When you’re on a fat loss program, the hunger pangs are normal. It’s not realistic to expect that by restricting calories, there will be no feeling of hunger at all. But if every time you feel a bit hungry – whether it is when your calorie needs for the day have already been met or not – and make impulsive decisions about food (either eating them impulsively or denying yourself), then this can lead to going back in forth between taking one step forward and two steps backward.
Do you think that the only reason your stomach growls when it’s empty is just because there’s nothing in it? Think again. As a result of calorie restriction, many hormones are secreted from both fat cells and other organs to stimulate hunger – things like Ghrelin, Leptin, CCK or Neuropeptide YY. They work together as one big system which regulates body weight under different conditions (e.g., dieting).
These hormones communicate with the central nervous system in a way that would be described as turning up the hunger dial a notch. When calories go down, your appetite increases, and you start looking for food to eat.
The stricter your diet is, the more frequent and more severe hunger bangs you will get. This is why the slow and steady approach to fat loss is always the better one. A more conservative calorie deficit means slower weight loss for sure, but also less hunger, and less chances of binging and falling off the diet wagon.
If you wanted to use a lower-calorie “fast weight loss program” provided it was adequate in nutrients and does not recommend anything unhealthy, that’s certainly your prerogative. However, prolonged very low-calorie diets are far more likely to crank up the hunger dial. If you’re the type of person prone to cravings or emotional eating or bingeing on food when they can’t get any for some time (perhaps due to scarcity in their life), crash dieting is probably something best avoided because it will only lead back into those habits as soon as there’s an opportunity again – at which point people often find themselves heavier than before starting out on this strategy!
Certain individuals have the dietary restraint and willpower to bear the hunger and therefore they are able to lose weight quicker. But in nearly all cases, hunger bangs and missing out on your favorite foods, gets the best of everyone, while the overeating that occurs after dieting puts the weight back on. According to the National Weight Control Registry and Oxford University, 80-95% of all dieters gain all the weight back that they lost. The main culprit is uncontrolled hunger.
That’s why we need to have strategies for how you’re going to handle hunger and cravings. With both a physical challenge, as well as with mental challenges, the strategies that work best are ones that take care of both needs – like thinking about what exercise can be done or planning your meals in advance so it’s easier on yourself without being too restrictive.
Psychological strategies to handle hunger while dieting
Cognitive psychologist Judith Beck stated that “hunger is not an emergency.”
This is true but people these days are conditioned to start looking for food whenever they feel even the slightest hunger. The truth is that nothing bad will happen if you don’t eat when you are hungry. As long as you follow common-sense strategies of a proper nutrition plant for losing weight. Being able to deal with hunger is necessary to build discipline and help you lose fat of course.
But you should not be feeling ravenous or starving when dieting. If you do feel ravenously hungry when dieting, then there are most likely some nutritional issues to address and some physical strategies you need to follow.
You may feel like you are a disciplined Olympian with the willpower of a monk, but when you’re in constant and severe hunger there is nothing more alluring than food. The temptation becomes too much to resist, destroying your focus on anything else that might have been important before. Thankfully, there are natural ways for controlling it by replacing unhealthy habits with healthier ones!
10 Science-Based Tips to Handle Hunger While Dieting
1. Eat a proper breakfast and do not skip planned meals.
There is a strong correlation between skipping meals and late-day hunger and binging. NES (Night-Time Eating Syndrome) is an eating disorder that has been clinically recognized. People who regularly eat breakfast are far less likely to suffer from NES.
2. Eat some protein with every meal.
Protein suppresses appetite better than any other macronutrient. A study from the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle found that swapping out a small amount of carbs and putting protein in its place (increasing from 15% protein to 30%) improved weight loss by increasing leptin sensitivity and reducing hunger. The extra protein doesn’t necessarily have to come from animal foods but can and should also come from plant-based sources.
3. Avoid diets that are very low in fat.
Don’t cut all the fat out of your diet. Very low-fat diets often increase hunger, and cutting back on flavor will make you even more hungry! Dietary fats don’t curb hunger as well as lean protein but they do slow down gastric emptying, helping to provide a mixed meal that is not only made up of carbs for energy – this helps with blood sugar levels too. Fat also provides psychological satiety and satisfaction through its added flavourings in foods which boosts taste and texture making them super satisfying at the same time (which makes it harder to overeat). So go ahead; indulge yourself every now again without fear.
4. Eat at least 14 grams of fiber per 1000 calories.
Fiber is essential for your gut health and fiber is also very satiating, providing bulk to your meals without excess calories. Great sources of fiber are from fruits and vegetables, whole grains, starchy root vegetables and legumes. The average American consumes 15 grams of fiber a day but it is recommended to get at least 14 grams of fiber per 1000 calories. If you are consuming 3000 calories per day, you should eat 42 grams of fiber per day
5. Drink plenty of water and non-caloric beverages when hungry.
Although water is not an appetite suppressant, it does take up space in the stomach. If you are drinking a non-caloric or low-calorie drink, it also gives you psychological benefits. Tea and coffee are good examples of such beverages. Other people like to drink carbonated water because the carbonation makes them feel temporarily fuller and with some flavor or juice, it is a better alternative to diet soda. Liquids don’t satisfy people’s hunger as well as foods does, which is why it is important not to drink high-calorie beverages, such as dessert coffees and sodas
6. Experiment with different carbs to see what makes you feel fuller.
It can be difficult to find foods that satisfy you when dieting. Most people say they feel fuller after eating oatmeal, while others are unsatisfied by wheat flakes- though the two have similar calorie counts and nutrients. For some, this is an individual thing; for example, one person may only fill up on a certain type of food whereas another doesn’t react well to it at all. It’s important not just to eat what your body tells you as their needs also need enough calories in order for optimal health! To keep track of which types work best with their bodies’ preferences or limitations (and vice versa), try keeping a journal. You can learn a lot from your journal
7. Use refeed days or calorie/carb cycling and allow yourself free meals.
Research has shown that it is much easier to stick with a nutrition program if you have planned free meals and refeeds. Let’s suppose for example, nothing else helps; you are just always hungry on the diet. Well who says you always have to stay in calorie deficit 100% of the time? It’s actually built-in features of any good food plan allowing for periodic controlled overfeeding days or “refeed” day as they’re sometimes called, during which cravings can be satisfied without derailing your progress!
The difficulty of hunger is a mental struggle you can overcome with the knowledge that refeed days are coming. The psychological motivation, or need to eat more than usual for food cravings and increased appetite, helps ease one’s mind during this temporary dieting phase in order to endure what would otherwise be an arduous task. Refeeds also provide motivational relief when they come by reminding oneself “I won’t have my struggles forever.
8. Exercise to reduce hunger.
Exercise has been shown to decrease appetite but also increase appetite. Most research shows that it decreases appetite and helps psychologically to improve compliance to a diet. But there are some exceptions, such as swimming in cold water, which increases appetite.
High intensity cardio generally supresses appetite, while fasted morning cardio often increases appetite. Some individuals are just compensators, who eat lots of food right after exercise because they feel they have earned this food for exercising. But they nearly always end up consuming more calories than they burned with exercise. There are also people who are stricter with their diet when exercising regularly because they feel the extra eating would undo all the benefits they got from training.
9. Getting enough sleep to handle hunger.
The University of Chicago and the University of Wisconsin have released a new study that conclusively shows how sleep deprivation leads to increased hunger hormones, which in turn causes us to snack more during the day. When you are sleeping you won’t feel the hunger as well.
10. Drink less alcohol.
You know that thing about alcohol distorting your body’s perception of hunger, satiety and fullness? Yeah, it turns out drinking can have a serious impact on the way you eat. It has been found to stimulate additional eating or add extra calories not compensated for which leads to positive energy balance. So if research says don’t drink because it might make you fat – there is solid proof!
If you drink alcohol, beware that there are some serious consequences. You could end up getting a belly or even more fat than before when your hormones get all messed up from the liquid poison! Men have an especially difficult time because their hormone levels will be thrown off by drinking alcohol and it’s often worse for them than women. Women might be able to compensate in ways men can’t while they’re under this influence but then again maybe not as much either.