It’s been just 2 hours since your last meal and you feel restless and hungry. You ask your friend or colleague if they have anything to munch on or you may go in search of something to eat. We may have faced a similar scenario and wondered- “Why am I so hungry all the time?” Hunger is driven by our body’s primal need for nourishment from healthy calories.
There are several reasons why you could be feeling this way. Hunger can sometimes drive us to make unhealthy food choices which affect our health later on. It is important to be able to discern what you need to do about it. Have a look at these possible reasons and how to make healthy changes and choices
1. You have too many refined carbohydrates:
Foods like maida based roti/ kulcha/ naan, puris, samosas, puffs, cakes, white bread, noodles, white rice and biscuits do not help you feel full. They have a high glycaemic index and are quickly digested, leading the blood sugar levels to shoot up fast. To control the surge of blood sugar, your body releases more insulin, dropping the sugar levels just as fast. These fluctuating levels makes you feel hungry and restless. When the fiber is removed from cereals it raises their glycaemic index.
You need to opt for whole carbohydrates- like whole wheat bread, brown rice, fruits with the skin instead of fruit juice. Combine your carbs with a non-starchy vegetable or a serving of green leafy vegetables. You can also include a source of vegetarian or non- vegetarian protein. This helps in slower more sustained release of energy, since there is no sudden insulin spike and crash.
2. You are thirsty:
Our hypothalamus is the centre that helps regulate the feelings of hunger and thirst. If you are not drinking enough water and your body is dehydrated, you may crave food. This leads to ingestion of a lot of unwanted and most of the time unhealthy calories.
Instead, if you feel ‘hungry’ (even on having regular meals), try drinking a glass or two of water. Wait for 15-20 minutes and if you still feel hungry, have a small healthy snack, like a small fruit. This is also why it is important to be well hydrated at all times. Especially in hot weather or in an air-conditioned office environment, where you may be dehydrated but not know it.
3. You are stressed and do not get enough sleep:
Talk about raging hormones. Cortisol and adrenaline are hormones that are released in response to stressful situations. A stressful day can cause increase in hormonal levels. The problem with these hormones is they are flight and fright hormones, which prepare the mind for an attack. Your brain thinks your body needs energy and you start feeling hungry. These hormones also reduce the levels of serotonin- the feel good, calm hormone. Not getting enough sleep on the other hand affects the appetite regulating hormones leptin and ghrelin. This may lead to unnecessary eating and weight gain.
Try seeking help to deal with and manage stress effectively. You can try meditation, yoga or breathing exercises. Exercise and listening to music can help you calm down. Have a fixed time when you go to bed and try to stick to it. If you have trouble going to sleep, try having a light and early dinner. This way your food is digested and you do not sleep with a heavy stomach.
For help with time and stress management you can even reach out to our counsellors at: https://1to1help.net/ecounselling
4. You drink too much alcohol:
Drinking before a meal may not be the best thing to do. This tends to increase your appetite by stimulating hunger. You also tend to consume high calorie foods after an alcoholic drink, this is because alcohol heightens our senses. It makes the nerve centres in our brain more sensitive to the sight and smell of food. Alcohol works against your body by making you feel dehydrated as well, this confuses the hypothalamus and we reach out for food, when all we need is water.
Giving up on alcohol would probably be best. For those who do drink, it is wise not to binge drink. Have a healthy snack before drinking in an attempt to reduce on alcohol intake and unwise food choices later.
5. You have forgotten your vegetables:
Vegetables that are cooked as sabjis or eaten in the form of salads are very important to keep you feeling full. They contain fiber along with nutrients. Fiber helps ensure good bowel movements. In addition, green, leafy vegetables contain Vitamin K which helps in glucose metabolism and insulin resistance. This enables the body to effectively use glucose in the blood stream. Fiber found in vegetables helps lower ghrelin.
Make sure that your main meals contain 1-2 servings of vegetables. A portion of cooked vegetable and a bowlful of salad can help meet this requirement.
6. You buy snacks and stash them at home:
The phrase ‘out of sight, out of mind’ is apt in this regard. Keeping unhealthy snacks at home or around your desk at work, could result in unnecessary nibbling. This is because these images have the capacity to cause us to salivate when we look at them. The body then starts to produce ghrelin, which leads to a false sense of hunger.
It would be better to stick to 3 healthy meals and 2 snacks a day, at fixed times. Avoid the temptation of eating something just because it happens to be there. Take stock and try clearing your home and office space of junk foods. Instead have healthy options at hand.
These tips can keep you more alert and vigilant the next time round. After all, no one likes to always feel hungry!
With inputs from:
9. Suksomboon N, Poolsup N, Darli Ko Ko H. Effect of vitamin K supplementation on insulin sensitivity: a meta-analysis. Diabetes, Metabolic Syndrome and Obesity: Targets and Therapy. 2017;10:169-177. doi:10.2147/DMSO.S137571.