You’ve been there before (and, hey, so have we—many times): rummaging through the cupboard shortly after having a bite to eat or craving a chocolaty treat during a stressful day at work, even after a satisfying lunch. There are a bunch of reasons we go in search of food when our bellies aren’t asking for it. We’ve ID’d five surprising things that make you think you need to eat again and the best ways to stop them.
When was the last time you had a drink of water? If it was more than an hour ago, the beginnings of dehydration may be triggering false hunger signals. Combat them by sipping water during meals. Another good trick is to eat water-rich foods before a meal (like broth-based soup), rather than just water alone. This strategy curbs your appetite throughout the day.
You’re eating too fast.
If you’re the type who eats quickly—practically inhaling your lunch at your desk before you’ve gotten through your Facebook update—you’d be wise to make an effort to slow down. People in a study who ate a meal more slowly not only drank more water during their meal but also felt less hungry an hour later. Eating at a more leisurely pace can also help your brain know you’re full directly after a meal, so you’re less likely to reach for seconds.
If you’re cutting the corners on getting your z’s, you may be sabotaging more than just your energy level. One study found that people who slept less had a higher level of the so-called hunger hormone, ghrelin, and a reduced level of leptin, a hormone that regulates your appetite. If you’re nowhere near the recommended eight hours a night, aim to add just 10 minutes each night until you get closer. (These better-sleep strategies are a good place to start.)
You’re skipping breakfast.
Sure, it sounds simple: Eating takes away your hunger pangs. But what you eat and when you eat it can influence that rumbling stomach for the rest of the day. Eating breakfast—a high-protein breakfast in particular—can curb hunger all day long. Try adding yogurt or a hard-boiled egg to your morning routine to ward off cravings later on.
When you’re stressed and anxious, your body produces more of that hunger-inducing ghrelin. If you’re reaching for a chocolate bar out of frustration, try a few deep breaths at your desk before you resort to snacks as stress busters.