April 2019




    You eat, but then an hour later your stomach is screaming.  Here, what’s going on, and how to stay satisfied.


    Most of the time, hunger has an obvious cause, like not eating enough or choosing meals that don’t contain the right amount of nutrients (carbohydrate, fat and protein).  Other times, though, it’s mysterious.  Your appetite appears to defy explanation, and nothing you eat seems to tamp it down.  But those hunger pangs have a cause too.  Read on to find out what’s behind them and how to fuel up to feel conformably full.


    Salt is stoking your appetite. Yes, it makes you thirsty in the short term.  But over time, a high intake of salt actually causes you to drink less but eat more.  Salt triggers the body to conserve water, which it does by producing a compound called urea.  That process requires a lot of calories, so It revs up your appetite.  Processed food often has hidden sodium, so aim to eat more of the fresh stuff.

    You need vegetables at breakfastWhen you start the day with starchy, quick-digesting carbohydrates like cereal, waffles or toast, you ‘wake up’ your hunger hormones and make them more active.  That’s because these foods cause your blood sugar to spike, leading to a rise in insulin and cortisol (a hormone that promotes fat storage), which makes your blood sugar plummet, so you get hungry again.  This up-and-down cycle happens whenever you eat starchy foods, but it’s most volatile when you wake up with an empty stomach.  To keep your blood sugar stable, have a breakfast of protein and low-starch carbohydrates, like eggs and vegetables, and save the bread and grains for lunch and dinner.

    You’re on edge.  If anxiety and worry are keeping you up at night, the lack of sleep can increase your appetite.  Plus, stress raises your levels of cortisol, which can stimulate hunger.  To decompress, try yoga.  Focused exercise can prolong the natural appetite suppressing effect of exercise, while yoga helps you to relax.

    You eat too often.  Grazing all day throws your hunger hormones out of whack.  When you eat small bites and don’t sit down to real meals, you never feel truly hungry or full.  Eventually, your appetite cues become muted, and you’re vaguely hungry all the time.  Instead, eat every three hours or so.  Have a meal or snack that includes protein, fiber and healthy fat with a little carbohydrate.  A smart choice: walnuts or other nuts.  Nuts contain protein, healthy fat, carbohydrate and a little fiber, and eating them activates an area of the brain that regulates hunger and cravings.

    You’re bored.  When we’re aimless, we look for something stimulating, like food.  And we tend to seek out things like chips and chocolate.  If this sounds familiar, tune in to your body and notice signs of hunger, like a grumbling stomach.  When you eat, focus on the experience and enjoy it.  The more you do this, the better you’ll get at distinguishing between physical and emotional hunger.

    Marnie Soman Schwartz