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Your Body Signals

Your Body Signals

How do I know if I'm hungry?
Appetite vs. hunger
Why do I crave certain foods?
Why do I eat when I'm not hungry?
Why does my stomach growl?

Your body talks to your brain all day long, but sometimes you don't get the message. Or you choose to ignore it. For example, you're yawning and your eyelids feel heavy, but you stay up late to finish that science project. And sometimes the message isn't clear. You smell French fries at the mall and the next thing you know, you're dipping them in ketchup, even though your stomach is still full from dinner. What's going on here? Can't you trust your body signals? back to top

How do I know if I'm hungry?
The feeding centers in your brain—not your stomach—let you know when it's time to eat. When your body needs fuel, your brain announces that you are hungry. It's a little like the gas gauge on a car. When the gauge is on empty, it's time to fuel up. When the tank is full, you can go miles without stopping. But what happens when your hunger gauge is somewhere between empty and full? Maybe you start snacking for other reasons. For example, maybe you're bored or tired, or maybe a friend offers you a brownie. back to top

Appetite vs. hunger
Hunger signals remind you to eat to provide fuel for your body. But that's not the only reason you eat. In addition, your appetite for food has to do with the pleasure you feel when you eat. It also comes from the things you associate with food: smells, sounds, and sights. Maybe lunch period with your friends is a fun part of your day. Or the smell of bread baking or soup simmering reminds you of your grandmother. Your appetite can also be affected by the weather, the time of day, your religious and cultural upbringing, and the physical and emotional changes you may be experiencing. back to top

Why do I crave certain foods?
Cravings are strong urges that make you want to eat a particular food. They don't always make sense. You might find yourself wanting foods you don't usually eat. That's because cravings, like appetite, are body signals you feel for emotional and physical reasons. Some girls crave fats like ice cream, nachos, fried chicken, and doughnuts. During puberty, hormones can stir up cravings for those fatty foods. Others crave carbohydrates like bread, pasta, and cookies. Some people think carbo cravers are really after serotonin, a chemical in the brain that plays a part in mood states, especially depression. Or you might crave sweet or salty foods a day or two before your period. These common cravings may be a sign of premenstrual syndrome (PMS). Cravings are normal, but that doesn't mean you have to obey them. back to top

Why do I eat when I'm not hungry?
There are lots of reasons you eat when you're not hungry. Maybe you eat when you're bored or depressed, happy or upset. You may nibble on chips and sweets at parties without even thinking about it. You may eat to block a painful feeling or to celebrate. Food can make you feel better, for a while. But sometimes girls substitute food for things they really want, like love and attention. If you find yourself overeating, ask yourself, "Am I hungry or am I eating for other reasons?" If you are concerned and think you are binge eating, call a friend or go for a walk instead of eating that pint of cookie dough ice cream. back to top

Why does my stomach growl?
You're taking a math test. It's real quiet, and then the sound starts. It's like there's a tiger in your stomach growling, rumbling, and making noise. How embarrassing! But a growling stomach is part of normal digestion. It's the sound the muscles in your stomach and your small intestine make when digesting food. Your body does this all the time. It just sounds louder if you haven't eaten for a few hours. back to top

Learn more about:
factors that affect your good choices
food and school
food and your family
Last Modified Date: 3/28/2001
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