There’s lots of reasons that diets fail, but the biggest diet destroyer is HUNGER.
You can have all the motivation in the world or the best plan in the world, but if you get seriously hungry it’s going to be real hard to stay on track.
A quick note: In this article I’m talking only about actual physical hunger, not cravings, boredom hunger or just the mental urge to eat.
1. Focus on Nutrient-Dense Foods
A bowl of oatmeal will fill you up more than a donut. A sweet potato will satisfy you longer than sour patch kids. A giant salad will keep you full longer than a bag of chips.
You’ve likely experienced this yourself and know it to be true. This doesn’t mean that you can never have chips, it just means that if you are wanting to be the most satiated whole, nutrient-dense foods are going to make you feel a lot more full — which will likely help you make better choices (ie. not want to reach for another bag of chips).
Nutritious or “healthy” foods have more fiber and nutrition that will keep you full and nutrient-sufficient so that hunger and cravings are in check.
This is especially important if you are cutting or trying to lose weight. You can bet that if I’m in a calorie deficit, I’m prioritizing nutrient-dense foods more than when I’m in maintenance because it feels better!
2. Control the Blood Sugar Roller Coaster
So, a bowl of oatmeal will fill you up more than a donut. However neither are great choices by themselves.
Carbs eaten by themselves spike our blood sugar, which then will steeply drop and cause a roller coaster ride of hunger.
Carbs eaten with a protein or fat will not spike our blood sugar as steeply, which will not then not drop as steeply and allow for more tempered feeling of hunger (or a total lack of).
Complex carbs (think starches not sugars) don’t have quite as steep of an effect on your blood sugar, so if nothing else make sure any simple carb you eat (fruit, non-fibrous breads, rice cakes, chips, etc.) is paired with a protein or fat.
3. Use Volume to Your Advantage
Nothing is better than a giant bowl of food that you know is going to be delicious and satisfying enough that you won’t think about food for hours.
The best way to get to eat a big meal without having tons of calories is to take advantage of low-calorie vegetables. Ones that are filled with water and fiber, like:
- Bell Pepper
- Snap Peas
Filling a meal with at least 3 of the above items is going to stretch out your stomach, which sends a signal of fullness to your brain. Take advantage of that and all the nutrients that come with them.
As a former very picky eater, I’ve learned that if I learn how to cook a vegetable correctly I will like it. So experiment and find a way to like all the vegetables you can!
You’ve probably heard before that hunger is often mistaken for thirst. Don’t let that happen to you!
If you haven’t gone to the restroom two times before noon, I’d say you need to drink more water.
You don’t want to be waking up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, so start you day with a few big glasses of water.
You’ll likely feel better, it will help your skin, and maybe even take the edge off your hunger.
5. Make Your Environment Hunger Friendly
I worked at an Italian restaurant for years and I was always starving after a shift. Yes I had just been on my feet for 6-8 hours, but also I was seeing and smelling delicious Italian food for 6-8 hours.
If you’re in an environment that is not diet-friendly or health-friendly, then you are going to have to rely on willpower. Willpower is exhausting and runs out. It is finite.
If you have the ability (you probably do), remove temptations from your home, work or commute. Delete postmates/ubereats from your phone. Don’t buy pita chips. Have a rule that you don’t partake in office treats unless it’s _________.
True story: I used to buy almond butter because it’s a healthy fat and delicious, right? Problem was, I found it too delicious. I was incapable of sticking to a proper portion size and even went in straight with a spoon multiple times a night. So I stopped buying it. I changed my environment instead of telling myself to “get it under control”. This was years ago, and now I can totally portion control almond butter. The temptation to overindulge in it passed because I took some time away from it. That might sound silly or dumb, it for a lot of people it’s true. Put aside your pride. Food is engineered and researched to make you love it and want more.
What do you think? What’s your best strategy for reducing hunger?