We’ve all been there, standing at the fridge deciding what to eat, when we’ve just had a meal than an hour ago. If you’re feeling hungry more often than you should, especially after mealtimes, then read on for 9 reasons why you’re always hungry, and what to do about it.
Your meal is not balanced
If you’re cutting out entire food groups such as proteins, carbs or fats, you can set yourself up for meals that are not nutritionally balanced. These three main food groups work in complimentary ways to give you quick boosts of energy (thanks carbs) and also longer energy drip-feeds (here’s looking at you, protein and fats).
If you’re not including enough protein and fats in your meals, those quick energy boosts from carbohydrates will not be enough to sustain you and keep your hunger at bay until your next meal in about 4 hours or so.
TIP: Ensure you’re including a small amount of all types of food groups throughout the day, particularly protein* such as lean meats, dairy, poultry, tofu, cheese or lentils and chickpeas (unless instructed by your healthcare provider) to keep you fuller for longer.
You’re not eating enough fiber
Fiber is such a great nutrient for our bodies as it helps keep us regular, helps prevent colon cancer and because it also keeps us fuller for longer, preventing blood sugar crashes and the munchies.
Fiber takes more time to digest, staying in your stomach for longer and stretching it, which tells your brain you’re full and your stomach doesn’t want any more food.
TIP: Aim to include high-fiber foods into your meals such as salad, vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans, wholegrain breads and pasta and brown rice into your diet
You’re stressed out
Long-term stress can raise your levels of stress hormones cortisol which can make you feel hungrier and cause sugar cravings. Stress is a slippery slope, which can really take a toll on your body if you don’t get a handle on it.
TIP: If you know you’re constantly stressed or going through a high-stress period, aim to put some boundaries or self-care practices in place such as yoga or daily meditation, relaxation time with friends or family fun days and make sure you’re getting regular exercise…even if it’s a half-hour walk around the neighborhood.
You’re leptin resistant
Sometimes hormones can play a part, and the appetite-suppressant hormone leptin may be involved. Leptin tells your brain that you’re full and have had enough food, and kills your appetite. However, if it’s not working as well as it should, you’re brain might not recognize and acknowledge the leptin in your body, meaning they just ain’t talking to each other…which leads to being hungry after meals.
TIP: If you are constantly hungry, speak to a dietitian or healthcare provider to determine if hormone imbalance may be causing this. In the meantime, regular exercise, reducing your sugar intake, and getting enough sleep can help.
You’re not focused at mealtimes
Have you ever eaten an entire bag of crisps or box of cookies without even realizing until it was finished?
Being distracted at mealtimes can have a huge impact on how hungry you feel later. The more you’re focused on the TV show, emails or Instagram feed, the less you’re focused on your meal, not giving our brain enough time to talk to our body and confirm we are full.
Eating too fast means you’re not chewing enough and again not giving your brain and body enough time to talk to each other to confirm you’re full.
TIP: Practice mindful eating, for at least one meal per day where you can sit in a quiet space, and really focus on your eating experience. If you’re a fast eater, be conscious of chewing your food a few more times and use a timer to slow yourself down, or pace yourself against another slower eater at the table.
You’re not getting enough sleep
Sleep is our superpower as human beings. One of which reason is that it helps regulate our hormones, including our hunger hormone ghrelin. The more deprived of sleep you are, the more likely you are to be puckish all day and overeat.
TIP: Set yourself up for some good quality sleep by going to bed at reasonable hour (for 6-9 hours of sleep), avoid screen-time just before bed, give yourself enough de-zoning time if you’ve had a stressful day and watch your alcohol intake at night.
If you’re on a brutal workout regime that is burning a lot of your energy and calories, your body will likely be hungrier to ensure that you’re replacing these fuel sources, making you hungrier, more often.
TIP: Speak to a sports dietitian or personal trainer to ensure that you’re not over-doing it on the exercise front and make sure you have enough healthy snacks between meals and after workouts to keep your energy levels and blood sugar levels stable.
Speaking of blood sugar levels…
If you have high blood sugar levels, have diabetes or insulin resistance, you may be more susceptible to hunger pangs. That’s because the blood sugar (fuel) is not being efficiently used by the body cells, which makes your body think you still need more fuel and stimulates your appetite.
TIP: Consult your healthcare provider if you suspect your blood sugar levels are high and ensure that you eat regular fiber-rich meals without skipping eating for long periods of time.
You’re in diet-mode
If you’re on a restrictive diet and not eating enough, your body may be thrown into a famine-panic. This can cause your brain to go into over-drive and release neurotransmitters to tell your body to go and eat. Your appetite gets stimulate and you have more and more thoughts about food.
TIP: Stop dieting. It is unhealthy and numerous studies show that it doesn’t work as a weight-loss strategy in the long-term. A healthier alternative is to start to practice intuitive eating.