Ep #6: Why Eating More Can Make You Hungrier & How to End the Overeating Cycle

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There's so much information out there about weight loss, it can get kind of confusing. Luckily, I figured out a way to stop feeling hungry all the time at work and constantly snacking in the break room. I'm going to share my tools with you today so you don't have to take as long as I did to figure out an effective way to lose weight. 

What even is hunger? I'm breaking down the concept of hunger to show you why distinguishing true hunger is key to your weight loss. To help you on your way, I'm sharing an amazing tool that I use all the time to help me determine how hungry I actually am and if I really need that cookie on my break. There are three types of hunger that I'll be exploring, and this will also help you pinpoint where you're at so you can start losing weight in an effective way.

Tune in as I share one of my go-to tools that is going to be crucial in your weight loss journey! This has helped me effortlessly maintain my weight and never overeat and I know it's going to make you feel amazing too.

To celebrate the launch of the show, I’m going to be giving away Starbucks gift cards to three lucky listeners who subscribe, rate and review the show on iTunes. Find out how to enter here!

What You’ll Learn from this Episode:

  • My eating regimen at work and how I control hunger.

  • How hunger actually works.

  • The hunger trifecta and what keeps it from working properly.

  • My go-to tool that helps me determine if I'm actually hungry.

  • How to calibrate your hunger scale for an accurate result.

  • The 3 types of hunger.

Listen to the Full Episode:

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Full Episode Transcript:

Welcome to Permanent Weight Loss for Busy Nurses, the only podcast that teaches busy, working nurses the practical tools they need to feel better at work and keep the weight off for good. Here’s your host, Registered Nurse and Certified Weight-Loss Coach, Charmaine Platon…

Hello my amazing, hardworking, and dedicated nurses. Happy Thursday. If you're in your third shift this week, keep going strong. And if this is your first day back, welcome back. Hope you had a wonderful time off and welcome to the sixth episode of the Permanent Weight Loss for Busy Nurses Podcast. I'm so excited, I can't believe I'm already at episode six, you guys. So fun.

So before I introduce today's topic, I wanted to give a shout-out to my listener Ruby. Ruby said that she's literally been listening to the fourth episode I had on time management and she's been listening to it every single day. She told me it's her favorite and that she's been working on managing her stress and her mind ever since she's heard those first few episodes I released.

So I just wanted to give some huge props to her for listening so intently and for already applying those concepts to her life, even if the podcast was literally just launched. And it's one thing to listen and consume information, but it's a whole other thing to actually apply the tools to your life. So I wanted to give props to Ruby and I wanted to recognize her for that. So great job Ruby, keep it up.

Anyhow, moving on to today's episode, I want to talk about the most basic way to lose weight. Now, in my last episode, episode number five, I talked about why fat is not the enemy and why it's actually vital. It's crucial to have fat on our body for weight loss. But in today's episode, I want to talk about something that seems like such a no-brainer for losing weight.

But it's a lot harder than it seems, and it's the simple idea that - you ready for this, you guys? This is the secret for losing weight. You eat when you're hungry and you stop eating when you're full. Wow, isn't that crazy? I know it sounds so simple, but why the heck is it so hard to stop eating when you're full?

That is the million-dollar question and I don't know about you guys, but this was such a tough concept for me to grasp for a very long time, especially working 12-hour shifts. And I hear you guys in the back too, my night shifters, I hear you saying that nights are tough too on the weight loss. And I know exactly what that felt like because I worked nights for a year myself.

And in a future episode, I will touch upon how working night shift might affect your weight because a lot of people ask me about that. But for this episode specifically, I want to break down the concept behind hunger, I want to make it simple, and actually help you guys really just understand what hunger actually is.

There was so much adjusting and so much trial and error I had to do because I was constantly hungry at work. I had to do so much coaching on myself and use a lot of the tools I'm about to share with you in today's episode just to actually get this concept down. This concept of hunger and what it actually is.

And luckily, I figured out a way to stop feeling hungry at work and I'm going to share with you today exactly what to do so you don't have to take as long as I did to figure out the most effective eating regimen and the most effective mindset tools to help you stop feeling hungry at work.

And nowadays, just to paint a picture of what work looks like for me now in terms of hunger, here's what I'm able to do now because of these tools. So I eat my lunch early, like 11am, and when I eat my lunch, it is not a small lunch. It's a huge lunch. It's a pretty big lunch, and then after that lunch I am able to not eat comfortably and not feel like I'm starving at all for literally the rest of the shift.

And actually, I usually don't eat up until the next day. I fast for about 20 to 23 hours sometimes. Mostly 20 hours. So I eat at 11, I don't eat at all for the remainder of the day until the next day, the following day, and my eating window is like, 8am to 12pm. But that's what I'm able to do now because of this tool that I'm about to share with you.

So first of all, let me ask you a question. What is hunger? Because here's the thing; what we often think is hunger right now is not actually real physical hunger. I know I used to think that before hunger was just this one sensation or this one feeling that would come up sometimes like you'd feel a growling in your stomach or you'd feel like your stomach's pretty empty and so you'd eat something.

But hunger is so much more complex than that and I have to say, understanding how hunger works, what causes hunger, and how to distinguish what true hunger is is crucial to weight loss because once you really dial this in, you will master the skill of eating only when you're actually hungry and you'll stop eating when you're actually full.

And yes, I believe that this is truly a skill that you have to practice. But don’t worry, by the end of this episode, you are going to be an expert at understanding hunger, you're going to know exactly what it is, you'll know the three different types of hunger and how to stop feeling hungry so you stop snacking in the break room like, every three hours, which was me for six years.

So don't feel bad if you're doing that right now. This is where I started and this doesn't have to be how you continue your journey. So I'm super excited to share this with all of you, so let's get started.

First of all, how does hunger actually work? A major myth I want to dispel about hunger is eating less makes you hungrier. In fact, it's just the opposite. Eating more can cause you to be hungrier. Now, in episode number five I talked about insulin levels and how insulin has to be low for your body to start burning fat.

If you are in a sugar burning mode, you're hungrier because after you eat carbs or sugar, that energy is stored as glycogen in your liver, but it's depleted very quickly. If your body is efficient at burning fat, you'll be less hungry because your body will literally train itself to metabolize glucose without carbs.

It will learn how to metabolize glucose from non-carbohydrate sources, including lactate, amino acids, and glycerol or fat. This is exactly how people who fast for days don't die. Have you ever wondered about that? Why do people who fast, like, why do they not die?

So another question, have any of you watched the movie 127 Hours starring James Franco? The movie is about an outdoorsy guy named Aron Ralston and he's actually a keynote speaker that I watched at last year's ANCC Magnet Conference and oh my god, he is incredible. And I don't want to give away too much about the story but I feel like everybody knows about this story except me and when I heard about the Magnet Conference I was like oh my gosh, what? Anyway, look him up. Aron Ralston, 127 Hours.

But anyway, he talked about his experience hiking in these remote canyons in Utah and about eight miles away from his truck while he was in a deep and narrow slot of the canyon, an 800 pound boulder tumbled loose, pinning Aron's right hand and wrist against the canyon wall for 127 hours.

He had barely any food, any water, and yet he survived in that canyon for five days straight. And he's not a big guy. He was a pretty thin guy to begin with. And so there's way more to the movie than him just not eating by the way, I was literally crying and I was so inspired by him when I heard him talk in the conference, so go watch him speak on YouTube. He is amazing and his talks will literally give you goose bumps.

But anyway, I wanted to bring him up because we don't die when our glycogen stores are used up because we have this mechanism in our body to obtain glucose from non-carbohydrate sources and it's called gluconeogenesis. Does that ring a bell for you guys? Or if there's any nursing students listening to this, does that bring up some trauma for you? Just kidding.

The glucose that we get from carbs, sugar, or flour is so easily metabolized as energy that our body craves it, but it doesn't need it all day because we have our fat. We have the gluconeogenesis and fat is an abundant source of energy that we already have.

So we have to train our body, train our liver to metabolize glucose from non-carbohydrate sources instead of just what we eat, instead of the carbohydrate sources that we eat for us to burn fat efficiently. Now, I brought all that up because when you eat sugar constantly and your glycogen stores are depleted, you're feeling hungrier because those stores are depleted.

Your body is craving that sugar over and over once the sugar is consumed. But again, with the gluconeogenesis, if you train your body to get energy from other sources instead of the food, you are going to feel fuller because your body's not dependent on that external source of energy. So I just wanted to recap that just to make that make a little bit more sense.

There are three main hormones that regulate your hunger. The trifecta of hunger. And when I like to think about hunger hormones, these three hormones, I like to think about it kind of like if you imagine a triangle on a piece of paper and you write hunger in the middle and all three main hormones are at the different edges of the triangle.

So in the middle you have hunger and the three main points of the triangle would be insulin, ghrelin, and leptin. If one of these out of whack, your hunger is going to be out of whack. So that's why it's kind of like a triangle shape. One of them will always affect the other.

So when we have insulin, insulin is the fat storage hormone. It's a hormone made by the pancreas that helps your body turn sugar in your blood or glucose into energy and that energy is stored as glycogen in your liver and muscles and is readily available as fuel for when your body needs energy right away. Like when you're exercising, lifting something, or moving in any certain way.

But when you eat more carbs or sugar than your body needs for fuel, the remainder of that glucose is stored as fat. Another thing that's really important to know about insulin is that when your insulin is high, your body can't burn fat because insulin's job as a hormone is to literally signal your body to store fat. That's why it's so important that I emphasized in my last episode that you must keep your insulin low if you want to burn fat and lose weight.

Now, the second hormone ghrelin is the hunger hormone, and an easy way that I remember ghrelin is to remember that the word ghrelin is like your stomach is growling. They just sound similar. Anyway, ghrelin is the hormone responsible for turning on your appetite. It's made in the stomach and your ghrelin levels tend to rise before a meal and decrease after a meal. So a lot of people associate ghrelin with appetite. So if you have less ghrelin, you will have less hunger.

Now, the last piece of this hunger hormone trifecta is leptin. This is the hormone that's in charge of telling us when we're actually full. It's produced by our fat cells and it turns off appetite and helps us to stop eating. Now, like I mentioned earlier, all of these have to be working properly in order to tell your body that you are full.

In order to tell your body when you're actually hungry, you have to have all these points of the trifecta to be working. Again, if one of these are not working properly, your hunger will be off. So now you might be wondering what kind of things exactly will affect the hunger trifecta and keep it from working properly. The food that we eat.

When we eat foods that are highly concentrated in sugar and flour, our insulin levels are increased to a much higher extent than if you simply ate real food. Food that doesn't have an ingredients list, food that is the ingredient. Not in a box, but it's just the ingredient itself.

So our pancreas has to work so hard to accommodate for all that artificially concentrated sugar and flour that we just ingested. So it will be secreting way more insulin than normal, and when we have high levels of insulin in our bloodstream, insulin actually blocks leptin from signaling that we're full. It blocks leptin's ability to tell the brain hey, what's up, we're full.

So imagine that. You have all this leptin floating around and it knows hey, we're eating, we've eaten enough, but none of that ever gets to the brain because insulin is too high. And guess what? You don't feel full so you keep eating.

Now, for ghrelin, ghrelin is secreted by your stomach and if you're under-eating or eating foods that are highly concentrated in sugar and flour or if you're eating a lot of foods that are processed, foods that are packaged, foods that are frozen, your ghrelin levels will be constantly elevated. This is the point of appetizers in restaurants.

When you have an appetizer, the point of it is not to fill you up before dinner. That'd be silly, right? The point of appetizers is to make you hungrier for the actual meal. That's why appetizers are usually high carb or high flour food items like bread that make you just want to eat more.

Now, knowing all this, I know this was a lot of science stuff, I know this was a lot of information, so how do we actually apply it? How do we actually stop feeling hungry during the shift? I know what it was like to be hungry all day. I know what it was like to sneak away from the unit, bite that donut, or three of those donuts in the break room.

I would get cookies, I would literally hoard cookies and hide them away for later in the shift when I'd be hungry again. I couldn't stop eating. So with all of this information, what do we do? This is where the hunger scale comes in. This is my go-to tool to help me know if I'm actually hungry or not and it's going to make all the difference.

So when you use this hunger scale, think of it like the pain scale that you ask your patients every single shift. You tell them to rank their pain on a scale of zero to 10. The same thing applies with this hunger scale, except it's a little different. You're actually going to rank your hunger but it's from a scale of negative 10 to positive 10 with a zero in the middle. Anyway, realize though that your hunger scale is tailored specifically to you. Your scale will not look like any other nurse's scale. It's just like the pain scale. It's all subjective to how you're feeling in that moment.

So typically, a negative 10 on the scale is when you feel like you are starving. That's probably how Aron Ralston felt when he was stuck in the canyon after starving for 127 hours. It's like, you are dying of starvation. And a positive 10 on the other hand is like how you'd feel at the end of the day on Thanksgiving after you've eaten like, five meals, and yet you're coming back for dessert. So you're going to literally burst.

So anyway, again, the hunger scale is negative 10 to positive 10 and you rank yourself with the negative area being the hungry side and the positive area being the full side. Now, like I said, when you eat food that is high in sugar and flour, that is what's going to knock off the hunger trifecta.

It's going to imbalance your insulin levels first of all because your insulin will be crazy high and then like I said, when insulin's high, your leptin is off. It's having an off day. It doesn't tell you when you're full. And then your ghrelin doesn't even realize that you've ingested foods that are so high in calorie.

Ghrelin works better when you eat real food like it was made to do because real food is actually satiating. Real food has fiber, it has a lot of - it's filling. It's physically filling. A lot of high calorie, low fat foods are like juices, yoghurt, things that are very - they take up small space, and so ghrelin doesn't even realize it's just ingested something with so much sugar and so many calories.

So in order for your hunger scale to be accurate, we have to calibrate it. And to calibrate it, you have to eliminate sugar and flour from your diet for at least two weeks straight, like consistently. Because like I said, the sugar affects the hunger trifecta, so what you think is true hunger right now might be an indication of your hunger trifecta being a little off. We don't know for sure so we have to calibrate that and eliminate sugar and flour from your diet completely for two weeks if you want a very accurate, a very clean hunger scale.

Now, on top of that, there are actually three different types of hunger that you have to be aware of because even if you've eliminated sugar and flour from your diet for two weeks, we have to learn how to distinguish the three different types of hunger so you actually really truly know what physical hunger looks like for you uniquely.

So the first type of hunger I wanted to address is sugar withdrawal hunger. That's the hunger that you'll feel after eliminating processed sugar and flour from your diet for two weeks, and the amount of time you'll feel these sugar withdrawal sensations might last anywhere from two to six weeks. It varies from person to person. But it's usually the strongest in the first two weeks. So sugar withdrawal is what we often associate with what hunger looks like for us now because most people are sugar burners. Most people eat a lot of their diet with foods that are high in sugar and flour, and that's why you're hungry. If you eat cereal every morning and you're already hungry within literally 30 minutes, that's because you're a sugar burner and your body is so efficient at burning all that sugar that you just ate.

So if you're in sugar withdrawal hunger mode, the symptoms look a lot similar to hypoglycemia. So you're going to be sweating, you're going to be shaking, you might have very intense cravings for something sweet or something carby. You might feel dizzy, have headaches or have some sort of weakness.

So these symptoms are going to feel like ass. It's going to feel like you're dying a little bit inside, but they are not real hunger. These symptoms are not true physical hunger. This is sugar withdrawal hunger, and this is true because you'll be feeling this way even after you eat all three meals in the day and it's literally because your body is adjusting to not having a lot of glucose that was previously available.

So instead of getting energy from the glycogen stores, it has to do the gluconeogenesis. It has to learn how to get the glucose from non-carbohydrate sources, and that takes time. Your body is literally freaked out and now you're taking away its main fuel source that was so easy, so now it has to literally readjust and it takes some time.

The second type of hunger that is very important to know about is the emotional hunger, and that means eating for any other reason other than fuel. A concept I like to teach is that food is fuel. You only need to eat for fuel. Any time you eat outside of that is for an emotional reason. And a lot of people tell me like, "No Charmaine, I'm not an emotional person, I don't eat emotionally." But any time that you eat food for any other reason other than just fuelling yourself is an emotional reason.

And I know a lot of people think emotional hunger means like, I just broke up with my boyfriend, let me eat all the ice cream, but that's not true. Emotional hunger looks like eating when you're stressed, eating when you're bored, even eating when you're excited, when you're happy, and also when you're anxious or angry. All of that is considered emotional eating, and I know there's this type of label like I feel like - especially working in psych I feel like people don't want to label themselves as emotional in any way, but it's nothing bad. It's just the truth. You're eating for an emotional reason.

And the third and final different type of hunger to know about is true physical hunger. True physical hunger comes from ghrelin, like we mentioned earlier, and it comes and goes in waves. It's very subtle. It's not loud or persistent or naggy. That's sugar withdrawal. Sugar withdrawal is very naggy. It's very loud and intense. Real hunger is not.

Heck, you won't even really sweat or shake at all with real hunger. Real hunger, it's kind of like you just feel like very subtle sensation in your stomach, especially if you haven't eaten for a long time. And that's how you know like okay, this is real physical hunger.

Now, I want you to practice applying the hunger scale to yourself some time later today right before your next meal. I want you to ask yourself the next time you think you're feeling hungry, what score on the hunger scale would you give yourself right now. Think about that. Maybe if you're listening to this in the morning, are you feeling hungry right now?

If so, give yourself a number from negative 10 to positive 10. Then ask yourself when you have a moment, how does hungry feel like to you at a negative four? And what does hunger feel to you at a positive four? The goal when you eat is to eat only when you're at around a negative four and then you want to stop eating when you're at a positive four.

Negative four to positive four is a very comfortable range. You're not starving a whole lot, you're very full, very content. I like to say negative four to positive four is just the content range. The contentment range. It's very nice and filling and satisfying.

Then I want you to ask yourself, what does your hunger feel like to you personally at a negative eight and what does it feel like for you at a positive eight? It's really important to distinguish the two because when you're at a negative eight or positive eight, it's kind of like helping you see the more extreme sides of the spectrum because you want to know if you've eaten all the way up to positive eight, you probably ate a little too much.

So it's really good to know like you only want to eat again, up to a positive four and you don't want to wait until you're hungry all the way up to negative eight to eat again because if you wait too long and you're way too hungry, like you're starving, there's a possibility of possible overcompensating by eating a lot.

So you want to just keep it in the contentment range like eat when you're at a negative four and stop eating when you're at a positive four. So to use this tool, especially if you think you might be eating emotionally or if you're withdrawing from sugar, this is a great tool to use too because so many times in the shift I wanted to eat when I already had my lunch.

If I was feeling stressed, if I was feeling anxious, I would love to go to that break room, gosh, it had so much stuff every single day. And then before I grab the cookie, I'd literally have to pause and ask like okay, where am I on the hunger scale right now? Am I actually hungry or not?

And most of the time, like 90% - I would probably say even 95% of the time I would not be actually hungry when I wanted food. When it was a craving, this was a great way for me to distinguish am I emotionally wanting something right now or am I actually hungry. And this tool made such a difference for me. It really works because once you're dialed into your body, once you know how you feel, what hunger really feels like for you, it's going to be very easy for you to stop eating when you're full. But it takes practice, you guys.

It takes time for you to build that mind-body connection. But having that connection and really establishing this relationship with yourself, like this deeper relationship with yourself when you know what you're feeling and you're not avoiding your feelings with food, which I will get into in another episode, but you're not avoiding your feelings with food and there's nothing wrong with feeling hungry sometimes either.

You're just getting to know yourself. You're getting to know what you're feeling, what hunger feels like for you, what physical sensations feel like for you, and none of those sensations are a reason to overeat. In fact, in next week's episode, I'm going to talk a lot more in detail about cravings and how to manage cravings because they do go hand in hand like managing hunger and managing cravings and how to actually stop eating when you're full, how to not want to eat anything that's not in your plan or anything that you don't need. I will get into that for sure because it's going to make such a difference for you guys.

But anyway, nurses, before I go, I want you to know that I'm on a mission. My mission is to tell as many nurses as possible about my tools and about my approach to weight loss. And not just weight loss but how to manage your mind and your life. These are all tools that I've used on myself and these are all tools that have helped me literally maintain my weight effortlessly and have so much better relationship with people at work, better stress management, and so much more.

But in order for me to do that, I need your help. I need your help to spread the word about my podcast by rating and reviewing my show on iTunes. And it doesn't have to be a five-star review either. All I need is your honest feedback because I want to reach as many nurses as possible while also making the show as valuable as I possibly can for nurses everywhere.

Plus, you get free coffee as a bonus. So to help me in my mission, go ahead and visit www.thenurseweightlosscoach.com/itunes to learn more about the contest and how to enter. I’ll be announcing the winners on the show in an upcoming episode, so stay tuned. Alright everyone, thank you so much for tuning in this week. I had such an amazing time with you guys. I hope you have a wonderful shift today and I will talk to you all again next week.

Thanks for listening to Permanent Weight Loss for Busy Nurses. If you like what you heard and want even more, head over to thenurseweightlosscoach.com today!

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