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The Weirdness of Hunger

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So yesterday, I ate a LOT. WAY too much.

So today, I planned, of course, on not eating so much.

Now this is a pattern I'm very familiar with. Sometimes it's easy—I might even still be full from the day before until fairly late in the afternoon. Sometimes, however, like today, my belly is empty. And I mean EMPTY.

I ate a small breakfast, but no smaller than usual (not much of a breakfast eater). I was hungry by 10.

For lunch I ate a large salad, with protein in it, as I often do (and no, it wasn't smaller or less nutritious than I thought it was), and an orange. That was an hour and a half ago and I'm hungry again.

And I mean HUNGRY. Not like "no longer full" but really like my tummy feels completely empty, it's growling.

I have days like this, as well as days in which I'm not very hungry throughout the day, even when I *haven't* overeaten the day before, by the way.

Anyway, twofold question to any nutritionists etc. out there: 1) Can you explain the phenomenon? Can a stomach really expand and contract that much? 2) What can one do about such hunger when one has already eaten a healthy meal and doesn't need to ingest more calories? Yes, I'm drinking water.

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  1. Not a nutritionist, but when I get that "empty" hungry feeling and I can't eat (e.g. don't have time) I find that moving around like doing some chores or going for a stroll helps take the mind off the hunger sensation.

    1. Are you also eating fat with your meals? I find I am satiated for much longer if I'm eating some fat with my meal.

      2 Replies
      1. re: mollyomormon

        A hundred times THIS. Since "healthy" for many is interpreted as "low-fat" it's no wonder that you eat a green salad with, say, boneless skinless chicken breast and fat-free dressing and are raging hungry an hour later. Get some fat in there!

        1. re: MandalayVA

          Yep, a serving (probably and a half) of nuts on the salad. (Like I said, it wasn't less nutritious than I thought. :) )

      2. I experience a somewhat similar phenomenon that I'd be interested in understanding. Any time I eat right before bed, I am ravenously hungry when I wake up. Does this have something to do with the way my food is digested while lying down? Now, I try to wait at least 4 hours before going to bed.

        When I know I've eaten enough and have no reason to be hungry, I will often brush my teeth or chew mint gum. It spoils my appetite for eating anything else. Also, I tend to drink tons of hot tea when I'm done with my meal which I believe helps me pass the time that it takes for my brain to understand that I am actually full.

        3 Replies
        1. re: soypower

          The tea's a good idea...

          Anyway, that was weird. I'm not sure I've felt THAT hungry in a long time.

          1. re: soypower

            Oh, yes! I do the same thing with the tea and that totally works. Sometimes I'll also eat half a grapefruit if I'm still hungry and that seems to also work.

            1. re: soypower

              If I eat a large meal late, it easily carries me over until dinner the next day.

            2. I notice that my body goes through phases that I guess correlate to shifts in metabolism and to how much internal fat I've put on.

              If I start taking in a lot of calories for a couple of weeks, I find it becomes very difficult to skip meals - I experience strong hunger urges every day if I try to. And I need to eat a larger quantity at a sitting than before to feel sated.

              But when I've gone a few weeks eating less, and have dropped a few pounds, I seem to shift into a state in which just eating a little fills me up, and I could go a couple of days before I really feel hungry. (A friend called me a snake because of this.)

              1 Reply
              1. re: racer x

                I agree with this. During the week while busy with work and school I often have to remind myself to consume enough food to keep my energy up. I will start to feel tired and draggy long before I feel hungry (snake is a new one -- my boyfriend has often compared me to a camel, though).

                Then I will go through a time where I am eating a lot -- say, a friend who is interested in food and dining out comes to visit, or I go home to my parents house for a week at Christmas -- and I will find that when I return to my routine I feel hungry all the time, even quickly after big meals when logically I know that I don't need any more food.

              2. A couple things could be happening:

                1. Your large meals revved up your metabolism, and now your body thinks there's going to be an abundance of food and wants to start using it, so you get more hungry and are able to convert extra food into energy rather than turning it into fat.

                2. Large meal led to poor sleep, and poor sleep makes you hungry (it has to do with ghrelin and leptin balance, it's a legitimate phenomenon with lots of research support).

                I don't think it's related to stomach expansion/contraction. I'd just eat normally for the day and just try to get a good night's sleep.

                1 Reply
                1. re: AllaSiciliana

                  Thanks. I definitely have diet-related sleeping problems.