Are you actually hungry…or are you just bored? Or stressed? Or sad? Sometimes we eat for reasons other than feeling physical hunger, but we can’t always recognize when we’re doing it! So, what do physical signs of hunger look and feel like?
Physical signs of hunger
There are two primary hormones responsible for the feelings of hunger and fullness. Generally, the hormone ghrelin is secreted to indicate hunger, while leptin is secreted to indicate satiety. When ghrelin is secreted your body may respond with hunger cues such as a growling stomach. This is typically the first physical sign of hunger, but more symptoms can come into effect if hunger is prolonged. Ignoring initial hunger cues can lead to shakiness, headaches and brain fog or trouble staying focused.
Honoring hunger cues
Honoring your hunger cues are super important! Allowing your body to eat during initial signs of hunger ensures your metabolism stays running smoothly. Frequently denying our bodies of food in instances of hunger can lead the body to slow down the metabolization process and store more food as a survival response. This can lead to a slowed down metabolism overall and a loss of hunger cues and trust with your body. Your body is not trying to trick you, signs of hunger mean your body needs more energy!
Sometimes, we eat even though we are not experiencing physical signs of hunger. This happens often in response to being bored, feeling sad, or just eating mindlessly due to food being in front of us and a TV show being on! The next time you feel yourself reaching for a snack try to ask yourself, am I actually hungry or am I just bored? Take into account the last time you ate and if you are feeling physical signs of hunger. If you suspect you are eating out of boredom, try to think of another activity such as going for a walk, catching up on some work or picking up a book.
Most importantly, do not beat yourself up for eating without being hungry! We’re humans, not robots, meaning we cannot operate perfectly when it comes to eating only in response to physical signs of hunger. Sometimes we eat simply because the food looks extra good, or we want a sweet treat after a long day, or because we find comfort in food. Remember to not restrict in response to overeating and to be patient with yourself.
If you feel your boredom or emotional eating has become a major issue, schedule a call with Alli to learn about how to gain more control over your eating!
This article was written by Lindsey Moser, nutrition intern of Nourished Routes. Fact checked by Allison Tallman RD.