Hunger is built into every single living creature. It is a basic instinct that we all share! It is our body’s way of telling us when we need fuel for our bodies. Unfortunately, although the feeling of being hungry is the very thing that keeps us alive, it is also often the same thing that sabotages our weight loss and dieting efforts.
One of the biggest reasons people quit their diets is because they get hungry! And relying on willpower is not the best strategy, especially when it comes to something like weight loss. This is especially true when it is so easy to get our hands on cheap, quick, and delicious foods when cravings strike. So you need to figure out a way to eat less but, at the same time, not feel hungry.
What Is Hunger And Why Do We Get Hungry?
There are two hormones, which are actually called “the hunger hormones”, which are responsible for our feelings of hunger. They are Leptin and Ghrelin.
The first hormone, leptin, is released by our body fat when we eat, and it tells our brain that we are full.
Leptin is a hormone your adipose tissue (body fat) releases that helps your body maintain your normal weight on a long-term basis. It does this by regulating hunger by providing the sensation of satiety (feeling full).Cleveland Clinic | Leptin And Leptin Resistance
Not only does leptin help to regulate our hunger, but it has also been found to boost your immunity, build healthy bones and reduce inflammation. So it is an amazing all-round hormone!
When our leptin levels are low, our bodies release the second hunger hormone Ghrelin which tells our brain that we need food, hence the feeling of hunger.
Ghrelin is also responsible for any cravings that we may have. For example, you could happily be sitting and watching TV when, all of a sudden, an advert comes on with the juiciest burger you have ever seen! A pure beef burger patty covered in melted cheese and bacon, topped with fresh tomatoes and lettuce, paired with a side of fries! And suddenly, you have to have it even though you weren’t hungry before!
I think this happens to all of us, some people crave fast foods, others crave sweet foods and other savory foods.
There’s another element that comes into the equation when it comes to limiting hunger cravings – Triglycerides. Triglycerides are a type of fat cell that is found in our blood that can cause resistance to leptin. If our bodies become resistant to leptin, then there is nothing there to tell us we are full and need to stop eating. As I’m sure you can see, this can become a really big problem, especially if you are trying to lose weight!
This is all good and well but what if you really want to lose weight. How do you prevent hunger and control your cravings?
Here are a few ways you can minimize these feelings of hunger:
Don’t Eat Sugar
Sugar is one of those things that really can cause havoc in your body. This is especially true when it comes to feelings of hunger! Sugar is known to increase blood glucose levels and causes spikes in insulin levels. It also causes an increase in our blood’s triglyceride levels. Because it increases our triglyceride levels, it also lowers our leptin levels which in turn triggers ghrelin to tell our body that we need food.
As you can see, this could become a vicious cycle that over time can make it more and more difficult for us to lose weight.
Eat Foods Rich In Omega-3
As we saw earlier in this article, Triglycerides can cause our body to become resistant to leptin. Omega-3-rich foods are a great way to reduce triglyceride levels in the bloodstream thereby increasing your sensitivity to leptin. This is great because you will feel less hungry and avoid any cravings that could tempt you to cheat!
A couple of examples of Omega-3-rich foods include oily fish such as anchovies, herring, mackerel, salmon, sardines, and trout. If you don’t enjoy fish you can instead include things like flaxseeds, flaxseed oil, walnuts, soy foods, chia seeds, and canola oil.
Add More Fiber To Your Diet
Fiber is a fantastic way to feel full and avoid any of those nasty cravings! And fiber packs a double punch because not only does it increase the volume of the food you eat which can make you feel full, but just like Omega-3 foods, it also lowers the triglyceride levels in your blood. Fiber also takes longer to digest, curbs sugar cravings, and keeps your blood sugar levels steady. An added bonus is that fiber also reduces constipation, improves heart health and even reduces the risk of some cancers.
Eat these foods to increase the fiber in your diet:
- Fruits – Avocado, Pears, Strawberries, Apples, Bananas, Raspberries
- Vegetables – Beets, Carrots, Brussel Sprouts, Broccoli, Artichoke, Kale, Sweet Potatoes, Spinach
- Beans – Lentils, Split Peas, Chickpeas, Kidney Beans, Black Beans, Baked Beans
- Cereals – Oats, Quinoa, Popcorn
- Nuts & Seeds – Chia Seeds, Almonds, Walnuts, Sunflower Seeds, Pumpkin Seeds
Add More Protein To Your Diet
Adding more protein to your diet is also another great way to prevent hunger and cravings which in turn will help you lose weight. Protein foods fill you up quickly and will keep you feeling full for longer. They also help you to build muscle while losing weight which is great if you are working on your six pack abs!
Think about this, a whole chicken contains about 1295 calories. and an 8oz bag of crisps has about 1208 calories (Reference: Nutritionix). Now I don’t know about you, but I would never be able to eat a whole chicken in one sitting, but a bag of crisps isn’t too difficult to scoff down! The reason why you would never be able to eat the whole chicken in one sitting is because of its protein content. So, by adding protein-rich foods to your diet, you can really cut down on cravings and feelings of hunger.
Just like sugar, alcohol increases the triglycerides in your blood which can in turn make you feel hungry. If you are anything like me then things like crisps, peanuts, fries, and any other snacks or junk food become irresistible after a drink or two.
Drink Lots Of Water
Drinking water is a great way to reduce feelings of hunger! This is because water can make you feel full when hunger hits. Not a fan of water, you can also drink tea… without sugar of course 😉
There is another added benefit to drinking water, especially if you do so before a meal. It has been found that if you drink water before a meal that you are inclined to eat less. This has also been found to be true if you have a light soup before your actual main meal.
Fasting might seem completely counterintuitive but it can actually help you to manage hunger and cravings because your body will start to get used to extended periods when you don’t eat. And intermittent fasting doesn’t have to be a drag!
There are two popular ways to do intermittent fasting. The first is a daily method whereby you eat for only a certain number of hours each day. For example, you can try the 16/8 method. This is where you would fast for 16 hours a day and then only eat for 8. I have been following this fasting method for ages now and it really isn’t difficult to stick to. In our case, we eat our first meal at around 9 am every morning, and then we make sure that we have our final meal at around 5 pm. This works really well for our family, and it isn’t difficult for us to stick to. Of course, it doesn’t matter if we eat a bit earlier or later on any given day as long as the routine is generally there. And you don’t need to stick to the 16/8 method. If that doesn’t work for you, maybe try 15/9.
The second way is called the 5:2 method. This is where you would eat normall for five days of the week. For the other two days you would only have one meal of about 500 – 600 calories. A lot of people however find the 16/8 easier to maintain over a longer period. Just keep in mind that it will take about three to four weeks for your body to get used to your new routine so don’t become discouraged.
Of course, remember to check with your doctor before you start doing any type of fasting especially if you have diabetes or are pregnant.
Foods That Can Lower Triglycerides In Your Blood
If Triglycerides are responsible for supressing leptin then it would make sense to try to lower triglyceride levels so that you don’t feel hungry.
- Oily Fish – Sardines, Salmon, Anchovies
- Vegetables – Leafy Green Vegetables, Butternut, Green Beans, Cauliflower, Salad Greens
- Fruits – Citrus Fruits and Berries such as Blueberries, Blackberries, Strawberries
- Legumes – Peas, Lentils, Beans, Chickpeas
- Lean Meats – Poultry, Fish
- Unsweetened Drinks – Herbal Teas, Green Tea, Water
- Fat-Free / Low Fat Dairy Products – Cheese, Yogurt, Milk
- Whole Grains – Brown Rice, Barley, Whole Grain Bread
- Nuts & Seeds
It isn’t great feeling hungry, especially when you are trying to lose weight! However, all isn’t lost. By understanding how your body works and why you get hungry and have cravings in the first place, it is a lot easier to customise your diet to include things that will help you feel fuller for longer.