Why am I always hungry? How can I control my appetite?

Why am I always hungry? How can I control my appetite?

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Ellen A. Schur is a professor of medicine at the University of Washington and director of the University of Washington Center for Nutrition and Obesity Research.

Q: I feel like I’m always hungry. Why is this happening? What can I do to feel more satisfied?

AND: There are a number of reasons why people feel hungry. You may not be eating enough to meet your body’s energy needs. But it’s also important to think about food choices and lifestyle factors. The type of food you eat, whether you’ve recently lost weight, how much you exercise, and whether you go long without eating can affect how often you feel hungry.

Here are some reasons why people feel hungry, even after eating a meal.

The types of food you eat

Research it showed that hunger is not the same for all foods. If you’re hungry, you probably crave foods with a high content of sugar, carbohydrates or fat. This may be why people rarely say they crave an apple. Instead, we usually want tortilla chips, crackers or pizza.

It sounds counterintuitive, but eating certain foods may make you hungrier. Carbohydrates do not they suppress hunger hormones as long as fat or protein. Ultra-processed food they seem to stimulate the appetite, although scientists are not yet clear why. And liquid sources of calories – such as smoothies – are less filling than solid foods.

What is ultra-processed food? What should I eat instead?

High-calorie food, at least in rodents, cause inflammation in the areas of the brain that regulate body weight, which increases the consumption of this food. It makes sense to eat as much as possible while there is plenty of food bears before hibernation, for example. But if the same inflammation appears in brain in humansthis could create a cycle of feeling hungry and constantly choosing tasty, high-calorie foods.

Try to avoid ultra-processed foods and, when possible, include a variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds in your diet. Aim to include protein and fat in your meals, not just carbohydrates.

Your hunger could also just be a matter of how life priorities affect energy needs. Think about your eating pattern: When do you get hungry? After an intense workout? At night? People may feel less hungry immediately after exercise, but much more so for hours or even days later.

You may limit your food intake during the day due to a busy schedule or efforts to control your weight, but then feel cravings or lack of satiety in the evening.

A common – but often overlooked – factor in your appetite is whether you’ve recently lost weight.

Body weight is a strictly regulated biological system. After losing weight, hormones in the blood signal to the brain that energy stores in the form of fat are being used up. The availability of energy is essential for survival, so the brain works to conserve energy and stimulate our desire to eat.

This happens regardless of your starting weight, even if you have had health problems related to your weight.

Experts agree that the brain strongly defends body fat levels and that this can promote weight regain after weight loss. This accumulated research is why many scientists think we should take note obesity be a chronic disease and why treatment recommendations more often include medication as well as lifestyle changes, especially for those with serious health problems related to their weight.

Generally, if you are not meeting total daily energy needs of your body to maintain your weight, your brain will motivate you to eat. Skipping meals or going without food for a long time stimulates the appetite through changes in hormones and the brain. You can experience this as a rumbling in your stomach, but also as a craving or urge.

It is also worth checking your medication list with your doctor. Some medicines for diabetes (glyburide, glipizide), neuropathy (gabapentin) and depression (mirtazapine) are associated with increased appetite and weight gain.

If your appetite has changed significantly, especially if you’ve been gaining or losing weight, it’s important to see your doctor. Loss of appetite can accompany serious illnesses, including diabetes, cancer or depression. Increased appetite and weight gain are symptoms of hypothyroidism, polycystic ovary syndrome and sleep disorders.

Genetics and hormonal changes

If your hunger problems started as a child – when you were 5 years old or younger – rare genetic conditions could be the cause. The overall set of genes you inherit is another powerful and common influence: Studies have shown that the brain responds to food similarly in identical twins, who also have similar initial appetite levels. Hormonal changes of puberty, pregnancy and premenstrual syndrome often affect appetite.

If you experience a loss of control or a numb feeling and consume large amounts of food to the point of discomfort, or purge after eating, then you should be evaluated for an eating disorder.

Stress, emotions and sleep

Stress levels, boredom, food cues, emotions and poor sleep can trigger your desire to eat. In these cases, mindful or intuitive eating can be a good strategy to explore, as well as address the underlying cause, such as ensuring good, quality sleep.

It may take time to resolve these issues, so be kind to yourself. Feelings around food, weight and body image can be intense. Many people have experienced bias or discrimination because of weight of stigma, including from health professionals. So if you are being blamed or shamed, seek medical help elsewhere. Everyone deserves to feel safe and supported when discussing weight and appetite issues.

Remember that there is a reason why the urge to eat is so strong. Although our food system and diet have changed in modern times, our brains are still hardwired to survive. Even when we are not aware of it, this biological drive shapes our behavior.

Ask a doctor: Do you have a health question? We will find a real expert to answer it.

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