Have you found yourself nibbling on a few more Doritos than usual? Or maybe you still find yourself craving a second or third helping at the dining hall. Everyone gets hungry, but if you’re constantly feeling the need to go to the fridge, it may be more than your taste buds. The stress you’re feeling over your 10 page paper and your bad sleeping habits can all contribute to why you’re always so hungry.
1. You need to get more sleep
Maybe you procrastinate all day and find yourself pulling all-nighters at the library way too often or you’d rather finish a whole season of Parks and Recreation before you snooze, but either way you’re not getting enough sleep. If you’re skipping hours of sleep, your body is going to need to find energy to get you to your classes on time and it’s doing it by fueling itself with food.
If you find yourself going light on snooze time at night, you’re definitely going to be visiting the vending machine during the day. Jackie Rodwick, Patient Care Technician at UPMC Mercy Hospital, says, “Your body has a need for excess carbs and electrolytes after being burnt off.” Make sure you’re getting your eight hours or make sure you’re getting a much needed nap when possible.
2. You’re facing a lot of stress and anxiety
Let’s face it, as college students, we’re all under a ton of pressure.. When our stress pile up, it can be great to forget about our problems as we have one, two or even three bowls of mac ‘n’ cheese. But, at the end of the day, eating too much and stress are not our friends.
“Anxiety can be a huge factor in hungry because it can often be used as a coping mechanism, which is why many eating disorders exist,” says Rodwick. “People have anxiety either directed at their own body or their surroundings, which causes them to decrease or increase their food intake.” Downing a sugary latte while studying or rewarding yourself with a ton of junk food after a bad day isn’t easing your anxiety, it’s making it worse.
“Stress is a huge factor in my constant hunger. With a full class schedule, commitments to several student organizations and two part-time jobs, I feel a lot of stress nearly all of the time,” says Paige Bennett, a senior at Ohio University. You may not think you have time to de-stress during those weeks when a ton of work is due, but you can do some brief activities other than snacking to calm your nerves. Whether it’s a super motivating mantra or a 50-minute yoga session, take time for yourself without raiding your snack bin.
3. You’re not getting enough protein
Starbucks and snacks like salt and vinegar chips won’t keep you satisfied. Fish, chicken, beans, vegetables and whole grain carbs are the ticket to filling up at every meal. “Protein is an essential part of the diet because it is needed for muscle function,” says Rodwick. “It breaks down into carbs, and carbs are generally needed for energy. So the less protein you eat, the more you'll need to find sources of carbs elsewhere, cue the increase in appetite.”
Loading up a protein and veggie rich meal could be your ticket to curing your never-ending hunger. Another bonus: you’ll save a ton of cash by buying produce at the grocery store instead of wasting money on chips and soda that don’t keep you full.
4. You’re thirsty
Between running from class to class, attending student organization meetings and having a social life, you may not be focusing on how much water you drink on a daily basis. But, if you find yourself constantly snacking or getting odd cravings, you may just need some classic H2O. Rodwick says, “Sometimes when you get a sense of hunger, it's actually smarter to try grabbing a drink of water first, because sometimes the neural signals between hunger and thirst get switched up.”
The easiest way to make sure you’re drinking enough water is to tote a reusable bottle around with you. The cuter, the better and you’ll help save the planet.
5. You’re loading up on empty calories that don’t keep you full
What do Natty Light, your mom’s sugar cookies and Starbursts have in common? They’re all empty calories, which means they don’t keep you full because they don’t have any nutrients. “If you eat them regularly and for an increased amount of time, it can increase your bodies natural caloric need,” says Rodwick.
If you want something sweet, try a smoothie made with real fruit and if you’re craving something savory, try chopped veggies with hummus.
Stop snacking and start getting into healthier habits that will reduce your consumption of junk food and calories you just don’t need. Not only will sleeping more, drinking more water and eating healthier wake you up, you’ll also be giving your body the natural nutrients it needs to operate at maximum capacity.