It’s natural to eat varying amounts of food each day, esp throughout the month (females can sense this with their cycle). Yet, there are numerous things that affect our appetite, and knowing the variables can help us resolve increased hunger.
Why you may feel hungry all of the time:
- Your first meal is too skimpy in calories and/or protein. Aim for at least 25 grams of protein, this will stabilize blood sugars, prevent cravings, and hunger throughout the day.
- You are “eating naked carbs.” Eating a carb “naked” can satisfy hunger initially, but after an hour the impact on blood sugar will make you hungry again. Instead of having fruit on the go, a better alternative is a fruit with nuts.
- Hunger fluctuates with erratic blood sugar levels. Before someone wants to lose weight, first focus on blood sugar control. Things that cause erratic blood sugars? Poor gut health, stress, sleep deprivation, dehydration, processed food, diabetes, PCOS, etc.
- You’re sleep-deprived. With less than 8 hours of sleep, levels of leptin (the “I’m full” hormone) drops, which literally increases appetite.
- You’re not managing your response to stress. Research proves that higher stress levels increase total calories and processed foods in one’s diet.
- Too much cardio. Exercise can suppress your appetite, especially with HIIT and weight lifting, but there is a fine line with cardio. Several studies have shown that vigorous, long-term exercisers tend to have greater appetites than those who do not exercise.
- Too little of the right fiber. The best form of fiber isn’t in a powder, it’s from vegetables and seeds.
- You’re not eating enough fat. Fat helps stabilizes blood sugars and can make a meal more satiating for hours longer.
- Are you eating when we are not hungry? This can actually stimulate hunger.
- You are actually dehydrated. A study in the journal Physiology & Behavior suggests people inappropriately respond to thirst over 60% of the time by eating instead of drinking.
- We are multi-tasking at meals. Not only will our absorption of extracting nutrients from the food be impaired, but also we mentally don’t recognize all we ate will eat more than we need.
- You are drinking or chewing (gum) artificial sweeteners. Research from the British Journal of Nutrition, researchers found that while drinks sweetened with glucose and fructose (two components of regular table sugar) increased satiety and decreased the hunger hormone ghrelin, drinks sweetened with an artificial sweetener were not able to affect satiety hormone signaling at all.
- There are too many visuals of food around. From snacks in clear view as you work/read/study, to an Instagram feed of food images, to watching the Food Network, especially at night.
- Your gut health is off. Antidotally, if I am cross-contaminated with gluten, which I am sensitive to, I will have an appetite of a teenage boy that is hard to satiate.
- Your takeout has MSG in it. MSG messes with our brain chemicals, creating false signals to our mind eat more.
How can we prevent overeating?
- Check in with your stress level and be sure you are not eating emotions. When you feel an urge to eat something, try to understand where it’s coming from. Food is fuel, it’s not entertainment.
- Gain comfort in being hungry 30 minutes before meals. We should have an appetite between meals to allow our bodies to burn fat.
- Eat every 4-6 hours. Carbs amts/thresholds will vary from person to person.
- Visualize a hunger scale -10- to +10. A -3 you are really thinking about eating, and -4 it’s go time. +3 you are sensing fullness, but feel like you can handle running around the block, and +4 is a good stopping point, and you are full but can walk around the block.
- Stay well hydrated. Track your water if need be. Of course, “there’s an app for that.”
- Take a few deep breaths before each meal. You will enjoy your food more and digest more nutrition from your food.
Questions to ask yourself before you decide to eat?
- What can I alter from the above list on what is causing hunger in the first place?
- Am I hydrated? Is your pee clear or darker in color?
- Have you been eating a more quality diet, lower in processed foods? This can cause a dip in your electrolytes, and zap your energy, thus make you think you need food. Try adding lemon and sea salt to the water before eating.
- Did I eat enough at my previous meal or the previous day?
- Have I eaten enough today?
- Have I waited too long to eat?
- Did I eat simple carbs, where my blood sugar surged, and now my insulin is bringing down my blood sugar and I sense a strong urge to eat?
- Did I eat enough protein at my meal prior?
- Am I playing a mind/restrictive diet game with myself? Am I hungry, or is my thought driving this “hunger” feeling?
- Am I feeling or shying away from an emotion?