One of the main challenges many people fact when they start with a low-calorie diet programme is the sensation of hunger. This sensation is mostly not real and is a result of tricks your mind and gut are playing on us. However, there are a few tips and tweaks on how to overcome this challenge so it’s easier to remain on course. Here are a few of them:
- Stop dieting– Instead of getting yourself and everybody around you used to the fact that you’re on a diet regime, switch into having a ‘healthier lifestyle’. Dieting is a temporary situation where little is allowed and most is prohibited. A situation that whilst you’re experiencing it, you’re preventing yourself from having the things you like and enjoy, often to the point of breaking. Instead, you get into a healthier lifestyle which mixes well with you daily routine, with a clear objective of reducing weight. What that basically boils down to is that you continue eating the things you like and enjoy, including sweets, but in moderation. This way you will avoid emotional challengers and having to miss those foods you like, which is one of the main reasons for not being able to stick to diet programmes. Being able to treat yourself from time to time will also assist in dealing with the challenges ahead.
- Have patience– Our body produces hormones that are responsible for hunger and satiety. As soon as we are reducing the amount of food we’re consuming, the secretion of these hormones changes. The hormone Ghrelin which is responsible for our hunger sensation (also known as the ‘hunger hormone’) is produced in larger quantities when we reduce the amount of food we consume, causing us to feel hunger. There’s evidence that this sensation will subside between one to 3 weeks after starting the programme, which means that after this adjustment period, you’ll feel fuller with smaller amounts of food.
- Add nutritional fibre– I’m sure you’ve heard that enough times, but it’s true.Nutritional fibresdo help feeling fuller. The don’t have caloric value, but they help metabolism and reduce hunger. You can find them in vegetables, whole grains and legumes. There’s no shortcut, so include fresh vegetable salad or sautéed vegetables to every meal. They will increase the volume of the meal and contribute to the sensation of fullness.
- Drink lots of water – Our internal thirst mechanism is quite primitive. Which means it doesn’t get triggered (we feel thirsty) almost to the point of dehydration. Therefore, our body often ‘confuses’ the sensation of thirst with that of hunger, and as a result we eat more. There for it is important to drink 8-12 glasses of day when giving preference to water over juice. Before every meal, drink a couple of glasses of water and during the day carry a bottle of water with you, which will serve as a reminder to drink water. If you’re not sure if you should drink sparkling or still, read this.
- Change your diet– if after one to three weeks of reduced calorie intake you’re still feeling hunger, you should consider consulting a nutritionist to ensure the diet plan is right for you. Your diet plan should be compatible with your daily schedule, your level of activity, your calorie expenditure and your physical measurements. A small tweak in your diet plan, such as a change in your meals time, increasing your calorie intake or changing the composition of your meal (fats, proteins and carbohydrates) is likely to reduce the feeling of hunger.
- Add snacks to your diet – Stop with the bad habit of ‘grazing’and replace it with planned regular healthy snacks.These snacks, for example, should consist of (low sugar) yogurt with some fresh fruit, or a cracker with fresh vegetables, which will help you reduce becoming hungry. A common mistake that leads to ‘grazing’ is leaving big gaps between meals. Grazing is mostly unconscious eating, mostly of calorie-dense food which leads to weight gain. Make sure you stick to the planned snacks.
- Add proteins to your lunch and dinner – It’s a common misconception that carbs make us feel fuller. In fact, lasting feeling of fullness comes from eating proteins. An imbalanced meal that consists mainly of carbs (for example pasta or cuscus) is likely to keep you feeling full for a relatively short period of time. Ensure you add proteins from animal as well as plant sources such as chicken, fish, tofu, eggs and certain legumes (beans, lentils, peas and chickpeas).
- Consume healthy fats– Many people neglect this.Fat keeps hunger at bay for longest, and therefore it is very valuable when it comes to feeling full. Healthy fats contain fatty acids which are essential for our metabolism and cognitive health. Healthy fats can be found in avocado, tahini made of whole sesame seed, natural peanut butter and natural seeds. Don’t forget that as they name suggest, they are fat, so have them in moderation. An example for a balanced portion in a meal would be a third of an avocado or a spoonful of tahini blended with water.
- Eat slowly– the sensation of satiety comes roughly 20 minutes after the meal. When we eat fast, chances are that we eat more.Make sure you eat slower, chew well, and learn to stop eating when you’re no longer feeling hungry.
- Sleep at lest 7 hours of uninterrupted sleep every night – Lack of sleepleads to an imbalance of the hunger and satiety hormones and make us feel hungry. The combination of lack of sleep and the feeling of hunger (which is likely when you start a diet plan), will reduce your chances of staying on track. Therefore, when you’re on a diet, it is very important to sleep well when on a diet plan.
Written by Udi Gon-Paz wellness coach, clinical nutritionist and stress management consultant (licensed in Monaco and the UK).