Friday, May 18, 2012

How Can I Tell if it's Real Hunger or Emotional Hunger?

I'm trying to start eating sensibly: Paying attention to when I'm hungry and stopping when I'm full. But how can I tell when I'm hungry whether it's real or whether it's just emotional cravings?  Laura B.

Hi Laura,
Good moves you are making to start eating sensibly! And good question. There is a difference between hunger and appetite. 

Hunger is when your body sends signals that it's time to refuel: It might be your stomach growling, a headache, or a light headed feeling you get when your blood sugar starts to drop. Hunger prompts the question, "Can I get something to eat?"

Appetite is when your senses of taste and smell signal there is something that you would enjoy eating. Appetite begs the question, "What would I like to eat?" Appetite comes when you see a juicy steak, smell fresh cookies baking, or when someone brings out the birthday cake. Even after you are stuffed full from a satisfying meal (ie, not hungry), someone can offer you a slice of apple pie and suddenly you realize you would love one. That's appetite.

But it's still more complicated than that. Recent studies show there are hormones that signal you to have an appetite based on your usual eating times. If you regularly have lunch at 11:30, you'll start to sense "it's time to eat" just around that time. If you always have a snack at 9 pm, you'll notice a nudging feeling that it's time to find a snack each night at that same time. Evidence suggests you can break these habits as well. Trying to reduce your snacking? Ignore the signals you're getting and in time your body will readjust and stop telling you to think about food when you'd like it to be the last thing on your mind.

The bottom line is, feeling like you want to eat something is annoying and uncomfortable, regardless of the underlying reason. It can be distracting no matter why you're having a craving. And nothing terrible will happen if you ignore these signals. You simply do not have to eat every time you feel like it! Take a walk, call a friend, have a glass of water, choose healthy foods at mealtimes. Learning to say 'no' to those pesky feelings will actually make them go away faster.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Can Drinking Ice Water Burn Calories?

I've heard that drinking ice water can make your body burn more calories. Is this true? If so, would it burn enough to help a person lose weight?   thanks, Marjorie C.

Hi Marjorie,
There are all sorts of diet myths that are partially true, but have been blown out of proportion. This is one of them. The human body expends many calories during a typical day keeping the body temperature as close to 98.6 degrees F as possible. (This metabolic burn is already accounted for when you hear that the average person burns about 2000 calories.) 
Drinking ice water makes the body burn calories to keep the core temperature up to normal; about 9 calories per 8-oz glass! So even if you're drinking the recommended 8 glasses per day, you aren't up to an extra hundred calories. It takes about 3500 calories to burn off a pound of fat, and drinking too much water can actually be toxic, so this route is not an option. 
Likewise for hanging out in very hot or very cold weather--a bit of increase in metabolism occurs, but dangerous frostbite or heatstroke could occur long before a person lost a few pounds!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Why am I Retaining Fluid? Am I Drinking Too Much Water?

I have recently started on a weight loss diet and it was going fine for a few weeks. I cut back from my usual intake of about 3000 calories to just 1500 and was losing. But suddenly I have gained 12 pounds. I don't think it's the scale because it's new and my husband uses it also.
Could it be possible I am retaining fluid? I am going through menopause, could that contribute?
Finally, is there such a thing as drinking too much water? I ask this water question because I notice that I retain fluid (feel a bit swollen) easily and I tend to drink A LOT of water each day. I know water is good but if I drink an excessive amount would that be a bad thing and make me retain it? I usually drink a minimum of 4-5 20 oz glasses a day. I have always drank that but never really considered I might retain it until the scale reading. Thanks again for your help.  Marie R.

Dear Marie, 

I have no logical explanation for a 12-pound jump, except to suspect it will come back down quickly over the next couple of days. And to assure you that it's definitely not fat gain!
It takes about 3500 calories to make a pound of body fat. So you would have had to eaten over 35,000 calories in a couple of days to make a 12-pound gain. Not likely, especially since you've been eating 1500 ;)
Retaining fluid doesn't usually come from drinking too much water. It can happen with hormones in women as their cycle fluctuates; it results from high sodium/salt intake (Chinese food, ham or lunchmeat, canned soup) in many people; and it is seen in certain conditions like congestive heart failure or liver disease. 

The amount of fluid you regularly drink (up to 100 ounces) is close to 3000 milliliters. The recommended fluid intake is about 1 milliliter per calorie. So you have been drinking the exact amount suggested to support metabolism of your caloric intake. Now with the lower calorie intake you may find that you need less. It's not too much if you do keep it up, as long as it's all flushing through regularly.

If you notice actual fluid retention (like swelling around your ankles) or unusual extreme thirst, increase or decrease in urination, pay a visit to your family doctor. There are conditions that can affect fluid balance that can be serious if not treated.