5 Strategies to Manage Changing Hunger Levels
Have you ever noticed that on some days you’re hungrier than others? Back when I overate, I never got to the point where I noticed this, but since I’ve been eating mindfully, it comes up fairly often, and it’s still something I struggle with.
I have days where I’m hungrier than others, and on those days, I end up eating a lot. Then the next day, I feel like I “should” be able to eat as much again, but this often backfires because I’m likely not as hungry the next day.
This can be especially frustrating if, like me, you like to plan. But how can you plan for meals when you don’t know how hungry you’ll be?
If this is something you also struggle with, here are five strategies that might help.
Pay attention to how you feel in the moment
For many people, being in the moment is difficult – and that includes me. Much as I wish I could easily snap into Zen mode whenever I need to, I can’t quite do that. I may be thinking about what I’d planned for a meal, daily frustrations, keeping track of how much I’ve fed my cat Fezzik (he’s not a mindful eater), and more.
And at least during the week when I’m working, my eating times are somewhat constrained by meetings, which means I can’t always eat at ideal times.
But – even with that, it’s still possible to pause for a couple of breaths and quickly check-in to see how hungry I am. After all, if I’m truly hungry, I can tell that pretty easily. If I’m not, I may still eat at that time due to my schedule, but I can adjust what I’d planned on.
Serve yourself less
That brings me to my next point. If you’re a planner, you may have prepared to have something for lunch or dinner, and then if you don’t eat it, you could feel cheated.
It also doesn’t help if you get pre-packaged foods that claim to be X number of servings because then you may feel like you’re “allowed” to eat a whole serving, even if you’re not hungry for it. On the flip side, you may feel like you’re not “supposed” to have more than a serving size even if you’re quite hungry.
One way to handle this is to serve yourself a smaller amount to start with. If you’re not that hungry, you won’t be as tempted to eat a large portion that you don’t need. And if you’re still hungry after you’ve finished that, you can have a little more.
It can also help to pay attention to any patterns. I know for myself that I’m hungrier at certain times of the month than others. Or if I’m more or less active than usual, that can also impact my hunger.
This can be useful since you can then remind yourself that the changes in your hunger are expected. Knowing that can also help you with planning, so you know to prepare more or less food.
Have some snacks for hungry days
Sometimes, though, patterns aren’t always obvious, or it may just be an odd day when you’re hungrier than normal. Since that can happen, I’ve found it helpful to have some snacks on hand.
If you’re working from home, this is easy enough to do (maybe too easy!), but it can be a little trickier if you’re going into an office space. But things like nuts and dried fruit last quite a while, or if you have access to a fridge you could bring yogurt or cheese.
See what might work, and remember that you don’t have to eat the snacks – they’re simply there if you need them.
And finally, be patient with yourself. Learning to recognize when you’re hungry, paying attention to hunger patterns, and experimenting with food choices all takes practice.
So if you don’t get it right away, or you misjudge your hunger levels, don’t give up. Instead, be patient with yourself and remember that it doesn’t happen overnight.
Hunger isn’t consistent
Although some diets suggest eating at certain times or intervals or eating only certain amounts, the reality is that our hunger levels aren’t consistent. Some days you’re likely going to be hungrier than others, and it may not always be obvious why.
At first, this might seem frustrating, but if you can take a moment to pay attention and notice how you’re feeling, you can adjust for it. You can also prepare by only serving yourself a certain amount, and having extra on hand if you need it.
And if you can be patient with the learning curve, you may start to notice patterns, which will make you even more mindful of what your body is telling you.