Have you ever eaten a large meal, only to get hunger pangs barely an hour later? Are you unable to resist a second helping? Do you often feel hungry when you’re in specific situations? If you’ve answered yes to at least one of these questions, you might be a victim of fake hunger.
What is fake hunger?
Most people think hunger starts in the stomach, but the truth is that feelings of hunger and fullness are much more complicated.
Eating isn’t just an essential bodily function, it’s also a pleasurable activity. When you eat for pleasure, your brain’s reward system kicks in. This further stimulates your appetite. Before you know it, you’re eating when you’re stressed out or just because you’re bored, which wreaks havoc on your waistline. Luckily, it’s possible to re-train your brain so you’ll eat only when you’re physically hungry. Here are four ways you can beat fake hunger.
Figure out whether you’re actually hungry
It might sound obvious, but the first thing you need to do is figure out whether you’re actually hungry or just eating out of habit. Physical hunger has a gradual onset, and can be satisfied with any kind of food. Fake hunger, on the other hand, is sudden and often weirdly specific.
Next time you’re feeling peckish, ask yourself what you want to eat. If nothing but a stack of blueberry pancakes heaped with caramel syrup will do, chances are your hunger pangs aren’t real.
Hydrate. Hydrate. Hydrate.
Sometimes you might think you’re hungry, but you’re actually thirsty. It’s quite common to mistake thirst for hunger, because both feelings are processed in the same part of your brain. However, thirst and hunger should feel different. Hunger makes you grumpy, whilst thirst will often come with a dry mouth or a headache. If you’re in doubt, try drinking a glass of water and waiting for a few minutes. You’d be surprised how often it does the trick.
Practice mindful eating
Whether it’s lunch at your desk, a TV dinner, a bite at the pub with friends or a full-blown festive dinner party with all the trimmings, it’s a fact of life that we’re often too preoccupied with other stuff to concentrate on the actual act of eating.
Unfortunately, you’ll tend to eat more If you don’t focus on what you’re eating. That’s because, if you’re distracted, you won’t listen to your body and might not realise you’re full. Eating will also be a less satisfying experience, so you’ll feel hungry again sooner. Mindful eating is the act of savouring every bite of your food. Get rid of distractions, take in the sights and smells, and chew your food more slowly. It’ll taste better, be more satisfying and make you feel fuller for longer.
Make sure you’re catching enough Zzz
Getting enough sleep is just as important to your weight as proper diet and exercise. One study even found that sleep-deprived participants consumed, on average, 300 calories a day more than those who got enough sleep. If hunger is a feeling that’s way too familiar, you might want to make quality sack time a bigger priority.
Food for thought, huh?