One day you’re perfectly fine existing on a protein bar and water. The next day you’re scarfing down three sandwiches, a pizza and half a jar of peanut butter.
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Why does it sometimes feel like your appetite changes more than the weather?
Registered dietitian Kate Patton, MEd, RD, CCSD, LD, says that an increase or decrease in your appetite is your body’s response to how you’re living your life – what foods you’re eating, your stress level, your mood and how active you are. Your appetite can even be dictated by your emotions.
What causes appetite changes?
One of the main influencers of your appetite is eating a balanced diet, but other things can play a factor in how hungry (or not hungry) you feel.
Appetite changes can come from:
- The timing of a balanced (or not balanced) diet.
- Activity level.
- Illness or infection.
- Stress, anxiety and emotions.
- Menstruation and pregnancy.
How do you train your appetite to be more stable and reliable?
“The first thing I would ask someone who came to me and said their appetite was all over the place would be ‘how balanced is your diet?’” says Patton. “If you’re eating refined carbs and not enough protein, fiber or fat – the carbs will all digest faster, which will make you hungry pretty often.”
Pay attention to your eating habits and how often you’re truly feeling hungry. You might notice that on days when your diet is better, you feel fuller longer. There is usually a correlation between what you’re eating and your appetite.
To prevent annoying appetite shifts, focus on eating balanced meals and snacks.
Also pay attention to timing, says Patton. If you’re going for long periods of time without eating, by the time you do feel hungry you might be starving. And when you’re starving there’s a bigger chance you could overeat.
Appetite changes also have to do with your activity level. If you’re super active (maybe you went on a longer than normal hike yesterday) or even if you’re training for a marathon, you might find yourself hungrier than normal.
“Depression, stress and anxiety can all lead to appetite changes,” says Patton. “If you’re battling a mental health condition or even an eating disorder, it’s important to seek help and find ways to cope.”
When it’s more than just physical hunger (or a lack of it)
If your appetite is constantly changing and it’s starting to interfere with your life – like causing significant weight loss, weight gain or fatigue, see your doctor or a dietitian.
Also if you find yourself obsessed with food, constantly thinking about what you’ll have next or if you’ve developed excessively strict eating habits – it’s best to check in with your doctor.
At the end of the day, food is a necessary part of living a healthy life and your appetite plays a big role in it. Having a weird relationship with your diet and nutrition could spell trouble not only physically, but emotionally and mentally as well. Learning to cope with your feelings, stress and mood is an important pillar of wellness.