10 Reasons Your Body Thinks It's Hungry

By , By Brynn Mannino, of Woman's Day
A staggering 63 percent of Americans are overweight. The most common cause? We eat more food than we need—and we're all guilty of doing it: mindlessly munching on a bag of pretzels during a reality TV marathon or treating ourselves to a second helping when the first was plenty. But boredom and indulgence aside, why else are we reaching for a snack when we should feel full? Some of it can be blamed on habit, while other triggers have more to do with our body's hunger signals. Check out the list below to find out the most common overeating pitfalls and simple solutions for avoiding these traps.

1. You didn't get enough sleep last night.

Lack of rest stimulates two faux hunger triggers: energy deficiency, to which our natural reaction is to nourish our bodies, and appetite hormone confusion. "When our bodies are drained, levels of leptin—a hormone produced by our fat cells that controls our appetite—decrease, while levels of gherlin—a hormone produced by our stomach that stimulates our appetite—increase," explains Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association) spokeswoman Karen Ansel, RD. That's two hormones working against you. "Getting eight hours of sleep a night is the easiest thing you can do to prevent overeating." If you do fall short on zzz's, be sure to load up on nourishing, naturally energizing foods—such as fresh fruit, complex carbohydrates and lean proteins—throughout the day to help your body feel satisfied.

2. You're taking medication that causes hunger as a side effect.

If you felt ravenous the last time you were taking an antibiotic to tame an allergic reaction, joint inflammation, acne or a bad cold, the medicine may be to blame. "Medication that contains mild steroids, like prednisone, a corticosteroid, ramp up hunger big time," says Milton Stokes, RD, owner of One Source Nutrition, LLC. "If you've already eaten a normal-size meal, ignore the drug-inflated hunger," says Stokes. Instead, try an oral fix like chewing gum, sipping warm coffee or brushing your teeth, he suggests. If you're on long-term steroid therapy, consult a dietitian to devise an eating plan that will help you feel more satisfied throughout the treatment.

3. You're thirsty or dehydrated.

The symptoms of dehydration (sleepiness, low energy) closely mimic those of being overly hungry, which may lead you to think you need food to increase your energy level, explains Sandon. When you're thirsty, your mouth becomes dry, a symptom that eating will temporarily relieve, notes Sandon. She suggests drinking a tall glass of water or cup of herbal tea before eating and waiting for your body's hunger signals to adjust (about 10 minutes). "Doing so could save hundreds of calories."

Click here to learn about 7 more reasons your body thinks it's hungry!

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sleep apnea can cause faux hunger pangs too. Lack of o2 creates mindlessness for greater mindless eating, lack of sleep levels decreases leptin—a hormone produced by our fat cells that controls our appetite and increases gherlin—a hormone produced by our stomach that stimulates our appetite. Also makes us feel run down or malnourished, as well as in need of a 'pick-me-up'. Report
#3 is a big one for a lot of people--myself included.

My boyfriend is always aware of how hydrated he is and water is just naturally his beverage of choice. He's told me multiple times how outright amazed he is when he hangs out with friends who go for hours and hours without a sip of water and he can't fathom how people can do that and not feel physically terrible! Apparently, we just substitute water for a truckload of food... Report
One reason that is true for me but I never see listed is: bad breath.

I have overly sensitive teeth so brushing my teeth with toothpaste actually causes them to yellow/rot faster. Because of that, I only brush my teeth on a biweekly basis and yes it gives me bad breath. This gives me the urge to eat something to remove the taste.

I find that having gum around helps - it's still calories and sugar, but far less than if I ate a snack!

I'm also prone to the hungry-because-I-ate-too-quickly thing. I try to slow down and enjoy my food more now.
Not only that, I can still use gum to help me for this problem too. It can be chewed on for like 10+ minutes, so it gives my body time to adjust its hunger level while tricking it into thinking I'm still eating. Report
I seem to perceive everything as hunger! There is such a disconnect between my head, heart, and stomach! For example: I was simply ravenous - not hungry - ravenous! Could not stop eating. I went to the doctor and after some testing found out that I had an ulcer! Most people - normal people that is, people who do not have problems with food - would have perceived this as pain! But not me - it was extreme hunger. I hate it.. Report
I find I eat the most in the late afternoon and towards dinner. I have started eating apples. If I feel hungry on the way home from work I quite often eat two apples - one after the other or not too far apart. That way when I get home I am not tempted to have a "snack" before dinner. I love apples ! Report
I am always hungier after a night wheh I wen to bed too late. Report
Thanks for the info! I had no idea about a few of these Report
Sleep deprivation hit it right on the nail for me. I got 4 hours of sleep the other night (not on purpose) and thought I was starving the next day. It was a real fight to control my food intake. Took a nap and had a lot of water. Now if I could just go to bed by 10:30p... Report
I have found in my own experience that dehydration is a big culprit in making me think I'm hungry. I am training myself to recognize the difference. Report
I think it is boredom with me. I tend to graze. I am unable to work anymore so I am home most all day. But I am trying to fight the urges, and I do keep walking every day that i am able. Report
I think stress is my main trigger, although there is a big element of "it's time to eat" in there too. I appreciate the advice on how to overcome some of these things.
Yes, yes, yes! I just ready the other DailySpark article about not letting yourself get overly hungry. That, along with 2 from this article, are probably my top 3 weight loss tips that have allowed me to lose the weight & keep it off:

#1 - If you are awake, don't go over 4 hours without eating.

#2 - Go to bed & wake up around the same time ever day, and aim for 7+ hours of sleep nightly.

#3 - Drink at least 8 cups of water per day (some people recommend drinking 1/2 your body weight in ounces of water each day). Report
WOW, I have to learn to gp to my bed early so that I can get at least my eight hours sleep on a nightly basis, then my body can get the necessary time needed to do all the repairs and produce Leptin, which will help control my hunger triggers. Report
OMG I was so hungry all day today and couldn't figure out why and it's because I didn't sleep enough. I never knew sleep had anything to do with hunger! Glad I stayed disciplined but man it's been one of those days where I just want to eat everything in sight! Report
Seen some of these before - it was a nice reminder . Report
I agree with this, I'm not a stress eater so much as one who would eat due to boredom. Instead of gettng up and walking or drinking a glass of water i'd go for salty pretzels or chocolate. I'm learning to pay better attention and though the pretzels and chocolate look mighty tempting I resist. Report
My biggest issue is eating while watching TV. For some reason i always have to have something to munch on while I watch TV or a movie. Report
Also you honesty could be. If you're dieting you might not be eating enough. Report
This is so true. I didn't get to this weight because of eating while physically hungry, but because of eating for one of these other reasons. And they quickly become habits too, that are hard to overcome. But I'm trying my best! Report
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