One day you're like, "I'm fine subsisting on two crust-less cucumber finger sandwiches and a Shirley Temple because I am too genteel to feel hunger anymore." The next day, you are Goya's Saturn, except your metaphorical son is, like, two scrambled eggs, seven pieces of toast, a whole avocado, and half a block of Kerrygold salted.
Don't hand in your notice now and start sewing spangly leotards, because fluctuations in how much you feel like eating are totally not weird or freakish—especially considering how appetite depends on a billion different factors. In fact, according to Keri Gans (opens in new tab), RDN and author of The Small Change Diet, you can just blame everything on life. But we're going to list some common causes of appetite fluctuations anyway because we're helpful like that.
- Mood: And this is why "eating your feelings" is an expression. If you're sad, lonely, angry, bored, stressed, or happy, you could either want to stuff your face (very likely) or just sit there wallowing in grief...foodlessly (less likely).
- Exercise: More often than not a justification to go ahead and have that whole can of Pringles (not that I have done that before).
- The weather: being outdoors, how many layers of fabric under which you can hide your body, etc.
- Your period: Have you heard the one about how you burn an extra 500 calories a day when Aunt Flo's in town? False, but hormonal changes can make it seem like your stomach's a bottomless pit—for chocolate, mostly.
- Time of day: Some people just have no desire to eat in the morning. Some people get the munchies at 3 p.m. on the dot. Some people are like, "I'M AWAKE. FEED ME." (Also, it's kind of fun to think about how culture has primed us to want to eat things at certain times.)
So how do you make sure you're consuming necessary, not-because-of-something-else calories? If you're not sure, says Gans, give yourself the Ds—five of them, to be precise. Delay: Go drink a glass of water or make some paper airplanes or something. Determine: Evaluate what could really be driving you to reach for that second third seventh cookie. Do you really want it? Distract: Kind of the same as "delay," except you're probably more desperate at this point, so do a more involved activity, like researching random celebrities' dating histories (opens in new tab). (Derek Jeter's will keep you occupied for a while.) Distance: Put physical space between you and the food. Decide: Are you going to give in?
Above all, practice mindfulness. Because, TBH, your appetite's kind of an enabler and you can't have it running the show without your brain, okay? Or else, this:
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Chelsea Peng is a writer and editor who was formerly the assistant editor at MarieClaire.com. She's also worked for The Strategist and Refinery29, and is a graduate of Northwestern University. On her tombstone, she would like a GIF of herself that's better than the one that already exists on the Internet and a free fro-yo machine. Besides frozen dairy products, she's into pirates, carbs, Balzac, and snacking so hard she has to go lie down.
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