Why Am I
Always Hungry?

Hunger like an empty fuel guage

Why Am I Always Hungry?

Are you really running on empty? Here's the science behind your hunger.

I don't think I've ever turned down food. A taste? A bite? A free sample at the grocery store? Bring them on. I like food and there's nothing wrong with that. But when I'm jonesing for a snack a mere 45 minutes after lunch? That's just a distracting annoyance. I'm an active guy, maybe my early morning workouts were the problem. Perhaps I wasn't eating a big enough breakfast? But after some research and speaking with a nutritionist, it's clear that I was simply making poor lifestyle decisions. To help my fellow ravenous snackers, we've pulled together the most common, scientifically backed reasons why we find ourselves constantly hungry. And to get you on the right path, we've paired each with a proven fix to fill you up and keep you on track instead of casing the office kitchen in search of scraps—not that I know anything about that.

Advertisement

You're
Tired

Feel like you're constantly in search of a snack at work? How's your sleep schedule? When you're deprived of quality shut-eye, your levels of a hormone called leptin (which sends your brain signals of feeling full and satisfied) drop. A PLoS Medicine study found that this, in turn, increases your appetite and makes you crave comfort food. More bad news? A lack of sleep can cause you to burn fewer calories and experience an increase in another hormone, cortisol, which can make your body store fat.

What
to
Do

If you're eating to simply keep yourself from falling asleep, take a nap. You're better off resting your body for 15 to 20 minutes than stuffing unnecessary calories into your body.

You're
Stressed

According to registered dietitian and nutritionist Bonnie Taub-Dix, stress can have a funny effect on your feelings of hunger. It's an interesting twist, she says, how our bodies trick us into feeling hungry when we're merely stressed out. We have an innate trigger to "eat our feelings" when we're feeling down or worried about work or family problems. What's more, a 2015 study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism found consuming sugary beverages actually helps combat the onset of stress.

What
to
Do

You can't always control what's stressing you out. But you can control what you put in your mouth. When you get a craving, consider how you're feeling and if this is a stress response ... you might just need a coffee with a heavy spoonful of sugar.

You're Not Eating Enough Protein or Fiber

Many people end up eating a lot of refined carbohydrates during the week. Maybe some sugary cereal in the morning, a few slices of pizza at lunch and some pretzels for a snack. The problem with this is that you're constantly fueling yourself with nutritionally deficient, refined carbs. These burn quickly in your body, which spikes your blood sugar and then causes it to crash. When your glucose levels drop, you trigger your body's hunger response.

What
to
Do

Choose foods that will fill you up and burn slowly to give you sustained energy. Complex carbs (grains like brown rice and quinoa), raw vegetables, fruits and a decent amount of protein (lean meats, dairy or eggs).

Advertisement

You're Thirsty

Taub-Dix says that most of us confuse dehydration for hunger all the time. It's not really our fault. That's because your hypothalamus regulates hunger and thirst, and sometimes it mixes up its signals. In fact, drinking some water before a meal can keep you from overeating. A recent study published in Obesity found that those whose drank two cups of water before eating consumed 75 to 90 fewer calories over the course of a meal.

What
to
Do

Down a tall glass of water or grab a cup of coffee instead of a snack when you feel your hunger creeping up. Wait 15 minutes and see if you're still hungry.

You're Drinking Too Much

As we mention above, dehydration will make you feel hungry. And anyone who's been hungover knows that alcohol dehydrates your body. What's more, a study published in the American Journal of Nutrition showed that alcohol is one of the biggest drivers of excess food intake. So that pre-dinner cocktail might set you up to overeat. That's likely because alcohol can heighten our senses and make food look and smell more tempting.

What
to
Do

Chase every alcoholic beverage with a big glass of water or club soda to stay hydrated and fill your stomach. Or try a low-alcohol beer for a post-work drink.

You've Got Snacks in Sight

In an effort to get their employees to eat less candy, Google's Human Resources team experimented in their New York office. Their in-house study, nicknamed "Project M&M," simply yet strategically put the candy in opaque containers and instead emphasized the placement of dried figs, pistachios and other healthy snacks in glass jars. This seemingly small change curbed candy consumption by 3.1 million calories in just seven weeks. According to Cambridge researchers, we have an inherent human desire to see our food. And this has programmed our guts to release hunger hormones at the mere sight of food, leading to false cravings.

What
to
Do

This one's pretty easy. Keep your snacks and treats tucked away. Out of sight ... out of mouth, right? And don't go to the grocery store before a meal.

FYI

Your stomach is essentially the size of both your fists pressed together.

More on
Eating Well

The Valet. Email
The Valet. Email

Get Valet. in Your Inbox

Smart reads, expert tips, exclusive sale alerts and more. You won't be disappointed.

Get Valet.
in Your Inbox

Smart reads, expert tips, exclusive sale alerts
and more. You won't be disappointed.

Advertisement