Hunger Management: Unfortunately, hunger is a normal part of being in a calorie deficit. But you shouldn’t be starving, nor should you be constantly thinking about food or when your next meal is going to be.
Considering this, and as we know hunger can be a challenge for many eating in a calorie deficit for weight loss, today we’ll go over a handful of easy-to-implement strategies to help keep hunger to a minimum.
Some of them are based on the type of food you are eating or on beverage consumption around meal times. And others are based on lifestyle habits that can dramatically improve your results. Keep in mind that none of these strategies in isolation will cause you to lose fat if you aren’t in a calorie deficit; rather, these strategies will make fat loss significantly more manageable and sustainable.
1 – Prioritize Protein.
As higher protein intakes have been shown to increase satiety, this is recommendation #1 (finding the intake strategy that works best for you and your unique lifestyle/ circumstances is key).
By consuming more of your calories in protein (as lean meats/ meat alternatives and/ or high protein plant foods), your hunger levels can be reduced substantially, even if you are still lowering your calories in order to lose weight. Because protein’s anti-hunger effects are pretty transient, trying to consume plenty of protein spread through most of your daily meals is a better idea than simply eating the extra protein in one or two meals.
2 – Focus on Veggies and Fruits.
Veggies and fruits (especially fresh ones) generally have a significant amount of fibre and water. This makes them both low in calories and very voluminous. Their high volume takes up a lot of space in our GI tract, pushing up against it and helping to signal our brain that we are full.
Eating more of our calories as veggies and fruits provides us with so many health & vitality boosting benefits, but it also reduces hunger and can notably help us stay on track with our intake goals.
3 – Drink Ample Fluids.
Studies show that drinking water as well as eating water-rich foods (such as produce – as mentioned above – or soup) before a meal can help address cravings that come up and decrease how much we eat during the meal. Additionally, ensuring we’re well hydrated can help prevent headaches, which can lead to stress eating and other less-desirable habits.
When sitting down to eat, drinking a few glasses of water and/or starting with a water-based appy if appropriate is a good practice and encouraged to provide some satiety before eating the main meal.
4 – Go Easy on Saturated Fats and Sugars.
People eat more tasty foods than bland foods, so over-consumption tends to be easier in the face of them. Almost every kind of junk food is loaded with saturated fats and sugars which taste very good to us. And it stands to be true that fats and sugars are very energy dense… they pack a lot of calories per bite… so can have a significant impact on our overall calorie consumption.
Processed foods usually have the highest amount of saturated fats and sugars, AND they are designed to be as delicious as technology will allow. Case in point – if you are on a weight loss plan and you are cutting calories, starting with cuts to mostly processed foods high in saturated fats (fatty meats/ meat substitutes and dairy, most junk food) and sugars (non-diet sodas, juices, desserts, most junk foods) not only reduces calories very effectively, it can make you crave those calorie-dense foods less.
5 – Try Not to Eat Out of Boredom.
Occasionally eating for reasons other than true hunger can be healthy (such as sharing a tasty meal with friends and loved ones and not paying close attention to your hunger cues – this happens to most of us at some time or another).
But if you rely on food as a big source of entertainment and comfort, you are going to pile on the calories pretty quickly and this is not a healthy coping strategy in general. It can quickly lead to feelings of guilt around eating, which is never desirable.
By making sure you are cultivating some combination of engaging relationships and/ or activities that create a full life (including friends, family, hobbies, career etc.), you reduce eating to just something you usually have to do that pulls you away from what you really like, rather than something you really like that pulls you away from something you have to do.
Implementing these strategies will make losing weight and achieving your body comp goals significantly easier, more enjoyable, and sustainable in the long term.
That said, remember, hunger is a normal part of the process. You should not be starving or ravenous, but a little hunger is actually a good sign because it means you’re in a calorie deficit and burning body fat.
Use these strategies (and develop your own along the way) to mitigate hunger as much as possible. But always keep in mind that a bit of hunger is not an emergency; it is part of the process.