Do you ever feel hungry soon after finishing a full meal? Why does this happen? Hunger is your body’s way of telling your brain that you need more food. It actually results from a variety of complex interactions between your digestive tract, hormones and nervous system.
Unfortunately, many things can disrupt this complex system. See if any of the following issues might be throwing your hunger signals off track.
1. YOUR BREAKFAST WAS TOO SMALL
A University of Cambridge study followed 6,764 adults for almost 4 years and found that those who normally ate 300 calories or less for breakfast gained twice as much weight as those who ate 500 calories or more. It’s believed that eating a big breakfast helps regulate your blood sugar throughout the day, which leads to less food cravings and hunger.
Researchers recommended eating a larger percentage of your daily calories at breakfast and a lower percentage over the rest of the day to help control hunger and excess weight gain.
2. YOU’RE THIRSTY
Symptoms of dehydration can actually mimic hunger. You might experience fatigue, headache or difficulty concentrating. You may even feel your stomach growling. And you don’t need to be severely dehydrated either. These symptoms can easily arise when your body’s normal fluid level drops by a mere 1 or 2 percent.
So, next time you feel like a snack right after a meal, reach for a glass of water instead. Then wait a few minutes and see if your interest in food washes away.
3. YOU ATE CANNED FOOD
The chemical bisphenol A (BPA) is commonly found in the lining of canned foods, where it will leach into the food itself. BPA is known to cause obesity, among other health problems. Harvard University researchers believe this is because BPA causes surges in the hormone leptin, which can lead to food cravings.
Other food sources of BPA to watch out for include soda and beer cans, reusable water bottles and other storage containers, and restaurant food because of the various packaged ingredients that many restaurants use.
4. YOU DRANK TOO MUCH SODA
In addition to BPA, the high fructose corn syrup contained in many sodas can pose problems. Fructose has been found to reduce blood flow and activity in brain regions that regulate hunger. It also impedes the function of hormones that tell your body you’re full. Interestingly, this is not true for other foods like fruit, vegetables and even table sugar. These all contain balanced amounts of glucose and fructose, and glucose is known to produce feelings of satisfaction and fullness. Whereas, fructose does not.
Watch for high fructose corn syrup on the ingredient labels of other foods like cereals, snack foods, condiments, candy bars, salad dressings and many other prepared foods.
5. YOU ATE TOO FAST
Your stomach sends hormonal signals to the brain to tell it when you’re full. But it can easily take up to 20 minutes for these signals to register. So, if you scarf down your meal in record time, you run the risk of continuing to feel hungry and overeat before your sense of fullness kicks in.
Give yourself at least 20 to 30 minutes to eat and enjoy your meal. Research has also shown that eating slowly can result in eating fewer calories and feeling more satisfied overall with your meal.
6. YOU SKIPPED THE FIBER
How quickly a food digests affects your sense of fullness. Fiber stays in your stomach longer than simple carbohydrates and sugars, which increases your feeling of fullness for a longer time. Fiber is also low-calorie, which makes it preferable to fats and some other longer-digesting foods.
To take advantage of this, try to fill your plate with high-fiber foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes instead of highly processed foods. Drinking plenty of water will keep you hydrated as well as help bulk up and move the fiber through your system, which also reduces hunger.
7. YOU’RE NOT REALLY HUNGRY
Sometimes we eat for a variety of psychological and social reasons. We may be triggered to eat from stress, or as a way to deal with difficult emotions. We might eat as part of a social gathering, or perhaps due to social pressure. Boredom and mindless eating can be other issues.
If you find yourself overeating or making poor food choices for emotional or social reasons, you may want to start changing these patterns. Try to become more aware of the times you eat when you’re not even hungry. What’s going on at these times? Can you deal with the situation more constructively without overeating?
8. MEDICAL ISSUES
Certain medical conditions can cause an unusual increase in hunger, such as diabetes, pregnancy, tapeworms, thyroid issues or even some medications. If feeling hungry after eating is a persistent problem for you, speak to your doctor to find out if there’s an underlying diagnosis causing the hunger that you’re unaware of.