One of the main reasons people eat is simply because they’re hungry! But if you really think about the feeling of hunger, and understanding your hunger signals it’s actually a lot harder than you’d think to explain the experience of hunger. Emptiness in the stomach? Crabbiness? Which comes first?!
The physical signs of feeling hungry are different for everyone, and probably occur in different orders for different people – or may not even occur at all, you can really easily convince yourself that you’re hungry even when your body isn’t saying so just because you’re bored, upset or see something at the checkout… the external influences are numerous. But here are some of the physical signs that your body letting you know that you’re hungry:
- Grumbly stomach – classic!
- Irritability – oh the might wrath of the hungry
- Teariness – ever been so hungry you want to cry?
- Light headedness
- Poor concentration
- Nauseated – seems counter-intuitive but it happens
Try tuning into some of your hunger signals, which ones do you experience? And in what order? I’m still working this one out after a few weeks, because it is really difficult to distinguish between being PHYSICALLY hungry versus eating for another reason.
Hungry hormones vs. “Full” hormones
Unfortunately, there are a few more hormone signals in your body telling you that you’re hungry rather than the ones telling you you’re full. Ghrelin is a hormone released from your stomach when it’s empty and tells your brain – “I’m hungry – feed me!”. The ghrelin-producing part of the stomach is actually cut out in gastric sleeve surgery to suppress appetite. You’ve also got the hormone leptin (this actually directly translates to “thin” in Greek) that reduces that hungry feeling, it’s made in the fat cells and goes to tell your brain that you’re not hungry when your calorie needs have been met. However, in obese people it is possible to have poor sensitivity to leptin meaning your brain cannot detect when you’re satisfied even though there’s lots of stores to use up for energy.
Hunger & Weight Loss
Hunger signals and hormones are important to understand when it comes to those wanting to lose a few extra kilos. Essentially, it’s recommended you don’t let yourself get too hungry or even ravenous as this can really increase the chance of grabbing fatty and/or sugary foods to fulfill that intense hunger. When you’re hungry, we are made to seek out the most nutrient-dense or foods in the HIGHEST calories to fulfill that ravenous hunger. You also don’t want to feel uncomfortably full after a meal either, you just want to feel neither hungry nor full OR just satisfied. So in the diagram below – you want to stay in the green zone.
My experiences with hunger
As a teenager, I have to genuinely say that I never felt true physical hunger for a few years – my stomach was never empty, it never grumbled and I was constantly hungry. If you offered me food, I’d take it even after a full dinner which was technically more than enough to keep me full. And I gained weight over that period of time (perhaps a story for another time…). But, I distinctly remember at about 18, I felt hunger for the first time in so long – what an odd feeling that was and with a few other changes I was able to lose the teenage puppy fat.
So, I can definitely relate to anyone out there who struggles to feel hungry, or just always feel hungry! Try practicing some mindfulness around your hunger signals and see how you go.