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If you’ve ever tried to lose weight, there’s a good chance that you changed your diet in a way that left you feeling hungry. There is an even better chance that those hunger pangs are the reason you gave up on trying to lose weight. Committing to yet another weight loss attempt then, means finding a way to curb those feelings of endless hunger. We’ve pulled together eight of the best ways to control your appetite but before we dive into these strategies, let’s first talk about hunger.
The Science of Hunger
Scientifically speaking, hunger is the feeling you get when your body has burned up the food in your stomach, your blood sugar levels begin to drop, and the hunger hormone ghrelin starts sending signals to your brain that it’s time to eat. Your brain responds by stimulating your appetite. It’s at this point that your stomach starts to growl, your energy begins to fade and your patience wears thin. These cues help you recognize that it’s time to eat.
A similar process occurs once you’ve eaten. The appetite-suppressing hormone leptin sends signals to your brain that it’s time to stop eating. In turn, your brain responds by initiating feelings of fullness: you start to feel pressure in your stomach and often you become tired.
In essence, hunger is a survival mechanism – one that helps keep you alive.
But hunger shouldn’t be a persistent feeling, especially when you are eating on a regular basis. So what would lead you to feel hungry all the time? They’re called false hunger signals and they come in many forms.
False Hunger Signals
Your body does a pretty good job of telling you when you need food. The problem is that there are many other things that can falsely trigger the hunger sensation and can make you less sensitive to your natural hunger cues. These things include:
Sometimes we think we are hungry when really it’s just a craving that comes after seeing or smelling food.
Time is a cue that, out of habit, is used to determine when to eat and can lead you to think you should eat despite not actually being hungry.
Thirst is often mistaken for hunger. Next time you feel hungry, drink a glass of water and see if that curbs your appetite.
When your energy is running low from a lack of sleep or a hard workout, you might think eating will help perk you up. Though a little bit of food might give you a quick burst of energy, what your body really needs is rest.
Many people use food to cope with emotions like anxiety, stress, sadness, guilt and boredom. Unfortunately, food just acts like a band aid and doesn’t solve the underlying issues. Instead, get to the root of the problem and find other ways to manage your emotions.
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Intuitive eating is a great way to manage your hunger and meet your body’s needs. It involves reconnecting with your internal hunger cues which can help you build a healthier relationship with food—something that is key to achieving better health.
Here are the 10 principles of intuitive eating:
- Reject the diet mentality
- Honor your hunger
- Make peace with food
- Challenge the food police
- Respect your fullness
- Discover the satisfaction factor
- Honor your feelings without using food
- Respect your body
- Exercise – feel the difference
- Honor your health
To find out more about how to implement these changes, check out IntuitiveEating.com.
We realize that becoming an intuitive eater doesn’t happen overnight. As such, here are eight things you can do to start managing your hunger today.
How to Curb Your Appetite
1. Eat More Protein
Protein takes longer to digest and as such, helps to keep you feeling full. Getting enough protein is also important for preventing muscle loss during weight loss. Try adding a few eggs, a glass of milk, or a protein shake to your breakfast. Starting your day with protein is important and can help you better manage your calorie intake throughout the day.
2. Eat Fiber-Rich Foods
Like protein, fiber helps slow digestion. It also influences the release of the appetite-suppressing hormone, leptin. Be sure to include fiber-rich foods like whole grains, beans, nuts, fruits and veggies in every meal.
3. Eat Your Calories, Don’t Drink Them
Unless you are drinking tea, black coffee, water or an artificially sweetened beverage, most of the calories in your drink are likely coming from simple sugars. These digest quickly and leave you feeling hungry shortly after you consume them. Whole foods contain protein, fat, or fiber in addition to carbs (sugars)—all of which slow digestion and help keep you full, longer. This is why whole fruits are typically recommended over fruit juice as the juice lacks the fiber found in the whole fruit.
4. Fill Up On Water
Like was mentioned above, thirst is often mistaken for hunger. Next time you think you are hungry try drinking a glass or two of water. You can also drink a glass of water before every meal to help manage how much you eat.
5. Eat Mindfully
One episode of your favorite Netflix show and a bag of chips later. Sound familiar? We’ve all done it: mindlessly snacked as we watched TV. The problem is that eating while you are distracted can make it difficult for your brain to register that you are full. Eliminate distractions, eat more slowly and enjoy the food you are eating. This will make for a better experience and will leave you feeling satisfied rather than hungry or uncomfortably full.
Exercising to reduce hunger might seem counterintuitive since it burns through the energy you get from food. But research has shown that exercise reduces activation of brain regions linked to food cravings which would mean less of the hunger hormone floating around to stimulate your appetite. So, despite potentially feeling hungry shortly after a workout, you might find that regular exercise helps to suppress your appetite overall.
7. Get More Sleep
Get less than the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep per night and you risk disrupting your hunger hormone levels. Lack of sleep has been linked to higher levels of the hormone ghrelin and lower levels of the hormone leptin: not the scenario you want if you are looking to decrease your hunger.
8. Try An Appetite Suppressant
When it comes to finding a long-term solution for your hunger pangs, developing healthy lifestyle habits and becoming more in tune with your internal hunger cues are likely to give you the best results. That being said, developing new habits and reconnecting with your internal hunger cues take time and willpower, something that’s not guaranteed on any given day. As such, finding additional ways to cope with hunger can help you to be more successful in the long run.
One method is to use an appetite suppressant. Taken in the form of a pill, appetite suppressants can be used to relieve the hunger that is noticed when you first start making changes to your diet; specifically, cutting back your calories. Though there are many products on the market today, not all are effective and many are known to be unsafe.
Garcinia Cambogia—a tropical fruit extract—is one appetite suppressant that appears to be both safe and effective. Though more research is needed to better understand how it works in aiding weight management, there is evidence to support that hydroxycitric acid (HCA), a main component of the fruit, plays an important role. HCA appears to reduce food intake and body fat gain by regulating the serotonin levels related to satiety. Specifically, HCA is thought to increase the release or availability of serotonin—a brain chemical that curbs cravings and shuts off your appetite. HCA is also believed to stimulate the breakdown of fat which is important when it comes to weight management.
Losing weight and managing hunger go hand-in-hand, which is likely the reason many of us struggle to ever reach our goal weight. With so many things working to falsely trigger hunger, it’s important to reconnect with your internal hunger cues. Becoming an intuitive eater as well as practicing the eight tips listed above will boost your weight loss efforts and hopefully, have you achieving your goal weight in no time.