It’s not in your head—and you have not fallen for the widespread urban myth. If that bag of chips tastes incredibly good after smoking pot, it’s because the connection between cannabis and munchies is real. The stereotype of cannabis and munchies is slowly proving to be true, as studies show a link between THC and a hormone that stimulates appetite.
Believe it or not, this is one of the biggest struggles of marijuana consumers. The munchies are half the fun of consuming pot, but gaining ten pounds after a couple of months is definitely not.
Can you control “the munchies?” Here are some practical tips to help you out.
Why Cannabis Makes You So Hungry
Before taking control of your munchies, you should understand why it happens. “The munchies,” or increased appetite, is a common side effect of marijuana and occurs as a result of a chemical reaction between the brain and THC. THC is the component in cannabis that makes the user “stoned.”
THC makes you crave sweet and fatty foods by activating several mechanisms in the body. THC increases appetite by interacting with the part of the brain that controls hunger—the component affects the CB1 receptors of the endocannabinoid system. The endocannabinoid system plays a role in controlling the vital systems in the human body, affecting sleep, hormones, and mood, to maintain homeostasis. By affecting the CB1 receptors located in areas of the brain involved in controlling appetite, THC promotes appetite.
A 2015 animal study found that the CB1 receptor “is critical for the central regulation of food intake.” The study was published in Nature and showed that activating the CB1 receptor in the brain can trigger the desire to eat. Cannabinoids boosted a group of nerve cells called POMC or pro-opiomelanocortin neurons that, when activated, promote hunger even if the person has eaten well before consuming marijuana. 
Does Eating a Good Meal before a Marijuana Sesh Help Reduce the Munchies?
It depends. It is always important to listen to your body, so if you notice that eating a good meal before a session will make your munchies less intense, then you should go for it. However, science tells us a different story connected to the fact that THC increases ghrelin, a hormone that stimulates appetite.
One of the most important roles of ghrelin is to regulate appetite and energy homeostasis. If you are hungry, your stomach secretes more ghrelin, which tells the brain to activate the sensation of hunger. THC does the same, except you don’t have to be hungry for the hormone to be produced. 
Now that we’ve explained why cannabis makes you hungry, you might be wondering why when you are eating after smoking a joint or consuming an edible, the food is super delicious compared to when you are not high. Well, that has to do with the dopamine, or the “feel-good” chemical being released in the brain, which gets you more pleasure from eating. THC can sharpen the sense of smell and taste, making you want to eat more.
It is true…you are not really hungry. But for those of you for whom “Don’t start eating in the first place” advice after smoking doesn’t work, here are some tips to help you control what you eat.
Getting distracted is one of the most efficient ways to control the compulsive need to eat after taking pot. If you like yoga or you always wanted to try it, having the munchies may be the perfect way to start. Exercising will keep your mind occupied, and it is great for your body.
But let’s be real—aside from taking a walk, who wants to exercise when high (except for those people who can’t sit still after taking pot, maybe)? Some people like to smoke after exercising, which also helps them prevent the munchies.
So, to take your mind off eating, you can cook, clean, or simply do some chores instead. Cooking may work better because you are in control of what you eat and you know that after you are done, there is a tasty reward waiting for you. But make sure you have all healthy ingredients—because otherwise, you are cheating.
We know that when munchies hit hard, you won’t reach for broccoli, but healthy eating can be tasty as well. That’s right—get all the necessary vitamins, minerals, and stay hydrated with grapes, pineapples, raspberries, and watermelon. It’s easier said than done, but you might want to look for some healthy recipes online and prepare to tackle the munchies.
The first step to achieving this is to stop loading the pantry with unhealthy food—and try to never order takeout. If you are not a cucumber or a lettuce person, maybe go for a less healthy alternative, like reduced-calorie ice cream.
If you look for online advice on how other people control the munchies, you are likely to come across this tip.
According to anecdotal evidence, sunflower seeds help people manage their munchies because you not only have something to eat, but you also get distracted by cracking the shell. That pretty much kills two birds with one stone, so you might want to try it out. Popcorn also may help you resist that pizza.
Sometimes, when you are bored (or stoned), you can mistake thirst for hunger. So, one solution for the munchies can be to drink a lot of water before and after getting high. Every time you want to eat that pizza, drink a glass of water and wait for a while.
For many, sparkling water helps. This will definitely work only if you have good self-control, so make sure also to do something else and have a healthy snack around, even if that means locking your pizza inside your fridge.
If you have been avoiding flossing for reasons we all know too well, you might find it satisfying when you are stoned. Plus, who wants to eat after having brushed their teeth? The mint taste in the mouth is likely to keep you from touching all that yummy food. Also, if you have been eating cookies, then you will get fresh breath that takes away the sweet taste in your mouth.
A Spike in Junk Food Consumption
A report that looked into the irresistible urge to consume food after using cannabis found that in counties located in states where recreational marijuana is legal, monthly sales of high-calorie food showed an increase. 
More specifically, researchers saw a 3.1-percent increase in ice cream purchases and a 5.3-percent increase in chip purchases right after the legalization of recreational marijuana. Also, there was a 4.1-percent increase in purchasing cookies, which remained high compared to ice cream and chip purchasing, which slowly declined over the months. The authors concluded:
“We find a substitution effect between recreational use of marijuana for each category of high-calorie food considered. In particular, we find that legalizing recreational marijuana leads to an increase in sales of junk food.”
Cannabis and munchies is pretty much a love-and-hate relationship. Find the middle ground with these tips and remember that you are not actually hungry. If nothing works, from time to time, it’s okay to devour that pizza anyway.
- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3566541/#b0075 [Introduction: Paragraph 4 and 5]