soberness: it may be what I need, but it certainly ain't how I wanna be
April 24, 2012 11:43 AM   Subscribe

I took a break from drinking for a month, and my appetite decreased dramatically. For the first time I can remember, I felt full from eating reasonable portions, and I no longer turned to snacking for alleviation of boredom or ennui. When I started drinking booze again, I was back to my previous habits. What happened, and why?

I'm about 70 lbs overweight, and I don't ever remember feeling full before. I always feel like eating more if there's food on the table. Or if there's scraps on the table. But when I wasn't drinking, this all went away. After eating a normal serving of food (even a salad!) I felt a new sensation that some arcane brain circuitry was able to recognizes as "full". In that respect, it felt really good.

Thing is, I was miserable for that whole time I wasn't drinking. I am stuck in a job I hate in an industry I find despicable (finally quitting soon, inshallah), and it was particularly stressful for that month, and I dreaded waking up and going to work every day much more than normal. I didn't really want to go out and do stuff I normally enjoyed (playing music, political activism, spending time with friends and family), I felt horrible about myself, didn't want to go on dates, and neglected my responsibilities to my house and my roommates.

I've taken a month off from booze every year since 2007, and this is the first time I've ever felt it have an effect on my appetite or on my mood. The two possibilities I can see about my mood (which may have an indirect effect on my appetite) are 1. self-medication with alcohol was dulling the pain enough to prevent full-on depression or profound dissatisfaction with my life, or 2. I'm an alcoholic and these were symptoms of withdrawal. (or maybe both?). However, my previous experience with depression was always wanting to eat more, not less, and also I didn't experience any of the other "classic" signs of alcohol withdrawal (D.T.s, cravings, headaches, nightmares) and my drinking isn't terribly heavy to begin with, so it's possible it's something else.

Anyway, what might have caused my appetite suppression? Is it possible to reproduce this effect while still drinking responsibly?
posted by Jon_Evil to Health & Fitness (14 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Alcohol is dehydrating, which can make you feel hungry, so that might have something to do with it.
posted by something something at 11:46 AM on April 24, 2012

Alcohol is an appetite stimulant for many people (hence the tradition of the aperitif), maybe you, too.

I'd also consider getting your blood sugar checked. Although for most people, alcohol increases blood sugar levels, people with high blood sugar levels who drink can sometimes experience blood sugar crashes as a result of alcohol, and one of the body's responses to that can be a sensation of hunger (particularly hunger for sugar and simple carbohydrates).
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:55 AM on April 24, 2012 [4 favorites]

Two things spring to mind: 1) the body changes as time goes along, and how you reacted in the past may no longer be how you react now, and 2) stress is a strange, strange thing that does strange, strange things to people.
posted by LN at 11:56 AM on April 24, 2012 [4 favorites]

my previous experience with depression was always wanting to eat more, not less

This changes for many people over time.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:57 AM on April 24, 2012

Seems pretty simple to me.

You drink to escape your stressful situations. This relaxes you enough to be able to eat because your not worried about this or that.

The drinking causes you to eat more because not only are you more relaxed but your body craves more food just as it would if you ate only sugars.

Just like sugar the more you consume the more you want to consume.

Thats my take anyway.
posted by Takeyourtime at 11:57 AM on April 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

Alcohol lowers inhibitions and dulls senses. Seems like that might do it.
posted by bongo_x at 12:09 PM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

Drinking increases my appetite. I've read that, although it is a simple sugar, it creates a drop in blood sugar. Or maybe it's the spike and then the drop.
posted by BibiRose at 12:15 PM on April 24, 2012

Response by poster: Just to be clear, I'm talking about my appetite all throughout the day, not just after I've had a drink. I almost never drink before dinner, but lunchtime is where I consume most of my calories.

I guess this could have to do with blood sugar, so I'll get that checked out (gotta take advantage of health insurance while I still got it, anyways).
posted by Jon_Evil at 12:34 PM on April 24, 2012

Has your policy on breakfast recently changed? If my first meal is lunch, I *might* have dinner, or I might still be finishing off the leftovers from lunch. If I have breakfast, I'm hungry ALL DAY LONG.

Has anything changed other than the drinking?

(How does this relate to the alcohol part of your question? I'm a drinker. When I drink I love cooking for other people, but unless I'm 'properly' drunk, I tend to eat very little per the above.)
posted by one4themoment at 12:35 PM on April 24, 2012

Stress could be part of it, but appetite is complicated. Skimming the literature, people have reported that alcohol affects a bunch of different systems in the body that relate to energy consumption (insulin, ghrelin, leptin, gluconeogenesis, etc), but in ways that are hard to summarize. Anyway, it's an interesting question and there could well be a molecular component to the answer.
posted by en forme de poire at 1:01 PM on April 24, 2012

Alcohol and catecholamines independently inhibit the secretion of leptin (the satiety hormone) by your fat cells:
Catecholamines (CA) inhibit leptin secretion. Alcohol appears to have a similar effect. The mechanism underlying the inhibitory effect of alcohol is unknown...
The catecholamines (dopamine, adrenaline and noradrenaline) are associated with higher levels of physical activity and pleasure, all of which were apparently at a low ebb during your most recent break from drinking, but not previous breaks, so you could very well have been suffering from unprecedented low levels of catecholamines during that most recent break.

I would say you had feelings of fullness for the first time because of a simultaneous lack of alcohol and a dearth of catecholamines, whereas before, your catecholamines kept you from feeling full despite the absence of alcohol.
posted by jamjam at 1:01 PM on April 24, 2012 [4 favorites]

To reproduce those feelings of easy satiety, you can try a high fat, moderate protein, very low carb diet. For many people, eating this way also has excellent effects on mood (once you push past the early days/weeks of adapting). Many people also lose significant amounts of weight, seemingly effortlessly, and without hunger.

I eat ketogenically in part to manage my mood state and keep my energy high. This has been a silver bullet for me, after a lifetime of major depression.

Pertinent to your situation, it's also helped me stay off booze, which I was using to self-medicate back in my Dark Ages.

Apologies if I sound like a PSA for eating keto-style, but I just know so many people who it's helped tremendously, particularly in dealing with mood issues.
posted by quivering_fantods at 1:15 PM on April 24, 2012 [3 favorites]

I've had the same thing happen -- reduced appetite when I quit drinking for a bit -- and then noticed the same thing happen when I started taking Prilosec. I realized that for a really long time, what I thought of as "hunger" was mostly just my needing something in my stomach for the excess digestive acid to digest.

Like most people, my issues with acid indigestion sort of crept up on me as I got older, and since alcohol spurs the release of stomach acid, there was a time when abstaining from it was all I needed to not be bothered by it.
posted by patnasty at 2:04 PM on April 24, 2012

This is simplistic, but when I had a health class many, many years ago they just explained that drinking alcohol didn't really make you hungry, it just made you less able to feel that you were full.
posted by uncaken at 2:19 PM on April 24, 2012

« Older IP Switch...   |   How to avoid axe murderers? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.