Understanding Hunger & Kids: There's No Emergency Here!

family health hunger kids parent Dec 10, 2021
Family in Focus with Wendy Schofer, MD
Understanding Hunger & Kids: There's No Emergency Here!

Let's talk Hunger & Kids.

There's a lot to unpack here, so it's going to be over a series of posts.

The Biologic Basis for Hunger:

Why we experience it,  how it's NORMAL, and what can influence hunger.

I'm going to put one thing out there right away - I work with colleagues in the community to address food insecurity, and chronic hunger. I think there are a few things to address right away - malnutrition, the hunger that comes from under-nourishment - I talk about chronic hunger here - impacting growth, performance, potential, health. There is messaging about wanting to END CHRONIC HUNGER. I wholly agree - to end food insecurity. To end insufficient nutrition. 

The message of END CHRONIC HUNGER may bleed over to FEAR BIOLOGIC HUNGER. And that we can address.

Hunger, as a day-to-day sensation is not something to fear. It is normal.

Why do we experience hunger?

Hunger is a normal signal. It's our body's way of messaging that fuel supplies are getting low - time to refuel. It's kinda like a fuel gauge on your car. Especially when you get the 25 mile heads-up. Hey, friend, getting low here - let's start looking for some refueling."


We have cycles of hunger every day. And when there are times of increased growth (think about the young infant who eats every few hours) - it makes sense that they get hungry more often - and fueling helps them grow.


Hear that again: when our kids are growing, they have more hunger. It is completely NORMAL.

A little biology of hunger: 2 influences/triggers

Hunger is a signal. It's a sensation in the body. And it is triggered by a few things:
1) Stretch receptors in the stomach. When there is low/no stretch, hormones are sent to the brain that say, "Hey, we need some fuel here." You get hungry and start looking for food to stretch that stomach once again with fuel.
2) More hormones, specifically insulin. Insulin is a hormone for growth. Whoa. YES. It's a hormone that is storing energy - so we have it for growth.
When we eat foods, insulin rises. Because it's getting ready to store the energy.
No big deal.
When we eat certain foods, insulin rises even more - think of the refined/processed foods - they are very quickly absorbed and so insulin jumps up.
What happens when it goes up quickly? The body works really hard to find a balance - and works to BRING IT BACK DOWN AGAIN. Store, store, store.... hold on, low insulin -- and THIS is where hunger comes back.

Have you ever noticed that when you eat processed foods (primarily simple carbs....mmmmm .... pretzels) -- hunger would come back sooner than if you eat a food with a variety of nutrients, the low-slow absorption with protein and fats - so beans, avocados, cheese...

Insulin is NOT a bad thing. Too much can be a problem with increasing growth, but also the swings aren't helpful either because decreasing insulin triggers hunger - and dare I say one version of HANGRY - the biologic, my hormones are looking to stabilize.

That often comes out as a feed-me-now type of hunger than what I suggest is natural state hunger: low-slow, a hunger that whispers, it comes and goes, reminder to start moving towards food, not an emergency, you're on your last 5 miles of fuel screaming.

Your mission:

Just first, look at the patterns for hunger for you. When does hunger come up?

What does it feel like in your body?


No changes.

And don't go mucking around with your kids until you have the opportunity to learn for yourself. 

Because we have beautiful, active, busy lives where there's so much going on out there that we have not taken the opportunity to listen to what's on the inside. Either didn't learn it, not given permission to honor the messages, or have turned them off over time.

Observe. As a parent. As an adult. Understand your body - to then be able to help model and teach our kids.

Next time we will get into what to do with hunger (Spoiler alert: Eat for God's sake!) -- and the emotions of hunger.

Check out the Family in Focus with Wendy Schofer, MD Podcast!

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