By Ramesh Bjonnes
Demon hunger is when our brain fools us into feeling hungry when we really are not. But what causes these false hunger pangs? Here are some of the main reasons.
GROWLING STOMACH. When we eat too much food, especially too much junk food, the stomach cannot digest all the food properly, and the gas in the digestive system makes us feel like we need another bite of food in order to stop the growling. This kind of hunger, if we take time to pay attention, can easily be quenched by a glass of water. If after drinking 8-12 ounces of water, we no longer feel hungry, we know it was a false signal. If we are still hungry, we are indeed truly hungry.
THIRST. Dehydration can make us have similar symptoms to hunger. We may feel unfocused, fatigued, and headachy and think it’s due to hunger. But since dehydration signals are not as strong as hunger signals, we may not know we are dehydrated before it is too late. Therefore, it is a good idea to sip water and herbal tea throughout the day to stay hydrated. Drinking coffee all day, on the other hand, is not as effective as it is a diuretic and depletes the body of water.
BOREDOM OR STRESS. Some people feel like eating when they are bored or stressed, others may feel like abstaining. But if you are bored or stressed and feel like eating, you are not hungry, you just feel like perking up or calming down with some food. If you are bored, try to distract yourself with another activity, such as calling a friend, or going for a walk. If you are stressed, practice deep breathing, yoga, meditation, or listening to calming music to release the tensions.
NEED FOR COMFORT. When we are down and depressed, we often crave “comfort foods” to increase “the happiness chemical” serotonin. Ice cream or muffins can do that quite easily because they are high in carbs. But after a while, when the sugary carbs have burned off, we come crashing down. We then feel “hangry” and need another bite of comfort food. To get off that roller coaster, we need to train ourselves to find other ways to comfort ourselves, such as a good book, music, a movie, or a massage.
HABIT. We have become habituated to eating three meals a day and having a few snacks in between. Studies have found that people in our culture eat because it is time to eat, not because we are hungry. Training ourselves to skip meals and do intermittent fasting when we are not really hungry can make us become acquainted with listening to the body and discover our natural hunger and thirst cues.
EXTERNAL STIMULI. We live in a society where unhealthy foods and drinks are everywhere. In grocery and convenience stores, schools, workplaces, on TV, and in magazines, we are stimulated by the sight and smell of food. These stimuli can easily trigger a false demon hunger in us that is psychological rather than physical. So better to stay out of the kitchen, the fast food restaurants, the convenience stores, and turn off the TV. To paraphrase food writer Michael Pollan: Fill up your car at the gas station but not your stomach.