One of the coolest parts of my job as a health coach is that I get to play detective with my clients. I freaking love playing detective (which totally aids me in my genealogy research hobby)! My job isn’t to “fix” them, instead my job is to help them figure out the right answers for them and give them support and accountability as they go from step to step. In order to do that we have to explore why they’re doing the things they are currently doing that keep them in a pattern. Together, we have to uncover the clues that reveal why they’re eating “too much. Why they can’t lose weight. Why they self sabotage. etc.
When we understand “why” we’re doing something, we develop an awareness that creates an environment where change is possible. I’ve said it several times on this blog – if we want to have a healthy relationship with food, we have to become a detective and investigate our habits and the actions we take on a daily basis that have gotten us to the place we are in.
One of the most frequent things I hear from my clients when we first start working together is that they are hungry all the time. They feel like they’re turning to food constantly and don’t know how to lose weight if they’re always compelled to eat. They feel like they can’t trust this natural signal that their body is sending them. It’s a mystery and they feel completely baffled by it. Feeling hungry all the time is something that can get in the way of your health and fitness goals so it’s hugely important that we figure out the reasons why this might be happening to you.
While a blog post isn’t a replacement for working with a coach who can help you figure this out, if you’re someone who is dealing with this, you may not even know what types of things can lead to you feeling this way – today I’m going to share the most common reasons why someone will feel hungry so often.
Do any of these resonate with you? You may have more than one – most of us do!
Why Am I So Hungry All the Time?
- Because I’m a fat lazy slob with no self control. No, that’s not it. And please stop talking about yourself that way. It’s not doing you any favors.
- Because of the shitty quality foods we eat. If your diet is heavily made up of heavily processed food (stuff like cookies, crackers, chips, breads, frozen entrees, fast food etc) it probably contains food additives that were specifically created in a lab to make you crave certain flavors and textures. I’m not kidding. There are over 3000 substances that are allowed to be added to our food for several purposes. Food processing of this degree started off as a way to reduce waste and increase shelf life, but over time, it has turned into a way to keep consumers coming back for more. It’s not just the chemical additives that cause an issue with hunger, many of these foods are super high in refined carbohydrates (the refining process removes fiber and nutrients which would slow digestion) and that causes our blood sugar to spike and crash quickly – when that happens, we find ourselves back in the pantry looking for more food. Adding more quality “whole” foods to your diet can help.
- Because your hormones leptin and ghrelin are out of whack. Leptin and Ghrelin are hormones our bodies produce that regulate our appetite and energy levels. Leptin is tells us when we’re full and when to stop eating but when we ignore our fullness signals over and over again and eat past them, we become leptin resistant and it no longer regulates our hunger. We’re no longer sensitive to it. Ghrelin is a hormone that tells us we need to eat. It’s something our bodies use to help us survive – if we didn’t eat, we would die, but some people produce too much of this hormone, causing them to feel hungry all the time. If you are not sensitive to leptin or you are producing too much ghrelin, you are going to eat and eat. You can read more about the role these hormones play with weight here.
- Because advertising is designed to make you crave certain foods. Both TV ads and the way our food is packaged is designed to make you salivate and think about how you can get your hands on that food. Companies hire food “stylists” to make food look as appetizing as possible for photographs, often using props and materials that aren’t even actual food to create the depiction that the company wants. They show people laughing and having fun while consuming the food, all so that consumers will want what those people have. It’s not a conspiracy, it’s how advertising works.
- Because the cues you use to eat come from outside of your own body. Even if you don’t have an issue with leptin or ghrelin, it’s pretty common these days to not be in tune with our body’s hunger signals. Instead of trusting our body to tell us when it’s time to eat, we “trust” calorie counts, certain times of the day or visual portion sizes. We eat to clear our plate if it was under our “calorie goal”, even if we’re feeling stuffed for the last several bites. We eat at lunch “time” even if we’re not hungry. We don’t really know what hunger feels like and so when we actually feel hunger, we don’t trust that that’s what it is.
- Because you are bored. Probably the most simple reason here is that many of us turn to food as a way to entertain ourselves. We’re not hungry, we’re not stressed, we just can’t think of anything better to do right now and food will take up some time.
- Because you’re not drinking enough water. Some of us confuse thirst with hunger. If you are drinking less than 8 glasses of water a day, try increasing your water intake and see if it changes how hungry you feel.
- Because it’s a long ingrained habit. When we do something for the first time, it feels foreign, it’s often difficult and we have to think a lot about what we are doing. The first time you tried to tie your shoe on your own as a child probably took a lot of concentration and effort, now you do it without thinking about it. Our brain wants to be really efficient so it creates neural pathways everytime we learn a new skill or habit. They get stronger the more we do something – it doesn’t matter if it’s something like brushing our teeth or snacking every time there is a commercial on TV. If you go to the pantry every time there is a commercial, your brain will connect the dots and you’ll start to find yourself in the pantry during those times without even thinking about it. It’s a habit that your brain has been conditioned to follow.
- Because you associate food with comfort. Lots of women don’t let themselves feel uncomfortable feelings and to deal with them, they turn to food for distraction and to bring comfort from their feelings. We stuff our feelings as far down as they can go and eat to fill that space. This is emotional eating. After awhile, any time we feel a feeling that we don’t want to feel (confusion, worry, sadness, frustration etc), we may start to feel “hungry” in response to it. Being “hungry” all the time, may actually be a sign that you are feeling things you don’t want to feel most of the time and trying to put a stop to it.
- Because you’re not eating enough. Some women aren’t eating enough food to give their bodies the minimum amount of energy needed for them to get through their day. They’ve bought into the idea that women should be slender and shouldn’t eat much, so they spend all day trying to avoid eating more than a tiny bit at a time, even though their bellies are loudly proclaiming their hunger. If physical hunger is a constant state and you are at a normal weight or underweight, then you are probably not eating as much as your body requires to function.
- Because you are training hard. If you’re an athlete or someone who is working out like an athlete – lifting heavy weights, running long distances etc., your body may need extra fuel to build and / or repair muscle after your training sessions. To make sure your muscles get the energy they need, your appetite will increase. If you don’t want to lose muscle during your training you need to eat a little (or a lot) more.
There are many more reasons why you are hungry all the time but these are just the most common ones I see people struggling with. In most cases, true physical hunger isn’t something to ignore. The tricky part for most is determining if whether what you are experiencing is physical hunger or emotional hunger. If you’re not sure which, I’d love to help you figure that out and create a plan to change your habits. You can contact me here.
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