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I’m attempting to eat better and lose weight. Why am I always feeling so hungry? How can I address this?

One of the founding fathers of the United States, Benjamin Franklin, is credited with saying that the only things certain in life are death and taxes. However, “you’ll feel hungry when you’re trying to lose weight” is another given, in my opinion.

Basic biology is the cause. What can you do about this, and how does it operate?

Our emotions of hunger are governed by hormones.

Our sense of hunger and fullness is largely regulated by a number of hormones. The most significant are leptin and ghrelin, sometimes referred to as the hunger hormone.

Our stomach releases ghrelin when we are hungry, signaling the hypothalamus—a region of the brain—to eat.

Hormones, including leptin, are released from various organs, including our fat tissue and stomach, to alert the brain when it’s time to stop eating.

Dieting messes with the flow of things.

However, we mess with these appetite hormones when we start dieting and losing weight.

This initiates a process derived from our ancestors who lived as hunters and gatherers. This mechanism was developed by their bodies as a survival response to help them adjust to times of famine and guard against starvation.

Hormones that control our appetite go up, making us feel more hungry and urging us to eat more, while hormones that let us know when we’re full go down, making us feel even more hungry.

In order to regain the weight we lost, we ultimately eat more by consuming more calories.

Worse, our appetite hormones continue to tell us to eat more, which causes us to gain a little extra fat, even after the pounds start to creep back on. This is the body’s way of getting ready for the next starvation episode that we will force upon it through dieting.
Thankfully, there are strategies we can employ to control our appetite, such as:

1. Consuming a hearty, nutritious breakfast each day

Eating the majority of our meals early in the day and reducing the size of our meals so that dinner is the smallest meal is one of the simplest strategies to control our feelings of hunger throughout the day.

Studies reveal that eating a small or low-calorie breakfast increases feelings of hunger throughout the day, especially for sweets.

The same result was found in another study. For the first month of the two-month trial, participants followed a calorie-controlled diet in which they consumed 45% of their calories at breakfast, 35% at lunch, and 20% at dinner. After that, they changed to eating their largest meal in the evening and their smallest meal in the morning. Having the biggest meal of the day at breakfast reduced hunger throughout the rest of the day.

Additionally, studies reveal that we burn meal calories 2.5 times more effectively in the morning than in the evening. Thus, prioritizing breakfast over dinner is beneficial for managing weight as well as controlling hunger.

2. Giving protein priority

Protein aids in stifling appetite. This is because foods high in protein, like lean meats, tofu, and beans, stimulate the hormone peptide YY, which makes you feel full, while suppressing the hormone ghrelin, which stimulates appetite.

Not only is eating a breakfast essential for controlling our hunger, but research has shown that eating a breakfast high in protein, like eggs, will keep us feeling fuller for longer.

However, this goes beyond merely consuming protein-rich foods. To meet our dietary needs, meals must be well-balanced and include a source of protein, wholegrain carbohydrates, and healthy fat. For instance, avocado and eggs on wholegrain toast.

3. Stuffing oneself with nuts and foods rich in fiber and healthy fats

Due to the myth that they make people gain weight, nuts frequently receive a bad rap, but they actually can help us control our appetite and weight. Because nuts contain healthy fats and filling fiber that take longer to digest, they satisfy our hunger for longer.

Research indicates that consuming up to 68 grams of nuts daily won’t have an impact on your weight.

Avocados are another great food for controlling feelings of fullness because they are also high in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats and fiber. This is supported by a study that found individuals who consumed avocado with their breakfast felt fuller and less hungry than those who consumed the same amount of calories but less fat and fiber.

In a similar vein, eating soluble fiber-rich foods like beans and vegetables fills us up. This kind of fiber draws in water from our digestive tract to create a gel that impedes digestion.

4. Mindful eating

We slow down and consume far less food when we take the time to truly appreciate and be conscious of what we’re eating.

A review of 68 studies revealed that eating mindfully improves our ability to identify fullness. Eating mindfully gives our brain ample opportunity to identify and adjust to our stomach’s signals that indicate when we’re full.

Reduce the amount of food you eat with each mouthful by using smaller utensils and by sitting down at the dinner table more slowly.

5. Getting adequate rest

Our hunger hormones are disrupted by sleep deprivation, which heightens our sensation of hunger and sets off cravings. Thus, try to get seven hours or more of sound sleep every night.

To increase your body’s production of hormones that promote sleep, such as melatonin, try turning off your electronics two hours before going to bed.

6. Controlling tension

Stress causes our bodies to produce more cortisol, which in turn causes cravings for food.

Take breaks when necessary and schedule time for activities that help you decompress. Getting outside can be a simple solution for this. According to a 2019 study, spending at least three times a week sitting or strolling outside can lower cortisol levels by 21%.

7. Not starving ourselves

Usually, when we alter our diets to become healthier or lose weight, we cut back on particular foods or food groups.

But this increases activity in our brain’s reward system, the mesocorticolimbic circuit, which frequently makes us crave the foods we’re trying to avoid. Pleasurable foods release endorphins, which are feel-good chemicals, and dopamine, which is a learning chemical. These chemicals help us remember and give in to that pleasurable response.

Our hypothalamus, a clever region of the brain that controls emotions and food intake, becomes less active when we alter our diet, which impairs our judgment and control. The “what-the-hell effect” is a psychological reaction that frequently occurs when we indulge in something we believe we shouldn’t feel bad about and then go back for more.

When you go on a diet, don’t completely cut out your favorite foods or starve yourself when you’re hungry. Eating will no longer be enjoyable for you, and you’ll eventually give in to your cravings.

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