Maybe you’ve always had a big appetite or maybe this is something that’s started happening more recently, but if you understand why it may be happening you can make changes to keep you satisfied for longer and less likely to reach for stodgy, unhealthy foods that sabotage your weight loss.
The volume of food you’re eating might be large (especially if you’re doing really well packing in the veg) but you have to eat enough calories too – no matter how big that plate of broccoli and peppers is, it won’t keep you full for long if you don’t have some protein, fat and/or carbs too. Eating far too few calories can cause all manner of problems (including actually stalling weight loss), and hunger could be an indicator you’re not getting enough. You will still lose weight and burn fat so long as you’re eating less calories than you burn, just don’t go too low.
Try: Increasing the portions of protein, fat, or healthy high fibre carbs (quinoa, brown rice, beans etc.) that you eat.
There will be a short period of a few days to a couple of weeks where your body makes the transition from burning sugar for energy (food) to burning existing fat stores, and the period before this transformation takes place can be difficult for some people in terms of hunger, cravings and low energy.
Try: Increasing the amount of protein you eat, or slowly cutting down starch intake rather than a sudden drop. Cocoa (pure cocoa, in hot water with stevia to sweeten) is excellent for sugar, starch and chocolate cravings, and green tea is a wonderful pick me up when you’re tired.
You might have nutritional deficiencies that will take time to get back to normal, and you might crave foods that are sources of the nutrients you need. Supplements can help during this time, but since your body can only absorb so much at one time patience is required.
Try: The best thing is to eat as nutritious food as possible; food high in vitamins and minerals, rather than ‘empty calories’.
If you’ve been eating too much starch or sugar and have metabolic imbalances (most of the general population have this to some degree) then cutting back on starchy carbs will help readdress hormonal issues that trigger hunger. However for people with healthy metabolisms who have perhaps been eating well for some time and have good strong muscles then you will metabolise carbs much better, and getting not enough may increase hunger.
Try: Eating slightly larger portions of quality carbs such as sweet potatoes, quinoa, oats and chickpeas.
Whilst some people lose their appetite when under stress, for others it makes them completely ravenous.
Try: Methods for managing stress are numerous and varied so you have to do what works for you; a nap, a coffee with a friend, walking the dog and taking up yoga can all help, or simply putting on your favourite music. Exercise itself is a fantastic stress reliever due to the endorphins released, but if you think you’re stress levels are getting unmanageable then don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Cravings are not the same as hunger; cravings come from the brain whereas hunger is from the stomach. Hunger is a need for food; cravings are a need for chemical comfort, which is why chocolate is such as common craving as it increases serotonin levels. It’s very easy to confuse the two.
Try: Addressing the problem rather than reaching for food. Write your problems down or keep a daily journal, talk to a friend, go for a walk to clear your head or do something relaxing like reading. Whatever works for you – just not more food! Pure cocoa such as powder or cacao nibs are great at knocking cravings on the head, for the way it boosts serotonin (happy hormone) levels.
Watch this video afterwards too: Are Hunger Hormones Keeping You Fat?
Lack of sleep increases levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin, and reduces levels of leptin, which makes you feel full. If you’re not getting enough sleep, you will be extra hungry.
Try: Getting more sleep, obviously! Stress relieving activities such as those listed above can temporarily relieve the hormonal imbalances brought on by lack of sleep, but a long term solution is needed if you are to function optimally in all areas of your life as well as keep your appetite at normal levels.
There are many other issues which affect hunger levels and nutritional requirements; illness and injury, menstrual cycles in a women, pregnancy and breastfeeding, body and air temperature and of course fluctuation daily activity levels. But there’s always a reason for increased hunger and usually a solution too, even if that solution is simply eating more!