Why Does My Stomach Feel Empty Even Though I Ate?

7 min read
a woman is holding her stomach due to hunger_Why does my stomach feel empty even though I ate
Melissa Mitri post Reviewer
The article is verified by Melissa Mitri
Registered Dietitian, MS, Weight Loss Expert, Past President of CT Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics

Table of Contents

Have you experienced the phenomenon of feeling hungry two hours after eating a meal, or even feeling hungry and full at the same time? Let’s talk about why this may happen and what to do about it. 

Why do I feel hungry after eating? 6 Causes & solutions

There are several potential causes of feeling hungry after eating. They can be related to dietary, physical, psychological, and behavioral factors. Let’s discuss each one. 

#1 Your meal was too small

One of the biggest reasons why you may feel hungry after eating is because you didn’t eat enough. Maybe you’re trying to lose weight and are cutting down on portions, or you only had 10 minutes to eat, so you had a smaller meal.

If your meal doesn’t contain enough calories to fill you up, you’ll probably find your stomach rumbling shortly after.

However, severely limiting your intake can not only lead to lingering feelings of hunger but it can also contribute to nutritional deficiencies that can hinder weight loss and impact overall health.

If you want to follow a sustainable diet and lose weight in a healthy way, try a weight-loss app that can help you track your meals and ensure you meet your nutritional goals by eating just the right amount for your height, weight, age, gender, and activity level. 

#2 Your meal is missing a major food group

Another reason you may feel hungry two hours after eating – or even sooner – is because your meal was lacking certain food groups, such as protein and whole grains.

With that said, it’s not always easy to know exactly how much of each food group you should have to fill you up. But for starters, you can use the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) My Plate food model recommendations as a reference. [1]

  • Aim for about a palm-sized serving of protein and a serving or two of whole grains at each meal, such as a slice of bread or one half-cup of rice. 
  • Make sure at least half of the grains you consume daily are whole grains. Whole grain examples are brown rice, wheat bread, and whole grain pasta. Compared to their refined flour alternative, whole grains are higher in fiber, which helps you feel full longer!
  • Fill up the rest of your plate with fruits and vegetables, such as a side salad, raw or cooked veggies, sliced fruit, or unsweetened applesauce — the options are endless! 
  • Vary the fruits and vegetables you consume rather than eating the same ones every day. As many experts say, “Eat the Rainbow!” 
  • Include a  healthy fat source with your meal, such as olive oil or avocado, which can contribute to satiety. 
  • Consume three cups of dairy each day. One way to do this is by adding an eight-ounce glass of low-fat, non-fat, or non-dairy alternative to each meal to bump up the protein, calcium, and vitamin D in your diet. 

There are other simple ways to make your diet healthier, such as adding greens to each meal, prioritizing whole foods, and eating slowly and mindfully. For more healthy eating tips, check out this article on tips to improve your nutrition.

#3 You eat out of boredom or to console certain emotions

Many people who feel hungry after eating are actually just emotionally hungry rather than physically in need of more food.

Intuitive eating is an evidence-based practice for reducing boredom eating or emotional eating associated with this. 

What is intuitive eating? It’s defined as eating based on hunger and satiety cues. 

Intuitive eating benefits psychological well-being and reduces eating disorder symptoms. It has also been associated with lower body mass index (BMI). Even more promising, intuitive eating has been associated with a more nutritious and well-balanced diet with healthy eating behaviors. [2]

#4 Your hormones are imbalanced

An underlying hormonal imbalance may also prevent you from feeling full or satisfied after a meal.

Leptin is one of the most important hormones associated with appetite, signaling the brain to stop eating when you feel full. However, those with leptin resistance may not feel full after eating.

Research has suggested that certain types of sugars, such as fructose and sucrose, as well as dietary fats, may contribute to leptin resistance. [3]

While you should primarily discuss leptin resistance with your physician or health care provider, modifying your diet to reduce excess sugar and fat may have potential benefits for leptin resistance. 

#5 You have a medical condition

Medical conditions like diabetes and insulin resistance can also contribute to symptoms such as hunger after eating. 

Diabetes can potentially cause extreme hunger even after eating.

This may be because those with type 2 diabetes experience insulin resistance, where the insulin fails to transport the sugar you eat to your body’s cells for energy. Therefore, your blood sugar will stay high, and you will continue to feel hungry even after eating. [4]

Insulin resistance can also be caused by conditions other than diabetes, such as obesity and heart disease. 

Whether your hunger pangs had a sudden onset or developed slowly over time, it is essential to discuss it with a physician, especially if it is severe. 

#6 You eat too fast, or you are distracted while eating

Finally, eating too quickly or eating while distracted can contribute to those pesky feelings of hunger even after a meal. As mentioned above, mindful eating (also known as intuitive eating) means listening to your body’s natural hunger and fullness cues to know when to eat and when to stop eating.

Eating too fast does not allow you to really tune into these cues.

When you are distracted by your work, phone, television, or to-do list, you tend to eat fast and ignore these natural cues of satisfaction and fullness.

A benefit of mindful eating is a more clear sense of hunger and fullness. [5]

Reasons you feel hungry after meal, why does my stomach feel empty even though i ate

Do you have hunger pains after eating? Consult a doctor

We just discussed some common reasons why you may feel hunger after eating or why you may be feeling hungry and full at the same time. However, some people experience hunger pains after eating.

It is not normal to have regular and consistent pain after eating, especially if it is severe.

If you suffer from hunger pains after eating, it is crucial that you immediately consult a medical professional or health care provider. Other than one-off situations such as eating too much too fast or eating something you cannot tolerate well, such as ice cream for those who are lactose intolerant, consistently having pain after eating is concerning and a cause for attention. 

Final words

Overall, whether you feel hungry immediately after eating, if you are hungry two hours after eating, or if you experience feeling hungry and full at the same time, a wide array of potential causes should be considered.

First, consider your dietary patterns — are you eating enough? Are you eating a balanced diet rich in lean protein, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats, and low-fat dairy? 

Next, think about your eating behaviors. For example, are you eating too fast while distracted by your phone or the television? Are you emotionally eating or eating out of boredom? Again, mindful eating can help you connect with your body’s natural hunger and fullness cues. 

Lastly, consider medical factors such as hormonal imbalance and underlying health conditions. These should be addressed with a health care provider. 

Finally, if you are experiencing symptoms such as hunger pains after eating, it could be a sign of underlying health conditions. This should be addressed with your physician as soon as possible. 

Additionally, discuss these issues with a registered dietitian nutritionist. They can help you address your eating patterns and behaviors that may be contributing to them and create a plan to resolve them. 

The information provided on the site is for educational & informational purposes only. If you seek diagnosis, treatment, or medical advice or want to make significant changes in your diet and health-related routine, please, consult a medical professional or healthcare provider.

Disclaimer This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!

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