I'm hungry! Oh, wait ... I'm not. What's up with the fleeting hunger pangs?
May 15, 2008 9:31 AM   Subscribe

Is it normal to have a hunger pang and then, a couple of minutes later, to not be hungry?

I'm dieting and it's going well. More important, I'm trying to learn to eat only when I'm hungry. I can't believe I'm so out-of-touch with my body, but I have a hard time telling when I'm hungry and when I'm not. (I'm sure I'd know if I was famished, but I'm talking about garden-variety hunger.)

I'm slowly getting it. I'm slowly starting to think, as I'm reaching for the chips, "Wait! Am I hungry? Hmm. No, I'm not!" And so I stop reaching for the chips.

But every now and then -- when I haven't eaten for a while -- I get a pang: that sort of stomach-eating-itself feeling that's a little like heartburn. I get that, and I think, "I'm hungry! I should eat." But I find that if I wait a couple of minutes, the pang completely vanishes, and I can wait several more hours before I'm definitely hungry.

What's going on with the pangs? It feels like my body is signaling me that I'm hungry, but after the signal, it's going, "Okay. I made the effort to signal. I'm not going to bother with continual signaling. If he still hasn't eaten in a couple of hours, I'll give him another warning."
posted by grumblebee to Health & Fitness (12 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Drink water! I've found that those "hunger" pangs are usually me just being slightly thirsty.
posted by restless_nomad at 9:43 AM on May 15, 2008

I get those all the time. Usually, they show up when I should, logically, be hungry - hours after my last meal or snack. A couple minutes later, I'll sometimes actually feel like I'm still full, though.

Something else I've noticed - many times at the end of a small-ish meal, I'll feel as though I'm still hungry. THe feeling will persist for quite a while - more than enough time for my gut to inform my brain that it's full of food. However, the sensation I ought to be feeling is thirst - even if I eat to sate this feeling, I get no relief until I drink a couple, 30 ounces of water.
posted by notsnot at 9:44 AM on May 15, 2008

I get the same thing. Random hunger pang, then nothing.

Although to be honest with you, I think you need to eat BEFORE you are hungry. Because once you're hungry it's already too late. Eating before you are hungry reduces the chances of overeating.
posted by sephira at 9:44 AM on May 15, 2008

I think it's perfectly normal. I've also been eating less, though plenty to fuel my body and keep me from being hungry. But I'd been in the habit of snacking constantly, hungry or not, before paying attention.

I find that sometimes I get hunger pangs, my stomach growls, and it feels like I am truly and legitimately hungry. I'm often surprised when 2 hours later when I have gotten distracted and gone and done something else, I'm not hungry anymore. Sometimes when I get a pang towards the end of the work day and try to hold out for dinner, I find that when I get home from work and it really finally is dinner time, I'm not even *that* hungry anymore.

Also, when I get pangs like that, I try to just drink some water or tea. I know it sounds like b.s., but sometimes your body feels hungry when it's really thirsty. Or tired.
posted by tastybrains at 9:45 AM on May 15, 2008

I think these hunger pangs aren't true hunger pangs, but just psychological cravings. You mention chips. You aren't really "hungry" for chips, you just like them. Myself, I can go without eating for hours if I'm not at work, but at work the smell of food around noon just makes me go crazy.
posted by herbaliser at 9:52 AM on May 15, 2008

Yeah, I get these too. Before I started the Shangri-La Diet, I wasn't able to tell the difference between those and real hunger. Now they feel distinctly different.

Your body does learn what time to expect food, so if you learn to ignore those pangs, they diminish pretty quickly.
posted by kindall at 9:55 AM on May 15, 2008

I have these ephemeral hunger pangs first thing in the morning. Like, I roll out of bed starving; yet, by the time I get to the kitchen I'm no longer hungry, and in fact it can take me an hour or two to feel like my stomach is open for business. In my case I don't think it's psychological. Maybe I need water and that's how my thirst manifests itself, I don't know. But no, you're not the only one.
posted by harkin banks at 10:27 AM on May 15, 2008

Part of it could be that your stomach has gotten used to having a certain amount of food in it. When you don't eat as much, you're below what you've set as normal for the fullness level of your stomach.

There's also the psychological aspects of being hungry. Are you used to eating in order to keep your stomach full? If so, then you'll be hungry more often because you're not full.

I'd suggest working your way to eating proper portion sizes. And they key here is to work toward the portion sizes. You can't just jump down. You don't have to be stuffed full all the time, and you'll save money by not buying so much food.
posted by theichibun at 10:34 AM on May 15, 2008

I differentiate between "stomach-hungry" and "body-hungry". If my stomach is used to being full, maybe because of its schedule, I might feel stomach-hungry. But if I know I've eaten plenty and I don't feel fatigued at all (fatigued isn't the right word), then I don't really have to eat. On the other hand, sometimes my body craves food when my stomach doesn't feel hungry at all -- I'm trying to tune in to this more, but it takes some doing, as it's not a sudden "pang" but more something I have to remember to check.

I doubt that a lot of people have this exact system going on, but I thought I'd mention it in case it helps.
posted by amtho at 11:11 AM on May 15, 2008 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for the answers, guys. Really interesting. By the way, I'm also trying The Shangri-La Diet. I'm skeptically open-minded about it. It seems to be working wonders. Who knows? Maybe it's a placebo effect.
posted by grumblebee at 11:16 AM on May 15, 2008

I've always associated those pangs with my stomach emptying itself. as though X number of hours after I eat I'll get a small hunger pang I know my stomach just emptied my last meal into my intestines and that hunger pang was just the sensation of my stomach being empty. If I drink something or give it a few minuets to shrink (or whatever) the feeling goes away until I am truly hungry again.

Don't know if this is true or not but that's what I always thought this phenomena was.
posted by Kioki-Silver at 12:07 PM on May 15, 2008

Response by poster: Strangely, drinking water never occurred to me. I feel stupid now, given how many people suggested that. I drink plenty of water, but I usually drink it when I'm eating -- not between meals.
posted by grumblebee at 1:56 PM on May 15, 2008

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