Most people jump straight into a diet without thinking ahead for the possible changes they may experience mentally, hormonally, and physically. We are of course talking hunger today, and usually for most, after a few rounds of avoiding cravings or suppressing hunger pangs, they eventually break and eat everything in their sight, ruining their diet and potentially putting them in a worse position than they started.
First off, it’s key to note that as you get leaner and body fat starts to hit lower and lower numbers, you will undoubtedly experience some level of hunger. Hormonally your body secretes less leptin driving you to feel hungrier, and more ghrelin to make you feel empty and wanting to eat. Physically your body will attempt to reduce energy expenditure through non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) in order to preserve energy, pushing you to feel more tired, sluggish and not want to complete workouts, and mentally you may start to fantasise about food and when your next meal is coming.
We all wish there was an easier way to diet and while the body is smart, hunger can be outsmarted to a degree to assist in adhering to your diet. While hunger should be welcomed to a degree as it is a sign of being on the right track, there are ways you can strategize your eating to improve satiety and reduce hunger signals from your body.
While this sounds obvious, your body usually craves energy dense foods that pack a large amount of calories in a small amount of volume. These tend to be what we consider “junk foods” with some examples being chocolates, oily foods, and highly-processed food items. To outsmart that brain of yours, you need to firstly avoid what you are craving, and instead eat foods that can help you feel satiated without going overboard on calories - protein and fibre.
Protein and fibre usually come in the form of meat, seafood, poultry, fruits and vegetables. These foods are generally harder to overeat and will have you feeling fuller in proportion to the calories ingested. Imagine how much chicken breast or salad leaves you could eat before you’d reach your limit. Put them together and you’re on the road to success as you’ll quickly feel full eating at a caloric deficit.
During a diet, hunger levels go up as a result of ghrelin rising. It’s the body’s way of urging you to eat. Surprisingly however, if you ignore this signal and not eat, ghrelin levels drop leaving you feeling normal and not hungry again. This happens on average three times a day, and sometimes a strategy many people like to use is fasting. By skipping breakfast for example, you power through the first wave of hunger and allow yourself to eat only lunch and dinner, leaving you more calories to play with that may otherwise have had you feeling unsatisfied.
Coffee, tea, and low-calorie beverages are good forms of appetite suppressants and can help you get through that wave of hunger if you decide to try this strategy. While some people fast in the morning due to not wanting to go to bed hungry, there are those that prefer to do evening fasts. Experimenting to see how you feel is usually the best way to go.
The usual culprit for snacking or going out to eat is boredom. When you have nothing else to do and you’re feeling hungry from your diet, it’s going to be the only thing you will think about. Eventually the thought of eating plagues your mind and only those strong-willed enough can push away their desires.
Make it simple and just do things. Go for a walk, complete any work you need to finish, do some chores around the house you’ve been putting off. If you think back to a time when you were extremely busy and had to work non-stop, you would remember that you’d likely have forgotten to eat and not even realised you felt hungry. Simply recreate that scenario and make yourself less vulnerable to hunger.
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