We get it—snacking is an essential part of the day. But if you're one of those people who's wondering when dinner is served the minute you finish eating your lunch, you might be in a league of your own (we feel you). Some people find that they just always seem to be hungry whether they're following a nutrient-filled diet with tons of fruits and veggies or just loading up on carbs. If this sounds like you, scroll through to learn the possible reasons behind your always-hungry lifestyle.
You're overloading on processed foods
This is one of those times when the conventional wisdom is true. It's simply better to eat things that haven't been refined, processed, or laden with preservatives until they no longer resemble ingredients found in nature. According to research published in the International Journal of Obesity, "high-fat, high-sugar foods interfere with mood-regulating chemicals in the brain" which can cause overeating (and depression, but that's another story). And because the foods with the most processed sugars activate our brains' pleasure centers so much, these are often the hardest to avoid, so we continue to choose foods that don't nourish our bodies again and again.
Your insulin levels are all over the charts
Speaking of sugar: chances are, you might not pay much attention to your blood sugar throughout the day, but we think you should. As Jessica Alba's nutritionist Kelly LeVeque told MindBodyGreen, even a supposedly-healthy smoothie can leave you with a nasty bloodsugar crash that has you feeling famished. "People start to feel hungry as little as 90 minutes after a meal, when they’re starting to have that crash," she explains. "When people elongate that blood sugar curve, they really can go four to six hours without thinking about food."
So how do you elongate your blood sugar curve so you can stay feeling full for longer? LeVeque has a simple formula: "Fat, fiber, protein, and greens." It turns out that adding healthy fats (she suggests avocado or coconut oil) to your meals can help curb this crash in addition to leveling out your sugar intake, of course.
Many of us have a difficult time differentiating between the sensation of thirst and hunger in our daily lives since the two sensations can be oddly similar if you're not paying attention. It's possible that your impulse to eat is telling you that you're not getting enough liquids. If you're fantasizing about juicy fresh fruits, for instance, this could be a clue.
The best way to decide? Drink a big glass of water and wait a bit. If you were truly hungry, you'll be able to make a decision about what to eat then (and when you do, chances are you'll eat less of it since you're filled up by the water).
You're super stressed
According to Dr. Marilyn Glenville, nutritionist and author of Fat Around The Middle "cortisol levels in the blood often remain high for a while, effectively increasing your appetite" after a stressful event. "Your body thinks you should refuel after all this fighting-or-fleeing. That’s the reason why people with stressful lifestyles quite often feel constantly hungry."
If you find yourself eating extra at work or during stressful family gatherings, this could be the cause. But if you're not actually "fighting or fleeing", your body quickly realizes its mistake and stores the extra intake as fat...not so fun. To combat this, it's best to stick to your normal diet even during stressful times. Reach for another source of soothing when you feel overstressed, like a calming walk outside or a yoga class.