Always hungry? This could be why

Many people who try any one of the weight loss diets are frustrated in the long-term. Some fortunate people do manage to keep weight off over many years, but most gain all of it back over time.

On May 16, an article “Always Hungry? Here’s Why” was published in The New York Times by two prominent researchers, David Ludwig of Harvard Medical School and Mark Friedman of the Nutrition Science Initiative. The article is scientifically complex, but their conclusions are simple and direct.

They note that the traditional teaching is that to lose weight, you need to either take in fewer calories and/or exercise more, and that with enough willpower, you will lose weight. This theory makes sense, thinking of energy in vs. energy out, but does not translate into fact in the real world.

They state that if we eat the wrong types of foods, that when these foods are metabolized, they are quickly transported into our fat cells. And when the fat sucks up all these calories, it leaves a deficiency of nutrients in our bloodstream, which our body interprets as being hungry, so we eat more. The cycle continues and our fat cells build up further, but we still feel hungry.

So the trick is to keep the food from being sucked into the fat, and this is done by avoiding the wrong foods. Traditionally diets have stressed cutting down on fat, but Ludwig and Friedman state this is the wrong approach, as many people just replace fat with simple carbohydrates, which are probably worse as far as forming more fat in our bodies.

Someone can be on a low calorie diet, but if the calories ingested are poor-quality calories, the person can still become or remain fat.

They caution that ultra-low carbohydrate diets are not the answer either. Part of the issue is that we each have a certain “set point” in our metabolism—an internal thermostat—that is likely determined by our genes. Some people have a set point that is higher allowing them to eat more, but many people are not so fortunate.

Genes are not the only factor however. If we are sleep deprived, stressed out, or inactive, our body reacts by pushing more calories into our fat cells, leaving us deprived of nutrients in our bloodstream, and hungry.

Ludwig and Friedman state that rather than counting calories, people serious about weight control just need to keep in mind the content of what they are eating. They state, “Relatively unprocessed, low-glycemic-index foods are best, things that our grandmother would recognize. Choose relatively unprocessed foods whenever you can and cut back on white bread, white rice, potato products, prepared breakfast cereals, and, of course, concentrated sugars.” That is, you should choose foods with a low glycemic index.

If you cut down on “bad” carbohydrates, expect to feel hungry, even somewhat miserable, for a few weeks until your body adjusts and resets your internal thermostat. Don’t expect sudden weight loss. Dieting is not a short-term process. Over the long term, if you constantly work at eating right, you have a much better chance of keeping a healthy weight.

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Read also in ProcuraMed:

What is the Glycemic Index?

Using the Glycemic Index in your life

How to choose the healthiest breads

How to minimize salt in your diet



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