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What To Do If You’re Hungry No Matter How Much You Eat

Have you ever had one of those days where no matter how much you eat, you sit down afterward only to hear your stomach growling with hunger all over again? Marisa, a sophomore at Arizona State, says that when she’s PMSing or on her period, “It's like [she’s] a bottomless pit and literally nothing will fill [her] up.” Who can relate?

One of the best pieces of dietary advice is, “Eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re full.” But when you feel like you’re always hungry, it’s not that easy. What do you do when you feel like you’re constantly hungry? Here are four things to know.

1. Listen to your hunger

Hunger cues are one of the best survival mechanisms that human beings have because they’re literally our bodies telling us, “Hey, I need more calories to fuel this work that I’m doing!” It’s not necessarily a problem if some days you crave a lot more food than you do on others. You never know what your body is up to!

In fact, even if you were sound asleep for 24 hours straight and got absolutely no exercise, your body would still need food to fuel all of your internal activities like regulating your body temperature and pumping blood. Right before your period and during your period, your body is doing a ton of extra work that you might not even be aware of, and it needs extra calories to fuel that extra work (which is why you might get hungry on your period).

The best way to gain and maintain a healthy weight is to listen to your body, which often means eating a little more on days when your body wants you to. If you ignore your hunger cues and refuse to do what your body wants you to do, you can hurt your metabolism and develop an unhealthy relationship with food.

Katherine W. Bauer, Ph.D., who works in the nutritional sciences department at the University of Michigan School of Public Health, researches the social and behavioral determinants of obesity and obesogenic behavior among children and adolescents. Dr. Bauer says, “Being hungry and depriving yourself for the goal of controlling your weight most often backfires and leads to over-eating and potentially binge eating.”

What should you do instead? Dr. Bauer says, “Individuals who are flexible in how they approach eating — they listen to their bodies, eat more or less as their body tells them to, and don't try to implement rigid rules about eating — are generally much more successful long-term in maintaining a healthy weight and consuming a high-quality and enjoyable diet.”

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2. Examine what you’re eating

Calories are a pretty flawed way to determine how much you should be eating. (A couple Oreos have the same number of calories as a giant bowl of pasta, but obviously, the pasta is going to fill you up way more.) So when you choose your meals, make sure you’re eating foods that are going to stick with you and provide you with constant energy throughout the day.

“Adding protein and fiber to meals can increase feelings of fullness,” Dr. Bauer says. “Meanwhile, foods high in refined grains that are low in fiber often leave people feeling hungry. Consider as you're picking your meals whether you could add some more lean protein or high fiber veggies to your meal.”

If you’re getting a lot of calories, but not a lot of micronutrients (such as vitamins and minerals), your body will continue to send you cravings for those micronutrients, even if your body is physically full. Certain foods, particularly meats, don’t have a lot (or any) vitamins, so your body might continue sending you cravings for a sweet treat after you’re full from eating them. Why is it sending you cravings for a sweet treat? Because fruit is chock-full of the vitamins your body needs, and fruit is the sweetest food you’ll find in nature!

Related: What Happened When I Tried Intuitive Eating for a Week

3. Practice mindful eating

In college, we tend to always be on-the-go, grabbing a Clif bar as a snack while we walk to class or a bowl of pasta while we do our homework. Dr. Bauer says that this can confuse your body, leading you to continue to feel hungry even after you ate.

“Eating slowly and being able to focus on your feelings of hunger during meals are two ways to ensure that your body can realize you're full,” she says. “Try to avoid situations where you're distracted while eating.”

Meals are a great time to take a break from the busyness of college life and sit down and be thankful for what you have. Try to utilize this time to the best of your abilities as much as you can!

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4. Don’t be fooled

Have you ever been sitting in class, and someone mentions, let’s say tacos? Then the rest of class, you couldn't stop thinking about how badly you wanted a taco, and as soon as class was over, you practically ran home to make yourself one?

According to Dr. Bauer, you’re not alone in this. ”Being around lots of tempting foods, or even food advertisements, can trick us into thinking that we're still hungry and need more to eat,” she says. “Think about whether there are ways to set up your living space so you're not ‘cued’ to eat even when you're not hungry. That may mean tricks like putting pizza leftovers in the freezer instead of having them front and center in the fridge or putting sweets up away in a cabinet, out of sight instead of having them out on the counter.”

Obviously, it’s not the end of the world if you occasionally eat food just because you saw a pic of it on Instagram and you started craving it, but you’re not doing your body any favors if you choose your entire diet based on whatever food you recently saw.

Listening to your hunger cues takes work and practice, but once you get the hang of it, your body will thank you!

Hannah is an editorial intern for Her Campus and the editor of the High School section as well as a chapter writer for the University of Michigan. Achievements include being voted "Biggest Belieber" (2010) and "Most Likely to Have a Child Born Addicted to Starbucks" (2016), as well as taking a selfie with the back of Jim Harbaugh's head.  Goals for the future include taking a selfie with the front of Jim Harbaugh's head.  She's also an obsessive Instagrammer, so hit her with a follow @hannah.harshe
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