This one is a huge topic and one of the most common questions I get. Along with dieting and improving your eating habits often comes struggles with hunger. There are many reasons why this may be plaguing you.
- Eating too little
This one seems obvious and to be honest, it is the least common problem I see, but some women have gotten the wrong message or have struggled to lose weight that now they are seriously under-eating. For obvious reasons, you would feel hungry – because you are!
You do need to fuel your body unless you are doing a temporary nutritional fast.
- Eating too fast and while distracted
This one is tricky and a LOT of us are guilty of it, myself included! We are distracted and busy, so we eat while doing other things. This can lead to overeating before we have even become aware.
We are satisfied long before our body can signal us to stop eating.
A big part of digestion and the hormone cascade that comes with eating is being aware of the food. Our digestive enzymes start flowing thinking about food and they cease forming when you are satisfied.
If you are not paying attention to your food while you are eating, your body does not get those signals properly.
- Eating too little protein
Protein has hunger-reducing properties that can help you eat less overall by regulating hormones that signal satiety and reduce the hormones that signal hunger.
Do not overdo it though – you only need between 15-25% of your overall daily intake to be protein.
Plant-based eaters can easily hit these numbers without tracking every bite by including nuts, seeds, beans, legumes, and veggies like broccoli, spinach/watercress, alfalfa sprouts, bok choy, and cauliflower.
- Eating too little fat
Fat digests slowly, keeping you full longer.
Fat also stimulates the release of hormones that signal satiety. Studies have found people following low fat diets have more carbohydrate cravings than those on lower carb diets.
Fat is also critical for vitamin absorption and hormone production. Vitamins A, D, E, and K cannot be absorbed without fat!
- Eating too many carbs
We just covered a little of this with the fat discussion, but I will add a few more reasons why too many carbs will work against you, especially if they are refined carbs (low in fiber, vitamins and minerals; typically digest very quickly).
When carbohydrates are consumed, blood sugar rises, insulin in released to allow the glucose into the cells. Once the sugar is out of the bloodstream, you will feel a crash and the cravings and hunger return.
Any excess sugar is sent to the liver for either storage as glycogen or converted to triglycerides and stored as fat.
As a side note – carbs are a dirtier fuel than fat and protein – they produce a lot of wastes and free radicals that can cause inflammation and lead to disease.
- You are dehydrated
Water is actually quite filling and has the potential to reduce appetite when consumed before eating.
The thirst and hunger signals are often confused – so start with water before consuming calories.
Wait 30 minutes before eating (and do not drink while eating) – liquids can dilute the digestive enzymes leading to digestive distress.
- Too little sleep (or too little quality sleep)
Sleep is required for proper brain functioning, immune system and weight regulation.
Sleep plays a role in appetite by regulating ghrelin levels (hunger hormone).
Sleep also plays a critical role in detoxifying and rebuilding tissues. Your digestion gets a break and your cellular machinery can get to work repairing cells.
- Hormone imbalances
We have hundreds of hormones in our bodies and many of them relate to hunger, appetite, metabolism and weight management. These include estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, leptin (fullness), ghrelin (hunger), thyroid, insulin and so many more.
If you have an imbalance in the levels of one or more hormones, you may not be absorbing nutrients properly, burning fat properly, handling sugar properly or rebuilding cells and tissues properly.
- You are too stressed
Excess stress is bad for so many reasons – hunger and appetite included. This is mostly due to increased levels of cortisol.
Cortisol is meant to be used in the fight or flight mechanism, starting or stopping certain functions in the body allowing you to handle the emergency. For instance, digestion is slowed when cortisol is high.
During fight or flight mode, glucose is released into the body giving you access to quick energy.
Over time with cortisol levels high, you can get adrenal fatigue where your glands are tired or your cellular receptors become less responsive to the hormone..
- You have some unknown bad habits
One great example of this…do you have a schedule you follow for eating? Breakfast at 8am, snack at 10am, lunch at 12pm, snack at 2:30pm and dinner at 6pm…. That routine might actually be signaling to you that you are hungry, even when you are not really.
This was totally me. I followed the antiquated and incorrect advice for years that we should be keeping our metabolism stoked by eating every 2-3 hours. Seriously, I could tell you the time of day by how hungry I was. But I was not actually hungry.
I had formed the habit of hunger – my body was programmed to expect food at those intervals, whether I needed the calories or not.
No wonder I could not lose weight and was actually gaining weight even with all healthy, clean, plant-based foods! We have to learn how to listen to our bodies and consume the nutrients we need, when we need them.
We have to become metabolically adaptive.
Tell me – which ones are true for you?
Any questions about this topic?
To your health,
This is one of the BIGGEST struggles I hear from my clients – they just can’t seem to get a grip on their hunger! If this is you too, let’s chat about it. Schedule a consultation call so we can identify what is going on and find the best remedy to repair it!