Nothing is more frustrating than when you are dieting and suddenly you get ravenously hungry… with only junk food around. Hunger is something we all experience—it’s our body’s way of telling us we need nourishment. But hunger can feel like a destructive force when you are struggling to control your eating habits. The key is to manage your hunger effectively to avoid binges and unhealthy splurges, especially if you are on a weight loss journey. How do you do that? There are a few basic keys to keeping your hunger under control.
Skipping meals may seem like a good way to cut back on calories. But you can’t trick your body. Our bodies are controlled by what is known as a circadian rhythm. This takes place between enzymes, cells, and hormones to ensure that the body is functioning at its full capacity. This process also controls hunger. Cells in the stomach that release ghrelin (the hunger hormone) act according to a typical schedule. Based on when you usually eat, ghrelin is released, to ensure that you feel hungry and ready for food.
This means that if you try to skip lunch, and you normally eat lunch, your hunger will be out of control by dinner. It is better to cut back how much you are eating rather than trying to cut out meals.
If you’re always eating the same foods and meals, you may find yourself getting hungry even after you have eaten. Most likely this hunger happens because you’re not satisfied and lacking nutrients. Ensuring you have a range of foods over the week is important to get the proper range of nutrients and so you’ll look forward to your meals. Eating only the same old boring foods can lead to binge eating as well as giving you only a limited range of nutrients.
Variety is a win-win for you. It is healthier and more exciting, which leads to you feeling better and not feeling deprived.
You’ve probably heard all about the importance of fibre. But it can’t be underestimated. Our bodies are made to eat a certain way and not giving our body what it needs leads to imbalances… this is why even after eating, we’ll often get hungry way too soon and go for whatever food is readily available—foods that usually only perpetuate this cycle. And I am far from the only person who sees this as important.
“The average diet in Europe today contains about 15g of fibre per day,” said lead author of the study Professor Gary Frost, from the Department of Medicine at Imperial College London. “In stone-age times we ate about 100g per day but now we favour low-fibre ready-made meals over vegetables, pulses and other sources of fibre. Unfortunately, our digestive system has not yet evolved to deal with this modern diet and this mismatch contributes to the current obesity epidemic. Our research has shown that the release of acetate is central to how fibre suppresses our appetite and this could help scientists to tackle overeating.”
Try keeping a full bottle of water next to you. Drinking water can help to reduce your cravings. The cells that secrete ghrelin act according to a schedule, they are also sensitive to stretch when food is consumed, which is one of the reasons why you no longer feel hungry after a meal.
Consuming water has a similar result on ghrelin as eating food as it can stretch these cells, helping you feel fuller without impacting your calorie intake. Drinking water before and in between meals results in reduced hunger cravings. So if you are feeling peckish between meals, pick up that water, and it can tide you over until it is time to eat without leaving you hangry.
You may think that working out just makes you hungrier—and often it does in the immediate aftermath. But it also burns more calories so your body needs more fuel. In addition to this, you may not know that exercise increases leptin (another hunger hormone) transport into the brain which helps some hunger signals work better. Research suggests that exercise has a benefit in hunger control. So don’t hold off on exercise when trying to fight off the munchies, it just may help you keep those cravings down in the long run.
Hunger is a good thing—it tells us when our bodies need nutrients. But in the modern world, it is important to understand hunger and what causes it and do our best to ensure our own hunger is signalling us only when it should. It is perfectly within your power to control your hunger and your diet.