Written by Erika Kukura
Have you ever asked yourself what hunger feels like?
Hunger can be felt physically in our stomachs or we may notice other sensations.
Typical signs of hunger include:
Gurgling/rumbling sensation in the stomach
Empty feeling in the stomach
Thinking about food, what to eat at your next meal
Lack of Concentration
Irritability, frustration, or anger (aka “Hangry”)
Light-headed or dizziness
A good way to start tuning in to your hunger is by using a hunger scale and take notice of where you typically notice hunger and when you actually eat.
Image via Linda-RD.com
You may experience light-headed/dizziness/faintness at a hunger level of 1-2. We tend to overeat when we eat at this hunger level. These signs are all indicators that you are waiting too long to eat and should be avoided.
Instead, aim to eat at a level 3-4. You may notice more gentle sensations such as starting to think about food, gurgling/rumbling in your stomach, lack of concentration, or low energy. This is a more appropriate time to eat where you can practice more mindful techniques.
Using this scale and taking notice of various hunger sensations can be helpful to discern when you need to eat.
What could be going on when you don’t “feel” hungry, but you also haven’t eaten in quite a few hours?
Hunger can be dulled or increased by a variety of factors meaning it’s not always easy to distinguish when we are experiencing hunger sensations. Stress, anxiety, depression or loneliness are just some of the emotional states that impact our appetite. Additionally, sleep, hormones, caffeine intake, and exercise habits can also affect hunger levels. Oftentimes, these can mask hunger sensations in our stomach, which is why tuning in and noticing all forms of hunger are helpful.
For example, if you’re busy all day going to classes, and other commitments you may be so distracted to not take notice hunger sensations in your stomach. But, you may be more likely to notice when you’re feeling low on energy or when you notice a headache coming on. These are likely signals that your body is hungry.
Studying for finals is an extra heightened time of stress in which sleep, exercise, and eating habits are all disrupted. It might seem annoying to take the time to bring a meal to Geisel or to even consider leaving that beloved study spot to get food. However, studying while hungry will result in poor concentration, and you will likely find that you have a more productive study session if you take time for meals and snacks.
Here are a few ideas for ways to stay nourished during finals:
Maintain a regular eating and sleeping schedule
Aim to eat every 3-4 hours
Sleep 7-8 hours each night
Pack snacks to have on hand during class or while studying
Granola bars, trail mix, fruit with peanut butter, yogurt, ½ sandwich, carrots and hummus
Plan out if you need to pack food or schedule in a break and get a meal while studying for long periods of time.
Aim for a balanced meal that contains carbohydrate, protein, fat and plant food to meet your nutritional needs, feel satisfying and provides you with the energy to keep studying!
Chicken or tofu stir-fry with brown rice and vegetables
Turkey and cheese sandwich with carrots and hummus on the side
Grain bowl with vegetables and protein
If you would like to get more information about your eating patterns or need easy on the go meal or snack ideas contact the UCSD Recreation Dietitian, Erin Kukura, MS, RD at email@example.com.