It’s noon and that salad you made yourself earlier just doesn’t look as good as the pizza your coworker brought in for everyone. You tell yourself, “NO! I want to eat healthy!” but your brain is thinking “Yeah…but that 3-meat, double cheese pizza looks a helluvalot better than those leafy greens!” Does this “Hunger Game” sound familiar to you? If you skimped out on breakfast your brain may be under the influence of what scientists call the“hunger” hormone, Ghrelin.
Ghrelin is a hormone that tells the brain when it’s time to eat and heightens the appeal of high calorie foods over lower calorie ones. When you go too long without eating, like skimping out on breakfast, levels of ghrelin increase in your stomach telling your brain to go after that huge slice of pizza.
This hormone process relates back to our ancestors when they had to go days with little to no food. When high calorie foods were available, their ghrelin hormones went crazy and they packed on some pounds. If you were lucky enough to have access to these foods, you stayed alive during the times when food was not as available. Today, food is readily available and ghrelin will make sure you seek out the highest caloric ones.
These ghrelin levels explain why yo-yo dieters usually fail to keep the weight off over time. Ghrelin levels in people who skip meals to diet are always higher than people who eat regular meals.
Knowing how ghrelin works will help you recognize why you’re attracted to that big slice of pizza or piece of chocolate cake. To fight against the harmful effects of ghrelin on your diet, start your day with a big breakfast, and snack on small healthy items throughout the day to keep your ghrelin level slow.