Does this sound like you?
I'm always hungry.
I'm never full.
I never know when to stop.
I just can't keep my appetite under control.
Yes, there are people who love food, and it's always on their minds. They're likely planning their next week's worth of meals before they've even finished the prior week's worth.
But I'm talking about one step further than that: people who never feel satisfied and always feel hungry. Despite having eaten a big meal, they continue to feel empty—wanting and unsatisfied.
Don't beat yourself up if that's you. It's not a character flaw. It could be because of other forces at work.
1. Sleep deprivation. Two hormones, leptin and ghrelin, get out of whack without adequate sleep. Leptin, the hormone that signals fullness, goes missing, and ghrelin, the hormone that signals hunger, turns up full force. Added to this, levels drop for peptide YY, a hormone produced in your intestines that is responsible for knowing when you're full.
2. Stress. The hormone cortisol is known as the "stress hormone." When it's activated, so is your hunger—and it affects preference for foods high in fat and sugar. Stress is not the only emotion that can trigger hunger: so can happiness or sadness, says Donald Hensrud, MD, director of the Mayo Clinic Healthy Living Program and author of The Mayo Clinic Diet.
3. You're eating too many processed carbs. There's white bread, white rice and potato products. And don't forget those prepared breakfast cereals, cookies, chips and sugar-sweetened beverages. These foods are digested quickly, leaving you feeling hungry because your body is tricked into thinking you need more energy to satisfy its needs. Foods high in (good) fats, fiber and protein will keep you full much longer. Think Greek yogurt, leafy green veggies and legumes instead.
4. Eating mindlessly. So many times we eat while we're busy doing something else, be it driving, multitasking, watching television or reading while you eat. If you're not paying attention to what's going into your mouth, chances are high that you're probably not even aware of all the calories you're taking in. It's likely you'll be reaching for food sooner than you would had you eaten mindfully. "Distracted eating can increase your overall calorie intake more than you realize," says Hensrud. "Slow down and focus on your food, as well as your environment and the people you're eating with."
5. Medications. Certain medications can increase your hunger. "This is an incredibly underappreciated contributor to weight gain," according to Scott Kahan, MD, director of the National Center for Weight and Wellness in Washington, DC. Some of the most common culprits are psychiatric medications, including antipsychotic agents, steroids and some depression and sleep medications.
And here are some tips to tame your raging appetite:
- Eat regular meals. And that includes breakfast!
- Always include protein (chicken, fish, grass-fed meat), which can help you feel full and sated.
- Always include "good," high-quality fats (like nuts, seeds, avocados and olive oils).
- Avoid processed foods and sugary drinks.
- Fill your day with moments of de-stressing (yoga, breathing, exercise, meditation).
- Get enough—and good quality—sleep.
More Food for Thought:
Fiber: Something You're Probably Not Getting Enough of in Your Diet
5 Top Dieting Disasters