Tune in to your weight regulator

Julia Griggs Havey

"Appe… what? That is exactly what I thought when I heard the word “appestat” for the first time.

Let me explain. In our homes, we have a thermostat to control temperature. In our body, we have an appestat to control hunger. What I would like to know is why I didn’t know about this sooner, and most importantly, where the heck the knob is to turn mine down.

When researching to find more about this nifty little bodily function, I came across the following information in Handbook for Healing (Whitaker House) by Charles & Frances Hunter: “The appestat is the appetite control centre in the hypothalamus gland in the brain. Compare it to the thermostat in your house. When the air cools off, the boiler comes on until the temperature cuts off the thermostat. That's the way the appestat works, except that our junk food and high-sugar diet has ‘broken’ the appestat. You need to repair it by re-adjusting the set-point.” Okay, sounds good to me. Tell me more.

“One of the most important behaviours which helps individuals control their weight is learning to eat in response to physical hunger. Everyone has an appestat, which is a term used to describe all of the body chemicals that work together to signal feelings of hunger and fullness. Your appestat allows you to eat in response to hunger - in response to your body needs.”

According to my research, these factors can influence how well your appestat works - or not.

Under- or over-eating If you starve yourself for a while, you can lose your appetite altogether. If you are used to overeating, you may never feel hunger. In either case, your appestat may not work properly.

Learning to ignore it In some families, kids are taught to eat even if they aren’t hungry or to finish their meals even if they are full. They are taught to eat past the point of being satisfied. This throws the appestat off-kilter.

Inactivity If you aren’t active, your appestat may not work well. In fact, you may feel hungrier than someone who exercises. The solution is to get active for at least one hour per day.

Eating high calorie foods When you eat foods that have a lot of energy per bite (energy dense foods), you can pile in a lot more food (calories) than your body needs before your appestat has a chance to tell you to stop. The solution is to eat light foods that don’t have lots of calories per bite. High fibre, low cals foods such as fruit and vegetables are the perfect choice.

Eating too fast If you eat very fast, your appestat won’t have the time to register what you have eaten (even if you eat all the light foods). The solution is to slow your eating down and savour each bite:
• Put your fork down after every bite
• Sip water between bites
• Take a mid meal break, stop eating for 5 minutes and chat
• Savour each bite, noticing the taste texture and flavour
• Take small bites and chew them thoroughly

Thinking about food Constantly thinking about food causes chemical changes in your body so you actually feel hungry. That is one reason why dieting makes many people feel hungry - it fills their minds with thoughts of eating. The solution is to get busy so food cannot sit on your brain and make you feel hungry.

Feelings override it Some people lose their appetite when they are depressed or anxious. For others, emotions make their appetites bigger. The solution is to find other ways to cope with stress or emotions instead of turning to food.

Once a person’s appestat is working well, they should begin listening and trusting their feelings of hunger and fullness. Here are some suggestions for improving one’s appestat. When you are eating:
• Relax and enjoy the meal
• Give yourself permission to enjoy all types of foods
• Eat when you are physically hungry and try to minimise your eating from emotional and other factors
• Choose a variety of delicious foods to satisfy your physical hunger. Gradually learn to stop eating when you are satisfied
• Try to eat slowly, chew food thoroughly and drink water between bites
• Spread your calories over the day, eat small amounts of food more often
• Do not do anything else while eating, such as watching TV."


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