Constant or Insatiable Hunger, why and how to manage:
I often get comments from clients, friends, those looking to lose weight or shift to a healthy way of eating, that they are constantly hungry. This problem is definitely worth addressing, as hunger and satisfaction drives us to manage our eating and therefore our health or weight.
First, to clarify the differences between hunger and satiation versus cravings and satisfaction. Ideally you want to manage both for long term maintenance, paired with individual goals and preferences.
Hunger is related to satiation and that is your stomach grumbling or emptiness in your stomach. It often builds up and can vary in intensity.
Cravings are triggered by habit, smell, visual, or thoughts and they can come on quickly and intensely. Satisfaction keeps cravings at bay because satisfying foods are enjoyable and don’t elicit deprivation or restriction.
What I’m speaking mostly about here is controlling your hunger. How satiated or not you are.
There are numerous reasons one feels hunger and isn’t satiated easily. These can include source and type of food you eat, sleep, stress, hydration, metabolism, hormones, and activity levels. Each of these individually and in conjunction will affect your hunger and should be dealt with so you can reach you goals.
1. Type and source of food – hunger is managed by some key nutrients and components of food. Protein, fiber, volume, water are what I’m focusing on today. Having sufficient amounts of these when you eat can surely help stop hunger. These foods fill up your stomach without overdoing it on calories. Sugars, fats and fried foods, and white or processed and refined carbs at quickly digested and make you feel hungry much sooner.
2. Sleep – ample sleep helps balance hormones, plus when you’re fatigued and lacking in sleep what people often turn to is food for energy. And most often our food choices are poor carb rich or lacking nutrients which creates a huge cycle of high and low energy. Aim for 7-9 hours and on days you don’t get that sleep, plan in a 15-60 minute nap.
3. Stress – everyone deals with stress and emotions differently. One means of dealing is to cover emotions and stress by eating more food or poor food choices. Some people eat more when they are happy and less when stressed or emotional. Neither direction is a healthy way of coping. Instead, practice sitting and addressing your emotions and feeling. Identify what you’re feeling, why, and come up with other stress management techniques. Journaling or note taking is good here!
4. Hydration – our body is composed of over 90% water which is used in some way or another in every process our bodies undertake. Low hydrating creates low energy and may be mistaken for hunger. Make it a point to drink a glass of water before every meal and snack. If you’re active drink extra water in between as well. Adding some cider vinegar or lemon or lime juice aids in digestion and adds some flavor to plain water. Seltzer and unsweetened teas are also recommended.
5. Metabolism – a high metabolism means you’re burning more calories a rest, which means and greater chance of hunger. If you’re hungry and wanting to lose weight you want to consume healthy foods as listed above to take that hunger. This means plenty of protein, fiber, water rich and nutrient rich foods, and those with a low to moderate energy density; go for volume. If you want to maintain and have a high metabolism, focus on eating when hungry and choosing these healthy foods at least 90% of the time not nutrient void foods.
6. Hormones – hormones can greatly affect our bodies, mood, hunger, energy…you name it. In terms of hunger and managing hormones, first you must get to the root problem and cause. What hormones are off? Is it your thyroid therefore your metabolism and energy are off; your reproductive hormones like progesterone and estrogen with cause hunger and increased fat storage, insulin and blood sugar create highs and lows in energy and hunger. Determine which is a problem then troubleshoot from there. I have some great protocols and guidelines, but that’s for another post in the future.
7. Activity level – exercise is awesome! It keeps you fit, strong, your heart healthy, boosts metabolism, manages stress and mood. Too much exercise can become counterintuitive because it can raise your stress hormones and if you burn a significant amount of calories without properly fueling up before, during or after, your hunger will increase. Take your exercise induced hunger by exercising smarter, not harder or longer, and eating a balanced diet to balance your expenditure with your intake.
Try these tips next time you feel hungry and let me know how you feel and what works!