Since I started incorporating intermittent fasting into my daily routine late last year, I began to observe patterns and reactions that would otherwise have not been brought to my conscious attention.
One rather interesting observation I noticed had to do with meal timing and hunger patterns throughout the day. To my surprise, the longer I held myself off of food, the more comfortable I became with hunger. It seemed paradoxical that the longer I chose to stay away from food, the less my body wanted it.
While that sensation is intuitive with the practice of intermittent fasting, as most long-term fasters can attest to, I noticed that the opposite was also true. The more I surrounded myself with food (as in snacking), the quicker I tend to be hungry again, therefore significantly increasing my total caloric intake.
I have tinkered with different diets within the last half a decade or so, including one that involved 4–5 smaller meals divided evenly across the day, and one that allowed just one large meal once a day. The latter is the regime I’m currently on.
The problem with frequent but smaller meals, as I’ve previously mentioned, was that one tends to become hungry again more quickly, which may lead to snacking and eventual caloric overconsumption. Aggravating this occurrence is the looming possibility of diabetes and other diseases, especially with sugary, processed foods.
With my current one-meal-a-day regimen, I am comfortably able to curb hunger over long periods of time (18–22 hours a day), with sleep being one of the most potent appetite reducers for me. However, I still find it a tall order to stop nibbling after my big lunch. Post-meal brownies are particularly torturous to say no to.
Studies have shown that the insulin released into your blood after a meal, which helps the body deliver sugar to your cells for the synthesis of energy unit molecules, actually further increased hunger. This is why the notion of appetisers work, they stimulate the initial insulin surge, which triggers a cascade of reactions that further drive hunger. On the contrary, fasting causes a decline in the serum concentration of ghrelin, or more commonly known as the hunger hormone.
This explains why I found it effortless to starve myself for 20 hours a day, but also found it so difficult to stave myself off the crunchy rich chocolate brownies I usually reserve for dessert. Not too long ago though, out of serendipity, I discovered a quirky method to curb this sugar craving.
When performed immediately after a meal, the simple act of teeth brushing was able to significantly reduce my desire to continue eating. The effect is apparently twofold. First, there’s the urge against begriming something you just made a conscious effort to clean. It’s like being extra careful with the car you just washed, or not wanting to go out after a shower. Secondly (and more scientifically), the chemicals in toothpaste are thought to be able to temporarily affect our tastebuds.
One component, sodium laureth sulfate, suppresses the taste bud receptors responsible for detecting sweet and intensifies the bitter ones, which is why things like oranges taste rather funny after brushing your teeth. Your brain then registers and remembers this effect — albeit subconsciously — and the deep-seated memory of the unpleasant flavour effects tends to turn people off the idea of a snack.
I understand that this may all sound like scientific hodgepodge. Evidence is scant at best, and there are no official studies to vouch for this correlation, let alone prove causation. However, the idea seems so simple and accessible that I believe everyone would benefit from just giving it a shot. It turned out to work wonders for me.
While there are other ways to flush your sugar cravings down the drain, a quick and free 1-minute brush was apparently all it took for me.