Sometimes we eat because we are legitimately hungry and it is time to give our bodies some nourishment. Other times, we might be tempted, bored, or stressed. There are different reasons, physical, mental, and emotional, that often cause us to eat.
Here are 7 examples of reasons why you might be feeling hungry—not all of them need to be solved by eating.
Okay, this one does need to be solved by eating. Many times when you feel hungry, you really are and you need some food. If you are feeling lightheaded, have a headache, or are feeling weak, or your stomach is rumbling, then you might be truly hungry. Know what your body’s cues are.
Lily Nichols, RDN, owner of The Pilates Nutritionist, states, “If you respond to your hunger cues on time and with the right amount of food, you’re not living in a feast-or-famine cycle. This helps maintain more steady blood sugar levels. And you’re sending your body the signal that you respect and respond to its needs.”
If you think you feel hungry but your body is not sending the physical cues, then there might be something else going on. Evelyn Tribole, MS, RD, an intuitive eating expert in a private practice in Newport Beach, CA, advises asking yourself what you are feeling in that moment.
If you can identify feelings of boredom or restlessness, then you might just need a change of scenery. Consider taking a quick walk outdoors for a great distraction. This can also help to curb your sugar cravings, if that’s what is happening.
When you are working on a project or task and find that you are procrastinating, you might think you feel hungry. When you need a break, you might think that you need food. But, there are other ways to take a breather. If you try other options (a brisk walk, chat with a friend, etc.) and they are not successful, you might truly need to grab a snack.
4. You’re having a craving.
You can actually eat what you crave and still meet your health goals. You can either eat the food that you are craving, or you can opt to switch it for a healthier choice.
If you do choose the indulgent option, be sure that you eat slowly and truly experience the smells, tastes, and textures. Nichols says, “This helps prevent overeating, reduces guilt, and lets you focus on the pleasure of that food.”
5. Too much fun
Emotional eating can be okay under certain circumstances. When you are celebrating special occasions, it can be okay to indulge. Tribole says, “There’s nothing wrong with matching your mood with a desire for a certain food.”
6. Your diet is too restrictive.
Most people will fantasize about food from time to time. If your diet is too restrictive, you might find that you are fantasizing and obsessing more than you should.
Tribole says, “If you’re suddenly thinking about it all the time, it can be a sign that your diet is too restrictive. Your body has mechanisms like hormones to get us to eat.”
But, if you are craving carbs, especially, then it might be an indication that you are not properly fuelling your body. Be sure to eat enough healthy complex carbs, like fruit, veggies, grains (quinoa, farro, brown rice), beans, and legumes.
7. You need more nutrients.
If you spent the weekend binging on your favourite foods and indulging in booze, you might feel suddenly hungry for healthy foods like veggies. This means that your body is trying to self-correct and make adjustments for your unhealthy choices. This is a great opportunity to use intuitive eating and eat what your body is craving.
There are a lot of reasons why you might feel hungry—some of them do mean that you are truly hungry, but other times the hunger may be disguising another need. Pay attention to the cues your body is sending and make healthy choices.