Hunger Part One: Why A Good Appetite Is The Best Tool To A Healthy Diet

I recently discovered this article about hunger. Initially I was really excited because it was talking about hunger in a positive way, but it just started to disappoint me after a while, so I decided to take matters into my own hands and talk about hunger.

The most important thing you need to know is you cannot lose weight unless you experience actual hunger signs. If you eat a whole, big breakfast at 7am and feel hungry by 11:30 ready for lunch than your digestive tract is healthy and functioning. If that isn’t happening in your body you won’t be able to lose weight. Remember being excited about your lunch is not experiencing hunger signs.

Chinese Medicine makes a habit of always checking in on appetite. Our big signs of health are a good appetite, healthy thirst, regular bowel movements, being pain-free and a sleeping all night. If you have those we can make you better in no time. If you don’t have those it is going to take a while.

I’ve tried different ways of asking the question. Do you have a good appetite? Do you get hungry? Does your digestion feel sluggish? Are you hungry for all three meals? In almost every statement the answer is a blank stare or some declaration of how a person has a very healthy appetite and eats way too much.

Appetite and diet are two very different beasts. The amount of food that goes into the body is usually in relation to what we think we are supposed to eat. For instance it is 12:30pm, I must be hungry. That isn’t hunger.

For some of us it is hard to remember what hunger feels like. Just because you don’t feel hungry doesn’t mean you should wait for hunger to happen! This is important. The fastest way to deplete the digestive tract is to not eat on a regular basis, but I’ll get into that more next week in my follow up Hunger Part Two.

Food Stagnation

Chinese Medicine has coined this lovely phrase for the accumulation of undigested food in our gut. Think Friday morning after Thanksgiving. Think morning after Halloween. You get the point. If there is undigested food sitting in the gut not moving along, the body won’t show hunger signs.  You may remember that the morning after Thanksgiving you don’t want much of anything for breakfast. But this doesn’t just happen in the short term. Sometimes because of poor digestion food just accumulates after every meal because the body doesn’t have the digestive fire to burn it up and process it. Which leads us into the next possible cause.

Qi Deficiency

Somehow or another we get short on qi. It can happen because of poor sleep, poor diet, running ourselves ragged or simply a stressful patch of life. We suddenly don’t have enough qi to handle the daily metabolic functioning. Digestion gets sluggish. You may notice this as slow digestion, the sensation of carrying food around in your gut all morning after a big breakfast. You may notice it as nausea at the times you might otherwise be hungry. You might simply notice this as rapid loose stools numerous times a day, sometimes very shortly after eating. Or going one to two days in between bowel movements. All of this means the body isn’t spending the quality time it needs to for the best possible digestion. Which only further depletes the qi.

How do we get hungry again?

The best way to start getting hungry again is to build the qi. While Acupuncture and Chinese Herbs are quite impressive in this area, nutrition and quality of life are obviously the best first steps.

  • Eat a minimum of three meals a day
  • Avoid empty calories in between meals that fill you up and confuse the process
  • Avoid drinking cold water or ice water as it puts out the fire in the stomach
  • Pick foods that are cooked, warm, flavorful and fresh
  • Try to drink water during the day, not during your meals
  • Eat a lot of really healthy food to keep the digestive tract busy
  • Go to bed early enough and get the 7-9 hours your body needs
  • Be careful of drinking caffeinated beverages on an empty stomach they are appetite suppressants!
  • Don’t work through hunger and miss the window, it will pass.


Image credit: c_brignell / 123RF Stock Photo

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