How to Deal With an Irregular Appetite

As someone who grew up in America her whole life, I have discovered that so many citizens and Americans in this city pride on a voracious appetite. Hearing someone boast that their hunger never sleeps or that they can eat a whole horse is nothing new. This doesn’t apply to just Western countries either–I know so many other people from all across the globe who are total foodies and love to eat, eat, eat, and did I mention eat?

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On the flip side, you have your other portion of individuals who can fast for one or two days and feel completely fine. In fact, many of them even forget to eat or just never feel the urge to. The thought of food sort of comes to them as a chore, and they don’t make a huge fuss about it. In this case, it isn’t caused by any eating disorder symptoms or restrictive habits, but a natural blunt in hunger hormones.

Personally, I have and continue to experience both spectrums. Whether I wake up and down +3000 calories in a sitting, or struggle to get in even half of my normal food intake for the entire day, I know what it’s like to feel hungry all the time versus almost never. In general, it’s ideal to listen to your body and feed its needs when necessary, and give it a break during digestion. However, with such dramatic differences in appetite, it can be difficult to prevent overeating and undereating at each extreme. On top of that, it’s also not necessarily wise to obey an absent appetite if your body ever needs the extra nutrients.

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Firstly, you need to ditch the “hit-a-certain-number” mentality. This is completely different from remembering to eat enough or at a certain limit. When you hold this notion that there is this magic number of calories or any macronutrient that sets the borderline for your weight maintenance, you set yourself up for disconnecting your brain from your body. There are two things you can do in this scenario. One: you can ditch calorie counting all together and just listen to your body. Two: you eat intuitively for a whole day, and track everything–with complete and absolute precision–you have eaten on a nutrient database to find the range that works for you. If you find that your intake numbers don’t match those of your goals, then it’s time to readjust your eating habits.

Should you find that you feel the urge to overeat, just be cautious. It can be as simple as cutting your food into smaller pieces to take on one big plate at a time, or using a pair of chopsticks rather than a spoon, which can scoop up to three times more food. I have found that the time it takes for me to finish a plate of vegetables with my hands or a large fork or spoon versus the time with a pair of chopsticks or a small utensil drastically differ. Using a small, delicate food utensil allows me to take smaller bites and easily register when I feel full more quickly than if I were to inhale my plate of food in a pinch.

Obviously, if you tend to under-eat, consider a similar step-by-step path, except try to consume more food. Cutting a large meal into smaller pieces will make finishing your food a lot more feasible than daunting, and use decently-sized spoons to grab a larger amount of food at a time. All along the way, ensure that you target more calorie-dense foods that are easy to overeat, such as nut butters, granola, seeds, dried fruit, or anything high in carbohydrates but lacking in fiber. It’s pretty easy to sneak in extra calories with an extra handful of cereal there, nibble of an avocado there, etc.

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Another way to really gauge how much you can eat to feel satiated is to resort to measuring out your food or even using a food scale. Disclaimer: this is not at all advised if you have an unhealthy relationship with food, an eating disorder, or a restrictive mindset. It is almost guaranteed that anybody who invests in a food scale can use it irrationally, whether bringing it to restaurants, panicking if they cannot measure their food out, or purposely consuming less or more food than necessary. Once again, consider a food scale or measuring tools (i.e. tablespoon or cup measurements) only if you are 110% confident that your view on eating, food, nutrition, and dieting in general is stable.

Going back to food scales and measuring tools, portion distortion serves as a common problem for many who are trying to lose weight. From personal experience, I thought that I consumed only two or three tablespoons of peanut butter out of a new jar, when in reality, I consumed nearly half an entire jar of peanut butter after re-opening it the next day. Labels can be misleading since they generally use estimates that are lower or higher, whether in nutrition facts, serving sizes, and total servings in the entire product. Calculating the weight of your meals in grams is the most accurate method of tracking as possible. You may be surprised as to how an actual serving of your snacks is satisfying, even after times of eating the wrong portions of it. Again, personal experience…half a peanut butter jar versus two tablespoons.

Note that you are going to run into conflicts with your hunger signals and your brain. One day, your brain may quickly register the fullness level when you haven’t even finished two-thirds of your food, and another day, the cognitive sensation of satiety will never seem to come. At times, you will have to endure the discomfort of feeling overly full or hungry–of course, not to a point where you are absolutely stuffed or ravenous. The body simply needs to adjust with time, and eventually, your hunger and appetite cues will stabilize themselves.

Going off of hunger signals, another way to slow down eating is simply chewing more, whether keeping your veggies raw or just counting to twenty before swallowing. Personally, I absolutely adore anything with a lot of crunch or chewiness. I enjoy taking the time to break my food into much smaller particles to savor the tastes and flavors, and it’s immensely easier if my teeth experience more of a challenge. Besides, I couldn’t ever fathom to survive on a diet of baby food!

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In short:

  • Don’t fret about hitting a certain limit of food, especially in numeric terms.
  • Practice complete awareness when you eat–it is best to be conservative, whether swapping out your spoon with chopsticks or cutting your food in smaller pieces. If you under-eat, try to use a larger utensil.
  • Grasp stronger images of portion sizes through measuring spoons, cups, a food scale, or portion diagrams.
  • Chew your food thoroughly, savor your food, and practice gratitude for it.

Hope you enjoyed this post!

What are your tips on dealing with an irregular appetite?

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