You've just eaten a meal, and you should feel full. Yet, you still feel hungry. Why do you feel gnawing hunger even though you ate a tasty meal less than an hour ago? Anyone who has struggled to lose weight knows the frustration of feeling hungry shortly after meals.
If you've ever experienced this, you may have searched for answers and even tried to use willpower to keep from snacking after meals. But there are some biological reasons why you may not stay full after eating. Let's look at some of those and how to correct them.
You're Making the Wrong Food Choices
Studies show that eating a meal high in low-fiber, refined carbohydrates, including foods like white bread, white rice, sugar, or pasta, will cause you to feel hungry sooner than a meal with higher-fiber food like whole grains, non-starchy vegetables, and high-quality sources of protein.
Protein has the highest satiety index of the three macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates, and fat), so it makes sense to include a source of protein with every meal and snack. Fiber is another dietary component that helps with satiety. Plus, it's beneficial for the bacteria that make up your gut microbiome. Therefore, a meal built around protein, fiber-rich carbohydrates, and moderate quantities of a healthy fat source maximizes satiety.
You're Eating Too Fast or Eating on the Run
It takes time for your body to tell your brain you've eaten enough. Research shows satiety hormones, those that suppress your appetite, don't kick in for 20 minutes. So, the key is to slow down the pace of a meal, so you don't overeat before your satiety hormones do their job of helping you feel full.
These days, too many people eat in a hurry and hardly taste their food. Set aside time to eat, and don't multitask while you're doing it. Pace yourself by setting down your fork and taking breaks. Play relaxing music and tune in to what you're eating. Don't let technology get in the way either. Keep tablets and smartphones away from the table.
You're Not Eating Mindfully
When you eat mindfully, you tune into the whole sensory experience of eating. Admire your food with your eyes, ears, mouth, and nose, and let every sense participate in the eating experience. Studies show immersing yourself in the eating experience helps you eat less and can even help you make smarter dietary choices.
You're Insulin Resistant
Insulin resistance can cause you to feel hungry too. When you have insulin resistance, your cells don't respond as well to insulin, a hormone that helps get glucose into your cells. Since your cells aren't able to get glucose as easily, they can't make the energy as easily. With your cells in an energy-deprived state, you feel hungry much of the time and may feel tired too.
Other health problems can cause you to feel hungry too, including an underactive thyroid gland. If you change the composition of your diet, eat more mindfully, and you're still constantly hungry, see your healthcare provider. Also, some medications can increase hunger too, including oral steroids and some medications used to treat mental health conditions.
You're Not Sleeping Enough
Did you know that not sleeping enough can cause you to feel hungry too? Studies show too little sleep increases ghrelin, an appetite hormone that fuels hunger and cravings. Also, lack of sleep boosts the stress hormone cortisol, which also increases hunger and weight gain. Make sure you're getting at least 7 hours of quality sleep each night.
You're Stressed Out
Stress often fuels unhealthy eating habits. Some people eat comfort foods when they're stressed out. When stress rears its ugly head, you may crave fatty or sugary foods because they give you temporary comfort. When you are stressed, you're likely to crave higher-calorie foods than usual, especially foods with simple carbohydrates, like bread and sweets. Stress eating can also be a way to cope with stress, instead of confronting it.
There's also a physiological basis for stress triggering hunger. Physical and mental stress increases the stress hormone cortisol, and can cause you to overeat and eat foods high in sugar and fat.
You're Chronically Dehydrated
Studies show that people often confuse dehydration with hunger and eat something when they need to drink a big glass of water. Some studies also show that people who drink water before meals consume fewer calories.
The Bottom Line?
How can you get in better touch with your hunger? Keep a food diary for a few weeks to figure out what your real reasons are for eating. Get in touch with your body and listen to its real needs. You might be surprised at how much you already know about your eating habits! Plus, by writing everything down, you'll become more aware of what and how much you are eating throughout the day.
Dr. Weil blog. "Eating Too Fast?"
Science Daily website. "Increased Fiber Curbs Appetite In Women"
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