Hunger Hormones & Weight Management: Understanding Hormones for Effective Weight Loss & Successful Weight Maintenance


Trying to control hunger when you are really hungry and need to eat is difficult. Suppressing hunger with “willpower” is a strategy that is doomed to fail. We can’t “trick” or “outsmart” our hunger hormones. To be successful with weight loss and maintenance, you need to understand how the body works. As a Long Island Registered Dietitian, I help my patients understand that working together with rather than fighting nature is the solution.

Our bodies produce many hormones that promote and suppress hunger. Hunger hormones, such as ghrelin, are part of complex systems which require our attention, interpretation and accurate response to their signals (hunger and fullness cues). What we eat, when we eat and how much we eat all affect hormone release, and how we interpret the cues affects our weight. In other words, understanding our hormones facilitates the maintenance of an optimal weight.

Hunger is to be respected, not feared. It is a biological cue that works to keep us alive. Just like we respond to other signals our body gives us, such as going to the bathroom when we feel the urge, we need to properly interpret our hunger signals. We must also accept that we often want to eat (appetite) when we are not experiencing hunger cues.

As an RDN, I help patients to understand and respond appropriately to their hunger and fullness cues. Listed below is my rating scale.

Before eating, the feeling in your stomach can be described as:
1 = very hungry/starving
2 = hungry, I need to eat now or I will be starving
3 = somewhat hungry – I’m eating, but could have waited an hour
4 = not hungry – There is no feeling in my stomach

After eating, the feeling in your stomach can be described as:
5 = sufficient – will be ok for 5 hours but I would like more
6 = almost content
7 = content – I had enough
8 = stuffed/uncomfortable

Reference: Environmental Nutrition