How mild hunger allows weight loss without dieting

The Appetite Pendulum



This scale is at the centre of Appetite Retraining. It provides a way of judging your level of hunger or fullness. You can use this subjective 11 point scale to measure how hungry or full you are at any given point.

If you have ignored or over-ridden hunger and fullness signals in the past you may need practice to get the hang of using the scale. Start by remembering what it feels like when you have eaten much too much. That is what we mean by +5 on the scale. Now think of when you have had to go for too long without eating and have had a growling stomach and perhaps almost painful feelings of hunger. This is what we call -5 on the scale.

Simple rules for stopping eating at +3 and waiting to eat until -3 result in gradual weight loss. You only need to use this scale when you think of eating, and while you are eating. The rest of the time you just get on with your life.

Over hundreds of thousands of years of evolution, we have evolved a digestive system which allows us to eat food at a meal which gives enough energy to get on with doing things for a few hours. Once that meal is used up, signals from our gut and other organs tell our brain that it is time to eat again. These signals are experienced by us as hunger. If we eat then, the hunger signals are switched off and we start to register feelings of increasing fullness and we have the energy we need for the next few hours.

The link between mild hunger and weight loss

As the energy supply from our last meal starts to run out, we experience mild hunger. If we don’t eat immediately, the body switches over to using up its store of energy (fat) and this is therefore when we are actually losing weight.

As this stored bit of fat is burned to produce energy, the body registers this as having received more fuel and so the hunger signals are switched off.

This means that if you don’t eat as soon as you feel hungry, the hunger signals will soon pass, so tolerating mild hunger doesn’t demand constant effort.

As further time elapses since the last meal and as the energy produced by burning fat is used up, hunger signals are again triggered.

These hunger signals will again subside for a period of time if we don’t eat, because another bit of stored fat will be metabolised.

As the length of time from the last meal increases and as stored fat is increasingly used, the hunger signals get more frequent and stronger. It gets more and more difficult to override or ignore them, and if you do ignore them they put increasing levels of pressure on your brain to seek out and eat food. When you reach this more intense hunger, the pressure tends to lead you to overeat.

Appetite Retraining actively encourages getting to the point of feeling hungry before each meal, and teaches you how to deal with any discomfort that arises.

The link between fullness and weight loss

In order for your body to get to the mildly hungry state of fat burning, you need to eat small enough meals. If you eat more food at any particular meal than you are going to use up before your next meal, the surplus will be stored as fat. Rather than burning up fat, you deposit more of it, hence weight gain.

The focus of most approaches to weight loss is what types of food you should eat to reduce your calorie (energy) intake.

If you have found that restricting the types of food you eat has not helped you to achieve permanent weight loss, the good news is that you can continue with a wide range of foods if you alter the amount you eat.

Portion sizes in the last 50 years or so have grown so dramatically that we have lost track of how much we need to eat. It is common for people to eat what they are served or what they think constitutes a reasonable meal, rather than what their body is telling them.

If you use your signals from your gut which indicate how full you are, you can tell when your hunger is satisfied. Your meals will be smaller and so you’ll be able to get mildly hungry before your next meal.
Appetite Retraining sets a simple rule of stopping eating as soon as you are “just full” to help you gauge the meal size your body needs. When you eat just enough to satisfy your hunger and allow yourself to become hungry between meals, you lose weight.

Email me your experiences of using the Appetite Pendulum.

And please follow me on twitter @appetite_doctor

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