One of the biggest challenges for losing and maintaining weight is to tackle hunger. Hunger is an outcome of physiological and physiological functions. We may be hungry because our energy is low or if we haven't eaten a good meal for some time. Our energy may be low because our mood is low and has nothing to do with the last meal. To understand hunger triggers, we need to step into our body's system. Ghrelin is a hormone that triggers hunger. It sends out a message to the brain that signals it's time to eat. Leptin is the satiety hormone that signals when we are full and it's time to stop eating. Both these work in tandem but sometimes it goes haywire. When we have more fat in our body, we have more Leptin but the body is resistant to it and we don't know when to stop.
(Also Read: Here's Why You May Not Feel Hungry - Know The Causes)
So how do we control hunger?
Here are 10 strategies to control hunger that are very effective:
1. Eat at the same time every day. This helps 'train' the hunger hormones and they get regulated. It is very essential that meal timings are well spaced out to ensure there aren't closer periods of eating and long fasting periods in between. Both situations lead to upset metabolic system that doesn't help with weight management. 3 major meals with light snacks at 2 hour gap in between keeps the BMR steady and prevent bingeing.
2. Don't eat when you are hungry. When voracious hunger strikes, wait for 10-20 minutes, you'll eat more reasonably. Ghrelin reaches a peak and then starts to slow down, eat then.
3. Eat slowly: It takes us 10 minutes to register what we have eaten. 10 minutes is a lot of time to eat a lot. Chewing and savouring each mouthful will help satiate your real hunger better. Pacing your eating will help you feel fuller with less food intake. Ghrelin & leptin need some time to communicate, eating slowly helps them.
4. When hunger strikes between meals, step back, have a glass of water, you are probably only dehydrated. Real hunger comes with feeling tired, lightheaded or even that feeling of hollowness in the pit of your stomach. Anything else is probably craving for that chocolate in the fridge or chips in the snack cupboard.
5. Don't buy what you crave. Keeping your favourite snacks at home is the best way to give in to temptations. Keep your cheat meal days and stick to the plan. Half the time we indulge in emotional eating, so keeping the "goodies" out of reach will help not getting tempted.
6. Start with a healthy breakfast: There is enough evidence that people who eat a healthy wholesome breakfast feel less hungry through the day. Create a breakfast of complex carbs, proteins - it will help keep up the energy, control hunger and keep you satisfied through the day.
7. Add proteins to every meal. They slow down the digestion and help keep a sustained energy release for a longer period of time. This prevents in-between-meal energy crashes and bingeing.
8. Fibre is another key nutrient to helps you beat hunger. Fibre bulks up food, leads to early satiety and helps slow down the release of energy, keeping the satiation longer. In addition, it promotes gut health, which helps regulate weight better.
9. Don't work and eat. You will not register your food. When we eat with all our five senses, we eat better and the satiety kicks in early and stays longer. TV, phone, laptops and working lunches are a bad idea for improving satiety.
10. Exercise regularly. Research has shown that exercise has a positive effect on fullness hormones and hunger hormones. It will also help you burn calories and shape up the body. A combination of cardio and strengthening is the best.
At the end of the day, we need to be reasonable in choosing our goals and then creating a plan that suits us best, but most importantly sticking to the plan for attaining and maintaining good health.
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About Rupali DattaRupali Datta is a Clinical Nutritionist and has worked in leading corporate hospitals. She has created and lead teams of professionals to deliver clinical solutions for patients across all medical specialties including critical care. She is a member of the Indian Dietetic Association and Indian Association of Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition.