The Truth About Hunger, Fullness and Why We Want Food.

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Why am I Feeling Hungry After Eating? ………..is a question that people ask quite often…

If you find yourself aimlessly peeking into the fridge or pantry when you are not hungry you may be eating to manage emotions or coping with unmet needs.

Let’s explore the reasons why you are still hungry after eating and what you can do about it.

After all, we are all hungering for something and its usually not food.

Hunger, Fullness and Appetite

Hunger 

Is a normal sensation that makes you want to eat. 

  • It is partly controlled by a part of your brain called the hypothalamus, your blood sugar (glucose) level, how empty your stomach and intestines are, and certain hormone levels in your body.

But hunger can also be emotional…

For example, one of my client’s was very surprised to discover that she regularly ate when she wasn’t physically hungry.

Here’s what she shared:

‘I didn’t think that I was susceptible, like at the start you talked about eating when you’re bored, or eating when you’re emotional and I totally expected to be above all of that petty human (stuff) because I’m intelligent. It was really eye opening, especially in the first 2 weeks, just how programmed or routine a lot of my eating is.’ 

Fullness

Is a feeling of being satisfied. 

  • Fullness is partly controlled by the hypothalamus, your blood sugar, and having food in your stomach and intestines
  • Your stomach tells your brain that it is full. 
  • Normally, this feeling causes you to stop eating and not think about food again for several hours. 

Appetite

Is a desire for food, usually after seeing, smelling, or thinking about food. 

This desire can also be emotional.

  • When you feel emotional you may mistake your desire for food as being hungry
  • Even after you feel full, your appetite can make you keep eating.

In a recent pilot study exploring insights into how participants undergoing hunger felt and how it influenced their eating behaviour.

Many participants realised that they were previously unaware of feelings of appetite, supporting the theory that many of us have blunted sensations of hunger and satiety.

Awareness of Hunger 

In a recent pilot study , I mentioned above there were some very interesting discoveries:

  • Some women were surprised to discover that they regularly ate when they were not hungry;
  • The most popular reason for non-hungry eating was boredom
  • Many turned to food when stressed or upset. 
  • Some believed that if they didn’t eat regularly, their body would go into ‘starvation mode’
  • Others realised they ate when tired, to give them energy.
  • In terms of physical symptoms, some realised that they had confused hunger and thirst
  • A lot mentioned they used to eat out of habit or routine, related to time of day.

Do any of the above statements resonate with you?

Awareness of Non-Hungry Eating 

Many busy women eat when they are not hungry to mask emotional issues such as boredom, stress, and procrastination. 

Improving your ability to recognise real hunger can help you decide whether you are physically hungry or just emotionally hungry, bored and mindlessly snacking.

Below are some ways to help you Increase your awareness around your eating habits and identify what your hunger is telling you.

1.Understand Your Hunger

Do you find yourself eating when you’re not hungry?

Over time, people often lose touch with how physical hunger and fullness actually feel. 

To understand your “hunger” cues it’s helpful to decipher between being physically or emotionally hungry by paying attention to your hunger signals.

Here are some tips:

  • Writing down what and why you are eating forces you to face the real reasons behind your hunger. 
  • As you gather data you will notice that certain patterns emerge.

For example:

When you feel hungry, ask yourself the following questions:

  • How do I feel emotionally? (Hunger should not be connected to emotions)
  • How long is it since I last ate? (Should be 3 – 4 hours on most days)
  • What do I feel like eating? (Is it sensible or is it comfort food?)

2.Try Using A Hunger Scale

Checking in with the hunger scale can be a useful tool to understand if you NEED to eat or you WANT to eat emotionally.

You can bring some awareness to your hunger levels through using a hunger scale.

To help you understand where you sit in terms of your physical hunger you can use a hunger scale rated from 1- 10.

Here’s what one of my client’s said after being introduced to this tool. Using it opened her eyes to the fact there was a continuum of hunger sensations.

I’ve tried following routines, I’ve tried all that sort of thing and I occasionally lose (a few) kilos and then I go straight back to square one because I don’t know how to… read my body. I didn’t know what it felt like to be hungry. I didn’t know that the way I felt was what it feels like to be full. So, I was keeping myself constantly full.’

See the hunger scale below

3.Eating with Awareness.

Awareness will bring you into a more mature relationship with food and away from the habitual.

Being aware and listening to your body’s responses will give your brain time to realise what’s happening and help you to avoid overeating

Your goal is start paying attention to how the food you consume affects your satiety, energy levels, mental clarity and mood.

Here are some tips to help you eat with awareness:

  • Schedule a dedicated time to sit down at a table and savour your food
  • Ask your body what it wants – Tune in to your body’s intelligence about what to eat and listen
  • Avoid distractions -When it’s time to eat avoid distractions like watching TV
  • Let your brain register the sensations of eating: “That tasted good,” or, “I think I’m full now.”
  • Check in with yourself – Fifteen to 30 minutes after you eat, check in with yourself. You will start to notice how your body reacts when you eat certain foods. For example, “When I eat breakfast cereal, I end up craving sugar all morning.”

What does this mean for you? 

If you feel really disconnected from how much to eat, it can be helpful to work with a coach or a nutritionist.

Now I have a question for you…. 

— How can you start eating with more awareness?

I would love to hear your feedback, thoughts and any questions you have on this article.  

Please tell me in the comments below.

Irena Geller

Want to Change Your Body? Start by Changing Your Mind.

If you feel ready to eat well consistently book a free 30-minute-coaching session with me and I will help you to develop a blueprint of realistic action steps that will guarantee your success!

Irena Geller

Irena Geller is a Sydney-based health & wellness coach specialising in the 🍓food and 😃 mood connection. She loves helping 35+ busy women to feel in complete control around food with ease and confidence.

Want to Change Your Body? Start by Changing Your Mind

If you feel ready to eat well consistently book a free 30-minute-coaching session with me and I will help you to develop a blueprint of realistic action steps that will guarantee your success!

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