Monday, May 30, 2011

Are You Hungry? Probably Not.

You woke up, ate your morning bowl of Cocoa Puffs or package of pop-tarts and your cup of coffee. 10:30 am rolls around and you feel a grumbling in your stomach.  Head pains set in a bit and you feel lethargic.  You open your desk drawer, pull out your mid-morning snack of chips, chow down, and suddenly, you think you'll make it until lunch.  Lunch sets in and you eat your chinese take-out or chips with a soda.  Next thing you know, it's 3 o'clock and you're feeling hungry again. You have some cookies, go home, and prepare dinner just a couple hours later.  Snacking means you're just hungry, right?  Well, some research answers that question with a big, fat "NO".  Here's what Dr. Joel Fuhrman, an advocate for nutrient-dense eating has to say:
The typical Western diet is characterized by high calorie processed foods: oils, sweeteners and animal products; a diet that is low in phytochemicals and other micronutrients. There is evidence that such a diet... results in inflammation, oxidative stress and accumulation of toxic metabolites.
When digestion is complete, the body begins to mobilize and eliminate waste products, causing uncomfortable symptoms. If we allow waste metabolites to build up by eating unhealthy foods, we will feel discomfort when the body attempts to mobilize and remove these wastes. ...these sensations [headache, fatigue, stomach grumbles] are actually symptoms of detoxification and withdrawal from an unhealthy diet, lacking in crucial micronutrients. I call this "Toxic Hunger". Natural plant foods, rich in micronutrients, do not produce withdrawal symptoms -- because inflammatory compounds and excess free radicals do not accumulate.  "Redefining Hunger..."

Essentially, it's not hunger making your stomach grumble, it's the toxins from your meals exiting your body.  This is what he calls "Toxic Hunger".  Scientists now know that that the toxic American food diet has the same negative effects on the brain similar to those of addictive drugs. The body is releasing the toxins in the same way your body would feel after taking Ecstasy or Cocaine.  It may feel wonderful in the moment, but your body will react negatively afterward, inducing withdrawal symptoms.  Most people simply assume "hunger" is setting in when you are actually experiencing a sense of withdrawal.

What Dr. Fuhrman has found is that "The body needs time between meals to finish digesting, because when digestion has ended, the body can more effectively detoxify and promote cellular repair.  To maximize health, it is not favorable to be constantly eating and digesting food." (Eat to Live, Dr. Joel Fuhrman)

As your diet improves, so will your signs of hunger.  I, too, dealt with lethargy, stomach pains, mild headaches, and grumpiness if I didn't get my between-meal-snack, but when I switched to a diet rich with nutrient dense foods (fruits, vegetables, beans, seeds, etc), my perception of hunger drastically changed, and the same is true with thousands of other people who have changed to a healthier diet.  My irritability and fatigue between meals no longer exists!  "True hunger is felt in the throat and mouth rather than the head and stomach." (Fuhrman) 

This is not to say you can't ever, ever snack. Yes, I occasionally snick-snack, depending on the day and how much energy I'm using, but what important is to keep track of the calories you're consuming when you do decide to snack.  People often blindly snack out of habit, boredom, or "Toxic Hunger". Allow your body that time between meals to process & digest the food and then detoxify your body to promote cellular repair if you truly aren't hungry.  Listen to your body, but be sure that you're filling your body with high-nutrient, non-processed foods for each meal. Only then will you be able to experience true hunger.  Once you start to feel hunger in your throat and mouth and NOT your head and stomach, grab that healthy snack and chow down!

If you do need a snack (which we all need from time to time, but be sure it's not because you're bored or because it's habit), check out our recent post "Cleaning Out Your Closet" on how to snack properly.



  1. "True hunger is felt in the throat and mouth rather than the head and stomach." (Fuhrman) - I never knew this. Fascinating!

  2. WOW! Loved this!