Should I Eat When I'm Not Hungry?

Lauren (a LEAN client of mine) asked me recently: 

“Amanda, should I eat when I’m not hungry? I feel full and satisfied but I’m not reaching my daily calorie range.”

I get this question all the time. If you can relate, know that this is a common conundrum, and there is a clear answer!

Today, I’ll teach you whether or not to follow your gut.


Should You Listen To That Feeling Of Fullness? 

Many factors affect how full we feel in a given moment—what we ate today, how much water we’ve had, how well we’re sleeping, our hormones, our age, our activity level, our lifestyle, and our metabolism all come into play. 

While it’s generally a good idea to listen to your body’s signals and follow its lead, sometimes our health requires us to put mind above matter. 

Follow these steps to find the balance between intuition and intelligence. 

  1. Tune into your body. 
  2. Notice how you’re feeling. 
  3. Make an informed decision.  


When Brain Beats Body

Here are a few scenarios when your body might not know what’s best for you, and you should listen to your brain. 


You’re Reaching Wisdom Years

As we age, our digestive systems can slow down, and our appetites can shrink. Ironically, our nutrition needs increase as we age! 

We especially need a lot of protein daily to stave off sarcopenia (the age-related progressive loss of muscle mass and strength). Boost your vibrancy, strength, and energy by keeping your diet robust in this season of life. 


You’re Copying the Cow Instead of the Cat

Want to raise your metabolism and burn away excess weight? Eat six small meals a day, right? Nope. 

Grazing throughout the day can mess with your appetite and leave you unsatisfied too. Eating three or four solid and nutritionally-dense meals a day can give your body a break and allow for your appetites to increase between meals. 


You’ve Suppressed Your Hunger

Coffee, green tea, cigarettes, and certain herbs like fenugreek can suppress your natural appetite. Drinking or eating these daily could curb your hunger and make you feel like skipping meals that your body needs.


Your Belly is Just Bloated

Feeling like your belt will burst after eating? You might just be full of air. 

Foods like dairy, gluten beans, carbonated drinks, and cruciferous vegetables can make some of us bloat and feel extremely uncomfortable. If this is the case, cutting calories isn’t the answer. Try cutting out inflammatory foods to fix the root issue. 


Motherhood is Sending Mixed Signals

The first trimester of pregnancy, when “morning sickness” is an understatement, is the most critical period in your baby’s health and development. During this time, every organ in the baby’s body begins to take shape. 

If you’re pregnant, the mention of food might send you to the waste basket. But eating enough healthy food will help your baby grow, and it can actually decrease nausea and fatigue.


You’re Busy and Missing Hunger Cues

Certain seasons of life are so busy we forget to listen to our bodies until they’re screaming. Don’t get to the point where you’re starving and ravenous to eat. If you can stay on top of your hunger throughout the day, you will be more likely to slow down, make better choices, and eat the right portion of the right foods. 


You’re Stressed Out

Anxiety triggers emotional and physical changes to help you deal with the pressure. These changes hit your stomach and digestive tract hard. It’s typical to lose weight when you’re stressed because your appetite is long gone. During hard times, though, it’s important to fuel your body with the healing and healthy nutrition it needs. 


Give a Little Push, For Protein’s Sake!

Most of us need over 100 grams of daily protein to feel our best and lose weight. But protein is super satiating and keeps us full for a long time. That’s a good problem to have. While you learn how to adjust your macros for healthy weight loss, you might feel stuffed before you can fit all that protein in. 


Here are 3 tips to reach your protein goals in a way that feels natural and comfortable for your belly:

  • Don’t put off protein: If I skip my breakfast or grab something carb-heavy, I struggle to meet my body’s protein needs between lunch and dinner. Don’t wait too long to eat in the morning, or you will likely fall behind on your protein goal for the day. 
  • Divvy it up: Think of it as “dosing” your protein. Aim to eat 3 to 4 solid meals and “doses” of protein each day. For example, if you found that 100 grams of daily protein is your sweet spot, shoot for 25-33 grams per meal (depending on whether you eat 3 or 4 meals that day). 
  • Follow a schedule: I’m a huge proponent of Intermittent Fasting. This ancient practice is now scientifically proven to increase your metabolism and fat burning abilities, lower blood insulin and sugar levels, reduce inflammation, boost energy, and even reverse Type 2 Diabetes! Beyond these benefits, Intermittent Fasting is a practical way to make sure you reach your calorie and macro needs without feeling stuffed and uncomfortable. 

Science shows that there’s a significant increase in health benefits when people stick to eating within an 8-hour window. 


Take Note Today, Try Again Tomorrow

You never have to force yourself to eat, especially if you’re not hungry. But it is necessary that you take in adequate protein for fat metabolism to occur.  

So, if you find yourself having a day where you are under your goal, it’s ok to call it a day if you’re not hungry. Just be sure you have a plan for tomorrow that allows you to space out your protein intake and hit that goal.

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