Every year, as we get closer to summer, we start paying more attention to the foods that go into our mouths. After all, it won’t be long before it’s time to shed the extra layers of clothing that keep any “trouble spots” from seeing the light of day. (Yes, I’m talking about you, belly fat!) Even if you have no intention of donning a swimsuit anytime soon, you probably still want to easily fit into your favorite shorts and summer shirts, dresses, etc. And that means it’s…
Ugh. Let the hunger games begin—and “may the odds be ever in your favor.”
Unless, that is, you’d rather not go through all of that again. If only there were ways to help stave off hunger while still being able to stick to an effective diet plan so you can drop the winter weight (or any other weight)—fast!
You’re in luck, actually, because there are some fantastic strategies that can help you do just that, and we’ve rounded up four of our favorites to help stave off hunger—even while dieting.
4 Ways to Stave Off Hunger
#1: Stop Starving Yourself
Look, you might be tempted to drop calories to the bare minimum with hopes of losing weight as quickly as possible. But what you really want is quality weight loss, and severely restricting calories makes it more likely that end up losing not just fat but all-important, calorie-burning lean muscle as well. That’s exactly what you don’t want. Rather, you want to firm up, tighten, and tone, and the best way to do that is to eat protein-rich, nutrient-dense foods (and make sure you do some strength training) to hold on to muscle as you lose fat. Another nice benefit of high-protein foods: they help us feel full longer and reduce hunger, and that means better appetite control and fewer cravings.
So, instead of restricting your food intake to the point of starvation, focus on quality—when it comes to both weight loss and your food choices.
#2: Bulk Up
This one is closely tied to the first tip but focuses in on fiber. Like protein, fiber helps reduce appetite by helping you feel full. High-fiber foods, like vegetables and fruits, also often contain water as well for a nice bonus. This means better hydration, and because these are “low-energy-dense” foods, it also means you can eat a greater volume of food while consuming fewer calories.
Both your body and your mind need quality nutrition, so go ahead and fill up your plate with plenty of nutrient-dense, real vegetables and fruits, legumes, and even true whole grains. A big plate of vegetables provides tons of nutrients and lots of volume—without many calories. In one study, researchers found that eating three cups of salad (only 100 calories) before they ate lunch resulted in participants eating 12% fewer calories.
#3: Slow Down
In today’s busy world, it’s pretty common to multi-task, eating on the run or running while eating. Yes, it’s challenging to fit everything in we need to get done and eating can feel like just another task. Yet, eating mindlessly can get us into trouble quickly. It only takes a few moments to down hundreds of calories, especially when distracted. Yet, it takes the brain at least 20 minutes to register when you’ve eaten enough, and send signals that it’s time to stop. So, if you gulped down a meal in a mere 5 – 10 minutes, you can see the problem. Research has, in fact, confirmed that slowing down actually helps reduce the amount of food needed before we feel like we’ve had enough and are satiated.
As the old Simon and Garfunkel song goes, “Slow down, you move too fast.” You’ve got to make your morning, and your meals, last at least long enough for your brain to catch up to your stomach. By eating slowly and mindfully, you’ll discover that you likely need less food than you thought before you’re satisfied for hours (and stave off hunger).
#4: Stay Active
Exercise has numerous benefits when it comes to quality weight loss—especially preserving calorie-burning lean muscle and keeping fat off—but perhaps one of the most surprising is that it not only burns calories, it can also suppress appetite, albeit temporarily.
According to Dr. David Stensel at Loughborough University’s School of Sport, Exercise, and Health Sciences, fairly vigorous aerobic exercise suppresses the “hunger hormone” ghrelin. This is obviously a good thing when it comes to appetite management. In addition, aerobic exercise can increase levels of another hormone called peptide YY, which signals satiety, for up to three hours after exercise.
According to the research, the harder you work out, the greater the chance to stave off hunger. Yet another reason to go all out.
Stave Off Hunger Recap
While the above are some of our favorites, other helpful tips include staying hydrated, getting enough sleep, keeping a regular eating schedule, enjoying scents (e.g., a burning vanilla candle or peppermint essential oils), preventing boredom, and even chewing gum.
Yes, losing weight may involve changing the way you eat and even the way you think about food. But it should not leave you starving and suffering. With an open mind and a willingness to experiment with new foods, you may even find your new “diet” foods are some of your favorite meals. (May I suggest Coach Cristina’s Buffalo Cauliflower or Crockpot Chicken Curry, for example.) So, stave off hunger and say hello to looking and feeling great as you peel off those winter layers.