The physical feeling of hunger may be universal, but the urge to eat is far more complicated. The sensation of hunger can be tied up with both physical and mental factors, including confusion, emotions, and control. It's not enough to just look at the physical processes to understand the body's relationship with hunger, so be sure to consider common situational challenges and habits to solve them.
Physical Control Of Hunger
Our appetite is controlled by both our endocrine and our nervous systems. The gastrointestinal tract is our largest endocrine organ and is involved in processing and producing a multitude of hormones. The hormone ghrelin plays a key role by being our appetite increase, which sends hunger signals to the brain. Then, the hormone leptin is our appetite suppressor, which informs the brain that the body has adequate energy stored. However, due to various mental factors, your hunger can be misled and isn't as easy as your body telling you or doing the work for you.
Habits To Manage Hunger
Just as lifestyle and diet choices vary immensely among people, so do the challenges and solutions that work for them regarding how to manage hunger. You can mix and match the below dependent upon which ones feel the most actionable and realistic to you.
If You're Unsure If You're Hungry
This is a common challenge faced by many people - you simply can't tell if you're hungry. It's actually because hunger has a basis in the brain thanks to a hormone that signals there to the gut. Many triggers such as stress, exhaustion, addiction, and boredom can trick your body into thinking it’s hungry, even if you're not physically hungry. To fix this, you need to really ask yourself these questions. Do you feel hungry in your stomach? Because then you probably are hungry and need food. However if you feel anxious, stressed, or tired, then it's wise to take a few deep breaths, relax, or take a short walk to see if the hunger subsides. Additionally, you should ask yourself if you're just thirsty and get some water, for this is a common mistake for hunger as well.
If You Ignore Your Hunger
When you ignore hunger signals, it can lead to overeating. Ever go all day without eating and then eat a TON for dinner and completely disregard portion control? Same - but there are ways to manage your hunger better. If you’re often pressed for time to eat during the day, simply keep a few healthy snacks on hand to avoid mindless eating. Of course consuming full meals is preferable, so try to schedule specific times during the day when you can eat, just like you would any other activity.
If You Eat Too Fast
Eating too quickly is a frequent problem associated with hunger, which usually results in overeating and stomach discomfort. To fix this, try eating in a calm environment with minimal distractions, choosing high-fiber foods that take more time to chew, and setting a minimum number of chews per bite - this will aid in digestion. You can also try using smaller plates, use utensils like chopsticks to increase the amount of time it takes to eat, or find a slow eater and pace yourself to them. You should be spending at least twenty minutes consuming a meal in order to give the body and brain time to process. Start recording how long it actually takes you to eat now, and increase the time from there.
If You Feel Overly Full After A Meal
It's difficult to know when you're hungry AND when you're full. We often eat past the point of actual fullness, which can result in a heavy feeling and unnecessary calories. Eating until satisfied actually equates to about 80% full, which definitely takes practice. In the beginning you may under-eat or overeat, but these tips may help. After you digest after each meal, write down what you ate and how full you felt, then absorb the information for next time. A good cue to know for fullness is a feeling of contentment with a little bit of hunger. Once your body fully digests the food, the sensation of hunger will quickly subside into satisfaction, without the weightiness that can come from overeating. Neat, right?