Hunger and how to kill it!


I suddenly realised that it would be good to write about hunger and how to control it when I started writing about diets in general and Diabetic diet in particular. It is quite obvious that if someone can’t control his hunger, he won’t be able to control what he eats and therefore won’t be able to achieve his health goals. So quite often when you repeatedly fail in your attempts at controlling hunger, you just give up. So let us talk about what is hunger, why it happens and how it can be controlled.


Hunger is a sensation that represents the need to eat food. It is that uncomfortable feeling in the pit of your tummy that tells you that you need to fill your tummy with food. Satiety on the other hand is the absence of hunger and a feeling of fullness. Appetite is the desire to eat food.


It is said that hunger is essential for survival, development and evolution. If there was no hunger (as it might be in heaven), there would be no sadness, no misery, no greed, no ambition, no development, no competition, no lifestyle disease, no change, no migration, no violence etc etc.


So while hunger is essential for our own survival, like every other urge of the body and mind, it should be controlled for us to live happy healthy and fuller lives. Hunger management is most important for those trying to lose weight or for those living with diabetes. Let us look briefly at the hunger mechanisms and at things that one can do to control it.



There are many different mechanisms by which we become aware of hunger.  You can look at them as Gastric, Intestinal/hormonal, Neurological/ psychological and others.



Empty stomach increase hunger.

Increased Gastric acidity


High Glycaemic index foods

 Low protein and fat in diet

 Low ruffage/Fibre diet

 Fast foods or anything that you  eat out of a package or parcel foods.


Poor sleep can increase hunger (Ghrelin levels increase by 28% and Leptin reduce by upto 18%)

 Life stress can increase  hunger

 Although exercise can increase hunger in the long term, exercising when hungry can make you forget your hunger.

 Having an unsatisfactory meal can also trigger increased hunger.

 Having too much alcohol the previous night and dehydration can increase hunger.


Insulin peaks after a high carb diet or sugary meal (especially in diabetics), cholecytokinin, Neuropeptide Y levels and increases Hunger

 Low blood sugars even in non-diabetics can increase hunger.

 Glucagon and Adrenaline reduce Hunger (during stress anger rage etc)

 Leptins produced in fat cells reduce hunger. Leptin secretion increases with increased food intake and reduces with fasting or starvation.

 Ghrelin produced by the stomach stimulates hunger.

 Hyperthyroidism can increase your hunger.


Hypothalamus area of the brain controls hunger and strokes affecting the hypothalamus can cause uncontrolled hunger or reduce appetite depending on the part of the hypothalamus affected.

 Dopamine induces satiety and reduces appetite

 Serotonin also reduces appetite by acting via neuropeptide Y and Agouti related peptide (AgRP) and Pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC)



 Thinking about food or smelling food or partying can increase hunger. Food is very closely associated with fun and friends.


Tricyclic antidepressants , steroids and antipsychotics increase hunger.


 Suggested ways to combat Hunger


Fill your tummy with a large quantity of water when hungry.

 Eat a healthy snack one hour before your meals.

 Split your meals in 2 and have them 20-30 mins apart.

 Avoid a high Glycaemic index meal. Avoid large deserts (cakes/ ice creams etc)

 Incorporate more proteins/fats into your meal.

 Chewing your meal well (15-30 chews of each mouthful) can reduce your hunger and food intake.

 A meaty meal can suppress your hunger more effectively.

 Plan your meal in advance. Take a healthy in-between meal snack.

 Take in a large bowl of high fibre vegetables with every meal. Veggies slow down gastric emptying and therefore keep the stomach full for a longer period thereby suppressing hunger.

 Avoid ultra-processed foods – the feel good/tasty/palatable foods!

Avoid high salt and sugar contains foods. This would include virtually all fast and  processed foods. (nearly everything that is not cooked at home on a regular basis)


Contact your doctor for any medication that could help you reduce your appetite.  Metformin/ Liraglutide/ Setmelanotide can be useful in helping you manage your hunger.


 The following natural foods are believed to be able to suppress Hunger!

 Food additives


 Cayenne pepper


 Hot sauce



 Dark chocolate

 Flax seed


Oat meal


 Veg soup

 Whole Salads

 Greek yoghurt

 Vegetable juice





 Green tea

 Skimmed milk

Fruits and Vegetables

Avocados in moderate quantities

 Apples – rich in pectin and fibre

 Green leafy vegetables


Whey Protein


 I hope that the information given above is of some use to you. My intention is not to write a comprehensive all including essay on hunger but just to give you enough information to stimulate your curiosity to begin your own research into your hunger, to experiment and see what would work for you and to change your eating habits to achieve your best health.


A hundred years ago, the concept of food storage wasn’t existent in most parts of the world. People hunted and gathered food that they cooked immediately and ate (unless it was rice that was harvested and stored for a while). In today’s world, most of us in the city do not face food shortages as we have the means to store food for long periods. Our food culture has also changed so much that we have also started eating very high salt/sugar containing calorie dense foods that are very addictive. Having easy access to these addictive foods promotes this dependance and we end up eating more than we want, to put on more weight than we need and then suffer more from “lifestyle diseases” than we should.  


Most people eat as much as they want. The amount of food eaten varies from person to person and can differ based on hunger levels, mood, taste of food, habit of eating (little vs overeating) etc. Most people stop eating when their stomachs are reasonably full. Most people don’t think much about what they eat and how much they eat. Food serves a very important function of keeping people happy on a daily basis.


Only those who have targets in terms of their body weight or shape or feel a need to adjust their diets because of certain diseases such as Diabetes would want to know about how they can design their meals. Planning your diet isn’t very difficult  especially in this age of the internet. Google will give you all the information about, not only the calorie content of different components of foods but also of prepared dishes.  


Therefore the things that you would need to design your diet would be

1. Weighing scale and a measuring tape.

2. A kitchen scale

3. An ability to use Google to get all the necessary information.

4. A doctor or a dietician who is willing to advice you.


How many calories do YOU need?

Step 1: To identify your ideal body weight (IBW) – this can be done in a few ways.

a.Height in Centimeters minus 100= Ideal Body weight 

b. By using the BMI –  Ideal BMI ranges from 20-23.5 for Indian males and 25-30 for females. The BMI is calculated by the formula weight in Kg/Ht) x (Ht) in metres

Therefore the IBW for a person who is 1.85cm in height would be 68.5-81.5Kg.

Step 2: To calculate the number of Calories that you would need based on your IBW: 25 X IBW in Kgs. While there are many formulae to calculate your daily calorie requirement/ Basal Metabolic Rate, the 25 X IBW formula is the simplest. Therefore a 80Kg (IBW)adult would need 25 X 80 = 2000 Kcal/Day.

Note: While we generally suggest 25Kcal per kg of weight for adults, children may need upto 30-33Kcal/Kg of body weight.

Step 3: To be honest and to admit if you need to reduce your weight or increase it. If you need to reduce your weight, you would need to reduce your calorie intake (e.g., 20 X IBW in Kg). Similarly, if you needed to increase your body weight, you would need to consume 20% more calories a day. (i.e., 30 X IBW in Kg)

Step 4: To adjust the calories that you might take depending on the amount of exercise that you may do.

For light to moderate exercise (45-60mins of moderate intensity of exercise per day  40Kcal/Kg of body weight of food per day would suffice.

For very active exercises (60-120min of moderate intensity exercise every day) you may need 50Kcal/kg of food per day.

For those who are extremely active (marathon training etc), they would need 60Kcal/Day of calories.

 Now to start Googling……………………….(calorie content of south Indian food etc)

Different websites give different values to the same food. Remember your calculation is only an approximate value.

Start weighing your food to calculate how many calories you are taking in now.


How to plan your meals?

 You have now got to divide the calories between 3 meals and include at least 2 snacks making sure that you don’t exceed the total daily calories.

 You need to Breakfast like a King

        Lunch like a Prince and

        Dine like a Pauper to stay healthy!

 You should have the calculated calories distributed in 3 meals as BF:Lunch: Dinner- 45%: 35%:20%. Therefore someone needing 2000Kcal of food a day would need to take 900 Kcal for Breakfast, 700Kcal for Lunch and 400Kcal at dinner time. 2/3rd could be taken at meal time and 1/3rd as an in between meal snack.

 It is recommended that you get 45-55% of your calories from Carbohydrates. 15-35% of calories from Proteins and 20-35% of calories from Fats.

 A vegetarian south India  diet has predominantly carbohydrate  (rice) as the source of calories and very little of Proteins and Fats. Such diets may need to be supplemented with Proteins in the form of Lentils, Soya or high concentration Protein powders (Soya or Whey). Good vegetable cooking oils can be added (raw) generously to food to make up the contribution from Fats. (Groundnut oil or Sesame oil, Olive oil etc).Fibre intake can be increased by having plenty of green salad.

 A non-vegetarian diet on the other hand has an excess of fat and salt in it. Non-veg gravies tend to have all the salt and the invisible fats (released from meat on cooking) Non-vegetarians need to cut down the rice and the gravies and focus on taking more fruits and vegetables as salads.

 Plan your meal on paper and then try to follow it.