When we feel hungry, we reach for food. But, with two-thirds of all Americans now overweight or obese, I’m guessing that much of the “hunger” we are feeling is NOT true physiological hunger.
Hey, if you are truly hungry, I want you to eat. Food is fuel for our body and our brain so it’s important to eat on a regular basis to maintain your energy level, health, and body composition. But, if you’re not physically hungry, then don’t eat.
10 Questions to Ask When You Feel Hungry
- Am I dehydrated? Thirst often feels like hunger. Check the color of your pee…it should be clear to very light. Dark colored urine indicates dehydrates (note: some medications and supplements can darken urine).
- Did I get enough “fuel” at my previous meal/snack? Maybe you’re hungry because you just didn’t eat enough to cover your needs at the present time…so, eat!
- Have I eaten enough today? Sometimes we eat so little during the day – far less than our body needs – and at some point during the day…our body says, “ENOUGH!!” and demands food NOW! You’re going to feel a whole lot better if you spread out your food throughout the whole day – and not eat most of it in the evening.
- Did I wait too long to fuel? So often I’ve heard people complain that when they eat breakfast they feel hungry at 10am (like it’s a bad thing). You’re supposed to be hungry a few hours after breakfast! If you read my article, How Food Become Fuel, you already know that Any meal (of any size) is digested and absorbed in 3-4 hours (depending on the size). A small breakfast will provide enough fuel till…mid morning. So, eat!
- Did I eat too much “fuel”? Eating a big meal will NOT (I repeat…will NOT) give you more energy for a longer period of time. A big meal will provide you with just four hours of energy. The calories that you don’t burn during that period of time go straight to your fat cells! And, you know that expression, “the bigger they are, the harder they fall.” Large meals lead to roller coaster high blood glucose, followed by lows. And, low blood glucose will make you feel weak and hungry. Stop eating large meals! Big meals don’t fuel you longer, but they do make you fat.
- Did I eat high GI foods? Glycemic index refers to how fast carbohydrates get absorbed into your bloodstream. Fast-acting carbs (high GI) tend to give you a short burst of quick energy…and then leave you rock bottom. Slow-acting carbs (low GI) provide you with a steady source of energy…without the rebound. So, instead of high GI foods (such as sodas, sweets, processed cereal, and breads), reach for low GI foods (like less processed whole grains, oats, beans, and fresh fruits and veggies).
- Did I eat enough protein? Protein do more than build strong muscles – it helps with satiety, so we feel full longer. But the body can handle only small amounts of protein at one time (the excess gets converted into fat). Instead, eat a small amount of protein (about the size of a deck of cards) at every meal. Adding smaller amounts of protein for snacks such as peanut butter, nuts, yogurt, and low fat cheese might also help to keep you full longer.
- Am I depriving myself? Let’s face it…whenever we say “NO” to our favorite foods for a long period of time, we feel deprived. Eventually, the cravings get stronger, we break down and overeat. It’s best to allow yourself a small treat (pick your very favorite) every day or so.
- Did I get enough sleep last night? People who don’t get a good night sleep tend to feel hungrier/less full…unconsciously eating as much as 100-300 extra calories a day! In addition, sleepy people tend to exercise less, too.
- Am I a stress-eater? So often we “stuff” our emotions with food, drink, cigarettes, and more…rather than dealing with what we need to feel. Could your “hunger” really be that you’re feeling unloved, angry, hurt, disrespected, out-of-control, or a whole other range of emotions? Identify them. Manage what you’re feeling – instead of just covering it up with food.
Check out the YouTube video I did on this topic: