I've tried (and failed) many different diets growing up.
I was always a chubby kid.
One I'll never forget was the popular FAD diet - The Cabbage Soup Diet.
The diet consists of, you guessed it...
It worked pretty well for the first few days. My belly growls were relatively quiet, and I felt like I had a ton of energy.
Then day four came along.
Let's just say that by 5 pm that evening I was on a new eating plan–The Binge-on-Everything-in-the-Dessert-Drawer Diet.
(to this day, the thought of cabbage soup sends shivers down my spine. So. Much. Cabbage.)
A common issue with diets, and losing weight in general, is hunger.
And not the I-haven't-ate-in-a-few-hours-belly-rumble hunger, I'm talking about the intense, "I could eat an entire cow!" hunger.
The type of hunger that makes losing fat seem next to impossible.
Hunger while dieting is just a part of the game.
You can't eat in a calorie deficit–restricting your body of calories needed to survive–and your body NOT respond by upregulating hunger...
But, that doesn't mean you should have to experience excessive hunger...
If your weight loss diet is leaving you feeling empty and chronically stressed about food, it'll never work, and especially not in the long run.
Your diet should promote feelings of fullness and contentment, and so enters the hero of our hunger-plagued saga - Satiety.
Satiety is a state of completeness. (Basically, our bellies feel full and happy 😀 )
Satiation comes about from eating foods that have a high satiety and fullness factor (more on this later) as well as eating ENOUGH food to support your body.
Note: This is why diets like The Cabbage Soup Diet don't work long-term. They may include high-satiety foods such as cabbage, but they are so restrictive in calories–usually around 800-1000 a day–that the body thinks it's in a state of severe starvation.
Our bodies respond naturally by upregulating the hormones that are responsible for hunger.
Essentially, it's saying, "EAT MORE FOOD BEFORE WE DIEZZZZ!"
Luckily, there are things we can do to improve our satiety and reduce our hunger so that losing fat is easier and more enjoyable.
In this article you'll learn:
- The Two Types of Hunger (extremely important difference, y'all)
- Why Excessive Hunger is Your Worst Enemy For Losing Weight
- How Satiety Increases Your Ability To Lose Fat
- Practical Advice For Increasing Satiety and Eliminating Hunger
If you want to have long-term success on your weight loss journey, follow the recommendation of this article!
The Two Types of Hunger
There are actually TWO types of hunger that people experience:
1. Physical Hunger
This is the kind of hunger that you can actually feel. Rumbling stomach, low energy, irritability, and stomach pangs are all signs of physical hunger
2. Psychological Hunger
Psychological hunger–sometimes referred to as emotional hunger–is when we crave food in response stressful situations or to find relief from particular feelings. (such as anger, anxiety, happiness, etc.)
Here's an infographic that further describes the differences between the two:
Along with being sedentary and eating a diet high in sugar and fat, psychological hunger is one of the main culprits that leads to unwanted fat gain.
Especially for folks who are severely overweight or obese.
They aren't just eating too many high-calorie foods; they are eating an ABUNDANCE of high-calorie foods.
Most of the time this overconsumption of food isn't because of physical hunger, rather it's because of the psychological desire to find comfort and relieve from an unpleasant emotion or event.
This was my biggest problem.
Eating food was my solution to boredom and served as an emotional suppressant.
I rarely ate food because of actual physical hungry.
Side note: My parents got divorced when I was 15. Coincidentally, this is when I packed on 80 lbs, going from a chubby teenager to an obese young adult.
I never talked to anyone about the emotional impact of the divorce until much later. In the moment, I used food as my comfort
It's important when dieting (and eating in general) to recognize which of these two types of hunger you're experiencing.
If you're finding the majority of the times you feel hungry correlating with signs of psychological hunger, then your diet may not be the issue.
Instead, you should look into things such as mindful eating.
But if you're experiencing real, physical hunger, then continue reading to learn how to eliminate it for good!
(for the remainder of this article, anytime I use the word "hunger," I am referring the physical form)
Why Excessive Hunger is Your Worst Enemy While Losing Weight
Biologically, hunger is critical for our survival. Without it, we wouldn't know when to eat, and we'd probably starve to death as a result.
But even though hunger is fundamental to our survival, it's NOT a very enjoyable experience.
When we're hungry, a number biological feedback events start to take place such as:
- Increased stress response
- More frequent thoughts on food and eating
- Stronger cravings
- Stomach pangs
- Lower energy
- Decreased willpower
When you're dieting and eating in a calorie deficit, these symptoms only increase in magnitude.
In the short-term, we have enough willpower to ignore things like food cravings.
But just like my failure with the cabbage soup diet, our bodies are eventually going to fight harder than our minds can resist and we will give into our hunger.
It might not happen for a few days or even a couple weeks of strict dieting. But it WILL happen.
Next thing you know you're rubbing a chocolate covered ice cream on a stick all over your face...
How Satiety Increases Your Ability To Lose Fat
Alright, we know that hunger can negatively affect our fat loss, so it makes sense that the opposite of hunger–satiety and feeling satiatied–will positively impact our ability to drop fat.
And we're right!
When we are satiated, the complete opposite response takes place in the body.
We experience less stress, less irritability, have fewer thoughts about food, have more energy, and preserve our willpower reserves.
All of those benefits are directly correlated to better diet adherence and fat loss success.
Practical Advice For Increasing Satiety and Eliminating Hunger
"Okay Carter, I get it. If my diet is going to work in the long run (and not be a miserable experience), I need to reduce how often I am hungry and increase how often I feel satiated.
I got that.
Now, HOW THE HECK DO I DO THIS!? Eat broccoli all day? (plz say no...)"
This article wouldn't be very helpful if I didn't give you some actionable advice, would it?
Don't worry, I've been around the weight loss block a few times and know a thing or two about fighting hunger and increasing satiety. 😉
Here are a few of the best ways I have learned to do this:
Drink more water
You'll be hard pressed to find any health enthusiast who doesn't believe in the power of drinking water.
Water is essential for nearly every metabolic process in the body, and most people aren't drinking enough of it.
When you don't drink enough water, you can quickly become dehydrated. Your body will respond by sending signals that you're thirsty.
No big deal, right?
Not so fast - the same part of the brain that signals thirst ALSO signals hunger.
Sometimes the wires get crossed...
So you may think you're hungry when in reality you're dehydrated and just need a glass of water.
What to do: Anytime you feel hungry, drink 8-16 ounces of water and wait 10-15 minutes. If your hunger subsides, then you were probably just thirsty. If you're still hungry after the 10-15 minutes, then it's probably a sign that you need some grub!
Eat More Whole Foods
A lot of people have the misconception that simply eating healthier will allow for long-term weight loss success.
In reality, it's not healthy whole foods that are causing weight loss, rather their ability to make eating in a calorie deficit easier.
One reason is that whole foods–fruits, vegetables, lean meats, whole grains, nuts & seeds–contain a ton of micronutrients.
Micronutrients play a critical role in our overall health and especially so for our endocrine (hormonal) system.
Being deficient in micronutrients leads to a weakened immune system, decreased energy, less willpower, depression, and increases your appetite through a downregulation of satiety hormones.
Along with being nutrient-dense, whole foods contain a ton of water and fiber–both of which increase satiety.
We already touched on the necessity of drinking water to avoid dehydration, but consuming water (and water-rich foods) also physically fills the stomach.
The primary way our bodies regulate hunger is through stretch receptors in the stomach. When the stomach expands, these stretch receptors send signals to the brain to decrease hunger.
(It's more complex than that, but you get the point)
Then there's fiber.
Fiber helps regulate hunger by adding bulk to our food and slowing down the absorption of sugar into the blood–decreasing the insulin response of a meal.
Spikes in insulin can increase appetite, so it helps to eat foods high in fiber that keep your levels more stable.
Not all whole foods are equally filling, though.
Some foods, such as nuts, though healthy, are calorically dense and not very satiating per serving.
Luckily, we have help for choosing high-satiety foods.
NutritionData.com came up with this nifty scale called the Fullness Factor that gives foods a score based on their....well....fullness factor.
(As you can see on this page, most of the foods that have a high fullness factor are whole foods like fruits and veggies while things like chips and candy score lower on the scale)
What to do: Make the majority (at least 80%) of your foods come from whole food sources to get the benefits of micronutrients, water, and fiber. Also, try to pick foods that score high on the Fullness Factor scale.
People typically overeat at night after a long day of work.
Sure, stress and fatigue from the day can play a part in overeating, but most of the time people are eating out of boredom.
They come home, turn on the TV, and start to think about food.
(The constant barrage of food commercials doesn't help either)
What to do: Find hobbies or activities that interest you and keep your mind OFF of food.
I personally like to read, play guitar, go on walks, really anything that is productive and keeps me from feeling bored. In my experience, food and boredom are a recipe for fat gain.
Hopefully you feel better informed about hunger, satiety, and how each can negatively and positively affect your fat loss results.
If you're still looking for a solid plan for getting started, be sure to download my FREE Beginner Fitness Plan.
Stay full (physically), and stay hungry (mentally) for your fat loss goals! 😀
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