, It was… Read more »

Barbara Burns
Guest
Barbara Burns

Is there a Keto Center where a person can go for a week. Jump start the Keto Diet and take classes,listen to lectures prepare food etc?

rachel
Guest

I often refer my clients to dietdoctor.com to get lots of information, recipes, meal plans, and even the grocery list! Check it out!
Rachel Primo – IDM Educator

Karen Favreau
Guest
Karen Favreau

What about controlling hunger during the first few days of a fast? I’ve been very hungry, and the stomach growls continue throughout the day!

Karen Favreau
Guest
Karen Favreau

I’d like to know how to control my hunger when I am fasting! I’ve only been doing it for 3 days, and now I’m 80 hours in but the hunger has not gone away!

rachel
Guest

You should check out some of the Q&A’s on our membership site. Lots of tips and tricks available such as apple cidar vinegar, green tea, etc. https://idmprogram.com/membership/

Edward
Guest

Greetings, filled with thanks for your comprehensive article Dr. Fung ! I heard that a large wave of Ghrelin hits us typically late in the day, about 7 pm. I noticed that a teaspoon of coconut oil calms those terrible hunger symptoms very quickly. So if you come home after work and raid the refrigerator, no matter how much resolve you had in the morning beginning your fast, this tip may help;

Abhishek Nigam
Guest
Abhishek Nigam

I wanted to clarify on recent findings
In a study. Any idea on the below studies recently published:
1. There is a recent study published in “The nutrition journal” in Europe that states that skipping breakfast is leading to insulin resistance and leading to type 2 diabetes.
2. Another study mentions that skipping breakfast and eating late hours increases heart attack rate to a high percent.

Please can someone throw some light as this contradicts to benefits of intermittent fasting to a large extent.

Thanks.

Abhishek

Lisa Jean
Guest
Lisa Jean

When you are fasting is it OK to put a tablespoon or two in your coffee, does this break your fast?

rachel
Guest

Not sure what you are referring to exactly but if you mean cream in your coffee then you should have very little. No more than 3 tbsp on a fasting day.

Tommy D
Guest
Tommy D

I recently failed a pilot medical due to having high blood sugar on a urine test strip. The doctor said I was a diabetic with having had other high readings in the past. On a full blood workup from 2014 indicated my A1C was a 5.8 (not a diabetic, but on the high side). He immediately wanted to take a blood sample and send it in for analysis (to which I refused due to the fact that the last time blood was drawn it was sent to the wrong lab costing me over $700.- instead of my $20.- co-payment!!). And… Read more »