Have you ever found yourself in the middle of the night, opening the fridge to see if something else grew in there? Yes, we have all been in this scenario, after a long day at work where we skipped breakfast, hardly had anything for lunch and in the evening ate ravenously. In this lousy daily habit, what is happening inside your body? Well, let us dig into what is taking place.
We have a fascinating hunger hormone that lives in our stomach, and its name is ghrelin.
It’s what tells your brain when you are hungry and have neglected to feed yourself. It also ends up spiking when you crash diet and that slice of pizza starts to wink at you from the corner pizza place. Yes, ghrelin is the hormone that tells you when you are hungry and need to eat. One of the points I aim to teach people is how to control their hunger hormone, because if you learn how to do that, you can control random cravings, your weight, and of course, late-night eating.
Let’s look into what makes ghrelin tattle tale on you to your brain and result in overeating. There are several potent triggers for ghrelin, such as sleep deprivation, stress, and skipping breakfast.
First, let’s look at sleep deprivation.
Ghrelin lets our brain know when we are running low on fuel, and he spikes when we are sleep deprived. So when we don’t get enough sleep, he kicks up the cravings and desire for snacking.
Here is a short video with more info:
Now onto stress.
When we are under stress, our bodies find ways to cope with the circumstances causing tension. Subsequently, there is an increased release of ghrelin, which is an essential response to the stress. As stress is present, the desire to eat highly palatable food is triggered as a reward, and ghrelin will increase the motivation to do so as a compensatory mechanism. Controlling stress with practices such as mindfulness can help alleviate this vicious cycle. Here is a little more information on the benefits of mindfulness:
Finally, skipping breakfast.
When we run out the door with just a cup of coffee before catching the next train, ghrelin starts to spike. Skipping breakfast can then result in eating more later in the day. People who eat more of their meals in the earlier part of the day and less at night tend to maintain a healthier weight. An overnight fast of 12 to 16 hours may also help improve the metabolism and aid in fat burn, since our insulin levels are down for a more extended period of time.
But the quality of the food we are eating is also as important. Having ultra-processed carbohydrates like a bagel or muffin will not do the trick, and will only result in insulin spikes and a blood sugar crash mid-morning. We want to eat a breakfast that is of good quality, filled with protein and fiber. Examples can be a vegetable egg scramble and a slice of Ezekiel bread with an avocado mashed on top, or a tofu scramble with vegetables, which also tastes delicious. Adding peanut butter, almond milk, fresh fruit and nuts to your plain oatmeal in the morning will give you a significant boost to conquer your day.
What to keep in mind.
The take-home message is to aim for eight hours of sleep per night, do what you can do manage stress as much as possible, and when it comes to meals, eat like royalty for breakfast and lunch and eat lightly for dinner. Give proper thought to what you feed that amazing human body that does so much for you every day, because you only get one in this lifetime.