Hunger is our stomach’s way of telling our brain that we need more food. Food is used for many crucial functions in the body, varying depending on precisely the food stuff you are discussing. For example carbs are our body’s main source of energy and without them we would feel lethargic. Fats meanwhile help our body to store energy for future use, help us to process protein thus building muscle, and have several advantages for our skin, hair and joints. Protein of course is the ‘building block’ of our body which is literally made up of amino acids found in protein. The reason then that our body tells us we’re hungry, through the release of the hormone leptin and others, is so that we give it the fuel of the building blocks it needs in order to operate smoothly.
As such, one reason our body may still be hungry after a meal is that we have filled it but not with the different types of food we need. For example if we have eaten a large meal of mostly protein then our body may start ‘craving’ carbs. Cravings are our body’s way of telling us we need something and very often these can be accurate. As such then you should not completely ignore your body when it tells you it is hungry, even when you’ve already eaten a full meal.
However there is another reason that we get cravings explained by evolutionary psychology that dates back to times before modern civilisation when we would still have to hunt for our food. Back in the wild we would hunt for our food and our hunger would motivate this hunting. At the same time though it would be important that once we came across food not to over stuff ourselves. In other words if we were lucky enough or cunning enough to have found a meat carcass then you might be tempted to stuff yourself until you were ill, slow and vulnerable to predators and over eating past a certain a point can even cause serious problems. As such then, our body is programmed to crave savoury foods and sweat foods alternatively (in the wild that would have essentially represented protein and carbs respectively). Today of course the problem is that we have both available to us on tap, so that as soon as we finish our savoury meal we are able to move on to sweeter things as all our food is stored in the cupboard. Thus in these scenarios it is not necessarily wise to listen to our cravings as we would otherwise be in a constant spiral and this is a sure fire way for us to gain weight.
The way in which our body knows initially how much we’ve eaten and when we’re full is when our stomach becomes physically stuffed with food. However it is important to recognise that it takes a certain amount of time for the food to enter our stomach and for our body to register this. As such then if you still feel hungry after a meal it can often be a good idea to simply wait a while and see if your body registers as full after the food has been properly processed. You can also fill your body up with things that won’t cause you to gain weight if you are trying to diet – for example drinking a lot of water can make your stomach feel full but won’t cause you to put on any pounds. This is also why some models eat cotton wool in order to suppress their hunger.
It is also a good idea to eat more slowly in general, and partly this is true for psychological reasons – and sometimes we just feel hungry because we do not feel as though we’ve eaten much even when we have. There is certainly a psychosomatic effect going on here – notice how you sometimes ‘forget’ to eat during a day simply because you do not think about it. Chewing more tricks your brain and your body into feeling as though you’ve eaten more than you have so you more quickly feel more satisfied.
Finally how quickly the food digests will partly be responsible for our feeling and regulation of hunger. Obviously if food passes through very quickly and doesn’t take long to digest then very shortly after eating we might find that we feel hungry again. Something like fibre for example which can not be digested or absorbed into the blood stream will very quickly pass through the body and leave us feeling hungry again. On the other hand, fats are very slow to digest which is why we often feel full and bloated after a burger or chips and why this often lasts a while.
If you still feel hungry after eating then, it may or may not be your body authentically telling you you need to eat more. To determine if this is in fact the case, consider what you’ve eaten, how quickly you ate, and any other factors that might be contributing to your hunger.