Do you ever feel hungry all the time? I know I sometimes do! When it seems like I’m hungry constantly, I have a mental checklist to help me figure out what is going on. And since many of you have asked, “Why am I hungry all the time?,” I’m going to share those 10 questions with you.
10 questions to ask when you feel hungry all the time
Here’s a list of questions you can ask yourself to understand why you feel hungry all the time or want to eat constantly.
1. Am I actually hungry?
This is the first and most important question to consider. Often we say we’re “hungry” when we really mean, “I want to eat.” There’s a difference!
So take a moment to pause (away from food if possible), check in, and become aware of any clues about why you feel like eating. It’s helpful to close your eyes and do a Body-Mind-Heart scan. (The Am I Hungry? Mindful Eating Virtual Coach app has a timer you can set to remind you to do a scan!)
- Body: Notice your physical sensations, including physical symptoms of hunger, thirst, fatigue, and discomfort.
- Mind: Become aware of your thought, for example, “It’s been three hours since I ate; isn’t it time yet?” or “Oh, that looks yummy! I want some.”
- Heart: What emotions are you experiencing? Are you aware of feelings like stress, worry, anger, loneliness, or boredom.
If you are physically hungry, then move on to question 2. If you do not have any physical symptoms of hunger, move on to question 8 below.
2. How hungry am I?
The answer to the question, “Am I hungry?” isn’t just a simple yes or no. You may be a little hungry, moderately hungry, or really hungry. Knowing how hungry you are helps you decide when, what, and how much to eat. You’ll find the full description of the 10 different levels of the Hunger and Fullness Scale in chapter 2 of Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat.
If you feel hungry all the time, it’s possible you aren’t eating enough for how hungry you feel. This tends to happen if you’re trying to follow a restrictive diet and when you are deciding how much to eat based on serving sizes or portion sizes rather than listening to your body.
Another reason knowing how hungry you are can be helpful, is that you may feel hungry all the time when you are responding to very early or mild signs of hunger (a level 4 on the Hunger and Fullness Scale), causing you to eat more frequently.
There’s nothing wrong with eating when you’re just a little bit hungry; just remember that means your body probably only needs a little bit of food.
3. When did I last eat?
While physical sensations can let you know when you’re body needs food, if you feel like you’re hungry all the time, you can also consider other information to put that into context.
Ask yourself, “When was my last snack of meal?”
- If you just finished eating, it may take a little while for the signals of satiety to reach your brain. For many of us, that may be 20 minutes or more. It helps to find something else to do for a while, like cleaning up the dishes, packing leftovers for lunch, or getting out of the kitchen altogether.
- If it’s been a couple of hours, move on to the next question.
- If it’s has been several hours since you ate and you are experiencing symptoms of hunger, why second guess yourself?
Don’t confuse this with eating by the clock! For more about eating on a schedule, check out this short article: Listen to Your Body! Hunger Doesn’t Follow a Clock
4. What did I last eat?
You’ve probably noticed that different types of food (macronutrients) “last” for different lengths of time. Generally, protein lasts longer than fat, which lasts longer than carbs. Your curiosity will help you figure out how the type of foods you ate at your last meal affect how often you feel hungry.
You can also experiment with adjusting the composition of your snacks and meals so you are hungry when it is convenient for you. (More on that here: Listen to Your Body! Hunger Doesn’t Follow a Clock
5. How much did I last eat?
This one is pretty obvious: If you ate a small meal or snack, you are likely to be hungry sooner.
6. How active have I been?
Since food is fuel, it makes sense that the more you do, the more fuel your body needs.
7. Are there other factors to consider?
Many other factors affect how often you feel hungry or can cause you to feel hungry all the time. Examples include illness, medical conditions (for instance, one of the symptom of diabetes is feeling hungry all the time, called polyphagia), medications (including some treatments for diabetes), pregnancy, hormonal changes (like premenstrual symptoms), growth (in the case of children and adolescents), and other factors.
8. If I’m not hungry, what do I do?
You might make the common mistake of thinking, “If I’m not hungry, I shouldn’t eat.” That turns mindful eating into a diet – and we know how that will turn out!
Instead, when you realize you aren’t hungry but feel like eating, you get to make a choice:
- Eat anyway.
- Redirect your attention until you feel hungry (or decide to eat anyway).
- Figure out why you want to eat and try to meet that need.
These are all valid options; the important thing is to decide what you’ll do, rather than continuing to eat out of habit. (More details about these three options in chapter 3 of Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat.)
9. Have I been depriving myself?
Depriving yourself of the foods you love (even foods you didn’t care that much about until you weren’t allowed to have them!) is a powerful trigger for cravings, causing you to want to eat constantly. Many of the the people we work with report feeling this way.
Although it seems counterintuitive, eating what you love breaks this powerful bond! I know it sounds scary… this video explains how it works.
When you’re ready to take back the power from food, read chapter 5 “Fearless Eating” in Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat.
10. Am I attempting to meet some other need with food?
A common reason for feeling hungry all the time is confusing wanting to eat with needing to eat.
I want to emphasize this: The desire to eat when you aren’t hungry isn’t bad! Perhaps this is the way your body is communicating that you need more rest, more pleasure, more connection, and so on. Learning how to interpret the meaning of your emotions is an essential part of healing your relationship with food! This article explains how to Embrace Emotional Eating
Join us for workshops, programs, Support Community, or retreats for help!
Become an expert in listening to your hunger rhythms
Unfortunately, experts (sometimes expert-mom) teach us to distrust our own instinctive hunger (and fullness) signals. We hear rules like “Eat breakfast, lunch, dinner, and two snacks a day,” “Don’t eat after 7,” “You have to eat breakfast,” and “You shouldn’t be hungry yet!”
Although many diet plans recommend eating on a schedule (“Eat every three hours”), in actuality, your hunger pattern and levels will vary day to day due to changes in your activity levels, the type and amount of foods you eat, and other issues like hormones. With practice, you’ll realize you don’t need a watch to tell you when it’s time to eat!
This list of 10 questions to ask when you’re worried that you are “hungry too often” will help you figure out whether being hungry “all the time” is really just part of your natural hunger rhythm that day.
And when you feel like eating when you’re not hungry, you can learn new ways to sort out what is happening and how to meet your needs best!
This article has been updated from a previous version.
Enjoyed this article? Here are three more that you might find helpful: