Your nickname is “garbage disposal” and your family and friends joke that leftovers go to you, rather than the dog. You polish off your plate and an hour later, you’re rummaging through the pantry shelves, raiding the fridge, or perusing the vending machine. You’re always hungry. What gives?
We spoke with Bonnie Taub-Dix, R.D., owner of BetterThanDieting.com and author of Read it Before You Eat It to get to the bottom of your seemingly bottomless pit. Turns out your everyday behavior—who you eat with, your quality of sleep, and your workout regimen to name a few—has a lot to do with your eating habits. Read on to see if you’re guilty of one or more of these bad practices and fix them today so you can feel more satiated and regular tomorrow.
You’re Skipping Meals
Whether you’re always in and out of meetings, getting stuck in traffic, or logging long commute hours, it can be easy to skip a meal. But that doesn’t mean you should.
“People use the excuse of not having a lot of time,” Taub-Dix says. But you can keep pre-made lunch and dinners in your office, healthy snacks in your desk drawer or glove compartment, and scout out a few healthy eateries around your office to ensure you always have options on-hand.
You’re Not Eating a Well-Balanced Meal
“To stave off hunger, it’s important to make sure that when you do eat, you eat in a balanced fashion,” Taub-Dix says. “The perfect trifecta is lean protein, whole grain carbs, and healthy fats.”
The carbs give you quicker energy, while the protein and fat keep your blood sugar levels from spiking, which stabilizes your mood (yes, you do get “hangry”), because they stay in your system for longer, making you feel more satisfied. Don’t just go for the cheap, easy fix. More often than not, it’ll be highly processed or loaded with salt and sugar, which will leave you hungry again in the short term and heavier in the long term.
You’re Working Hard in The Gym
“Maybe you’re working harder in the gym than you normally do, you didn’t fuel up properly before the workout, or you didn’t eat something after to help recover,” Taub-Dix says. Each of these things (especially combined) can contribute to you always feeling hungry.
To cover all your bases, check out our best pre-workout foods and make sure you’re always eating for exercise and not fueling up with some of the worst pre-workout foods. If you don’t eat after a difficult workout, your body will start using your muscle tissue for energy instead of healthy carbs and fat—and you definitely don’t want that.
“An interesting twist is that sometimes you may feel like you’re hungry but really you’re just stressed out,” Taub-Dix says.
When we’re feeling strained at work, by our family life, or just feeling a little down, we have an innate trigger to eat our feelings. It’s true; a study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism found consuming sugar-laden beverages helps combat the onset of stress. But that doesn’t mean you should cave.
The key is to recognize when this is happening. It may sound silly, but think about how you’re feeling when you find yourself reaching for a bag of chips or ordering that 24-oz soda.
You just ate lunch but you’re still hungry. Or are you? “A lot of people confuse hunger for thirst,” Taub-Dix says. Reach for a glass of water, a tea, or even coffee instead of eating a second lunch or high-calorie snack. That should do the trick. This is important to remember, too, now that summer is fast approaching.
“In the warmer months, it’s so easy to become dehydrated,” Taub-Dix adds. “Many of us walk around feeling tired and irritable, so having enough fluids—namely water—is crucial.”
You’re Drinking Too Much Alcohol
You’ve probably read this by now or experienced it first-hand: Alcohol is dehydrating.
“If you’re drinking a lot in the summer, chase every alcoholic beverage with a big glass of water or club soda to stay hydrated,” Taub-Dix says. If you don’t you risk mild or severe dehydration, the side effects of which include dry mouth, dizziness, fatigue, muscle cramps—and hunger (see previous slide.)
You’re Not Sleeping Enough
Sleep impacts so many seemingly unrelated things from your heart to your brain to your appetite.
If you’re eating to keep yourself awake, stop. “You’re better off having a nap than having unnecessary calories you don’t even need,” Taub-Dix says. If you’re feeling particularly sluggish, try these tips for beating the midday slump and these 50 energy-boosting hacks.
You’re Caving to Peer Pressure
You’re not even hungry, but one of your colleagues brings in a pizza and has extra slices or it’s your boss’s birthday and cake is being passed around—and you have your fair share against your best judgment. Our environment has a huge influence on how frequently and how much we eat. Due to peer pressure, camaraderie and socialization, you feel the need to eat.
“Of course you may have the hunger for the taste of food, but that doesn’t mean you’re hungry,” Taub-Dix says.
You’re Not Being Mindful
“Your stomach is only the size of your two fists, Taub-Dix says. “So if you have a full meal, and an hour later you feel like having a snack, recognize that your food is still digesting in your stomach.”
The key is to think about what your stomach really looks like and what it needs, not what your mouth or mind wants. Be mindful. Your mouth never gets full, so think: Am I hungry?
You Eat Everyone’s Leftovers
If your girlfriend is half your size and has half your appetite, odds are you’re going to polish off your meal, then go in to finish off hers. They make Tupperware and doggy bags for this exact reason. Stop overeating. Who you eat with is just as important as when and what you eat Taub-Dix explains.
You Eat In Front of a Screen
“Don’t eat in front of screens—TV, phone, computer—ever,” Taub-Dix advises. It’s such a big distraction, and if you’re looking to control your weight or lose weight, this could really tip the scales for you in a bad way. “The problem is you’re paying more attention to the activity, the TV show, than the food itself so it’s easy to go beyond hunger fulfillment if you’re not paying attention to whether or not you feel satiated.”