It happens all the time. The family just had a meal. Two hours later someone is rifling through the kitchen… “I’m hungry.” How? Everyone ate well at meal time but someone is constantly hungry. The US battle with obesity may well be more than just counting calories.
“Why am I constantly hungry?” is a question I hear from many of my patients. At best, constant hunger is annoying and distracting; at worst, it’s a sign that something’s amiss. Either way, the mental wrestling can make it hard to trust the messages your body is sending you. Assuming that you’re eating regularly through the day, there are several possible explanations why hunger might be a constant companion.
Your body has biological mechanisms in place to keep your weight from dropping below your set point — the weight range you are genetically predisposed to maintain — whether you are experiencing famine or what just looks like a famine (a.k.a. calorie-restricted dieting). One is a drop in your resting metabolic rate. The other is an increase in appetite.
Even though the body needs fewer calories as weight decreases, hunger and the drive to eat increase. In fact, increases in appetite may play a more important role than a slowing metabolism in weight-loss plateaus. For each kilogram (2.2 pounds) of weight lost, we burn about 20 to 30 fewer calories per day — even fewer for some people — whereas appetite grows by about 100 calories per day. Basically, it’s easier for your body to protect itself by boosting your appetite — and your calorie intake — than to slow your metabolism and run on fewer calories.
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