Your diet is starting out great. You haven’t strayed away from it all week.
You get a little hungry on the weekend, nothing terrible though. You have a few snacks over the weekend, no big deal.
You need to enjoy yourself a bit right?
Another week goes by, you are down some more weight. Feeling great.
The weekend rolls around and you are starting to notice yourself getting more hungry throughout the day, irritated, and starting to think about food more.
You stray off the diet even more this weekend. Those small snacks here and there turned into a big meal plus a few more tasty snacks.
The next week rolls around.
Motivation to stick to your diet is starting to get low and combine that with increasing hunger and cravings as this next week goes on. It gets tougher to say no to co-workers going out to lunch, even if you brought something in, because that cheeseburger sounds so much better than your chicken and spinach salad.
You give in, but instead of sticking to your plan the rest of the day, you think to yourself “well I already messed up, and I’m hungry still, so I might as well just eat whatever and start over tomorrow”
This goes on for a few more weeks, and eventually, you give up and think that dieting just isn’t for you.
I’m sure this happened to you at one point, maybe more.
Why is it easy to lose weight right away, but the longer you go on it gets tougher and tougher to stick with?
Ask most people and they will say because of hunger and cravings.
But why do we get more hungry when trying to lose weight and the leaner we get?
Without getting too scientific, this is just a normal human process that has been ingrained in us for thousands of years. This is a survival mechanism for when we didn’t know when our next meal would be.
When you start to lose weight (in order for this to happen you must be in an energy deficit, which means eating fewer calories than what you burn throughout the day) or you haven’t eaten in a while your brain thinks “oh no, I don’t know how long it’s going to be before we get energy again”, but it needs this energy (food) to survive and make sure everything runs smoothly. So these feelings of hunger you feel are survival mechanisms to get you up and to go find food.
What our body doesn’t know is that in today’s world you can find thousands of calories by taking just a few steps to the pantry and real hunger is not actually an issue for most people.
So a once important survival mechanism is now a roadblock to you achieving the body you desire.
There are some variations from person to person, as some people will experience more hunger than others.
Some factors that can make some people more hungry than others:
- Being more sedentary
- Those who grew up with less focus on nutrition/have eaten poorly their entire life
Stress is also a huge fat loss killer. When hunger and cravings increase we tend to stress out about these feelings. So by becoming more aware that hunger and cravings will go up the longer we diet and the more weight we lose, I believe this will help reduce the stress that comes along when this inevitably happens.
So what does this mean for you?
First, having awareness is a key factor when it comes to successful dieting. If you know something will be an issue at some point, you will be much more likely to overcome the issue. No fat loss diet comes without its roadblocks and setbacks, unfortunately.
Second, we can find ways to “trick our brain”, to reduce hunger and cravings, while we are dieting.
1. Choose less tasty foods
Sounds boring, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, most tasty foods tend to cause us to want to eat more. When was the last time you ate a plain potato and wanted to eat multiple potatoes? Or what about 3 chicken breasts?
On the other hand, how many times have you eaten half a bag of chips and still been hungry after? How many times have you eaten a bowl of ice cream without even realizing you ate it?
The worst part, most of the cravings we get, is of this type of food. So when you are dieting and hungry, you will most likely give in to these tasty foods.
Still enjoy these tasty treats from time to time, but just be aware they will add a good amount of calories without keeping you full. Making fat loss goals tougher in the long run.
80% of the time eat whole foods like chicken, turkey, fish, eggs, spinach, broccoli, brussell sprouts, oats, potatoes, rice, oils, avocados, etc. then the rest of the time fill in with what you want.
2. Increase protein intake
Go back to my last paragraph and see what I said about chicken. If you are looking to reduce your hunger then look at increasing your protein intake. Protein sources such as chicken, steak, fish, etc. all do a great job of helping you feel more full.
Protein uses the most energy to digest as well, albeit a small amount in the big picture.
Aim for about 1g per pound of bodyweight per day.
3. Spread out meals to avoid the really hungry stage
We have all been there, you are worn out from a long day at work and haven’t eaten since… well you think about it and it’s actually been all day and you are so hungry. A cheeseburger sounds so much better than your salmon and broccoli at home. So you go to the nearest drive-thru.
Or you did a bunch of running around all day and just forgot to eat, but you have dinner with friends that night, so you go there really hungry and eat a bit more than you wanted.
The more spread out your meals are, the more likely you are to not get to that super hungry stage. Let’s be honest, most of the time you have made a less than ideal choice food-wise, was probably when you were at that stage of being hungry, so you just ate whatever was convenient and in front of you.
Yeah, we want to avoid that.
You don’t need to do the 8 meals a day to lose body fat myth, but it does have some merit to help reduce feelings of hunger. 3-6 meals per day are perfect for most.
Planning ahead is key here. Have a general idea of what your week and days look like so you can plan your meals around times when you are going to be more tempted to overeat or go long periods of time without eating.
3 -6 meals per day. Aim to go no more than 4-5 hours without a full meal.
Which brings me to my next point….
4. Meals, not snacks.
Not having full meals is a huge fat loss killer. This goes back to the first point in a way, remember the more tasty foods you have the more likely this type of foods increases cravings and makes you hungrier, well when you snack which food are you more likely to have? Chances are its chips, soda, cookies, candy etc.
So by not having full meals that WILL fill us up, we increase our risk of eating more in subsequent meals or continuing to snack on high-calorie foods throughout the day.
You can have snacks from time to time, but make sure you are eating full meals (protein, veggie, carb, and fat) most of the time.
Aim for 1 snack per day. Everything else is meals.
5. Reduce Liquid Calories
Simple, these add calories and do nothing to reduce hunger. Therefore they should be consumed very seldomly or never during a fat loss diet.
Drink more water and diet/calorie free beverages.
6. Drink Fluid Before Meals
Drinking a glass or two of water before a meal can help fill up your stomach, which will help you to eat less during the meal.
Drink one glass of water before each meal.
7. Increase Caffeine
Caffeine can act as an appetite suppressant. Make sure its a calorie-free drink though. People will hear increase caffeine so they’ll go to Starbucks and get a coffee that has 800 calories in it or get an energy drink loaded with sugar.
Black coffee can be a great way to increase caffeine intake with few to no calories.
8. Slow down your eating
It takes time for your brain to realize you are getting full. So that’s why when you scarf down food, you usually eat more than what you intended and then you leave feeling terrible because you overate.
Slow down. Most people don’t even realize how quickly they eat. Myself included. Slowing down your eating also has the benefit of higher meal satisfaction, which means less digging in the pantry for a dessert post-meal.
Eat until 80% full, you should feel like you could eat more but you choose not to, you should be able to get up and walk/be active after your meal.
Lastly, if fat loss is your goal, the unfortunate truth is that you are going to have to be a little more hungry more times than not. You aren’t going to be able to just eat whatever you want when you want. There will be some sacrifice and it requires you to feel a little uncomfortable.
We live in a world where we expect to not change anything and results should follow immediately. Its no wonder why supplement companies make so much money each year.
So just be aware.
You’re now armed with potential strategies to help reduce the invisible enemy of fat loss.
If you want more expert nutritional/training guidance, daily accountability, and a
strategy fit to your specific needs and lifestyle, click here to apply for Online Coaching.