I always feel hungry is the catch cry of many a person around the world – and not just those on a calorie reduced diet – as I found out from the number of people finding my site searching by the term “always feel hungry”! So I thought this would make an interesting research topic to see if I could find out more about the physiological reasons behind why we feel hungry all the time. Especially as this is something that I have had first hand experience with.
Four reasons why you always feel hungry
#1 Not eating and drinking enough
First of all the obvious; you will always feel hungry if you are not eating enough, but I am not going to delve too deeply into this topic today. If you need to lose weight, I highly recommend sensible, well balanced programs such as Weight Watchers, The Diet Solution or The Gabriel Method. I have also covered this topic in more detail in my post Are you really hungry? which also covers why you should be drinking plenty of water, because feeling hungry can be caused purely because you are dehydrated.
#2 Not getting enough sleep
If you always feel hungry, it may simply be due to lack of sleep or lack of good quality sleep, which I covered in an earlier article Lack of sleep and weight gain. If you do not get 6 ½ to 8 hours sleep a night, lack of sleep can change your metabolism to make you want to eat more. The way this happens is that grehlin, a hormone produced in your stomach is normally released to stimulate your appetite to make you want to eat. When your cells are full again, the fat cells release the hormone leptin to signal your brain that you are full. If you are suffering from chronic lack of sleep, excess grehlin is produced causing an increase in appetite, while less leptin is produced to signal that you are full. The result is that you always feel hungry because your brain does not receive that all important “full” signal.
Making sure that I get enough sleep is the biggest change that I have made for my health this year. I am by nature a night owl, but often would only get 4-6 hours sleep a night. This resulted in me constantly getting the munchies mid-afternoon, but I would be craving sweets, cake and chocolate, not a nice piece of healthy fruit! Now I don’t always feel hungry mid-afternoon and when I get home after work, I just have a healthy snack and don’t feel that I have to eat everything that isn’t nailed down.
#3 Too much stress
High levels of stress can also cause you to feel constantly hungry. Again I have covered this topic in Stress and weight gain explained so today I will do a quick summary. When you are stressed, your adrenal glands produce more of the hormone cortisol, the “fight or flight’ hormone. Cortisol is another hormone that makes us want to eat. Stress also causes us to produce more of the “hunger hormone” Grhelin mentioned above so we are hit with a double whammy which could be the reason why you always feel hungry.
#4 You may always feel hungry if you are obese
This is not quite such an astonishing statement when you understand the way your hormones work. First of all if you are carrying a lot of extra weight, you can become resistant to the hormone leptin mentioned above, the one produced by your fat cells to tell you that you are full. So although your fat cells are producing leptin, your brain isn’t getting the “full” message so of course you always feel hungry.
Secondly, when you eat you produce insulin. Insulin’s job is to take glucose (a form of sugar) out of the blood stream and into all of the cells of the body with the excess taken to the fat cells to be stored. If you become “insulin resistant” so that your cells don’t respond as well as they have done previously, your body will make too much insulin which remains in your blood stream. When you eat, because of the excess insulin, too much glucose will be quickly stored away, leaving you feeling as if you haven’t eaten enough. So once again, you will feel tired and hungry leading you to eat more as your body is demanding.
If you always feel hungry, these are some simple measures that you can take:
- Make sure that you are eating enough. Even if you are on a diet you still need to eat a minimum of 1200 (5,000 kilojoules a day). Fill up on vegetables and good quality fats, proteins and wholegrain products.
- Drink enough water to remain hydrated. Dehydration can make you feel hungry and also slow down your metabolism by as much as 4%.
- Make sure you get enough sleep 6 ½ to 8 hours a night.
- Reduce your stress levels; eat properly, exercise, meditate, listen to music.
- Lose weight to reduce the effects of insulin and leptin resistance.
During my chocoholic stage several years ago, I used to eat a family block of chocolate and a Chokito bar every day for almost two years, otherwise the rest of my diet was very healthy. I remember that I would always feel hungry about half an hour after lunch, even though I had eaten a chicken and salad sandwich on wholegrain bread and a yogurt. I used to get actual hunger pangs! Now I finally understand why. With my system being bombarded by such a horrendous amount of sugar every day, I was probably insulin resistant and well on my way to becoming a type II diabetic. Now I feel hungry for the right reasons and you can as well if you make some simple lifestyle changes.
Do you always feel hungry and what do you do about it?