Feeling like your stomach is a bottomless pit some days? Here’s why.

Ever have days when you just never seem to feel full? Sometimes it’s easy to blame your diet. Maybe you didn’t eat enough food overall or you ate too little protein, fat and fiber so your tank feels empty. In other cases, there are less obvious causes to explain why your hunger is out of whack.

Here are 4 reasons why you may be feeling hungry, with easy ways to fix them.

You’re Stressed

Your body releases the hormones epinephrine and cortisol during stressful situations or danger, referred to as the fight-or-flight response. This has its benefits when you need it in specific situations, but not when it’s constant. During ongoing stress, cortisol levels remain elevated, leading to an increased appetite and cravings for foods high in fat, added sugar and calories.

The fix: Strive to manage the daily stressors in your life through meditation, physical activity, stretching and other techniques. On particularly stressful days, try to get an adequate amount of rest and eat meals that are balanced with nutritious carbs, protein and fat to keep hunger at bay.

You’re Overtired

Not only does a lack of sleep zap your energy, productivity and mood, but it can also ramp up hunger. This is because inadequate sleep disrupts the balance of hormones that signal you to eat or to stop eating. When unbalanced, levels of the hormone ghrelin (that triggers hunger) increase while levels of the hormone leptin (that triggers satiety) decrease.

The fix: Experts recommend that adults get at least 7 – 9 hours of sleep each night. While not possible all the time, strive to achieve this much rest as often as you can. If you don’t sleep well, recognize this may be the cause of your increased hunger so make healthful food choices that deliver longer-lasting energy and satisfaction.

You’re Dehydrated

Even slight dehydration can make you think you feel hungry, but chances are it’s just your body telling you that you need more fluids. Staying properly hydrated can stop these cues that you may confuse with hunger while helping you to stay focused and energized throughout the day.

The fix: Carry a reusable bottle or keep a glass in view as a reminder to sip water or non-calorie drinks regularly throughout the day. You also get water from food, so make fruits and veggies part of meals and snacks for an added hydration boost.

You’re Not Fueling Properly

The most obvious reason for nagging hunger pangs is that you need to eat. Poor habits like skipping meals, eating too much added sugar and not building meals with nutrient-rich carbs, protein and fat wreak havoc on your blood sugar levels. All of these things can lead you to feel uncontrollably hungry and weak.

The fix: Prioritize eating regularly by planning meals that fit your daily schedule. Life is hectic, but being short on time isn’t a reason to sacrifice good nutrition. Combine fiber-rich carbohydrates (like whole grains, fruits, veggies and beans), protein (like chicken, fish, eggs, nuts/nut butters and dairy products) and “healthy” fats (like nuts, seeds, oils and avocado). Nutritious foods like these take longer to digest and keep blood sugar levels steady without spikes or crashes so your hunger is kept at bay.


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Date Last Reviewed: September 3, 2021

Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor

Medical Review: Beth Stark, RDN, LDN

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