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Are You Really Hungry?

Are You Really Hungry, Or Something Else?


Do you find yourself feeling hungry all of the time even though you feel like you are eating plenty of food? Below I discuss a few common reasons you may be feeling hungry and what your body may need instead of more food.

You’re Dehydrated

Our hunger and thirst center are located right next to each other in the brain. The signals for hunger and thirst are also very similar (feelings of lightheadedness, tired, sluggish, unable to concentrate..), thus can easily be misinterpreted. In other words, often times when we think we are hungry, we really may just be thirsty.

If we are always misinterpreting these signals it could easily lead us to eat more than we need to and eventually lead to a slow gradual weight gain.

Tip: At the first signs of hunger, drink a glass of water or two. Wait 15-20 minutes or so. If you’re hunger dissipates and you are satisfied then you know you really were just thirsty. If you’re hunger is still there, then you will know you were truly hungry and to go ahead and eat something.

To avoid dehydration throughout the day, the standard recommendation is to drink 64 oz. of water a day. Ideally this should be spread evenly throughout the day, drinking 1 cup of water every hour. This will not only help keep you hydrated but will help boost your energy as well. Of course, if you are exercising or sweating more throughout the day you will need to up your intake of water throughout the day accordingly.

You Are Sleep Deprived

Did you know that sleep has a BIG impact on our appetite hormones?

Ghrelin: This is the hormone that triggers our appetite and lets us know that it is time to eat! Ghrelin sounds a little bit like growlin’ to me (like the hungry growl) which helps me to remember this hormone’s job. Research has shown that when people are sleep deprived, their bodies produce significantly more levels of ghrelin than usual. This results in more feelings of hunger throughout the day and the potential to overeat when you’re body really just wants more sleep!

Leptin: Opposite of ghrelin, this is the hormone that suppresses our appetite and lets us know we are full and don’t need to eat anymore. Ironically, when you don’t get enough sleep, your body produces LESS leptin. In other words, your body will not receive the appropriate signals to stop eating, thus also resulting in greater food consumption.

Cortisol: This is our body’s main stress hormone. It is released in the body when we are under any type of stress. Lack of sleep is considered a stressor on the body, thus cortisol levels will increase in the absence of an adequate amount of sleep. Increased levels of cortisol can also cause an increase in appetite.

Aim for 7-8 hours of sleep a night, to ensure you are getting the rest that you need and to help keep your appetite hormones in balance.

You Are Stressed

Like I mentioned above, cortisol is released in the body when we are under ANY type of stress (physical, mental, emotional etc.). When cortisol is released, it signals the body to increase blood sugar. Why would it do that?

Well, in order to handle the stress at hand, our bodies cells need the sugar for energy. For example, if you were being chased by a bear or needing to escape from a burning building and suddenly need a rush of energy and strength to run fast, cortisol is your friend. This hormone is essential for survival. However, our fast paced, ‘I’ll sleep when I’m dead’, lifestyles these days leave our bodies feeling as if they are ALWAYS running from bears. This results in us producing WAY too much cortisol. Over time, chronic levels of cortisol will lead to a host of negative health issues.

In regards to feeling hungry, when our body is constantly pumping out cortisol to keep up with the stress at hand, blood sugar levels will also rise. Well, as the saying goes, what comes up must ultimately come down. When blood sugar levels come crashing back down, symptoms of hunger may persist.

In other words, managing stress is extremely important when it comes to keeping blood sugar levels stable throughout the day and ultimately avoiding feeling hungry as a result of low blood sugar level crashes.

You Aren’t Eating Balanced Meals and Snacks

While you may feel like you are eating enough food, you may be eating meals and snacks that are not balanced with good quality fat, protein, and carbohydrates.

To avoid blood sugar crashes that ultimately lead to feeling hungry, light headed, dizzy and unable to concentrate, it is essential to make sure your meals and snacks are balanced. So what do I mean by that?

It will be important for you to avoid eating and drinking processed and refined carbohydrates and high sugar foods/beverages that will be digested extremely quickly by the body. When these foods and beverages are consumed, they will lead to a rapid rise in blood sugar levels only to be followed by a crash. Examples would include but are not limited to all white flour based food products, chips, crackers, candy, soda, pastries, ice cream, fruit juices, pizza etc.

A balanced meal or snack will include a good quality source of protein, fat and unprocessed carbohydrates.

I’ve provided a few examples below. This is not an exhaustive list.

Good quality sources of protein: grassfed beef, pastured poultry, wild caught fish, chia seeds

Good quality sources of fat: avocado’s, nuts and seeds, coconut oil, olive oil, grassfed butter, ghee, coconut milk/cream, nut butters

Good quality sources of carbohydrates: vegetables and fruits, quinoa, buckwheat, gluten free oats

A few example’s of a balanced meal/snack may look like the following:

  • Breakfast: pastured eggs scrambled in good quality fat like coconut oil or grass fed butter paired with a side of sautéed veggie scramble and 1/2 cup of fresh berries. OR Soaked Oats with all the fixings
  • Snack: apple slices with unsweetened nut butter or raw veggies with guacamole
  • Smoothie: 1/2 cup milk of choice, 1/2 banana, 1/2 cup fresh or frozen berries, 1/2 avocado (will add good quality fat to help balance out sugars from fruit and will add a nice creaminess to smoothie), large handful spinach or kale, dash of honey to desire of sweetness, 1 -2 T. chia seeds (good source of plant based protein)

For more healthy recipe idea’s you can browse my recipe page on my blog.

So, the next time you are feeling hungry, instead of going straight for the pantry, slow down and carefully consider what your body may really be trying to tell you.




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