If you’re finding yourself wanting more food after what you’d normally call a substantial meal, there are plenty of reasons. Dietitian Lyndi Cohen explains what the solution might be and why you shouldn’t be so hard on yourself.
We’ve all been there. You polish off a substantial meal and still feel like you could demolish three scoops of gelato! Or you have your afternoon snack and it turns into a binge.
Feeling hungry and unsatisfied after eating is more common than you think. It’s also confusing and, frankly, pretty annoying, especially if you’re trying to watch what you eat.
Here are some possible reasons for your confusing post-meal hunger pangs:
1. You’re trying to be ‘good’
Sometimes, you have an idea about how much you think you ‘should’ be eating.
Like what you see? Sign up to our bodyandsoul.com.au newsletter for more stories like this.
It can be based on many things such as; weight loss goals, a meal plan, a popular YouTuber’s ‘Day on a Plate’ or how much you normally eat.
But if you often still feel hungry or unsatisfied after eating, it’s essential to realise this: The amount of food your body needs differs from day to day.
You can either ignore your hunger but from my professional experience, this often leads to binge eating on ALL the food later. Or you can give yourself permission to eat more.
Try something more satisfying than a small handful of nuts. Try a piece of wholegrain toast with avocado and a yoghurt for an afternoon snack. Still hungry? Add in a piece of fruit.
When you try to ignore your hunger and eat less than you really need, it often leads to a blow-out later. So if you’re body-conscious, eating to fulfil your hunger is actually a smart and healthy thing to do. It keeps you more consistent and this is good news if you’re trying to reach a health goal.
2. You need more novelty
Apart from fullness, another really important factor influences when you decide it’s time to stop eating. And that is how ‘interesting’ you find the specific food, also known as sensory-specific satiety.
So if you have a sandwich every day for lunch, after a while – sandwiches stop being ‘interesting’ to you. It’s just a sandwich.
But what about the foods we often put on the ‘forbidden’ list, like chocolate, chips, and ice-cream? When we take these foods off-limits, they are deeply ‘interesting’ to our brains!
The lesson here is to stop taking foods off-limits. Stop cutting out foods from your diet as you’ll only make them more ‘interesting’ to your brain.
Instead, enjoy them with enjoyment – without a side serving of guilt. When your body realises it can have ice-cream whenever it wants, you’ll be surprised to notice the cravings are much more manageable.
3. You feel deprived
When you feel emotionally deprived of food, you can eat, and eat, and eat … and never really feel satisfied.
If at the back of your mind, you feel like you’re not allowed to eat a certain food (like pasta or peanut butter straight from the jar), it will always seem ‘interesting’ to you.
This is why creating a list of ‘bad’ or ‘forbidden’ foods backfires.
Feeling guilty about eating seriously sucks – I’ve been there – and completely strips the JOY from mealtimes and delicious food.
If you feel like you can just eat and eat and eat (something that can be described as binge eating) then go have a chat with your doctor about binge eating disorder.
4. You need more balance
There’s a good reason why dietitians like me recommend you have a serve of each food group at every meal. It’s because eating balanced meals can help you feel satisfied after meals.
Check your meal has a serving of:
- Slow-burning carbs – e.g. sweet potato, brown rice, whole grain bread
- Healthy fat – e.g. avocado, extra virgin olive oil, nuts
- Lean protein – e.g. beans, eggs, cheese, fish, chicken, nuts, tofu
Then load the rest of your meal with veggies.
This humble hat-trick will help keep you feeling satisfied for a lot longer than avoiding carbs or fats altogether – and it’ll also make sure you’re getting the nutrients your body needs to be healthy.
5. You may be thirsty
I roll my eyes when people say, “Maybe you’re not hungry you’re just thirsty”.
But it is true that occasionally, hunger can be confused with thirst.
Not sure if you’re drinking enough? Urine luck! Check your pee:
- If it’s light yellow or clear and has no smell, you’re probably drinking enough.
- If it’s very yellow and has a strong smell, you might need to drink more water.
If you seem to drink enough water, then chances are you actually hungry.
6. You need more roughage
Are you one of the 5 percent of Australian’s who eat the recommended 5+ serves of veggies everyday? If so, well done! However, chances are you could do with an extra serve of veg in your day.
Vegetables bulk out your meals, giving you plenty of roughage to fill your stomach… This helps you feel full after eating.
What’s a serving size of vegetables? One serve is about the same size as your closed fist. See if you can eat 5-10 serves of veggies a day. Even adding in one more serve a day will help.
Lyndi Cohen is a dietitian and best-selling author of The Nude Nutritionist book. She has an App called Back to Basics as well Keep it Real, a program to help you stop binge eating. You can follow Lyndi on Instagram @nude_nutritonist.