4 obstacles to healthy eating

Does it feel like you are constantly hungry? You aren’t alone, according to a Washington Post article by nutritionist Carrie Dennett.

She says that assuming you’re eating regularly throughout the day, there are several possible explanations why you can’t shake the gnawing feeling.

Close-up of hamburger and french fries

You just may be surprised by the following reasons …

1. Your diet is low in protein
Protein contributes the most to satiety, which is that feeling that you’ve had enough to eat. No need to go overboard on protein, but include some protein and each meal and snack and chances are you’ll feel satisfied longer. Not a meat-lover? Try eggs, tofu or yogurt to up your protein intake.

2. Your gut’s not diverse enough
There’s something to that expression “follow your gut.” In fact, some scientists refer to the gut and the microbes that dwell in it as the “mini brain.” That’s because it influences – among other thing – mood, appetite, and food cravings. Dennett says that 20 minutes after a meal, certain bacteria in your gut send signals that you’ve had enough to eat by stimulating the release of a hormone that has been linked to feelings of satiety (fullness).

But when you lack diverse microbiota, other species can become dominant, and what they need to thrive may be different than what your body needs. This can cause an increase in hunger levels and cravings. It’s a vicious cycle. For example, if you eat a lot of sugary foods, those “sugar-loving” microbes thrive and other microbes weaken. In time these sugar-loving microbes will gain dominance, increasing sugar cravings.

You can support diverse gut health by eating foods rich in fiber and probiotic bacteria. It’s also wise to be physically active, get enough sleep and manage stress. All of these habits may help reduce food cravings and unusual hunger.

3. You aren’t getting enough shut-eye
Skimping on sleep can lead to increased hunger and carb cravings. A recent study suggests that loss of final sleep cycle of the night (REM) may lead to a bigger appetite. Take note, the final REM cycle begins around the six-hour mark.

4. Is it really hunger you are feeling? Maybe not.
Have you lost touch with your hunger signals? Many people have. You may be a meal skipper, constant grazer or a chronic dieter. Or perhaps you have a crazy home or work life. All of these scenarios can silence true hunger signals over time. If you can’t identify true hunger, you may mistake other urges to eat – including cravings, stress, sadness or boredom – for hunger. Try tracking your food intake for a while and note how you are feeling before you eat. You may be surprised.