The next hormone to discuss when it comes to their effect on our eating habits is GHRELIN. It is known as the HUNGER HORMONE. Ghrelin is produced, for the most part, in the stomach when it is empty. It is a messenger that travels to your brain and turns on Neuropeptide Y, which then increases your appetite and slows down your metabolism. Actually, Neuropeptide Y is the thing that makes you want to eat - ghrelin is responsible for activating it. Neuropeptide Y also stimulates your body to store fat. Both extreme dieting AND overeating/weight gain increases Neuropeptide Y activity. Not good.
Keeping the timing of ghrelin levels high and low is important. You need high levels of this hormone when you are sleeping as it allows the release of HUMAN GROWTH HORMONE (HGH). This is a fat burner!!! HGH forces your body to draw energy from your fat reserves first. It also helps your body grow new muscle cells. Normally, you stop making muscle cells after your teen years. If you do strength training (GO, INNER ATHLETES, GO) you will increase the size of the muscle cells you have. HGH gives you more energy, a higher sex drive and more youthful skin. Unfortunately, production lessens through our 30'sand 40's. BUT, exercise and eating well actually boost levels. Here are some helpful tips to help boost HGH:
1) Try and eat as much organic produce as you can as pesticides and chemicals lower HGH.
2) Sleep well. The body produces HGH during deep sleep.
3) Do not eat late at night. The body pumps out more HGH when blood sugar is low, so it is best to have as little in your stomach late at night before sleeping. Keeping your carbohydrate intake low in the evening is a good plan. Have protein and low carb veggies for dinner - skip the starches. If you love bread, pasta, and/or rice have them at lunch!
4) Great food choices for building HGH are those high in B vitamins (pretty much every legume, vegetable, nut, seed and whole grain!) and zinc (found in most proteins and especially high in oysters and pumpkin seeds, dark chocolate - I know, yay! and wheat germ).
Back to ghrelin. This hormone has a few tricks up it's sleeve to make you eat. New research is showing that it will trigger reward centres in the brain that makes food look more appealing. These triggers will occur even when you aren't hungry and have no reason to eat. You just need to look at a donut and you will want to reward yourself with it.
The best way to control ghrelin is to eat every four hours or so and do not restrict your calories. Aerobic exercise and resistance training curbs ghrelin levels.
There are more hormones involved with how, why and what we eat. To make a long and complicated story short, they all act together and play very specific roles to ensure longevity. They work with each other to let us know when to eat and when we have had enough. Of course, this was formed back when there were no Hostess, President's Choice, M&Ms or Lays products around! Once we started replacing whole foods with these products everything became confused and messed up. The body needs REAL food to give us REAL nutrients. Only then will things work smoothly and efficiently and we can feel under control. We need to shift our focus from calorie, fat, and carb counting. Instead, let's focus on eating simple, natural foods - baking our own muffins and cookies, shaking up our own salad dressings and roasting our own meat and vegetables. Don't worry so much about how much butter is in a recipe. Worry more about how many chemicals and toxins are in that boxed or frozen item in your shopping cart or that bag of take-out food. Once you start grabbing an apple and some almonds for the car ride instead of going through Tim Horton's for a bagel and cream cheese it will become second nature and you will feel the difference that positive change makes. I promise.