Why Am I Always Hungry?

"Why am I so hungry" is a question many of us have asked ourselves over the last year.

With COVID-19 came a huge amount of disruption to our daily lives, from lockdowns to restrictions on socializing and working from home. This has meant for many of us, we have had to readjust some of our usual routines, especially when it comes to eating.

A recent study in the U.K. from the University of Liverpool found 56 per cent of the 2002 adults surveyed felt they were snacking more during the pandemic, while many reported a lack of motivation and control around food as part of this.

For some, increased hunger could be as simple as not eating enough, or the right foods to keep us feeling full, however it could also be a sign of issues which should be addressed.

Newsweek spoke to dieticians and experts to answer the burning questions around eating, such as why we are hungry and what could or should be done about it.

What Can Cause Increased Hunger?

The causes of hunger are very hard to pin down, and can be anything from situational to physiological.

Kristen Smith, from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, said there can be medications and medical conditions which cause increased hunger, as well as some nutritional factors such as protein or general nutrient intake.

Dietician and researcher Dr. Jinan Banna agreed, saying diet is crucial to helping a person feel fuller for longer, and what you eat has an effect on how full you feel.

She told Newsweek: "From a nutritional standpoint, you might feel hungry often if you are consuming a diet that is not balanced. For example, if your diet consists mainly of simple carbohydrate from white bread, rice, sweets, etc., you likely won't be able to feel full for long.

"Simple carbohydrate is digested quickly and doesn't fill you up. To feel full, you need a balanced diet that contains enough protein, fiber and fat, which take longer to be digested."

Woman snacking during work
A woman snacking during work. Research has shown we have felt increased hunger during the coronavirus. (stock image used) Getty Images

Dietician Maya Feller said that, not only could it be what you are eating, but what you are not, and skipping meals can cause increased hunger.

She said: "Some people experience increased hunger when they skip meals. Patients of mine will sometimes say, 'I was so hungry at dinner 'and I ask them to recount what they ate the day before. During the recall, they note that lunch wasn't eaten.. so naturally, they are hungrier at dinner... Other times people experience increased hunger because they are experiencing a lack of consistent access to food."

Finally, other environmental changes can cause increased hunger such as changes to your activity levels, stress, or lack of sleep.

Should I Be Worried If I'm Hungry All the Time?

Feller said there is no cause for concern for this issue, as it could very easily be exactly what it says on the can: you are hungry and need to eat.

She said: "If patients of mine regularly experience increased hunger for no apparent reason and there are no adverse or unwanted symptoms, I generally say it is not extraordinary and should not be a cause for concern."

However, as Feller said, there can sometimes be some other unwanted symptoms, which people should be aware of.

Smith said, for some people, they are experiencing what is known as "head hunger," when the stomach or brain are sending signals of hunger based on environmental factors.

A hungry woman
A woman suffering from hunger pangs. If you feel hungry, dieticians suggest you should eat, but ensuring to eat healthy food. If you feel unwell, see a doctor or dietician (stock image used) Getty Images

These can be caused by increased stress, lack of sleep or many other reasons, and Smith said it is important to start by evaluating your lifestyle to see whether there is anything to be concerned about, either on your own or with the help of a dietician or doctor.

She said: "Don't panic if you notice an increase in your appetite... It's helpful to work with a registered dietitian and your medical doctor to evaluate possible causes of increased hunger.

"A registered dietitian can evaluate the adequacy of your current dietary intake and counsel you on how and when to eat more satiating foods. Your medical doctor can rule out any medical causes of increased appetite including certain conditions or medication side effects."

Depending on what the reason is for increased hunger, there can be different effects from it. If the issue is nutritional, in extreme cases this could lead to malnutrition which will have potential other effects on the body such as fatigue or skin problems.

As a result, the way hunger is dealt with is crucial, and the experts have one main answer: eat.

How To Deal With Hunger

Woman eating a salad
A woman eating a salad. It is important to eat nutritious snacks and respond to your body's need for food (stock image used) Getty Images

Dealing with increased hunger mainly depends on what the reason for increased hunger is, but one particular suggestion from the experts is to respond to your body's call for more food, making sure to keep it nutritious.

Feller said if there is nothing else concerning going on, the best thing to do is "honor the hunger by eating," while Smith suggested seeking nutritional advice from a dietician to help make sure you are eating the right foods.

She said: "Its important not to ignore signals of hunger – if your stomach is indicating the need for additional food, its important you listen. Your body may need certain nutrients. Additionally, ignoring hunger may actually lead you to overindulge in the end."

Of course, making sure you eat a balanced diet is the best response to hunger, and using apps like MyPlate.gov or diet trackers can be good ways to work out what your body may be craving, according to Banna.

She said: "It's ok to feel hungry sometimes, and good to respond to feelings of hunger with nutritious food."

Overall, the experts say increased hunger does not have to be a scary thing, but taking control over your diet is crucial, and flagging any other concerning signs with a doctor or dietician.