Liquid dietitian Sian Porter nutrition talk to Liquid staff

Why do you get hunger pangs?

It’s only 10.30am, you are sitting at your desk staring at an Excel spreadsheet, and you are flipping starving.

You have an irresistible urge to charge to the office vending machine. Fight it. Say “no” to that KitKat Chunky.


Because you may not be hungry at all.

According to Sian Porter, Liquid’s consultant dietitian, there are many reasons why people crave food, but not all of them mean you need to reach for a protein ball. In fact, you might be better off having a nap.

Liquid is always keen to improve the team’s understanding of everything food-related and Sian discussed some key issues at a staff briefing, held over lunch, of course. (For the record, we had sandwiches and snacks which fell foul of basic meal planning: aim for one half of the plate being veg; one quarter lean protein; and one quarter high fibre carbohydrate. We’re working on it.)

Sian’s advice to anyone feeling hunger pangs is to work through the acronym HALT.

H: when you think you are hungry, are you physically, “tummy-growling” hungry or merely “head” hungry. Because if you are head hungry, something else may be at play. Such as…

A: anxiety and anger. People eat for lots of different reasons, and it may be a response to deep-seated feelings and emotions. People often eat to make themselves feel better, particularly if they are grappling with…

L:loneliness and lethargy – or boredom. The emotional pull of food is wide-ranging, and can act as a perceived counter-balance to unhappiness. “Think about what fills your tummy versus what fills your heart,” says Sian, quoting Dr Laura Thomas. “And seek help if you need to.”

T: is for thirst. You may be confusing hunger with the need to drink. Hydration is vital for human health. The NHS advises drinking six to eight glasses of water a day. The quantity varies according to a range of factors including body size, temperature and physical activity. How do you know if you are hydrated? Have a look at your wee, says Sian. It should be a pale, straw colour and clear.

T is also for tired. For example, people often snack at night-time because they think they are hungry. They might actually be tired and would be better off going to bed.

In a wide-ranging talk, Sian explained the pitfalls of food fads – and the spurious surveys used to support the benefits of certain diets. She also touched on the factors affecting food choices (emotional, economic, social, educational and environmental).

So what is the secret of success when it comes to personal food choices? “It is about having a healthy relationship with food,” says Sian.

(No KitKat Chunkies were nibbled in the production of this article. We’re pretty proud of that.)