We all get hungry. In fact, it's completely normal and good to feel some sort of hunger each and every day. But they type of hunger you experience could actually be the difference between maintaining an optimal weight or putting on a few pounds. 

Healthy Hunger

At some point after eating a meal during the day, usually between two and four hours, we start to feel hungry again. A subtle little grumble starts in your stomach letting you know that it's time to eat. If it's not time for a full meal, you might just grab a small snack. If it's time for lunch or dinner, you eat a little more. The hunger goes away, only to return again later in the evening or the next morning. 

This type of hunger doesn't have a significant effect on your energy levels or mood. You're able to stay alert and productive. It's also fairly predictable - you know when to expect it. 

Unhealthy Hunger

This type of hunger can strike at any time during the day, but usually within an hour or two of eating your last meal. Out of the blue, you start feeling really hungry. Hungry enough to eat just about anything in sight, but preferably something sugary or starchy for a quick pick-me-up, like bread, chocolate or some other brightly-colored candy. You feel better for a while, but eventually the same type of hunger comes back a short while later. 

This type of hunger could also be combined with feeling shaky, agitated or even lightheaded. Because this hunger comes on fast, you're often unable to concentrate. 

The Big Difference...

The one thing that separates healthy from unhealthy eating is blood sugar levels. The stage for healthy hunger is usually set by eating appropriate amounts of the right foods for your body. I go into pretty great detail on this topic in my book, The Belly Burn Plan. It's an important distinction, and one most of us get on the wrong side of. Rather than eating the right foods foods that help to stabilize blood sugar levels (and therefore insulin levels), we reach for foods that are short cuts, offering quick fixes to unhealthy hunger. Once the roller coaster of uneasy blood sugar levels starts, it can be very difficult to stop. 

The Result

If unhealthy hunger continues for too long, weight gain is inevitable - particularly through the midsection. Unhealthy hunger also opens to door to a wider variety of conditions from diabetes to heart disease. It's a big deal, but something all of us can control. 

Nothing with change unless you address your diet. The foods you put in your mouth have a direct effect on the hormones that control weight gain and weight loss. You can start correcting blood sugar instability and unhealthy hunger by cutting out refined carbohydrates, such as breads, pastries, pastas, cookies and crackers (even those labeled as low fat or fat free). Start eating more vegetables and healthy fats, including coconut oil, nuts, eggs and avocados. Above all, eat small regular meals that include a reasonable amount of protein. Within a day or two, you should start noticing a positive change from unhealthy hunger back to a healthy, normal appetite.