Binge eaters with bad eating habits and those who are overweight sometimes ask ourselves “Why am I so hungry?” In my case Binge Eating Disorder was bad enough but I also struggled with feeling hungry all the time and was angry at myself for feeling that way. How could I possibly be hungry after having downed 10,000 calories the night before? Why am I so hungry when I just ate dinner an hour ago? Maybe you have or had some of these same struggles? If so then please read on.
Why Am I So Hungry?
Once I started my journey to stop binge eating I noticed that relearning physical hunger helped keep my binge urges down and I felt more in control of myself. Getting back in touch with my own hunger let me feel the difference between physical fullness and satiety and feeling contented or satisfied emotionally. It dawned on me that my messed up feelings of hunger were due to years of poor eating choices, yo-yo dieting and the ravages of binge eating. I had forgotten what true hunger felt like and it made my binge eating episodes and frequency worsen over time until I made the decision to stop binge eating and began working on my problems.
Relearning physical hunger and the feel of satiety is important because many of us binge eat due to emotional issues and stress in addition to the addiction forming behavior of the habit. Our brain has confused hunger for loneliness and emptiness and fullness for comfort. The feelings they evoke are very similar and our ancient “primal brain” only wants to feel good and get away from discomfort. This confusion compounds our Binge Eating Disorder and makes it even harder for us to stop binge eating. This should help answer your question of why am I so hungry.
10 Ways to Relearn Physical Hunger & Recognize Emotional Hunger
Below are ten methods I’ve tried that helped me get back in touch with my own hunger and recognize if I’m truly hungry or if I’m letting my primal brain drive me. They come from suggestions I learned from others, in books I read and some came from my own experiments I dreamed up that worked well with my type of personality.
I’m simply sharing what helped me relearn my physical hunger levels. If you want to try them then please note that your mileage may vary and to use at your own risk. Only you know yourself and your own challenges dealing with food and eating.
- Keep a simple chart of what you ate, the times you ate and whether or not you feel hunger before you actually ate. After a few days review your chart. Are you eating when you’re not hungry?
- For a week or so don’t eat at your exact regular mealtimes. Try to change them by 30 minutes or so. Nothing too drastic. Notice how you’re feeling. Begin to identify hunger. Signs of true hunger include difficulty concentrating, feeling slightly faint, maybe having a headache, feeling irritable and being lightheaded. You might feel or hear your stomach growling. These are signs of true hunger. Try to memorize them.
- Pay attention to the symptoms of your body when you’re hungry. Compare how this feels to actual emotional loneliness. Try to identify the differences between them and physical hunger. There is a difference and each of us can recognize it in our own ways. Be able to recognize it quickly in yourself as it occurs.
- Rate your hunger levels from 0-10 throughout the day. Write this on a chart. Begin to notice the levels you can handle and those you can’t resist. Every day try to extend the time you hold out and get your body a bit more used to being hunger. Eat snacks and meals as necessary. The idea is to get to know your hunger thresholds and expanding them and feeling the control. Don’t over due this. It’s like driving a car at high speeds. Just a little bit of change will have a big effect and let you start to relearn the indicators.
- When you eat for a week just keep a simple log of how hungry you are before you start eating but this time also rate the enjoyment of what you are eating. After a week or so review your log and notice if food seems to taste better when you’re truly hungry. We get much more appreciation from our meals when eating is fun and the food tastes great and not when we are eating due to urges or boredom. Eating when you are not hunger actually takes away from your level of enjoyment.
- For one week eat with no distractions at each regularly scheduled meal-time. No reading, watching TV or video games. Eating with friends and family is perfectly fine. During these mealtimes make it a point to eat your meal very slowly and appreciate each bite. Enjoy the feeling of satisfying your hunger and notice the time it takes from when you start your meal to when you feel your hunger going away. It may take 15-20 minutes so be patient. Being able to feel your hunger being satisfied will add to your enjoyment of the meal and makes you feel much more in control.
- Be mindful before you eat. Before getting that snack or when sitting down to eat a scheduled meal simply pause for 2 minutes and observe yourself and your thoughts. Feel your primal brain trying to force you to eat and tell yourself you’re not an animal and just watch. Enjoy being in control. If you’re up to it try to fool your animal brain into thinking you just ate a few bites and observe yourself to see if you’re still in control.
- Mentally rate your fullness while eating and stop when you’re at a 5 or 6 and not try to achieve a full 10.
- Try only eating 3 balanced meals a day with no snacks in between for a week. Be very regimented in your times and note how you are feeling before and after each meal in a food journal. Eat as much as you want or need at each meal but make sure to not make yourself sick. Are you noticing true hunger?
- Just eat whenever you feel hungry for a week but only if it’s due to true physical hunger. For this exercise you have to trust yourself to not eat everything in sight or order the entire drive-thru menu. I recommend you only do this after having done several of the other exercises above first so you know your hunger and full levels. If you have no self control yet then this is not for you (yet). After the week reflect and decide if you think you’ve gotten better at recognizing and satisfying your physical hunger. If not continue to work on yourself, your emotions and other challenges in your life and then come back to these exercises again.
If you attempt any of these methods always keep in mind the basic goal behind each is to learn your hunger and “fullness” signals. You are trying to to relearn what your body is saying so you get to know your own hunger levels. Most important for binge eaters is you want your brain to learn that there is a difference between being hungry and feeling sad and between being full and feeling happy or content. For binge eaters like me, regaining control is also a big victory and helped improve many other areas of my own life.
Learning Why Am I So Hungry Can Be Tough – You Can Do It!
As one last personal note, even to this day I force myself to pause and think about my hunger before I begin to prepare food or start to eat. I have to still remind myself to do this everyday. I found through many, many, many failures that I would quickly slip back into my old ways of bad eating habits and bingeing whenever I began mindlessly eating when I wasn’t hungry. I noticed on those same days my primal eating urges would return in full force in the evenings and try to get me to go on another eating binge. Not good. Understanding my hunger helped me stop binge eating and is something I try to work on daily still. When I mindfully think about why am I so hungry it helps bring me back to my senses.
Good luck to you and don’t be frustrated if you still struggle with this even after trying and feeling you are getting no where with learning your physical hunger. Keep at it and don’t get angry with yourself if you’re not getting it right way. Think progress not perfection. This is about recognizing true physical hunger vs feeling emotions that seem like hunger. After years of bad eating habits it’s going to take some time.
Please let me know what you think in the comments below.