Samantha is in a wheelchair. A few years ago she developed an open sore on her foot which would not heal. The infection restricted the blood supply and gangrene developed. To save her life doctors had to amputate her leg from the knee down. She can walk short distances on crutches, but is seriously overweight. She has diabetes, which was the cause of the open sore.
Hunger is a reaction in the body that has served us well since the dawn of time. It was an important survival mechanism for early man, prompting him to hunt and forage for food and ensure survival. Cyclical famines have been a prominent feature of societies since the dawn of agriculture. In fat times, food is consumed and broken down into the simple sugar called glucose, which serves as the life-sustaining fuel for those trillions of cells that constitute the human body. Some of this fuel is stored in the muscles and liver, but only enough to last several days. In lean times, with such limited fuel reserves, the body acts quickly to conserve energy. After just eight hours of fasting, the body begins to slow its metabolism — the rate at which it consumes energy. The heart pumps blood more slowly, and the body produces less heat – which is why we feel the cold more when we are hungry. At this point the gut sends us a signal : eat! eat! – an evolutionary kick in the pants to go out and hunt. Hunger is a natural response, meant to be a common occurrence, and is part of the body’s weight regulation mechanism or “energy homeostasis”, which depends on a balance between energy intake and expenditure. It is the natural state of the hunter. Early man learnt to live with hunger.
Those who have experienced long fasts report grinding hunger at the beginning, but after a few days a sudden surge of energy. This is when the body begins to burn fat rather than stored glucose; it is accompanied by a cessation of hunger pangs and often a feeling of euphoria – no doubt assistance from nature to help us get up and find that meal.
So hunger developed for societies where there was a real danger of starvation; but when limitless food supplies are available eating abundantly every time we feel hungry is not a good thing. It can lead to obesity and diabetes, scourges of modern life, the prevalence of which continues to rise sharply.
Restricting our calorie intake, allowing hunger and travelling through it – ‘feeling the burn’ – is an important part of staying ageless. When the metabolism slows, it produces fewer aging free radicals. Calorie restriction has been scientifically proven to extend life. There are ways to extend periods between meals – coffee, doing stuff, telling ourselves we will wait another hour or two. Eventually this should be extended to restricting the number of meals per day from three to two. There is nothing in human physiology which dictates three meals a day. After a while feeling hungry becomes a normal part of life. One of the wonderful things about us as human beings is we can get used to anything.
Hunger is the natural state of man. Let’s check it out.