Why am I always hungry? Nutritionists break it down
Raise your hand if you’ve ever downed an enormous salad for lunch with all the good stuff (avo included)…only to feel ravenous an hour later. The. Worst.
And if it happens to you on the reg, the feeling is enough to make anyone ask themselves “why am I always hungry” while frantically Googling the symptoms of a tapeworm.
There could be a few things behind your perpetual hunger pangs that have nothing to do with a parasitic infection (whew). From not sleeping enough to simple dissatisfaction with your food, we asked the experts to determine all the reasons you might feel hungry all the time. Check them out below, and see what you might need to change in your daily routine to beat your rumbly stomach once and for all.
1. You’re not hungry—you’re just craving something.
“I think the first thing to do if you’re hungry right after a meal is determine if you’re actually hungry, or just hungry for a cookie,” says Lauren Slayton, MS, RD, and founder of Foodtrainers, a New York City-based nutrition practice. “I have my clients do the ‘chicken test’—aka if you’re not hungry for a piece of protein like chicken or eggs, chances are you’re not really hungry.” Instead, Slayton says you’re likely craving something like carbs or sugar.
If you don’t pass the “chicken test,” and having a treat isn’t something you want to have, Slayton says you can distract yourself from those cravings with something non-food related, like a cup of warm tea, a bubble bath, or a good book. Since it’s not true hunger, she says the feeling will pass.
2. You’re secretly thirsty.
Yes, you’ve heard this over and over again—but for good reason. “A lot of the time, dehydration masks itself as hunger,” says certified nutrition specialist Khushbu Thadani. “Your body can’t tell the difference between hunger and thirst, so if you’re feeling really hungry after a meal, you just might be dehydrated.” Womp womp. Thadani says to be diligent about hydrating (although that doesn’t necessarily mean you need eight glasses of water) and drink up after you eat. If you’re satisfied after that water, you likely weren’t hungry after all.
3. You got a crappy night of sleep.
Tired AF? That’s going to throw your hunger levels out of whack. “Not sleeping enough causes the adrenals to go into overdrive,” says Thadani. “Your body craves additional energy, and this affects your hunger levels.” Plus, some research has shown that when you miss out on sleep, the hormone ghrelin (which controls your appetite) gets released in larger amounts than normal, contributing to that always hungry feeling. Thadani recommends about seven hours at a minimum each night to keep your hormones happy—so make it happen.
4. You’re super stressed.
There’s a reason why stress eating is a thing. When your body is stressed, it releases cortisol (the stress hormone) to cope. “It can have great functions, like revving you up,” says Slayton. But cortisol also spikes your blood sugar (meant to fuel your fight-or-flight response), leading to a crash later on. “This results in what we feel as hunger,” she says.
Slayton says eating more foods with fatty acids can help compensate for this—there is some mixed evidence that the omega-3s in fish oil could help reduce cortisol levels. She also suggests adding some stress-busting adaptogens, like ashwagandha, to your diet. Making other lifestyle changes to reduce stress (meditation, positive thinking, self-care, time with friends) can also help you deal without feeling like you need to mainline snacks.
Read more on the next page…
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