The Hungry Woman’s Guide to Eating. Part 2

If I eat breakfast, I get hungry for lunch sooner than if I skip it. What gives?
“Eating breakfast isn’t your problem; eating the wrong kind of breakfast is,” says Allan Geliebter, Ph.D., a research scientist at the Obesity Research Center at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center in New York City. Foods loaded with simple carbohydrates, such as sugary cereal or bagels, send blood sugar soaring because they are so easily digested. What goes up also comes down-and just as quickly. This drop in blood sugar is going to prompt the familiar sensation of hunger once again. That wouldn’t happen if you ate whole-grain toast spread with peanut butter, which is digested more slowly. In a recent study, Geliebter and his colleagues served people sugary cereal and saw their blood sugar spike and then quickly plummet. The result: At lunch, the study subjects ate just as much as when they’d had only water for breakfast. But when they ate a hearty bowl of oatmeal, a complex carb, they felt fuller longer and ate less at lunch. How much you eat for breakfast also matters. “People ask me why they’re hungry a few hours after breakfast, and when I ask what they ate, they tell me a Pop-Tart or a slice of toast,” says Robyn Flipse, R.D., a nutritionist in Ocean, New Jersey. “That’s not a meal-it’s a snack. Of course they’re hungry shortly afterward,” she says. Experts recommend spending about 400 to 500 calories on breakfast.

Why do I feel tired and cranky when I get hungry?
Glucose is your brain’s energy source (along with oxygen), and when it’s lacking, everything your brain is responsible for-your mood, your mental performance, even your motor skills-suffers. A drop in blood sugar also spurs the release of the stress hormone cortisol, which is directly related to feelings of irritability. Interestingly, not everyone gets that crabby feeling, though doctors aren’t sure why reactions differ. “Some women actually feel energized when they’re hungry,” says Lawrence Cheskin, M.D., director of the Johns Hopkins Weight Management Center in Baltimore. “It’s evolution’s way of getting you geared up to hunt and gather the next meal.”

I’ve heard that if you eat slowly, you tend to eat less. Is that true?
Absolutely-slowpokes save on calories. “Hormonal and internal signals sent from your stomach, small intestine and liver tell you that you’re no longer hungry. The signals need up to 20 minutes to kick in,” explains John La Puma, who directs the CHEF Clinic programs at Alexian Brothers Medical Center in Illinois. “Scarf down a meal in a big hurry, and you don’t give your body time to fire the satiety signals-which means you’ll eat a lot more calories than you really need to feel full.” A leisurely meal gives your body and brain adequate time to catch up with your fork. Of course, it’s easy to miss a signal if you aren’t on the lookout for it. In his weight loss program, Dr. La Puma tells participants not only to eat slowly but also to turn off the television, put away the newspaper and pay attention to the meal. “By learning to recognize your body’s hunger and satiety cues,” he says, “you’re much more likely to sense when you’ve had enough-and not overeat.”

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