Hey Angels and Alphas,
When you’re on a weight loss journey, it’s easy to start seeing hunger as a bad thing. And while it’s surely an inconvenient feeling, it’s as innate as the need to yawn.
Hunger is a crucial biological signal, and to understand what this means, we have to refresh our understanding of the autonomic nervous system.
The autonomic nervous system (ANS) is made up of our sympathetic nervous system and our parasympathetic nervous system. While the first controls our body’s response to threats, the latter is our body’s counterbalance that returns the body to a state of calmness.
Our bodies need (and want) to spend some time in that “rest and digest” mode for the ANS and SNS to properly function. During this mode, your heart rate decreases, your blood pressure lowers, and digestion and absorption are greatly increased.
As a result, you probably won’t feel the need to eat all throughout the day. Most people feel at their best when they consume smaller meals more often.
If you find yourself feeling hungry throughout the day, here are a couple of reasons you could be experiencing this:
#1 NOT ENOUGH FIBER OR PROTEIN
It’s no secret to anyone that we all need macronutrients like protein, carbs, and fat regardless of whether or not we’re trying to lose weight. And we should all know that not all calories have a similar impact on satiety.
While carbs are great for providing quick energy, nutrients such as protein and fiber are great for sustaining energy. Studies published in the Nutrition Journal discovered that high-protein snacks are directly linked to reduced hunger and higher satiety. It’s a well-known fact in the fitness community that high-protein or high-fiber foods are great for generating satiety due to the slow breakdown and release of energy from those foods.
#2 EATING TOO QUICKLY
Rushing through meals is sort of common for a lot of people, but this makes it hard to register feelings of satiety and fullness. That’s why you always have to make it a priority to slow down.
If you tend to just devour your meals and snacks as soon as you get them, you should try consciously allocating a specific amount of time to finish your meal.
Include small sips of water between your bites, and also reflect on your fullness level after each and every bite. Use all of your five senses and allow yourself to enjoy your meal – always check in with yourself and ask yourself “how does this taste?” “do I enjoy the texture of this meal?” “Is it satisfying my needs for the moment?”
You’ll likely find that you feel full much sooner than you thought (and not to mention, you’ll feel satiated for longer.)
#3 YOUR HORMONES ARE OUT OF BALANCE
If you’re in a state of constant daily stress, the hormone cortisol (linked with stress) rises, causing an increase in appetite. And not to mention, stress eating usually causes people to reach for foods that are more palatable, such as refined carbs and sugary foods.
Don’t forget to always line up some other coping mechanisms to help you deal with stress aside from just eating – exercise, talking, journaling, meditation, reading, anything but not stuffing yourself with empty calories.
#4 YOU’RE EXPENDING MORE ENERGY THAN YOU ACTUALLY REALIZE
A mismatch of energy levels will often lead to increased (or constant) hunger. If you’re exercising more, whether it’s at longer durations or higher intensities, your appetite will likely increase because your body will be trying to burn through more calories than usual.
Other life changes and lifestyle tweaks could also lead to increased energy needs. If you’re pregnant, breastfeeding, chasing kids around, got a new job, taking daily walks, pretty much anything could be an unrealized energy expender that boosts your calorie needs.
#5 YOU’RE NOT GETTING ENOUGH SLEEP
Sleep plays a significant, or rather vital, role in regulating your hormones. As we mentioned above, not managing your hormones properly will lead to cortisol skyrocketing alongside your hunger levels. Short sleep durations are also linked to elevated levels of ghrelin, one of the key hormones in regulating appetite. Furthermore, they’re also linked to decreases of leptin, the satiety hormone.
What does this mean? It means that when you’re short on sleep, you’re more likely to feel hungry and crave refined foods. That’s why you should take some time to develop a healthy sleep schedule and avoid alcohol and heavy dinners before bed so you can make sure your digestive system is doing efficient work and that you’re getting 7-9 hours of quality sleep that keeps your hormones in check.