Picture this: you have put your dinner dishes in the dishwasher and taken a short stroll around the neighborhood and then a familiar rumbling in your belly is back. You’re hungry again after dinner. What gives?

Some people think they ate a healthy meal but then feel hungry afterward.  They do not understand the reason. This leads to eating afterward or snacking afterward until you feel too full or overindulging. 

The feeling of hunger after a meal can be the diet, changes in hormones, or the environment like lifestyle changes, jobs, and much more.

In this blog, we will explore why we feel hungry after feeling full.

Hormonal Changes

Our body has hormonal changes when it comes to weight. Body weight maintenance requires maintaining the balance between energy intake and energy expenditure.  

Your body has two hormones that have been known to influence energy balance. The first is leptin, a mediator of long-term regulation of energy balance, suppresses food intake and induces weight loss. 

The second hormone is ghrelin, a fast-acting hormone, involved in meal initiation. Research shows that to have a consistent weight, there must be an energy balance which means energy intake equals energy expenditure. (1) In other words, the number of calories we put in our body should equal the number of calories our body burns. 

Therefore, these two hormones play into the regulation of food intake and body weight. When you lose weight, the leptin hormone levels are low which increases the level of ghrelin hormone. This leads to making you feel hungry when your body is in starvation. (2)  When this happens, you end up eating more and gaining back the weight. 

Picture this in your mind, think of these hormones as a see-saw.  One hormone levels go up and the other hormone levels go down or vice versa. 

Environmental changes

There are two main factors that might contribute to you feeling hungry again which are sleep deprivation and stress.

Sleep-It is important to get enough sleep. They say having poor sleep contributes to weight gain and obesity. (2)  Having not enough sleep can raise your cortisol levels. Usually, people get on average 7-9hours of sleep. But when you are sleep deprived, you get much more hungry. 

Stress also plays a role in feeling hungry. Some people might be feeling stress from their job or family or other factors that might contribute to stress. This can also raise your cortisol levels. 

When your cortisol levels go up, this triggers your fat and carbohydrate metabolism which increases your appetite. Then, you may start to have cravings like sweets, high fat and salty foods. It’s not just your imagination that the snacks from the pantry sound extra appealing when you’re stressed out: it is biology!

The main underlying reasons for feeling hungry afterward when feeling full:

Most people do not understand their hunger cues where you know the difference between hunger or meal hunger. When you are eating a meal, are you really full?

Hunger cues are when your body is telling you when you are being low in fuel.  Remember your body has hormones that help influence your energy balance. Knowing your hunger cues is important as you have more control to not overindulge.  The more you understand when you are hungry, you have more self-control.  One way to help understand your hunger cues is food journaling where you write the time when you eat and how you feel if you are hungry or not.  From experience working with clients, this helps them a lot to not overeat. They understand their hunger cues and know when they are full or not.  

Whereas meal hunger is when you think you might feel hungry but you really are not hungry and just eat for the sake of eating. Most of the time, it happens if you are bored, watching TV, or stress-eating. This can be an obsession or an addiction to eating and it becomes a permanent habit leading to weight gain. When this happens, you lose your ability to have control of knowing when you are hungry and when you are not hungry. Meal hunger is a craving that you have than being hungry.  Think before you eat and ask yourself are you really full.

How long after a meal is it normal to feel hungry again?

It usually takes about 15-20minutes to feel full. If you use mindful eating, it would help slow down when you are eating a meal and would help you understand when you are really full.  People do not pay attention and eat quickly. Then after, you would feel hungry again. It also depends on what you are eating as well that you tend to feel hungry again like eating rice, beans, and potatoes. All are carbohydrates that have little fiber. Your body digests them quickly which is the major reason why you are hungry again. Ideally, you want a balanced plate which consists of protein, fruits and vegetables, and grains.

Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

If you are still struggling in feeling hungry again, book a call with me to find out how I can help you!