It’s one thing to notice an uptick in appetite if you’ve been training hard at the gym, or if you’re pregnant or PMS-ing. But when you always feel like a bottomless pit for no obvious reason, then something’s definitely up.
It turns out that hunger is a pretty complicated function and is influenced by both biological and psychological factors.
We found some of the most common, scientifically-backed reasons why some of us are constantly ravenous.
You’re not getting enough sleep
Lack of sleep may have a direct effect on how hungry you feel and how much you eat.
Short sleep duration has been found to reduce levels of a hormone called leptin, which inhibits hunger, and increases levels of the hormone ghrelin, which stimulates hunger. This is one reason why poor sleep may lead to weight gain, too.You’re pregnant
They do say you’re eating for two, but is that really why you’re suddenly starving?
It makes sense that appetite and calorie needs increase during pregnancy – after all, you’re eating to make a baby. You don’t need to fight against it!
However, it is more important than ever to make healthy choices at this time. This means eating real, wholesome foods and avoiding processed and refined foods and too many sugary treats. Keep your kitchen stocked with healthy foods and prepare healthy snacks in advance when you can. Eating nutrient-rich wholefoods – they will help to satisfy your body’s needs and make you less likely to overeat, too.
If you’ve just eaten a lot and you’re still hungry, then it probably isn’t hunger.
Think about the last time you had a drink of water. Drink a glass and wait a little while. The hunger will diminish, and it’ll turn out that you were actually just thirsty.
You can get rid of the constant hungry simply by drinking water regularly. The best way to get your body used to an increased intake of water is to drink a glass in the morning and then half an hour before every meal.
All of us exhibit either one of two types of behaviour when faced with stressful moments. There are people who can’t eat anything, and those who need to eat more, precisely because of the stress.
If you’re one of those people who eats more when stressed and anxious, then you need to remind yourself that stress is not a valid reason for eating unhealthy foods. It’d be better opting for some other activity.
You’re getting your period
It’s been found that women’s appetite and food intake increase during the second half of the menstrual cycle and in the lead up to menstruation.
Increased appetite and especially carbohydrate cravings can also be a symptom of pre-menstrual syndrome for some women. These changes are related to hormone fluctuations, but also may have more specific causes – such as increased sensitivity to insulin (which triggers low blood sugar and thus cravings) or low levels of serotonin (which naturally make us crave carbohydrates and want to eat more).
To help balance your blood sugar levels and manage cravings, it’s essential to focus on eating protein-rich foods (fish, meat, eggs, pulses, nuts and seeds) with each meal, and minimise your intake of processed and refined carbohydrates and sugars.
Caffeine and alcohol can also have a dire effect on hormone balance and so these should be kept to a minimum.
Foods with empty calories
Don’t eat extra treats that contain a lot of sugar, because you’re just consuming empty calories. Sweets, even if you only eat them in small amounts, only end up exciting the appetite without giving your body healthy and nutritious food.
The key is the try to reduce the number of fast carbohydrates and sugars and replace them with healthier foods.
Don’t eat quickly
Eating slowly is fundamental in order to feel satisfied and full at the right time. Eating quickly doesn’t give your body enough time to absorb it, and then it ends up demanding more.
One good way to do this is chew your food thoroughly and slowly and eat small mouthfuls. The brain needs time to recognise the signal that your stomach is full, so give it a chance.
If you eat very quickly, you’ll ingest more calories and you probably more than you need.
You drink too much alcohol
That pre-dinner cocktail or glass of wine meant to whet your appetite before dinner actually does just that, stimulating a feeling of hunger even if your stomach is full. Because booze dehydrates you, it can trick you into thinking you need food when your body is really calling for water. Offset the effect by eating before you drink, and make sure to alternate your cocktails with water so you stay hydrated.
You eat a lot of refined carbs
Even if you’re eating something at every meal, if your day looks something like this—a cup of sugary, flaked cereal for breakfast, a slice of pizza or a sandwich on white bread for lunch, chips for a snack, either white rice or pasta for dinner, and then a chocolate chip cookie for dessert—your problem is that you’re constantly fueling yourself with nutritionally-deficient refined carbs. Lacking the satiating fiber of their original form, simple and refined carbs burn up quickly in your body, which spikes your blood sugar and then causes it to crash. Low glucose levels are what triggers your hunger hormones, leaving you with a craving for more carbs!
Lack of protein
To avoid eating too much, it’s important to include enough protein in your diet. As well as providing us with energy, it also makes us feel fuller. Eat greens and fruits as well as proteins.
You aren’t eating enough fat
Just like protein, unsaturated fat is also linked to feelings of satiety. “When you’re satisfied after a meal, you are more likely to listen to your hunger cues and not eat again until you are truly hungry. Add this heart-healthy, brain-boosting kind of fat to your meals in the form of oils, nuts and seeds, and avocados. Experts recommend that adults limit their fat intake to 20 to 35% of their total daily calories.
You skip meals
This might sound like an obvious one, but it’s more than just the fact that you aren’t feeding your body. The habit of skipping meals has been shown to be able to make you feel hungrier when the next meal rolls around, according to the National Institute of Health. When you don’t eat, your body can deplete its blood glucose stores, which promotes an uptick in the hunger hormone ghrelin, ramping up your appetite.