Interoception: Why Does My Child Always Feel Hungry?

My child is always hungry. And when I say always hungry, I mean it. From the moment he wakes up until the moment he’s ready to go to sleep, food is often the topic of discussion. Vman is now eight years old. And for years, I’ve wondered if his incessant appetite is tied to his Sensory Processing Disorder.

Vman was born screaming. He didn’t stop when they wrapped him up. He didn’t stop when they handed him to my husband. He didn’t stop for the next hour.

“I think this child is hungry,” said the nurse. Because I had had an emergency C-section, I was in no condition to breast feed at that moment. The nurse handed my husband a bottle and Vman downed it like drunken sailor. The nurses were astounded.

Interoception: Why Is My Child ALWAYS Hungry | The Jenny Evolution

For many reasons (of which I won’t go into here), I ended up bottle feeding Vman after eight weeks. He could empty a bottle in just minutes. I often equated it to a college student doing a beer bong. He quickly gained weight and “booperized” as we called it. He metamorphosed into a completely round child. Our pediatrician was concerned at just how booperized he had become and had us monitoring how much formula he drank. He would have consumed a full bottle every hour if I had offered it to him.

As Vman continued to grow, so did his appetite. He finished every smashed pea and pureed peach I put in front of him.

As we discovered and learned about Vman’s Sensory Processing Disorder, I always questioned his appetite and wondered if this wasn’t all connected. It seemed to me that he should be completely full, but his body was telling him that he was hungry. The more I learn, the more it looks like might we have an internal sense that isn’t working properly in Vman.

We Have 8 Senses

There are eight senses. Yep, *8*. Mind blown, right? You have taste, touch, hear, see and smell. You also have proprioception and vestibular. But I’ve always wondered if there was an internal sense. As the medical community catches up, it turns out there is: interoception.

For the most part, Vman has been a healthy weight. Despite being in the 25 percentile for height, he has always been around the 75 percentile for weight. But because it’s consistent for his eight years, we know that he’s not gaining weight and hasn’t since he was an infant.

Today we have the fridge stocked to the brim with healthy options like grapes, cantaloupe and apples. He can grab them at any time. But I do worry for him as he gets older and has the freedom to overeat and choose whatever junk food is at hand. If his body isn’t clicking in to the fact that he’s actually full, how do I teach him to eat within his body’s true needs?

Rather than focusing on weight, I've worked hard on teaching my boys to make healthy decisions. Click To Tweet

Rather than focusing on the weight, I’ve worked hard on teaching my boys to make healthy decisions and to understand that every food has a certain amount of calories to help us make our bodies work. Some calories are empty and don’t give you the energy you need. Others are packed with power but sometimes have more calories than our body can use. It’s all about choices.

But at least I better understand that when he says he’s hungry, his body is truly telling him that. He’s not eating just to eat. Vman has learned that his Sensory Processing Disorder sometimes tricks his body into thinking fabric is painful and how to manage that. The good news is he is learning the ways to work with his body when his body doesn’t send him the right signals.

HAVE YOU HEARD ABOUT INTEROCEPTION BEFORE? DO YOU THINK YOUR SENSORY KID IS AFFECTED?

To read more of my posts touching on Sensory Processing Disorder, please click here. To learn more about sensory challenges or to join our inclusive community, visit The Sensory Spectrum.


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  1. Wow, this is so interesting. I had no idea there were children and families dealing with this sort of disorder. Best wishes!

    • Thanks, Cami. I think you’d be really surprised at just how many families are managing children with sensory issues but just don’t talk about it publicly.

      • Absolutely. I have a 8 year old boy who just recently has been tested for sensory disorder, separation anxiety and ADD and ADHD. I always chalked up his behaviors as a little off but recently things have gotten worse. Like us I bet most parents secretly don’t want to face it.

  2. Proprioception and Vestibular: two words I am getting more and more acquainted with as Big C starts OT. Interoception is a new one for me; I appreciate the new term to add to an alarmingly long list!

    Thanks for sharing! I especially like the beer bong analogy. Gave me a great laugh!

    • I often felt this one has been left off of the table… Our personal experience shows in many ways my son’s internal signals aren’t always communicating the way they should.

  3. I think this is one of your best posts ever! I learned So Much! For real. And as usual it speaks to me tho I think *I* have a bit more than I need of this sense and my G a bit less. Too, he is 12 and growing like a slightly “booperized” weed.
    Great strategies, with fridge etc.
    Thank you!

    • Thanks…. it’s been a struggle to help Vman figure out when his body is telling him the truth (that he’s actually hungry) and when it’s just not getting the signals it should. It’s an uphill battle and much easier to talk about eating healthy.

      • I’m an OT currently seeing a child with SPD with similar issues. I’d love to hear any tips you have found that work for curbing these behaviors. Sensory strategies to target the constant urge to eat.

        • Jeris — I’m not an OT, so I wouldn’t feel comfortable offering independent counsel. But I do know for my son, we didn’t find a magic button to curb his constant urge to eat. Instead, we worked hard on changing what he reached for to eat and to significantly up his consumption of water… always having a water bottle on hand to help give him the feeling of being full and giving him someone to suck on, chew, etc. The most filling items we found were fruits and veggies with lots of fiber like apples (he would easily eat 2 a day), broccoli (even cold), etc.

  4. Yes… We have spent a lot of time helping the kid realize when she is actually full. We did find that high amounts of protein seem to help the most. She also eats fresh fruit or veggies anytime she wants. I have gotten her some protein bars. She would easily eat an entire box in one day. 20 grams of protein each…. We too have been working with healthy eating choices.

  5. My son is 5 years old and was diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder one year ago. I always tell people that I can’t feed him enough. He eats 3 meals at day and eats 3 snacks. He is tall and thin since most of his snacks are fruit instead of processed foods. I’ve never heard of interoception before but it absolutely makes sense. I’m glad I found your blog!

  6. Wow! My son is the same way. Either he is famished or he is “over full” even after eating only a bite. Thank you for sharing – I will be reading more.

    • Ashley — My other son is just like this… he eats like a little bird and even after a few bites will say that he is full. Quite a different problem than with my Vman who is hungry ALL of the time.

  7. My daughter has sensory processing disorder. We have had to figure a lot out on our own because most doctors we talk to won’t address it b/c it is so hard to define. We have learned on our own about interoception. However, my daughter can not tell when she is full. If we do not help her control her portion sizes she will eat until her body can’t take any more and she throws up. Many times we have literally run out of restaurants with her b/c they always give more food than she can eat and she doesn’t know when to quit. If only we had realized what was causing this earlier. Thank you for your diligence in helping spread information about SPD. I am wondering your thoughts on interoception affecting other internal senses/alarms. Could a child also misread or miss completely bathroom cues?

    • Personally, I do think that being hypointeroceptive has affected his eating habits. It showed up from day one (as I mentioned downing the baby bottles) and hasn’t let up. And while I often did wonder, it wasn’t until I started hearing more about interoception until I came to the conclusion on my own. Considering his SPD in the past, I wouldn’t be surprised if this is one more way it shows up for him.

    • Sarah I’m convinced my son misses bathroom cues – it took him until he was 7-8yrs to get to bathroom in time for a poo! I also, have ASD and when I’m really overloaded sensory & fatigued I completely don’t register cues until I’m desperate, its got worse as I’ve got older and elastic muscle in my bladder weaker so I can’t hold on when I do realise.

  8. Oh my word!!! I have been saying my son’s lack of interest in food is sensory for a long time and never knew it really was! This is amazing information. Thank you so much for sharing it. My son pretty much eats just for the sensory experience but can go all day w/o eating sometimes, or eat a ton all at once. It’s like he doesn’t have the ability to tell if he’s hungry.

    • Funny you should mention that. My younger son eats like a bird… often because I don’t think he understands he’s hungry. We keep loads of crunchy food in the house to make eating more interesting. Carrots are his favorite!

  9. My 13yo has been overweight for years now. I try to limit how much he eats, but he complains that he is hungry. All the time. I’ve wondered if it was sensory-based, or hormonal-based. He is hyposensitive. He knows how to put together a healthy meal, but I suspect his impulsiveness doesn’t help. His doctor just says he needs to eat more veggies. 🙁
    Thank you for this article. I’m going to read the link and see what the doctor says.

    • Yeah…. any doctor that just says he needs to eat more veggies if your kiddo is hungry all of the time isn’t really tuned into the situation, IMHO. We did change the type of food we have in the house however. Got rid of the granola bars (except the 100 calorie), carbs — chips, pretzels, goldfish, etc. So if he was hungry, he could have 1 of something. 1 100 calorie granola bar, then 1 orange, then 1 green apple, then 1 helping of carrots, then 1 cheese stick. It at least got him more variety in his diet and did cut out a lot of those empty calories. Over time, eating healthier has sunk in to the point that now he’ll prefer a green apple over other snacks (miracle of miracles!!!)

  10. Hi, I have heard of interoception before. In fact our OT told me there was 9 senses. The last one, sorry I can’t remember the technical name, relates to toileting. Not knowing when to go or keep going etc just another line to think about.

  11. My daughter didn’t ask for food until she was over 5 years old. Getting her to eat has been a challenge. Getting her to toilet is also a challenge. She strongly disagrees when we tell her she needs to eat or drink. I’ve said from day one her internal sense is askew. She also has difficulty with internal body temperature. We often spend so much time battling over the important stuff: food, drink, toileting and not freezing to death because she treats a 20 degree day like a 90 degree day that I sometimes have nothing left to battle out anything else.

  12. Wow! Thank you for this. I have never heard of this. My son is similar. I have always felt something is different about him, but can’t get any help other than my own research. At 4m he was a 20lb chunker, but I was told not to worry because you can’t over feed a breast fed baby. He has stayed in the 99%ile for weight since, but is a solid 6y.o. he constantly snacks throughout the day. Like you, they are healthy options (at least he gets his daily veggie and fruit requirements!). He will say he is full at times, but then 30mins later he asks for something else. As well, when he was a baby we were stuck in the pureed food stage FOREVER. He would gag all the time. And he has issues with how things feel on his feet, and clothing. I think I will be looking through your blog further to learn more about SPD.

    Thank you

    • Some of the things you mention definitely raise a red flag for some sensory issues. You can find lots of my personal articles on my Sensory Processing Disorder page under “Parenting.” Also, be sure to visit my other blog — The Sensory Spectrum. You’ll get tons of articles to look through there!

  13. My goodness how interesting – I have been saying to our OT that I think my 6yo sons over eating is connected to his SPD and she said no!!! I’ve felt it had to be connected – as long as I can remember there is no filling him and I mean no filling him. He will sit with a plain loaf of bread and eat the whole thing if I let him…. people remark on it all the time – about how small he is and that they can’t believe the volume of food he consumes….. Thanku for a very interesting article.

    • Absolutely! As we’ve learned more, I also think my son’s ADD has played a part, again getting in the way of him reading any of the internal signals his body is sending to him. Either way, we know his interoceptive system is underactive in communicating with him.

  14. Wow. Interestingly enough my 6 year old has nearly the opposite problem. He rarely feels hungry. But he’s always thirsty. He confuses the two. He was diagnosed with SPD when he was two and since learning about it I immediately sensed SPD was the culprit for his feeding issues. When my son was born he did not cry. I offered to nurse and he was very meh about it. He rarely cried as on infant. I kept him on a strict feeding schedule because he wouldn’t cry to nurse. My milk started to dry up because he didn’t cluster feed like a typical baby. Yet when he started solid foods he ate SO much! He never felt hungry, nor did he feel full. He just ate everything we offered him. When he started to talk he would only ask for drinks. At six I still have to remind him he’s hungry not thirsty. He still eats everything offered to him so long as it’s not too difficult to chew (he has low tone as well). But he is very very skinny and small – though that’s probably due to a genetic syndrome he has. Yes our hands are quite full with him. He has a lot going on but he works very hard and we are proud of him.

    • He does have a lot going on! And I believe there is definitely a link with our kids internet sensory systems and understanding/recognizing hunger. Thanks for sharing your story.

  15. Thank goodness for Pinterest because thats how I found this article.My 4 year old is exaclty the same always saying she is hungry always focused on food – will have a melt down if I ask her to wait etc. She has some other SPD that we are working on (light and mouthing everything) I started offering her chewing gum a few months ago and it helps her to self manage. I will be looking into interoception for sure

  16. My daughter has SPD, and she has the opposite problem – she doesn’t feel hunger. She is now 7, and she’s starting to recognize hunger, but still not like a typical child. I didn’t hear about the interoceptive sense until she was almost 5…and it finally made sense!!

  17. This is exactly what my daughter with SPD goes through and until now, I didn’t know of any one else going through this. I always thought it was sensory related! Thank you so much for sharing this!

  18. So interesting – I had this conversation today with my daughter’s pre school she is hungry and tells me so from 5am until 7pm. I offer as many healthy snacks as possible. She’s been dairy and egg intolerant since 6 months old so I have to carefully watch what I give her. If she’s eaten a lot (sometimes more than what I have) she will demand more food and if I tell her she’s had enough she’ll become aggressive and hit me. We’ve had to put a stair Gate that she can’t open onto the kitchen as she will just raid all cupboards and fridge – while I was changing her sister’s nappy she once ate 6 yogurts one after the other and made herself sick. Parties with buffet food are the worst!

  19. Thank you so much. I have been struggling with this with my daughter since birth. I thought something was wrong because my daughter was always hungry. Even had the doctors test her. She does have SPD and 11q deletion. Thank you again.

  20. I have two kiddos who might have sensory processing disorder, I guess. I never thought a whole lot about it before. I do have a nephew and a niece with this condition (maybe more). After reading this blog post, I wonder if my two youngest daughters have it. My almost-16-year-old is almost never “full”, and my youngest daughter was like your son when newborn. I fed her constantly. And she seems to be a super picky eater, but she likes ordinary foods, for the most part. Ever heard of a super taster?

  21. Yes! My two year old foster daughter has sensory processing disorder. She is always wanting more food. She finishes breakfast and instantly wants lunch. I would love any insight or ideas. We have tried oral beads to chew on and that does help a little.

  22. My son barely eats, and has gotten worse on meds for adhd, but he was always a picky eater and often would barely touch his food. Getting him to eat at home was difficult but getting him to eat anywhere else was impossible. I now wonder if this may be part of it. I’ve suspected he’s on the higher end of the autism spectrum and has sensory processing issues, but I’ve met resistance and disbelief from family and dismissal from his pediatrician, now I’m trying to switch pediatricians as my son is now almost 10 and nearly resembles a walking skeleton he’s so skinny but his current pediatrician seems to not see it as cause to be concerned. Thank you for sharing this information.

  23. Our issues with interception show up a bit differently. My 4 yr old cannot tell when he is hungry or thirsty, hot or cold, etc. So he will go and go and go without eating or drinking (despite desperate attempts by myself or husband to get something into him) and then have a total sensory meltdown/shut down because he is hungry or thirsty. It’s a struggle to finally break through and then he eats 3 sandwiches or drinks 2 full water bottles in a sitting. And it’s crazy because it has been like this since birth for us too – we were the parents waking up our sleeping newborn trying to get him to eat because he wasn’t gaining weight.