Image: Jennifer Lawrence definitely needs to read this.
Do you ever secretly wonder whether you carry a mutant gene that means you have the appetite of a growing teenage boy, despite being an adult woman?
You’re not alone there, trust me. Constant hunger is very real, and it can be a stubborn house guest; in extreme cases, even the biggest burger can’t convince it to get up and leave you in peace. What’s with that?
Well, don’t be too concerned about your Hungry Hungry Hippo ways, because sometimes it’s actually your body tricking you into thinking you need a feed. Yep — your very own body can deceive you. So before you go reaching for the pretzels, run through these five potential factors first, because although you feel like eating the whole kitchen, you mightn’t actually need food at all.
1. You’re eating foods that make you hungrier
In a cruel twist of fate, some ingredients are known to make your urge for food even stronger. How's that for counter-productive?
Simple, starchy carbs, like those found in white bread, are notorious for this; they make your blood levels rise and drop in quite close succession, which brings back all the hungry feels. Certain kinds of sugar can also play silly buggers with your appetite — earlier this week, researchers found fructose is likely to contribute to overeating, because it leaves you feeling less satisfied. (Post continues after gallery.)
On the other hand, some foods will make you feel fuller for longer — these include lean proteins and complex carbohydrates (because they've got more fibre than the simple ones). This is also why you hear a lot of talk about the glycaemic index (GI) and diets. Foods with a low GI, like nuts and beans, keep hunger pangs at bay because they release energy slower than high GI foods like sugar, which deliver only a short-term energy hit.
2. You're more stressed than you realise.
Stress can affect your body in more ways than you might realise, and not all of them are emotional. If you're hankering for sweet foods and carbs in particular, it could be cortisol — the 'stress hormone' — surreptitiously starving your cells of energy.
“Increased cortisol can make us resistant to insulin, so it can elevate our blood sugar. If that happens chronically over a long period of time, it puts stress on our pancreas and we basically end up running around with way too much blood sugar,” explains clinical psychologist and mind and body expert Leanne Hall.
“Because our cells have been programmed to be insulin resistant, it means they’re starving of energy … what that does is send hunger signals to the brain for a quick energy fix, even if you’ve already eaten an hour ago.”
3. You haven't had enough sleep.
Hungry lady, here's a question for you: what time did you go to bed last night? What's that — you rolled in at 2am then got up for work five hours later? Therein lies a very likely catalyst for your growling stomach.
Research has shown sleep deprivation is linked to feelings of hunger and higher levels of the 'hunger hormone' ghrelin in the blood. It also causes leptin — a hormone that controls feelings of fullness — to nosedive. You don't need to be a mathemetician to figure that (More 'I'm hungry!' hormone) + (Less 'I'm full now, stop eating' hormone) = (Aggressive fridge raiding).
It's also very likely that your sleepy food cravings are things like chips or chocolate. A 2012 study concluded sleep-deprived brains associate junk food with reward and pleasure, whereas this effect isn't as strong when you've had a solid sleep. Maybe it's time for a nap, hmm?
4. You need to get off Instagram, seriously
Finally, one factor you can blame your mates for: the food photos they keep posting are making you want to eat the entire kitchen.
It's no secret that scrolling through Adriano Zumbo's latest Instagram posts will make you think about croissants. Yet, rather cruelly, foodie images actually make you hungry as well — we totally knew this, but thanks for confirming it anyway, science. These mouth-watering photos activate your brain's 'appetite control centre' and cause levels of the 'hunger hormone' ghrelin to increase.
This certainly explains why food advertising is so very effective.
5. You're actually dehydrated
Sometimes your body's got it half right — it knows it needs something for energy, but you interpret that craving as food when a glass of water is really the golden ticket. This faux hunger is particularly common on days where you haven't been hitting your daily H2O quota.
“When you’re not getting enough water, you’ll probably feel hungry or think you’re hungry; you’re reaching for energy but really you’re sluggish and lethargic because your body is searching for more water,” explains personal trainer and health coach Kirsty Welsh. So while water mightn't be as tasty as that brie you've been eyeing off, it'll satisfy your body's needs a lot more.
Are you a hungry lady? What do you always crave?