Uncontrollable hunger and cravings!


We all have had episodes of giving into our hunger and cravings at some point or another in our lives. It’s totally okay to do so occasionally, but the problem arises when this habit becomes persistent, leading to many downstream consequences like weight gain, body shaming, loss of self-esteem, constant hunger and also giving rise to many diseases. Read further, to find a solution for your craving and hunger pangs!

Most of us have lost control of eating at one time or another, only to regret it later. Who hasn’t felt uncomfortably full after at least one festive dinner? But why do so many people habitually succumb to food cravings and binge, despite intense feelings of guilt and an earnest desire to lose weight? In a way, everyone with excessive weight could be considered to have disordered eating, because they repeatedly overeat.

People in their weight-loss journey often feel their food cravings have gotten out of control and a lack of willpower is driving their weight gain, generally making them feel like crap. But, the truth is, this is not a matter of willpower. Our industrial food industry produces food-like substances (processed food) specifically made to hook our taste buds with every bite, hijacking our brain chemistry and metabolism, and giving rise to diseases. Our bodies actually have a finely-tuned appetite control system that is governed by certain hormones. However, our modern diet, elevated stress, and inadequate sleep impairs this system, leading us to crave the wrong foods and feel hungry all the time.

When our hunger is out of control, it is very hard to control what we eat and why we eat it. So, it’s important to understand how some hormones work together. Listening to the innate intelligence of the body is important to maintaining healthy weight, having great energy and vitality.

Let’s understand the two hunger and satiety hormones and the role they play in your body.

Ghrelin – Ghrelin, the hunger hormone, is secreted by the stomach and small intestine, signalling the brain of the hunger cues. It’s the hormone that makes you feel hungry. When we eat, Ghrelin levels go down.

Leptin – Hormone released from adipose or fat tissue sending a message of satiety, telling your body you are full and satisfied.

Here are few ways you can start to master your cravings and hunger pangs:

Eat a protein and fat-rich diet – Including proteins and healthy fats in your diet comes with a variety of health benefits. Combining proteins, fats with high-fiber carbohydrates from colorful fruits and vegetables, can help you stay satiated for long and balance blood sugar levels. Eating a breakfast high in sugar or starting your day with simple carbohydrates , processed foods like cereals, breads, biscuits and sugars, causes a spike in blood sugar, triggering the release of insulin, to shuttle the excess glucose into cells for energy production. Insulin is a hormone which is responsible for fat-storage and it also makes us feel more hungry. Maintaining and balancing blood sugar in a healthy range, by optimizing macronutrient ratios, that best suits your bio individuality can show profound effects in weight loss and to ward off those hunger cravings.

When we eat Ghrelin, the hunger hormone goes down. Eating macronutrient balanced meals increases satiety, and reduces Ghrelin levels. Eating a diet rich in protein (meat, chicken, fish, eggs, lentils, beans, nuts & seeds) and healthy fats like avocados, olives, olive oil, nuts, seeds and ghee, combined with colorful veggies & fruits, can help ward off cravings and maintain satiety.

Stress Management – Stress wards off cravings for the short term, but prolonged stress can lead to a lot of downstream effects on various systems of your body. Many people experience emotional and stressful eating at one time or another. This happens as the brain sends signals to your body when you are feeling stressed. That’s part of our fight-and-flight response that helps us deal with perceived threats in our environment. The body does this by releasing the stress hormone, cortisol. High levels of cortisol, leads to high blood sugar levels. Cortisol also makes you crave sugars, simple carbohydrates and foods that quickly turn to sugar, because the brain thinks it needs energy from sugar to fight or flight. This can cause an imbalance in the blood sugar levels, causing cravings, binge-eating and weight gain.

Stress is also an indispensable part of our daily lives. So, how do we deal with stress? Reducing stress is not an overnight fix and it takes time and intentionality. Including a practice that you find enjoyable is a great way to mitigate chronic stress of daily lives, whether it’s your favourite hobby, a walk in the park, hitting the gym, going for a run, a yoga and meditation lesson, practising pranayama or less active forms like getting massages or journaling, are efficient ways in managing stress levels.

Get restful sleep – We all know that sleep is important and we are probably not getting enough of it. Inadequate sleep for less than 7 hours affects your appetite and causes cravings. When the body experiences sleep deprivation, it causes it to release hunger hormone Ghrelin in larger amounts and leptin in small amounts. It makes you hungrier, and once you are full, the body does not recognize its time to stop eating, due to reduced leptin levels. This leads to increased food cravings and unwanted weight gain. So, turn off your electronics an hour before bed or switch to night-time mode, turn off all bright lights, take a relaxing shower, journal, read a book or do any relaxing activity, before bedtime. Getting into a bedtime routine, also helps sleep better to keep those food cravings at bay.

Optimize hydration – Getting enough water everyday is important for your health. Infact, 60% of your body is composed of water. It has many roles in the body like regulating body temperature, carries nutrients and oxygen to cells, lubricates joints, aids in digestion.

When you don’t drink adequate amounts of water, the body can misinterpret thirst for hunger. This signalling is done by the hypothalamus, a part of the brain that controls the sensation of thirst and hunger. A dehydrated body can send a signal to the brain which it interprets as low blood sugar. This signal makes the body believe that it’s time to eat, when it was just time to drink and hydrate. A good starting point is to drink half the amount of the weight in ounces. For e.g. if you weigh 200 pounds, the ideal amount would be 100 ounces, which is around 2.9 litres.

Avoid long gaps between meals – Skipping meals or giving longer gaps between meals causes the blood sugar levels to plummet, leading to cravings. Low blood sugar levels signals the brain that the body is in starvation mode and you can end up having no control over what you eat. Our diet culture encourages us to have fewer calories, restrictive and fad diets, which leads to cravings, nutritional deficiencies and wreaks havoc to the overall body system. Eating macro balanced meals high in proteins, healthy fats and complex carbohydrates from fruits and vegetables, can help maintain healthy blood sugar levels. A good starting point is to have

Eating in a relaxed state and chewing well – Eating slowly may help you feel full faster, while eating less food. The food we eat is broken down in the stomach with the help of gastric juices which  then travels to the small intestine. Hormonal signals are released when the food reaches the small intestine. These hormones send a signal to the brain, through the vagus nerve, the feeling of satiety and fullness, which makes the adipose tissue release leptin- the satiety hormone. So when you eat too fast and quickly, too much food is dumped into the stomach, and proper signalling does not happen, and the brain does not register the calories consumed, leading to overeating. So next time you are about to eat while driving, on the go or in a hurry- think of all the consequences. Take time to sit down and eat, chewing well and  making meal times a priority. If on the go- opt for predigested foods like a smoothie, balanced with proteins, healthy fats and fiber.

Cravings have been part of all our lives at some point. But constant cravings can get the best of us and cause a lot of health issues and weight gain. Sometimes all it takes is a new approach or a reminder for something to make an impact. Any one of these tips and tricks may be what you need to move past the cravings, and get your health back on track.


Get started with us, on your journey to good health: https://www.smritikochar.com/get-started/


Functional Nutritionist & Functional Medicine Practitioner

Smriti is a leading Health Coach and Functional Medicine Practitioner, based out of Gurgaon, India.