Why we feel hungry even when we’re not

Food is the fuel of life, and we need to make sure we eat enough to give us the sustenance and energy to operate every day at the appropriate level. Having three square meals a day, and snacking in between is pretty normal for most people. In fact, food is so important that many of us get angry when we are hungry – also known as ‘hangry.’

But, what about when we feel hungry even when we aren’t? You’ve most probably had that feeling in the past, where you had had a meal, but you still think you are hungry after the fact. This is a strange and uncomfortable sensation, but there is actually science behind feeling hungry, even when you aren’t hungry.

No universal sensation

Being hungry is one of those things that is not a universally identifiable sensation. What we mean by this is that everyone experiences the sensation differently, and at different times. Science tells us that hunger is such a varied thing, and there are a lot of factors that can affect the sensations of hunger in the human body. One of the biggest ones is our environment, which tells our bodies we should be hungry and eating, at certain times over the course of a day or week.


Aside from the environment, the single biggest factor that can affect the feelings of hunger is our hormones. Genetic and psychological factors and things like anxiety and depression can lead to us feeling more hungry. This is one of the reasons why so many people comfort eat when they are battling depression. One of the most important hormones you should know about it ghrelin, which is the hormone that is linked to what makes us hungry.


Another factor that can lead to your body being tricked into thinking you are hungry is your senses. Indeed, sight, smell, and taste are powerful things, and they can make us think we are hungry even when we may not necessarily be. Seeing, smelling and thinking about food will actually make us think we are craving the nutrients and goodness food provides. This is one of the reasons why food ads work so well on us.

How to curb your cravings

Hunger cravings when you’re not actually hungry are generally what leads to us overeating, and this is something that can become unhealthy. So, if you want to make sure you curb these impulses, the best thing to do is to make sure you eat on a regular basis and don’t skip meals. Try to eat at the same time every day, and definitely make sure you are having breakfast on a daily basis. Hunger pangs may also come when you’re actually dehydrated, so make sure you’re getting plenty of fluids throughout the day. Finally, try the ‘apple test.’ If you’re feeling hungry, consider whether you would eat an apple (or any other piece of fruit you enjoy). If you wouldn’t tuck into an apple, you’re probably not actually that hungry.

Feeling hungry is one of the most aggravating feelings in the world. But, feeling hungry when you’re not is even worse. Now you understand a little bit more about why these feelings occur, and what you can do to try to prevent yourself succumbing to them in the future. Make sure you have a healthy, balanced diet, and you should have nothing to worry about.