Food isn’t just something we need to survive, it’s one of our biggest joys in life. From planning our grocery shopping to going out to dinner, we think about food often; but sometimes it really has nothing to do with hunger. Meals are meant to satiate our appetite and provide us with the fuel we need to be energized and nourished all day long. And while snacking in between meals is normal, if you’re finding yourself constantly munching throughout the day, you might want to read on to find out if one of these seven culprits could be the cause of your constant hunger pangs.
Hunger is your body’s response to the need for calories, water and salt, and there are multiple factors involved, including what you eat, appetite hormones and emotional needs. So if you find yourself to be a bottomless pit, and no amount of snacking can help you to feel gratified, then it’s important to become aware of other health concerns going on. Here are several causes you may need to address if you’re always hungry:
- You’re not sleeping enough.
We all know how a lack of sleep can affect our wellbeing the next day. You’re groggy, moody and lack concentration among other things, but it can also trick your body into feeling hungry, too. Many studies have linked the levels of hormones associated with regulating appetite to sleep deprivation. For instance leptin, a hormone that suppresses appetite, has been found to have a decreased plasma concentration as a result of too little sleep, causing the body to feel hungry the next day even when it’s not. And the hormone ghrelin, responsible for stimulating hunger, has been discovered to elevate as a result of sleep restriction. So how much sleep do you need? It’s dependent on the individual, but most healthy adults should clock seven and a half to nine hours each night.
- You’re dehydrated.
When hunger hits, first take into consideration whether or not you’ve consumed enough water over the course of the day. Thirst, just like hunger, is signaled by the hypothalamus located in the brain. When you’re dehydrated, wires get mixed up in this part of the brain, which can cause you to seek out a snack when you should really be gulping down a glass of water.
- You’re consuming too much sugar.
When you eat sugar, your blood sugar levels become a rollercoaster. First, they quickly rise, releasing a lot of insulin, and then, they drop drastically, leaving you feeling fatigued and sending hunger signals to the brain. “Insulin is really good at pushing sugar inside cells, but when there is a lot of insulin circulating in your system, sometimes too much sugar gets pushed in, and your blood sugar drops too low,” explains Joy Post, a dietitian for BistroMD. “This is nothing dangerous, but it is enough to make you feel hungry again. These foods that make your blood sugar spike rapidly act as an appetite stimulant.”
- You’re stressed out.
There are so many triggers when it comes to stress: a big interview, a high-pressure project, family matters etc. You might find yourself reacting to such circumstances by reaching for a pint of ice cream to soothe your soul. This is because, when you’re feeling uneasy, the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol elevate in your system. When this happens, your body goes into fight or flight mode, protecting itself from losing valuable energy, and therefore sending the signal to your brain that you need food for fuel. More serotonin is also released to calm you down, which induces hunger, too.
- You’re eating too fast.
When you’re starving and your meal tastes delicious, sometimes you can’t help but scarf it down in minutes. This is not mindful eating, however, and not only are you wasting the experience of eating this way, but you’re also hindering your brain’s ability to register your stomach’s fullness, resulting in your appetite remaining high. It takes around 20 minutes from the time you begin eating for your brain to receive the message that it’s time to stop,so practice eating slowly, savoring each bite and let the signal kick in.
- You’re drinking too much alcohol.
Studies have found that consuming alcohol hinders the production of the hormone leptin, meaning that, while sipping on martinis isn’t necessarily increasing your hunger, it is preventing your brain from getting the signal that you’ve had enough to eat. Alcohol also increases your senses, making food smell and taste even more pleasurable than imagined. This can cause you to indulge regardless of whether you’re hungry or not. Booze also dehydrates you, which can lead to feelings of hunger, too.
- You’re Not Eating Enough Healthy Fats
Another factor to consider if you’re always hungry is the types of food you’re eating at meal times. If you’re loaded up on chips and cookies, it’s no surprise that your body is not going to feel satisfied. If however, you eat healthy fats and fiber-rich foods at mealtimes, such as avocados, olive oil, nuts and seeds, and other foods with high satiation, you’re much less likely to want to reach for a snack an hour later.