While there are pockets of true hunger in the U.S., most people I talk to or read about have access to adequate nutritional food. So why are so many people hungry much of the time? And why do any of us eat more – or more frequently – than is good for our health (weight, energy, mental alertness, and so forth)? And this is not a U.S. problem only. Obesity rates and the appearances of adult eating-related disorders in younger and younger children are growing around the world.
If you are concerned about your appetite or that of anyone you know, think first of WATER. Yes, water. The single most easily resolved problem that often leads to a feeling of hunger is the lack of adequate water intake. If this is a new concept for you, here is the way to determine the recommended daily intake for your specific body. Take you body weight in pounds and divide it in half (example, 150 pounds/2 = 75). Your result is the number of ounces of water you should aim to drink in a day. Know how many ounces your water glass or bottle holds and figure out how many fill-ups you’ll need per day. In this example, let’s say you use an 8-ounce glass tumbler. This would mean you would d o well to drink 9+ glasses per day. (Now you understand why people have much larger water bottles – fewer fill-ups!)
A second very common cause is that you are not getting enough restful SLEEP. When you are tired but continue to stay awake – and especially if you need to be active mentally and/or physically – your body will send signals that more fuel is needed. I know that has happened to me many times when I am trying to push through to finish a project. My recommendation when you get to that point is to drink a large glass of water and go to bed or take a nap as soon as you can. Different bodies need different amounts of sleep. Some people need as little as 6-7 hours of undisturbed sleep per night to feel truly rested and refreshed. Others may need up to 9 or 10. Children going through growth spurts and anyone dealing with illness or recovery from a medical procedure need more than the usually amount of sleep. The more you can get adequate sleep for your body EVERY night, the less likely it is that your body will send signals for more food than you really need for optimal health.
A third common reason is BOREDOM or INACTIVITY. When you feel that you have nothing to do, eating is a very easy and pleasant way to “do something”. This kind of false hunger is coming from your emotions rather than hunger pangs or stomach rumbling, so it requires a change in thinking. Take a few minutes to think of something positive/constructive that you CAN do and do it. This is also a great time to drink another glass of water! Other emotional triggers for eating when you are not experiencing true hunger are ANGER, FRUSTRATION, SADNESS/GRIEF, and so forth. STRESS elevates your cortisol levels which increases appetite and promotes cravings, especially for sweets. In all of these cases, there are safe, powerful essential oils that you can diffuse or ingest to soothe your emotions and cravings and help you to get back to a state of calm, confidence, capability, and feeling the “fullness” that a balanced life brings.
Another cause of hungry feelings is INADEQUATE NUTRITION. This is a tricky one because it is not necessarily related to a lack of food intake. In fact, in developed countries, many cases of poor nutrition are due to eating too much rich and/or processed food and not enough healthy fats, proteins, and carbohydrates. Although we are living in the 21st century, our bodies are still operating according to very ancient designs based on environments where food came from living animals, fish, and plants. There are several factors that keep us from eating according to our ancient design, including: lack of education about which foods and amounts are best for us; slick marketing by the food industry, big agriculture, our government, and many medical leaders; insanely busy schedules that don’t allow for home cooking and proper digestion; crops grown in soil that has been stripped of nutrients and contaminated by chemicals (and the food itself is often contaminated by intentionally sprayed chemicals); refined sugar, wheat, and soy added to most processed foods; and more. We in the developing countries often make ourselves hungry through our poor food choices and lack of discernment in the face of an overwhelming array of bright, shiny, “new and improved” packages.
There are also physiological reasons why we feel hungry when we aren’t experiencing a true need for more nutrients. Certain MEDICATIONS and MEDICAL CONDITIONS. I recently read a quote from Louis Aronne, MD, Director of the Comprehensive Weight Control Center at Weill Cornell Medical College: “As many as 10% to 15% of weight issues are related to medications.” Some medications make you feel hungrier while others simply slow down your body’s ability to burn calories or cause you to hold on to extra fluid. Types of medications that can lead to increased food intake and/or weight gain include:
- SSRIs/tricyclic antidepressants (they may cause you to eat more and still not feel full or to lay down more fat even when you are not eating more)
- mood stabilizers (they can cause your appetite to turn on and stay on because they directly affect your brain and metabolism)
- diabetes medications (they release more insulin before or after meals)
- corticosteroids (they affect metabolism)
- drugs that prevent seizures and migraines (they affect the hormones that control hunger and can lower your metabolism)
- beta blocker heart meds (they slow your heart rate and lower blood pressure and may also make you feel too tired to exercise and decrease the calories your body burns when you do exercise)
- allergy relievers (they block histamine, which may lead to weight gain)
Be sure to talk to a trusted medical professional if you feel that your hunger feelings may be caused by medications or an underlying medical condition.
Some other reasons that you may feel hungry much of the time include: strenuous, prolonged exercise (you just plain need more food to fuel your lifestyle); you consume too much alcohol (this stimulates your appetite, especially for fatty and salty foods, and may affect your attention to what and how much you are eating); and you drink most of your calories (smoothies, meal replacement shakes, and soups often give you more food than you need because you aren’t chewing and the liquids are passing through your stomach more rapidly than solid food would).
A few final tips to help you eat only when you are truly hungry:
- Use essential oils in your water. This certainly helps you to drink more water if you think water tastes too bland AND it can be a way of adding therapeutic supplementation to your daily diet.
- Don’t eat while distracted. This alone can cause overeating.
- Chew slowly and truly taste each bite. Good, healthy food is medicine and a source of life itself.
Wellness Made Simple is here to help you figure out WHY you are hungry and WHAT you can do to eat well. Contact us to set up a call to discuss personalized solutions for your nutrition, emotional balance, and optimal vitality.
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