Hunger (or the drive to eat) is the single greatest enemy of any weight loss program.
In order to control hunger effectively, one has to first learn to understand it. So, what do we need to know about hunger, to get the upper hand in this battle?
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In reality, hunger is nothing more than a physiological reaction of the body, letting us know it is time to eat. As such, hunger is a perfectly normal phenomenon. What creates problems is one
of the 2 things below:
- The deregulation of the hunger mechanism - ultimately resulting in
overeating and increased calorie intake long-term. Follow the link above to find out more.
- How we respond to hunger - i.e., what type of food we put in our body in response to feeling hungry, and whether we tend to overeat or 'binge' in this situation.
A good way to control hunger is to eat regular meals, of reasonable size, before feeling very hungry. Once we feel very hungry, the odds are we'll eat a larger amount of food, and we'll crave foods that are rich in saturated fats and/or sugars. Such foods are not only fattening, but also likely to cause renewed hunger and fatigue a short time after the meal. So when choosing your food, make it a point to avoid them. These foods are certain to derail your weight loss program.
- If hungry between meals, choose a healthy snack which brings in a reasonable amount of calories. See a comprehensive list of healthy snacks.
- Increase your fluid intake: If at all possible, try to drink 8 glasses of water a day. This keeps you well hydrated and reduces hunger. For further details, check out this article on water and weight loss.
- For those able to exercise: When you start feeling hunger, challenge yourself with a short burst of exercise (such as 50 squats, or 5 minutes lifting dumbbells,
or 20 pushups) - and only then reward yourself with one of the snacks in the list
above. By doing so, you are revving up your metabolism, such that the calories
you take in are promptly burned.
Another interesting fact worth mentioning: Exercise in itself may help control hunger. Since the heart rate goes up, i.e. the heart is pumping harder, more blood with nutrients is being delivered to the vital organs (including the brain), which may curtail the sensation of hunger.
- Learn to predict your body's hunger schedule, and to intercept it before it kicks
in: E.g., drinking a cup of tea or coffee, a glass of water, or a diet drink prior to feeling
hungry may fill you up and tie you over to the next meal.
- Increase your sleep time: You should sleep at least 8 hours per night. This keeps you away from food (literally), and decreases your stress levels (which makes it easier to loose fat, especially abdominal fat). In conclusion, getting enough sleep is an excellent way to control hunger effortlessly.
- Relax more during the day. This decreases the blood-levels of the hormone
cortisol (the stress hormone), with results as described above.
- Find a new hobby that doesn't involve food. Examples: Yoga, martial arts,
meditation, arts and crafts, working out at the gym, etc. Taking your mind off food and keeping it focused on something you enjoy can work wonders.
- Don't forget to take a daily multivitamin supplement (especially if your diet is
low in fresh fruit and vegetables). When bringing the necessary vitamins and
microelements in the body, the likelihood of experiencing severe hunger
- A calcium supplement may also help control hunger, particularly if your diet
doesn't bring in the necessary dairy products. (Note: Calcium supplements are
contraindicated in certain medical conditions, so please clear this with your
- Consider a daily omega-3 supplement: Omega-3 fatty acids have widespread beneficial effects on the body, and this includes facilitating weight loss. As such, omega-3 supplements are one of the key elements that can keep your weight control plan on track.
Tip: Fish (especially wild fish as opposed to farm-fish) contains high amounts of omega-3. Another aliment rich in omega-3 are walnuts. However, watch your serving size: 1 oz of walnuts (about 7 walnuts or 14 halves) brings in 180 calories, so try not to exceed this portion in one day.
- Drink green tea and oolong tea - they are particularly rich in healthy antioxidants (polyphenols and catechins) which rejuvenate the body and facilitate weight loss.
- Avoid restaurant food, especially fast food. It is likely to contain trans fats,
which may cause renewed hunger shortly after eating. Trans fats also promote
accelerated weight gain, and have somewhat of an addictive effect (give you the
urge to eat more of the same). Once you stay off these foods for a while, you
will then be able to detect the specific taste of trans fats with the first bite you
take. It is an unmistakable oily taste, which tells you one thing: "Stay away
from this food."
- Last but not least, if you cannot control your hunger any other way, consider an
appetite suppressant or absorption inhibitor.
- Hoodia is an example of an over-the-counter appetite suppressant. Other appetite suppressants are dispensed by prescription only. All appetite suppressants can have side
effects, since they alter the chemical balance of your organism. Some of these
agents can increase blood pressure, cause palpitations or irregular heart beat, or
predispose to anxiety.
- Lipozene and Ally are examples of over-the-counter
absorption inhibitors. These agents may have side effects as well, mainly due to
malabsorption of vitamins and essential nutrients, and elimination of excessive
fat in the stool. Therefore, it is prudent to consult with your doctor prior to
embarking on this course of action.
Note: If you experience persistent refractory hunger, you may also want to talk to
your doctor about ruling out any medical conditions apt to cause increased appetite
(e.g., hyper-cortisolism, hyper-insulinemia, hyperthyroidism, bulimia, certain types
of depression and/or anxiety, polycystic ovary, etc). In such instances, medical treatment may be necessary to control hunger.
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