Do you go from a starvation-induced late-afternoon snack, to nibbling on dinner while it’s cooking, to shoveling down dinner, to a guilt-ridden dessert, to something “just a little bit more,” to a desperate bedtime snack? Or can you sometimes be found running to the store late at night to buy whatever random thing it is you’re craving at the time?
If you feel like you just can’t stop eating, you’re not alone. It might seem overwhelming, maybe even causing feelings of guilt and shame. You might blame yourself for a lack of self-control, or maybe you attribute it to a food addiction or cravings that are just too strong.
Rest assured that there is likely a very real reason behind that insatiable appetite. And it can probably be connected to scientific truths, such as your body’s nutritional needs or various aspects of your lifestyle. When a problem can be analyzed and explained, it can be fixed!
So get ready to say good-bye to those gnawing midnight cravings or that impulse to reach for just one more snack. It’s time to feel full, satisfied and confident with your food choices and ready to move on with the day.
Here are six solid reasons that could be underlying your constant desire for food.
Lack of nutrients (micronutrient imbalance)
Simply put, if you’re eating food that is devoid of nutrients, you will never be satisfied. Have you ever heard of the term “empty calories”? When you eat things like chips, soda, popcorn, pizza and fast food, lots of calories are being consumed but very few nutrients (i.e., vitamins and minerals). Your body needs a certain amount of iron, magnesium, vitamin A, folate and so on to keep its basic functions running on a daily basis. Most of those boxes are not getting ticked by eating junky, nutritionless food. Even “healthy” foods like whole-wheat pasta, granola bars and smoothies are not very rich in the vital materials that keep your body and mind working well.
Now it’s time to learn a new term: “nutrient density.” Nutrient-dense foods are the ones we want to focus on in order to feel satisfied, energized and altogether fabulous about our food choices. The basis of your new nutrient-dense diet should be organic vegetables and fruit, pastured or wild-animal proteins, natural minimally processed fats, fresh herbs, nuts and seeds. Some people choose to add raw organic dairy products. The real heavy hitters when it comes to nutrient density are cultured and fermented foods, and broth and organ meats, all of which should make frequent appearances in your diet.
Lack of fat or protein (macronutrient imbalance)
Going along with the previous point, eating the wrong foods can leave you majorly unsatisfied and constantly nibbling on this or that. In this case, we are talking about macronutrients, of which there are three: protein, carbohydrates and fats. Think about your last three meals — which macronutrient were they heaviest in? If you have trouble with an insatiable appetite, it’s likely that your daily diet is largely composed of carbohydrates. Too many of us eat something along the lines of oatmeal for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch and pasta for dinner. Carbs, carbs and more carbs! In order to feel satiated, stop cravings and lose weight, we need to rein back those carbohydrates and add in lots of healthy fats and proteins.
Some healthy fats to add into your diet include:
- Coconut oil
- Avocados and their oil
- Nuts and seeds, and their cold-pressed oils
- Grass-fed butter
- The best proteins for nutrition and hunger satiation include:
- Grass-fed organic beef and lamb, and their organs
- Free-range organic chicken or other poultry
- Wild game such as venison or bison
- Free-range organic eggs
- Wild-caught fish, especially oily fish like salmon, mackerel, herring and sardines
- Shellfish and fish eggs
If you focus on adding one healthy protein (quantity: at least the size of your palm) and one healthy fat (at least two or three tablespoons’ worth) to every meal, you will soon find that constant hunger is a thing of the past.
While we all know it’s important to stay hydrated, here’s another reason why: oftentimes when you feel the urge to eat something, it’s not because of hunger at all, it’s actually because your body needs water. In the past when we didn’t necessarily have constant access to drinking water, foods such as fruits and vegetables would actually provide much of our hydration requirements. That nagging signal to have a snack might actually mean you’ll feel better after drinking a glass of water.
A lack of sleep can really throw a wrench into the functioning of your metabolism and hunger signaling. Not only that, your judgment, decision-making skills and self-control are majorly impaired, too. Keeping a regular schedule of sleeping and waking at the same time each day, with at least eight hours of solid zzz’s in between, can go a long way toward regulating your erratic desire for food.
Remember back to point number one where empty calories left our bodies overfed but undernourished? This phenomenon can also be due to poor digestion. You might be eating the healthiest diet in the world, but if your digestive system is unable to break all that good food down into usable building blocks, the drive to eat will just keep going. If your body has not met its quotas, it has no choice but to continue to signal you to consume more food.
Some common signs of this problem include undigested food in the stool, acid reflux and belching. Impaired digestion might be due to eating too fast or too much, low stomach acid, poor gut bacteria, intestinal inflammatory conditions (such as Crohn’s, colitis or IBS), food sensitivities or autoimmune diseases. That’s a long and complex list, but most of those chronic health conditions can be alleviated by following the dietary advice contained within this article.
This is an important point, but one which is often brushed aside. Yes, modern life is fast-paced and demanding, but the human body has not kept up. Health-wise, we still do best with a slower pace where there is time to breathe and enjoy life. Eating is one of these things that needs to be savored and taken slowly. This is vital for two reasons.
One is that taking time to really taste, smell and experience food is more likely to yield deep satisfaction and less likelihood of continuing to eat more. On the contrary, if we scarf down a meal while watching TV or browsing social media, we are more likely to finish eating and think, “What’s next?”
The second reason is that mindful eating puts the body into relaxation mode, which is vital for effective digestion. In fact, when you are stressed or anxious, the digestive process is slowed or shut down entirely. Taking deep breaths and focusing on your food means it’s more likely to get digested and absorbed properly, which, following on from the previous points, means you’re more likely to be satiated.
Ready to give your eating habits a makeover and find your ultimate state of health? Check out these natural weight loss remedies next.
Liivi is an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach and is training to become a doula. She inspires women to find peace and personal power by taking control of health and fertility naturally. Liivi‘s passion is ancestral nutrition and primal lifestyle design. She and her partner Will live between Toronto, Canada and Queenstown, New Zealand.