Let’s get one thing straight…
THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH BEING HUNGRY.
Having an appetite is a sign of a healthy working body. So, if you’re hungry, hooray! This means that your body is functioning optimally.
Unfortunately, diet culture has taught many of us to view our hunger as an awful problem that needs to be corrected.
It’s reached the point where we are trying to eliminate our hunger by: filling our bellies with water or caffeine, tricking our brains to eat less, or even using appetite suppressants to eliminate the desire to eat.
This is completely backwards because it’s often a lack of appetite that should sound our alarm that something may be out of balance within our body. A lack of appetite can be a symptom of several health conditions – low immune function, digestive disorders, and various medical conditions.
Hunger is a normal sensation. Your body tells your brain that your stomach is empty which makes your stomach growl and gives you hunger pangs telling you it’s time to eat.
SO… let’s dig into more about hunger and discover what that growl in your bowel is trying to tell you.
HOW MUCH FOOD SHOULD I BE EATING?
Your body is designed to guide you to eat the right amount, so it’s important to keep your eyes on your own plate and stop comparing the size of your portion to others. We all require different amounts of food at different times in our life.
When you focus on what other people are eating, it disconnects you from your body’s innate hunger signals.
Of course, this isn’t all your fault. Diet culture has made hunger and food quantity complicated. For instance, you’ve probably received messages such as: eat less to lose weight, women must eat less than men, or only eat 3 meals a day.
These food rules have been embedded into your subconscious.
Let me tell you a story about my experience with portion sizes.
Years ago, I was dining out with friends and felt alarmed when my friends ate 1/2 their burger, while I easily finished the entire meal. Am I doing something wrong? Shouldn’t I be eating the same amount as my friends?
But the truth is there are many variables that impact how much we need to eat.
It may help to consider these factors when dining out with friends ↓
- You don’t know what your friends have eaten so far that day.
- Your friends may like to snack constantly while you love big meals or vice versa.
- You may have had an intense workout that day, but your friends may not have.
- Your friends may have a slower metabolism than you do, which means that you naturally need more food.
PLUS, our appetites are not always the same from one day to the next and are always changing.
Certain factors impact our hunger levels ↓
- The amount of calories and nutrients you absorb from food.
- The amount of energy you expend each day.
- Where you are in your hormonal cycle.
- The quality of your sleep.
- Your stress levels.
The takeaway is that your appetite is YOUR appetite. Don’t compare it. Your body depends on your unique appetite to function like a well-oiled machine.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO HAVE AN INSATIABLE APPETITE?
Now you know that an appetite is nothing to be afraid of and most of the time it means you simply need to eat more. Keep in mind this is especially true if you’re trying to keep your calories low. Did you know that 1200 calories are how much a toddler needs?! Under eating naturally creates ravenous hunger because your body needs to be fed.
So… FEED THAT BODY OF YOURS!
However, there are cases when hunger does not mean you need to eat more. If you find that no matter what you eat, you can’t seem to quell your appetite…. here’s what your hunger might be trying to tell you ↓
5 Messages From Hunger:
① Balance Your Meals Better
You may feel hungry frequently if your diet lacks protein, fiber, or fat, all of which promote fullness and reduce appetite.
Example: my client sent me a food log stating she was ravenous all day and couldn’t understand why. Her food log was as follows >> banana and toast, green salad, vegetable soup, and ice cream. From this I could easily see she needed more fat + protein woven into her meals to feel satisfied.
② More Sleep Please
Two of your hunger hormones—ghrelin and leptin—are affected by sleep. Ghrelin stimulates appetite, while leptin decreases it. When the body is sleep-deprived, ghrelin rises and leptin falls, leading to an increase in hunger. Aim for 7-8 hours of sleep a night to get your hunger hormones back on track.
③ Stop Stressing Out
Stress can lead to increased or decreased appetite depending on the individual. For those who eat more when stressed, it’s because your body sends out a stress hormone, cortisol, which can make you crave sugary, salty, and fatty foods.
④ Check Your Medication’s Side Effects
Some medications are known to cause frequent hunger and can make you want to eat more than usual, i.e birth control, anti-depressants, anti-histamines and diabetes medications. If you’ve gained weight since you started the medication, it could be that the medicine is making you feel hungry. Consult your physician if this is the case.
⑤ Drink More Water
Yep, simple enough. Mild dehydration will often mask itself as feelings of hunger, when really your body just needs H20. Ensure you begin your day with a glass of water and continue sipping throughout the day. If you feel hungry, and you just ate, try drinking a glass of water and waiting 15-20 minutes to see if your hunger subsides.
To wrap this up, if you’re hungry, you need food because your body is telling you so. Rather than try to control your hunger, try to understand it. The more you listen to the signals your body is sending you, the better you will understand how to care for your body, so you can feel your best.