Fighting and overcoming hunger is the most challenging aspect of weight loss. Many people simply feel hungry all the time, lamenting, “Why do I never feel full?” In frustration, many will regrettably return to their old habits just to rid themselves of the gnawing hunger. However, while the struggle is real, there is hope and some nifty tricks to help you through it.
Why Do I Never Feel Full?
There are many reasons why people don’t feel full after eating or feel hungry minutes after finishing a meal. Sometimes this can be because of a medical condition like diabetes; however, for this article, we are focusing on non-medical related issues and will teach you how to overcome hunger challenges.
When the human body experiences stress, it releases a hormone called cortisol. This hormone can increase feelings of hunger among other things. While under stress, people crave foods high in fat, sugar, or both. This is thought to be an attempt by the body to turn off the section of the brain attached to worrying.
The effects of short-term stress are not as worrying as those of long-term stress, which can really hurt our bodies. Short-term stress reduces appetite. The nervous system sends a signal to your adrenal glands to release epinephrine (or adrenaline), which aids the body in its flight-or-fight response. This response temporarily puts hunger on hold.
Under persistent stress, the adrenal glands release cortisol rather than epinephrine. This hormone increases hunger and can increase the motivation to eat. Once the feelings of stress pass, cortisol levels fall. If stress does not go away because the person constantly feels stressed, cortisol levels remain elevated.
Additional symptoms of long-term stress are:
- Angry outbursts
- Sleep disruption and other sleep problems
- Irritated stomach
To combat stress, you can do several things. You can exercise, allowing you to burn more fat than you consume. Exercise is known to boost endorphins, dopamine, and endocannabinoids, which increase feelings of pleasure. It can also release pent-up frustration.
Stress and sleep deprivation can also go hand-in-hand. To combat this, try to relax. You can use meditation, deep breathing techniques, or yoga to regulate your breath while relaxing. When we are stressed, our breathing is shallower and more frequent. You can calm yourself and alleviate stress by taking deep breaths.
Not receiving enough or good quality sleep affects hormones in the body that control hunger. When we do get enough sleep, our hormones are balanced, including those that regulate digestion, metabolism, and appetite.
Sleep-deprived people tend to have larger appetites and discover that it is challenging to remain full. When sleep-deprived, people crave foods higher in fat and calories.
When we are tired, our bodies face an imbalance that decreases leptin levels and increases ghrelin. Leptin regulates the body’s energy balance. It regulates fat storage and decreases hunger sensations. Ghrelin (a hormone secreted by the stomach) is the counterpart to the peptide hormone leptin. It is responsible for boosting growth, appetite, and fat production.
Restful sleep allows the person’s body to regulate these hormones and balance satiation and appetite. Sleep deprivation creates an imbalance, decreasing leptin and increasing ghrelin. So, despite eating, we will feel hungrier throughout the day, which may cause a higher calorie intake.
The other effects of being tired or overtired include:
- Mood changes
- Difficulty staying alert
- Increase in accidents
- Problems staying awake during the day
- Weight gain
There are several things you can do if you are unable to sleep. The first thing you should do is determine why you can’t sleep in the first place.
For some, when we examine our habits, we may discover that we nap during the day. While we may think this isn’t bad, it can mess with your natural circadian rhythm. Therefore, when we are supposed to sleep (at night, generally), we are unable to because our body is already rested. Shift workers also experience this phenomenon.
To remedy this issue, try to keep from napping during the day so that when night time comes, you are ready to sleep. Or, you can take melatonin. It also helps to avoid screen time for an hour or two before bedtime, as the blue light can mess with your ability to sleep.
Sleep in a comfortable room – not too hot or too cold – and eliminate noise if possible. If you do need to block out sound, a white noise machine may help.
Diet is one of the most common but frequently misunderstood aspects of weight loss. We often blame stress or sleep deprivation when experiencing increased feelings of hunger rather than taking a look at our diet. But the types of food we consume can profoundly affect how satisfied we are after our meals.
Apps like Noom and Healthi are effective weight loss tools because they teach you to pinpoint areas in your life that may trigger overeating and help you focus on your diet.
Noom categorizes food into three areas: green, yellow, and red. Red foods are calorie dense, which means they’re high in calories without offering much nutritional value. Since these are empty calories, you’ll feel hungrier shortly after you consume these foods, resulting in snacking.
Yellow foods are in the middle of the road. They aren’t calorie dense, but they don’t have a high water content, either. You should moderately consume these foods since overeating in this area can still cause you to be hungry.
Green foods are low in calories but rich in water and fiber. Not only do high fiber foods “clean out” the waste from the body, but they also make you feel fuller for longer. Water is beneficial in keeping you hydrated and decreasing your appetite. Ideally, you want to eat foods in this category since you can eat larger quantities with lower calories and remain satisfied for longer.
Diet Soft Drinks
Diet drinks are popular for losing weight since they have no calories. However, the artificial sugar in these drinks signals your brain to expect calories that it can utilize for fuel. When the body fails to receive this, it can elevate hunger levels, convincing you to consume calories found in food instead.
If diet soft drinks are the culprit, you will notice:
- Weight gain
- Cravings for sugar
To combat this, you can attempt to consume drinks sweetened with an all-natural product called stevia. It adds sweetness without calories. Best of all, you can also use it in baking or food.
Another method is to increase water intake. People tend not to consume enough water throughout the day, leaving them dehydrated. This can become a serious problem when temperatures rise and we lose more of our water through sweat.
Not only does water help eliminate waste (among other things), but it also helps you feel fuller for longer. Consuming water before a meal can help prevent overeating as you will feel full, which is another reason why foods high in water (grapes, veggies, etc.) allow you to remain full. It is a wonderful “cheat”!
Am I hungry? Is it thirst? Why can’t I tell the difference? People aren’t always able to distinguish between thirst and hunger cues. Therefore, we often need to rely on signs from our bodies to alert us to potential danger.
Mild dehydration can mask hunger sensations when all the body informs you of is a lack of fluids. The hypothalamus is the cause of the confusion as it is the part of your brain regulating thirst and hunger.
Signs of dehydration include:
- Urinating less frequently
- Dark-colored urine
Preventing dehydration is as easy as being on top of how much liquid you consume during the day. Begin your day with a glass of water. If you still feel hungry and haven’t consumed adequate fluids, drink some water. If, after 15-20 minutes, you are still hungry, then you can eat. If not, then your “hunger” was actually thirst, and you just needed to increase your fluid levels.
Consuming Excessive Alcohol
Having wine or a cocktail before a meal to “whet the appetite” accomplishes just that. Consuming alcohol will generate hunger even if the stomach is full. The National Library of Medicine published a study concluding people will eat foods richer in calories after drinking alcohol.
Alcohol deceives the body into thinking it requires food when it really wants water. Remember, the hypothalamus may confuse hunger with thirst when you are dehydrated. Alcohol will remove fluid from the body, causing dehydration.
This effect can be offset by eating before having a drink. Be sure you alternate water with cocktails, so you stay well hydrated.
When you skip breakfast or other meals during your day, it can quickly backfire. Even though you may deceive yourself into thinking that you are “banking” calories, when you skip a meal and don’t eat for a long time, ghrelin (the hunger hormone) increases, causing you to be hungry.
Ghrelin prompts your gastrointestinal tract to anticipate food. When these levels are too high, your drive to eat increases. On top of that, you are more likely to binge on food when you finally do eat.
We are all busy, and sometimes we forget to eat. To combat this, try to have some healthy snacks on hand, just in case. Also, try not to go more than four to five hours between meals.
Even if you aren’t a “breakfast person,” try to eat something in the morning within an hour of waking up. Easy options include yogurt, apple slices with peanut butter, or smoothies.
Yes, it’s a thing. We are constantly bombarded by images of food wherever we go. It seems that, especially when we are hungry or dieting, food ads and images keep popping up in front of us to tempt us at every turn.
Food images saturate our daily living, from Pinterest to Facebook to late-night fast-food advertisements. With food presenting itself in the media frequently, craving the images we see can be very real.
The connection between what we see and the desire we feel is normal. Studies have found that simply the sight of food elevates ghrelin levels. Similarly, aromas generate an involuntary physiological response when we smell food. The mouth will increase in saliva, and the stomach contracts and imitates hunger sensations.
While you can’t eliminate smelling or seeing food images, you can try to decrease your exposure. Try to skip through television commercials or unfollow branded food on social media. Limiting the amount of delicious food you see will help you manage your cravings.
Eating Too Quickly
When you consume food too quickly, your stomach can fill up before your brain has a chance to register this fact. When the brain hasn’t registered that the stomach is full, the appetite remains high, causing people to overeat.
Consuming meals at a moderate pace allows time for the release of hormones that inform the brain when the stomach is full. That’s why it is essential to eat slowly. Take time to savor the flavor and make eating an experience.
When you eat, take time to note the textures and how the flavors blend together. You will not only be able to stop eating when you’re full, you’ll also enjoy your meals more. Also, try to keep from eating on the go whenever possible.
So, why do I never feel full? It can be for several reasons. Perhaps it is the type of food you are eating or simply eating it too quickly. These are the most common culprits. Other factors are stress, lack of quality sleep, and other things mentioned above. When we isolate the factors causing our increased appetite and learn to combat them, we can emerge victorious in the weight loss arena.