In your car, do you have a light that comes on to caution you when you are low on fuel? Our body also has a signaling device when we are low on fuel, only we can’t see it. Still, the signal for more fuel (food in our instance) is unmistakable and difficult to resist.
Hence, when we detect our internal Morse code activated, usually in the form of food cravings or hunger pangs in our stomach, we often respond by shoveling more food into our mouth, even if we are not really hungry. This is why we sometimes find ourselves at the fridge only an hour or so after we just gorged ourselves with a bountiful meal.
This is unhealthy eating, plain and simple. The moment we stop eating to meet our daily energy requirements and begin eating just to feel full is when caloric intake exceeds caloric expenditure. Guess what that means? I can tell by your grimace that you know it means more unwanted pounds.
The part of our brain that controls appetite and cravings is called the appestat. It’s an amazing metabolic function that is clearly misunderstood by overweight people. Learning to understand it and react correctly to it could be a very easy way to eat both smarter and healthier and maintain your ideal weight.
Imagine the chaos if submarine commanders misinterpreted critical Morse code signals during times of war. It could be that people who are at war with their waistlines might be misinterpreting their own internal Morse code system. As a result, in goes more food and on goes more pounds.
The appestat is in charge of our body’s nutrition requirements. Its job is to monitor every one of the more than three trillion cells that make up our body. When the appestat senses a lack of nutrients, that part of the brain sends out a SOS. The hormone Ghrelin, which stimulates appetite, is released.
Our instinctive reaction is to gobble down whatever food is readily available to us. The SOS stops quickly and we think we have done the right thing. Could our extra pounds be as simple as us getting our internal signals mixed up when we experience food cravings?
When the low fuel gage in your car lights up, what do you do about it? Do you pull over in a panic, crack open a case of Coca-Cola because it’s readily available to you and pour it into your gas tank? Of course not. You would drive to the nearest gas station and fuel up with the exact blend of gasoline necessary for your automobile to perform efficiently.
Sadly, we do not, as a rule, do the same for our body. Remarkably, we exhibit a higher regard for the well being of our car than we do for our own body, unintentional or not.
When the low fuel signal in our car comes on, there is no mistaking what that means or what we need to do about it. When our appestat signals inadequate nutrition in our body, we oftentimes do not interpret that signal correctly. Therefore, we do not react to that signal correctly.
Just as we know not to put Coca Cola into our car’s gas tank and that doing so would cause serious harm to the engine, we need to know, beyond doubt, how to react in the best interests of our own health when our appestat signals a need for more nutrition.
Food cravings are what activate that internal signal and for overweight or obese people, it often also triggers a sudden end to their well-intentioned dietary efforts because of poor food choices. It’s why we must learn to understand food cravings or hunger pangs and how to react to them in a healthy way.
Note: This blog post is the first of a three-part series on food cravings and how our reaction to them effects our health.
Next Tuesday: If food cravings are a friend to our health, what we do wrong to turn them into a health enemy?