We’re often hungry when our bodies don’t really need food. If you want to stay healthy, it’s important to understand what your body is telling you. Let’s take a look at some of the less obvious reasons you might be hungry.
Not Drinking Enough Water
Water is crucial for our health—it keeps our organs healthy and our bodily functions running smoothly. Not drinking enough of it can lead to all kinds of consequences, including hunger. Why does this happen?
Well, if you only drink fluids when you eat, your body confuses thirst for hunger. As a result, you might eat excessively and unnecessarily. Do you often catch yourself reaching for your second or third snack of the day, even after you’ve had a satisfying meal? This could be the cause.
A good rule of thumb is to have a full glass of water when you feel hungry and see how you feel after that. Some studies suggest that drinking two cups of water before a meal can cause you to eat up to 600 calories less than you normally would. This is why water is associated with weight loss.
To keep yourself hydrated, try to get in the habit of carrying a water bottle everywhere you go and try to drink the recommended 10-15 glasses of fluids every day.
Not Eating the Right Foods
Our bodies need three main macronutrients to remain fueled: carbohydrates, protein, and fat. If you eat the right amounts of all of them, it can help control your hunger because you’ll feel full for longer, and thus, more likely to steer clear of unhealthy snacks. However, fiber should also play an important role on your plate. Foods that are high in fiber take longer to digest, so they keep you satisfied for longer periods.
If you keep track of your food intake in an app or a journal, you can make sure your calories are well-balanced and providing you with all the nutrients you need to stay healthy and lean.
When you’re stressed, your body goes into fight-or-flight mode, triggering a series of symptoms that involve both your mental and physical health. One symptom is stress eating. The culprit is the stress hormone cortisol, which the body releases to cope.
Cortisol causes your blood sugar to spike. This is followed by a crash that manifests as a craving and a constant feeling of hunger. That’s why some highly stressed individuals often overeat and gain weight in a short amount of time.
While there are no specific ways to combat the effects of cortisol on your appetite, you can deal with the cause. Meditation and self-care are highly beneficial ways to lower your stress levels, which can give you better control over your feelings, your body, and what you put in it.
Not Getting Enough Sleep
Just like water, if you don’t get enough sleep, it can affect many aspects of your wellbeing. You might spend your sleepless hours feeling exhausted, less alert, unable to focus, and also, hungrier than usual. This is because the sleep cycle involves two important hormones: leptin and ghrelin. Leptin inhibits feelings of hunger, while ghrelin increases them.
Sleep deprivation affects all aspects of your health, so it’s no surprise that it also impacts hunger.
When you’re sleep-deprived, the level of leptin in your system goes down, and the level of ghrelin goes up, significantly increasing your appetite. Research shows that people who don’t get enough sleep tend to eat twice as much fat as they do when they’re well-rested, which often results in constant cravings for unhealthy foods.
To avoid this, try to get seven to nine hours of sleep each night. This is the recommended amount of sleep for an average adult. It can improve your cognitive performance and keep your hunger and waistline in check.
Side Effects From Medication
An increase in hunger is also a common side effect of some medications. Certain antidepressants, allergy medications, and anti-seizure drugs can make you constantly feel hungry, even when your body doesn’t need the extra calories.
However, this doesn’t mean you should stop taking your medication. If you notice a significant change in your weight, consult your doctor and see if it’s possible to change your prescription.
A Medical Condition
Many medical conditions and diseases can affect your appetite. Diabetes, hyperthyroidism, obesity, depression, and hypoglycemia are all known to increase your normal level of hunger and can significantly affect your weight.
Sometimes, the first symptom of many of these conditions is a change in appetite, which might easily be disregarded as a temporary thing. That’s why, if the problem persists, it’s always good to get a checkup to settle any doubts.
Hydration, sleep, and a well-balanced diet are the keys to a healthy lifestyle. If you keep an eye on your habits and listen to your body, it can help you understand what’s causing your hunger and whether the problem is something other than a lack of food.