Do you ever get the “munchies?” This happens to me a lot, especially on vacation. I have been eating all day long and at the end of the day, I totally have the “munchies.” Sometimes, my kids will say they are hungry right after they just ate dinner… Why is this? Until recently, I just thought it was hunger cues not being fully in check and I tried really hard to just disregard my feeling of wanting to eat more. But then I read a really interesting study. It totally made sense to me and helped me tune into what is really going on when I feel like I want to keep eating and eating and eating…
There are several factors that can trigger our intrinsic hunger mechanism to kick in: boredom, habit, visibility of food, smells, actual physical hunger, tiredness, and a handful more. The cue that was really interesting to me happens more frequently than we think, and it is actually a very good sign of overall health. It is the cue that kicks in our hunger when we have not received appropriate vitamins, minerals, and nutrients to enable our body’s optimal physical mechanisms.
For example, when we have eaten a diet high in one nutrient all day long, but missing other key nutrients for our body, we do not feel satisfied. It’s that feeling you get when you eat junk food all day and at the end of the day (you feel slightly sick) and still hungry. It’s when you have been eating carbs ALL day long and you just can’t get satisfied because you are missing protein (or vice versa). It can even happen by indulging in veggies all day but missing the other main food groups.
The bottom line is this: when you get the “munchies,” it’s important to ask yourself what exactly your body is trying to tell you. If you need more calories, feed yourself. If you are bored, do something active. If you are sleepy, sleep. If you have cheated yourself out of getting a well-balanced diet throughout the day, eat a small nutrient-dense snack to make up for it and promise yourself to get up the next day, and do better!