4 Reasons You Might Be Hungry that Have Nothing to Do with Food

Let’s say you’ve just had lunch. Dinner is still hours away, but you’re still really hungry. The natural reaction is to eat something. You could dive into some snacks, but what if your hunger doesn’t have anything to do with food? There could be lots of different reasons why you’re hungry. It could be boredom, tiredness, or not eating enough fiber.

girl looking in refrigerator

There are things you may be able to do to stop your hunger that have nothing to do with food — which will let you keep the snacks in the drawer. 

Here are four things you might want to try to keep any nagging feelings of hunger at bay:

  1. Get hydratedAccording to the CDC, there’s actually no clinical recommendations for how much water a person should drink per day. Some sources recommend about eight glasses a day but it may vary depending on factors like your age and gender. Still, if you’re always hungry, it might actually mean you’re not getting enough water.

    “Our brain looks at food and says, ‘Hey you’re hungry,’” said Katie Johnson, a health coach and dietician for Rally Health. “But instead, try drinking water.”
  2. Get some zzz’s. Think that you can power through the day without much sleep? Think again. The amount of sleep you get can have a huge effect on how hungry you are during the day.

    “Without getting enough sleep you can be eating to get energy,” Katie said.

    According to the CDC, the average person needs at least seven hours of sleep a day. There are two hormones that manage your hunger — ghrelin (which increases your appetite) and leptin (which decreases it). If you don’t get enough sleep, your ghrelin levels can increase while your leptin levels decrease. These both can increase food cravings. 
  3. De-stress. An increase of stress in your life can also increase your cortisol levels, which can spike your appetite. Try breathing and mindfulness exercises to not only reduce stress, but to help manage high-stress situations before they arise.

    “Tune into your body,” Katie said. “Taking a walk can be a great distraction technique.”
  4. Check your meds. If you have a new prescription, one of its side effects might be to make you feel hungry. Some of these medications might include, but are not limited to, antidepressants or anti-inflammatory drugs. If you feel like your drug’s side effects have been unpleasant, it’s important to talk to your doctor or pharmacist before limiting or going off the medication. 

The great news is that these “check-ins” are all part of a lifestyle in which you are in control of your health. Drinking more water and getting enough restful sleep, for example, can have positive effects beyond appetite, which can help you feel better overall.