Hunger is our body’s way of letting us know it needs some sort of nutrient. At one point or another, we’ve all experienced hunger. Our stomachs growl and we feel light-headed or even grumpy. But what should you do if your hunger won’t go away, even after eating a meal? There are a number of physiological and psychological reasons we may reach for a snack right after dinnertimes, but the bottom line is your body isn’t getting what it needs and it’s letting you know. If you’re feeling hungry after eating a full meal, understanding why you feel hungry is the first step towards satiety.
Paying attention to your body’s needs is an important way to maintain your health. Satiety is a nutritional term used to describe when the body has reached a feeling of fullness. Your meals should help you reach this point, but there are some factors that could influence your satiety. Ask yourself these questions the next time you’re feeling hungry after eating:
1) Am I actually thirsty?
Dehydration can often mask itself as hunger since the symptoms are very similar. Fatigue, headache, trouble concentrating, and even a growling stomach could be indicators that you aren’t getting enough water. Drinking alcohol like beer or wine during a meal may taste good, but it is unlikely to provide you with the necessary hydration your body needs. Before finding a post-meal snack, try drinking a glass of water. If your hunger symptoms abate, it’s a good sign you were actually thirsty.
2) Have you skipped a meal?
Even after eating a full meal, a skipped meal from earlier can throw your body off balance. It’s important to eat three, balanced meals a day. While skipping meals may sound like a good idea for those trying to lose weight, it’s not a very good plan. Skipping a meal causes your metabolism to slow down, which can cause your body to crave food more than normal.
3) Are you stressed or sleeping poorly?
Stress can have a large impact on your body. When you experience anxiety, your body releases a chemical called cortisol, which can contribute to your feelings of hunger. Those who are sleepy are also prone to eat more in order to counteract feelings of disorientation, moodiness, and trouble staying awake.
4) Do I get enough fiber, fat, and protein in my diet?
Fiber, protein, and fat will leave you feeling fuller and more satisfied after a meal. Fiber helps you feel full longer and also helps your cholesterol level and digestive health. People need fiber every day in the form of fruits, vegetables, and grains. All the enzymes and hormones in your body are produced from protein, which makes it an essential nutrient for your body. Some healthy protein sources include lean meats like fish or chicken, tofu, and vegetarian cheeses. Fat is important because it helps your body absorb fat-soluble vitamins. Healthy sources of fat include oils, seeds, avocado, and peanut butter.
5) Am I limiting my salt intake?
Sometimes the food we eat will make us hungrier. Salt is a natural appetite stimulant, meaning, that the more you eat, the more you’ll want to eat. It’s why you often find yourself reaching back into a bag of potato chips after you’ve polished off the recommended serving size and what keeps many people craving popular fast food. If you still desire a little salt with your snacks, try finding healthy forms like nuts or triscuits.
If you still have trouble feeling full even after considering the factors above, it may be time to consult a professional. Low blood sugar and other conditions could be to blame for your increased appetite. If you can’t figure out why you still feel hungry, come see a TPMG Nutritionist today to discuss your concerns.
About Gale Pearson, MS, RDN, CDCES
Gale Pearson, MS, RDN, CDCES is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator with over 25 years of experience working with patients on dietary and nutrition wellness planning. Gale received her undergraduate degree from Hampton University and her Master of Science in Nutrition and Dietetics from Howard University.
With extensive experience in nutrition counseling, Gale works with her patients to develop strategies to improve their eating habits and lifestyles, in turn helping them to manage their weight and medical conditions. She credits witnessing her patients’ symptoms and overall health improvement as a result of the lifestyle changes as one of the most gratifying and rewarding aspects of her career.
At TPMG Nutrition Services in Newport News and Williamsburg, Gale provides one-on-one consultations, nutrition and weight management counseling, and diabetes education.