Many people confuse non-hunger sensations with hunger. Combine that with readily available food everywhere and you have the components of overeating.
People have varying responses to hunger. One friend gets busy and forgets she is hungry to the point where she has to physically be reminded to eat. She doesn't recognize she's hungry until she's really hungry. Most people would consider her very thin these days, but she's closer to the normal of 40 years ago. Another friend has been a professional athlete. When training she had to eat enormous amounts of food - as much as 6,000 calories a day. Off training she just eats enough to satisfy her needs, which seem to be under 2,000 calories. The shifting of states is very natural for her. Another person who would be considered thin by the standards of today, but closer to what had been average years ago.
Sukie points to an interesting paper on training people to recognize when they are hungry.
Hunger can be taught: Hunger Recognition regulates eating and improves energy balance
Authors: Ciampolini M, Lovell-Smith HD, Kenealy T, Bianchi R
Video abstract presented by David Lovell-Smith
Published Date June 2013 Volume 2013:6 Pages 465 - 478
Mario Ciampolini,1 David Lovell-Smith,2 Timothy Kenealy,3 Riccardo Bianchi4
1Unit of Preventive Gastroenterology, Department of Pediatrics, Università di Firenze, Florence, Italy;2Department of General Practice, University of Otago, Christchurch, New Zealand; 3Department of General Practice and Primary Health Care, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand; 4Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, State University of New York Downstate Medical Center, Brooklyn, NY, USA
Abstract: A set of spontaneous hunger sensations, Initial Hunger (IH), has been associated with low blood glucose concentration (BG). These sensations may arise pre-meal or can be elicited by delaying a meal. With self-measurement of BG, subjects can be trained to formally identify and remember these sensations (Hunger Recognition). Subjects can then be trained to ensure that IH is present pre-meal for most meals and that their pre-meal BG is therefore low consistently (IH Meal Pattern). IH includes the epigastric Empty Hollow Sensation (the most frequent and recognizable) as well as less specific sensations such as fatigue or light-headedness which is termed inanition. This report reviews the method for identifying IH and the effect of the IH Meal Pattern on energy balance. In adults, the IH Meal Pattern has been shown to significantly decrease energy intake by one-third, decrease preprandial BG, reduce glycosylated hemoglobin, and reduce insulin resistance and weight in those who are insulin resistant or overweight. Young children as well as adults can be trained in Hunger Recognition, giving them an elegant method for achieving energy balance without the stress of restraint-type dieting. The implications of improving insulin sensitivity through improved energy balance are as wide as improving immune activity.