by: Meagan Johnson, PA-C, RD
I frequently get comments from patients stating “I feel hungry all the time” and “nothing makes me full!” Hunger is natural. However, excessive hunger may mean that your body is trying to tell you something.
Perhaps you are not eating frequently enough. Envision your metabolism as a fire that you have to “feed” every 3-4 hours. This does not have to be a sit down meal, but can be a healthy snack instead. The longer you space out your meals or skip meals, the longer your stomach is empty which promotes the release of ghrelin (the hunger hormone). This can lead to overeating.
Try to get the right balance of nutrients from snacks, which would include fiber, nutrients, and a little good fat. This will keep you full longer by slowing digestion and stabilizing blood sugar.Simple carbohydrates and sugars will not make you feel full. They give you a quick burst of energy but then make you crash and crave more.
The hypothalamus sends out signals for both hunger and thirst. So, make sure you are staying adequately hydrated throughout the day to prevent eating when you are actually hungry. Urine will be light pale yellow in color when you are adequately hydrated.
Stress increases cortisol release stimulating hunger. So, reduce stress as much as possible and find ways to do so that doesn’t involve food. Pay attention to what, how much, and why you are putting food in your mouth. This is termed “mindful” eating. Mindful eating helps you sense if you are hungry or full. Make sure you are getting enough sleep! During states of sleep deprivation, leptin (the satiety hormone) levels drop and ghrelin (the hunger hormone) increases. Plus, you crave simple carbohydrates that make you crash and crave more. It’s a vicious cycle.
If none of the above applies to you, then it’s time to see your healthcare provider to rule out diabetes, hyperthyroidism, depression, anxiety, and medications that might be causing you to feel hungry.