180 Nutrition: If you’re trying to lose weight, or even just attempting to create some healthier habits, one of the most challenging parts of controlling your calorie intake is battling with the physical feelings of hunger.
Ignoring the grumbling stomach pangs which have long since been the tell-tale sign that you need to put something in your mouth, and stat, is not something that’s easy to overcome. Especially when the cravings kick in, and that metaphorical horse you could eat is looking less and less metaphorical by the second!
As blood sugar levels drop, you might start to feel lightheaded or nauseous, and those less-than-obvious stomach growls will let you, and everyone around you, know that it’s time for you to refuel.
And while that’s not a problem in itself, the potential problem is that eating can be extremely habitual.
If you’ve never consciously tried to watch what, how, and when you eat, your brain will send signals to tell your body that you’re hungry when it expects something in your stomach. And this, in fact, might not be the case, it might just be your habit talking.
If you want to know more about breaking habits, read our article here. If you’re navigating your way through a health and fitness journey and you’re struggling with the discomfort that hunger is causing you, here are our five best tips to suppress your appetite, without you having to eat an extra morsel.
1) Have a drink of water
It’s not just an old wives’ tale; the symptoms of dehydration can also present themselves as hunger. Dizziness, weakness and confusion (all classic signs of hunger) are also caused by the brain needing a big drink of H20. You should drink anywhere between two and three litres of water throughout the day as standard to achieve optimal health, but if you’ve eaten recently yet your stomach has already started to rumble, try a drink of water to quench your thirst before reaching for another snack.
2) Go for a walk
If you haven’t eaten in hours and your stomach is genuinely empty, I don’t necessarily recommend physical activity if you don’t have the energy to sustain yourself. However, people often eat out of boredom. If you’re used to dipping your hands in the cookie jar to beat the mid-afternoon slump, take a walk around the block instead. Get your blood pumping and distract yourself from what you perceive to be hunger. If you’re still hungry when you get back, treat yourself to a snack, but you’ll probably find that the activity has helped the craving to pass.
3) Control stress
When you’re susceptible to stress, the spike in cortisol that floods your body makes you feel hungry even if your stomach is full. Believing that you need extra energy to fight off threats, your body goes into fight or flight mode and searches wherever it can for the extra energy it thinks it needs.
While it’s not always immediately possible to control the stressful situation that you’re in, you can try to reduce your bodies’ response by following some simple tips.
4) Eat two small meals rather than one big one
If you regularly eat big meals, split your portion size in half and get used to eating little and often. Your stomach is only the size of a large fist, so you don’t need any more food than that on your plate at any one time. Eating less will relieve pressure on your digestive system, but as you get hungry again in a couple of hours, you can then eat the other half of your portion alleviating the need for two large meals.
5) Eat mindfully
When you eat a meal, it’s easy to become distracted by everything that’s going on around you, but these distractions don’t give your brain time to recognise that your stomach’s full so you keep eating way past your limit.
Make a conscious effort to remove distractions during mealtime, chew your food slowly, and taste every mouthful. This will give your brain time to signal when you’re full, so you can stop eating earlier. Smaller portions will then help reduce your appetite over time, so you’ll naturally eat less.
Of course, what we really recommend if you’re trying to lose weight is a diet rich in whole natural foods, protein, fibre and good fats which you can eat what whenever your body tells you it’s time. (in moderation for the higher calorie foods).
Learning to count nutrients, not calories is the key to effective weight loss but follow these simple steps to make sure you only eat when you’re really hungry.