As we all know by now, hunger is usually the body’s natural response to a nutrient deficiency occurring within the organism (salt, water, vitamins, fat, etc.), one which needs to be met with an appropriate caloric boost in the form of food. On the other hand, hectic lifestyle of the modern times, stress, boredom, and artificial flavorings – to name just a few ‘culprits’ – have somehow rewired our brains into believing we have to ingest more than we actually need to. The result of this increasingly widespread tendency is weight gaining, obesity, and all-around unhealthy eating habits. So what can we do? Well, the first logical step towards fixing this issue is knowing its most common triggers, so that we can then work towards better managing them over time. Consequently, here are the top 11 ways hunger creeps up on you on a day-to-day basis:

  1. Poor sleeping habits – getting a good night’s sleep is essential not only for your everyday productivity and energy levels but also for how much you end up eating during the day. Being a restless sleeper will not only end up driving you up the walls from a psychological standpoint, but it will also negatively influence the appetite stimulating the hormone called ghrelin, which will then start signaling hunger symptoms even when it’s not the case for this. To make matters worse, the hormone in charge with the feeling of satiety – leptin – will not end up being properly stimulated even after a hearty meal, which then only leads to erratic cravings and more pounds on the scale. Another danger of sleeping too little is the threat of increased stress, in its turn a trigger for cortisol, the hormone responsible for low blood-glucose numbers and ultimately unfavorable sugar spikings. Hence, to avoid brain fog, mood irritability, and overindulging in carbs, try to aim for some 7-8 hours of shut-eye each night in a peaceful and well-ventilated space.
  2. Low levels of hydration – whenever you feel a craving or stomach growl coming up, you first have to determine whether what you need is solid sustenance or just a nice, tall glass of water. In fact, the sensation of dehydration can be easily mistaken for hunger, with many people thus eating way too many calories than they should be in the first place. But don’t blame yourself too much for this: since the hypothalamus is that particular part of your brain which controls the triggers for both hunger and thirstiness, it’s easy to understand how these signals can become misinterpreted for one another from time to time. The best way of avoiding overindulging in meals and snacks is by keeping your H2O levels within normal readings via drinking the recommended dose of 8 glasses of water each day and eating lots of fresh produce (namely veggies, legumes, and fruit). In fact, start your day by drinking a glass of water before breakfast for better digestive patterns, better cravings control, and overall more effective weight loss in time.
  3. Lack of protein – for many, the most daunting prospect of any dietary change is having to give up on many foods and replacing them with ‘tasteless’ and ‘no fun’ alternatives. Wrong! While adopting a healthier lifestyle does indeed involve renouncing fatty, sugary, and additive-ridden products, it’s also true that you can still have an enjoyable and flavour-satisfying meal just as well. For instance, you should focus more on getting your necessary intake of wholesome protein, which then helps promote a sensation of satiety for longer and generates enhanced nutrient boosting for longer. Specialists argue that women normally need around 46 grams of good protein daily, with men raising this amount up to 56 grams. To make sure you stay full and low-calorie at the same time, opt for main meal ingredients or snacks like eggs, lean meat (chicken, turkey, fish, etc.), whole grains, and Greek yogurt in combination with fibre and nutrient-packed items of the vegetable, legume, and fruit variety to cover all your hunger pangs possibilities.
  4. Alcohol overload – what better way to follow up a hearty and satiating meal than by having a glass of wine or a few beers, right? Well, as tempting as this might sound, it’s actually detrimental to your figure and hunger control alike to drink too much alcohol in most circumstances, particularly after you’ve eaten at night. The issue here is that you’re stimulating an already satisfied organism and ultimately confusing it into believing it requires extra sustenance. Just think of the last time you got really drunk – didn’t you feel like eating everything in sight within a couple of hours afterward? The same goes even for the smallest amount of booze since it still acts as an appetite enhancer. Secondly, it might actually make your body become dehydrated faster and trick you into thinking this thirst signal is actually one for food. Consequently, either ditch the post-diner cocktails or reduce their number for more effective craving management and less overeating episodes.
  5. Too much stressing out – it almost goes without saying that living in a stressful environment or being a stressed out individual has dire repercussions on your dietary habits, especially when it comes to overeating. When we’re pressured by work, school or social relationships, our organism tends to create an excessive amount of cortisol. Fittingly known as the ‘stress hormone’, cortisol tricks your brain into believing it’s hungry and in need of a quick energy fix (more so in the form of sugar or fat, for instance). Not to mention that such demanding situations also elicit a definite rush of adrenaline, which further accelerates the urgency of that particular craving. The downfall of stressful periods is also the fact that serotonin readings drop significantly, making you more prone to mood swings, hunger pangs, and a negative state of mind. Although it might be difficult at first, make an extra effort to relax and unwind regularly in order to steer clear of these unwanted patterns by doing small, yet enjoyable things each day (yoga classes, watching your favorite TV show, listening to more upbeat music, etc.).
  6. Overeating starchy carbs – ever started munching on a snack and didn’t stop until you literally went through the whole bag or box? This generally happens because the starchy carbs present in cookies, doughnuts, white flour pastries, crackers, and all other such sorts of foods are the type of substances which make your glycemic levels fluctuate dangerously between very high and very low. So, while snacking on something tasty will momentarily satisfy you, give it a few hours and your mood will change considerably… for the worse. Once your body starts demanding its starchy carbs ‘fix’, you can find yourself in danger of overindulging in calories and experiencing more episodes of emotional eating. To avoid this negative pattern from overriding your routine life, aim to get your carbohydrate intake via the complex kind found in foods such as pistachios, almonds, chia seeds, and apples, which are low-calorie, filling, and craving-suppressing in their own right. Moreover, you’ll get a good fiber boost as well, alongside a healthier choice for that midday snack.
  7. The effect of medication – unfortunately, certain types of medication have this appetite enhancing the effect on individuals. For instance, a number of antidepressant pills (such as Paxil and Zoloft) and prednisone style corticosteroids (used to manage immune fluctuations caused by allergies, IBD, asthma, certain cancers, etc.) are highly likely to influence your munching patterns in a negative way. The main issue here is that you can’t actually control these hunger flare-ups since they are generated by chemical changes inside your body and not some sort of psychological influence from the outside, let’s say. As such, your best option would be to consult with your doctor and try to find a more hunger-friendly alternative for these medicines. If not, then work around your circumstances by splitting up your daily meals and snacks into smaller portions, always having some healthy foods at hand to satisfy your appetite, and staying properly hydrated all throughout the day.
  8. Munching too fast – picture this: you find yourself in a big hurry, so you gulp down your breakfast in the time it takes you to tie your shoes or you finish your two-course lunch in less than 10 minutes on the clock. Although you might believe you’re being practical and multitasking in your daily routine, these unhealthy eating habits will most likely turn against you in time. When we munch down on dishes too fast, our brain doesn’t have the time to fully register the satiety feeling, meaning that you will have a full stomach, yet still feel hungry. In addition, big chunks of food are harder to digest, with slowed down gastrointestinal patterns generating stomach cramps, bloating, nausea, and even more long-lasting fat deposits. In order to stay clear of these inconveniences, make it a goal to reserve at least 20 minutes for each meal so as to enjoy it peacefully, chew slowly and mindfully, as well as avoid technology (phone, laptop, etc.) while you’re eating for the fullness sensation to kick in faster.
  9. Hectic eating patterns – don’t fool yourself into believing that a skipped meal will automatically save you up on calories later on in the day or even week, since – as you might have already guessed by now – this is not how your organism tends to function. In reality, the absence of a meal – especially of majorly important ones like breakfast or lunch – will leave you hungry, cranky, and more prone to binge eating unhealthy foods when your willpower caves in (spoiler alert: it usually does sooner or later). Depriving your organism of its expected nutrient boost will translate into larger quantities of ghrelin being produced, which then overexcites your gastrointestinal tract into ‘believing’ food is coming somewhere in the future. Hence, you’ll be left in the aftermath of crazy cravings and hunger pangs. The solution to this is pretty obvious: regular meals and snacks, with no more than 4-5 hours between their alternation, no exceptions allowed.
  10. Skipping essential fats – at first glance, it seems rather counterintuitive to eat ‘fat’ in order to lose pounds and avoid cravings at the same time. But, on a deeper level, it depends on what sort of fat you’re introducing into your organism to begin with. The best choice in a wholesome living regime would be to rely on unsaturated fats for better hunger control, a slimmer waistline, and abdomen, as well as better health levels in general. Thus, a filling dish including unsaturated fat sources such as oils (olive oil, coconut oil, etc.), various nuts, avocados, and seeds (chia, quinoa, sesame, etc.). can not only help you avoid cravings episodes, but they can also produce other benefits as well. These include improved cardiovascular health, better cognitive performance, and boosted energy levels throughout the day. Don’t overdo it, though – around 20%-35% of good fat as your daily intake will do just fine on the long dietary run.
  11. Technology working against you – we all know how tempting it can be to immerse yourself by the hours in Facebook, Pinterest or Interest accounts which show you how to cook certain delicious and (most of the time) high-calorie meals. But, mind you, this ‘food porn’ indulgence comes at the price of hunger pangs and unnecessary cravings more often than not, which then leads to potentially unhealthy snacking sessions. Even if you don’t specifically seek out such visual triggers, it’s basically impossible to avoid TV commercials, city billboards or supermarket advertisements which are all food-centred and practically all around us on a routine basis. These triggers are linked to the overproduction of ghrelin (the ‘hunger hormone’), which makes your body feel like it’s hungry (salivating mouth, stomach contractions, etc.), even though it’s not the case. So, while you cannot realistically eliminate this munching-inducing factor completely, you can begin by actively avoiding it whenever possible. Block food-related accounts and hashtags on social media, avoid eating passively in front of the TV and always have a healthy snack at hand – just in case.