How To Control Hunger
Sticking to a healthy eating plan can feel like a full-time job. There’s the meal prep, carefully weighing portions, and tabulating carbohydrates, proteins, and fats to try and make sure you have the perfect balance of calories.
All of that work usually leads you in one direction: feeling hangry. It’s hardly an appropriate reward for your hard work.
Much of the difficulty of adjusting your diet is the byproduct of the two realities of any type of diet adjustment:
- When you start eating less food, hunger increases. This hunger can become unbearable, and you fall off plan.
- Many of the “dieting rules” feel unrealistic. Whether it’s feeling obligated to eat superfoods or — as we just mentioned — meal prep and macro counting, it can be expensive or draining.
Even research shows that dieting can drain your mental resources and require willpower to succeed if you’re going to avoid snacks and treats when hunger inevitably hits.
While finding a balance between health, sanity, and enjoyment is difficult for most people, here’s some good news: controlling hunger doesn’t have to be so hard.
Some simple changes to your diet — a little more of one thing, a little less of another — can have a big impact on making the process of healthy eating a little bit easier. It all starts with tricks to increase fullness and control your hunger.
When you’re not hangry all the time, life sucks a little less. You won’t hate your diet, which means you can stick with it for a longer period of time, and that is what really delivers the change you desire.
Whether you’re trying to eat better, curb your cravings, or focus on fat loss without as much frustration, these four changes can help increase your results without adding much burden.
Eat Less Often
I know what you might be thinking. Aren’t more frequent meals better? If you’re trying to gain weight or muscle, then sure. But, the outdated (and inaccurate) advice of eating more often to “boost your metabolism” can do more harm than good.
For starters, eating more often does not boost your metabolism. So if you love small meals that’s fine. But, if you eat that way thinking you’re unlocking metabolic magic, you’ve been tricked.
If you love small meals that’s fine. But, if you eat that way thinking you’re unlocking metabolic magic, you’ve been tricked.
In fact, the more frequent meals might be part of the reason you’re so hungry all the time. A Czech study had 54 people — all of whom were on a plan to reduce their food intake by 500 calories a day — either eat twice a day or six times.
While both groups lost weight, the twice-a-day group dropped their body mass index by an average of 1.23 points over 12 weeks, while the six-meals group only dropped their BMI by .82 points.
Many more studies have replicated these findings by comparing more meals vs. fewer, and the results hold up: more is not better. In fact, one study made the very definitive claim, “Higher Eating Frequency Does Not Decrease Appetite in Healthy Adults.”
From a practical standpoint, it’s much more manageable. Every meal is an opportunity to overeat or pick something that isn’t quite as healthy but you can’t resist. For many people, meal time can be stressful. So, focusing on fewer meals per day can make it easier to eat the foods your body needs to achieve your goals.
Include Protein Each Time You Eat
This one is simple: Protein is the most-filling macronutrient, compared to carbs or fats. Translation: when you eat more protein, it keeps you feeling fuller for longer and lessens hunger. Added bonus, it’s also more metabolically active (it has a higher thermic effect of food or TEF), which means your body needs to work harder to digest protein, meaning you burn more calories.
What’s more, focusing on protein might reduce “reward-driven eating,” which means you won’t find yourself endless snacking on everything in your pantry. Add it all up, and protein is a no-brainer.
Pile On Seeds
Fiber is your friend when it comes to fullness. That’s the easy part. The hard part is that — while veggies are loaded with fiber — most people struggle to eat enough servings every day. Enter seeds.
While nuts usually get most of the credit for being high in fiber (they are), they are also filled with lots of calories and can be difficult to combine with other foods. Seeds are a flexible option you can snack on, add to meals or smoothies, and help you curb your hunger.
For example, both flaxseeds and sesame seeds are high in lignans, which are an antioxidant compound found along with the dietary fiber in plants. And research suggests adding these foods can help with weight management. A study conducted by Harvard University researchers followed nearly 1,000 women over 10 years, and found that the women who ate the most foods containing the compound gained nearly 1-pound less per year than women who ate the least amount.
A small gain, yes, but over time that adds up. Try mixing a tablespoon of flaxseeds in with your yogurt, oatmeal, or your protein shake, and sprinkle sesame seeds into rice, on top of protein, or into salads.
Double Down On Fruit
Fruit gets a bad reputation because it contains sugar. But, it’s not a reputation that it deserves. If you look at the research, eating fruit is one of the best things you can do for your health. In fact, “epidemiological research has consistently shown that most types of fruit have anti-obesity effects.”
Eating more fruit means having more fruit in your home. And, the mere presence and visibility of fruit might work wonders for your hunger, according to research at Cornell University. After comparing photos of 210 kitchens and the homeowners’ waistlines, the researchers found that people who had fruit on their countertop weighed 13 pounds less than the average, while people with breakfast cereal weighed 20 pounds more. “You eat what you see,” says study author Brian Wansink, Ph.D.
And, when eating fruit, you’re setting yourself up for a diet that’s easier to follow. That’s because fruit is relatively low in calories, has reward value (because of the natural sugar) that keeps you satisfied, and is higher in fiber and water — both of which keep you full. The combined impact helps you limit overall calorie consumption, as well as avoid foods that pack on calories without helping with fullness.
When you add it all up, these minor changes can make a major dent on your hunger.
- The Art And Science Of Foods That Fill You Up
- Why Am I Hungry All The Time?
- In Control: How To Manage Sugar Cravings
Adam Bornstein is a New York Times bestselling author and, according to The Huffington Post, “one of the most inspiring sources in all of health and fitness.” An award-winning writer and editor, Bornstein was the Fitness and Nutrition editor for Men’s Health, Editorial Director at LIVESTRONG.com, and a columnist for SHAPE, Men’s Fitness, and Muscle & Fitness. He’s also a nutrition and fitness advisor for LeBron James, Cindy Crawford, Lindsey Vonn, and Arnold Schwarzenegger. His work has been featured in dozens of publications, including The New York Times, Fast Company, ESPN, and GQ, and he’s appeared on Good Morning America, The Today Show, E! News, and The Cheddar.