There is nothing wrong with enjoying a good meal, am I right? However, the most contributing factor to weight gain is overeating. Overeating not only refers to eating too much in your everyday meals, but also excessive snacking throughout the day.
It can be common to feel hungry—whether you are trying to lose weight, maintain weight or just stay healthy. You may feel like eating as soon as that hunger pang strikes, but it isn’t always the healthiest response. The good news is that stopping yourself from reaching for that extra unhealthy snack or overeating is possible.
It is important to understand if your hunger is genuine and what to do if it isn’t. There are ways to help you feel less hungry, which decreases your calorie in-take throughout the day and helps to maintain a healthy weight.
A Great Question to Ask Yourself is Am I Hungry?
Ask yourself “Am I really hungry?” If you want to eat because you want to fill yourself up or are craving something, you may not really be hungry. You may be experiencing psychological hunger, which can relate to boredom or emotional eating. These common eating habits can lead to increase in appetite, excessive eating and weight gain.
This type of hunger is true hunger. It is when your body needs to consume so it can create more energy. When you experience physical hunger, your stomach feels empty and may rumble. You may also experience hunger pangs. If you don’t eat, you will feel weak, unfocused, or fatigued.
Psychological hunger is from a desire to eat but you will feel no physical signs that your body needs food. This can manifest from a craving for a specific item or type of food.
Unlike physical hunger, where an empty stomach and a need for energy causes hunger, there are many factors that can trigger psychological hunger. Here are some psychological hunger triggers:
- Poor Sleep
- Consumption of processed foods
Step-by-step Guide to Healthier Eating:
- Eat smaller meals, more often: Eating six small portions a day is a good way of feeling constantly satisfied. It is easy to get caught up and skip a meal (especially breakfast), but this leads to consuming more food the next time you eat, which the body then puts in its fat stores. Proving that consistency and amount are important factors to your daily diet.
- Eat on smaller plates: Reducing the size of your dinnerware takes zero effort. It is an easy way to reduce your appetite and cut back on calories. A particular experiment discovered that a shift from a 12-inch plate to a 10-inch plate resulted in a 22% decrease in calories. When you place a small piece of food on a large plate, your mind will tell you that you are eating a small portion and need to put more food on the plate. However, if you put the same piece of food on a small plate, your mind will detect that you are eating a large portion and do not need more food. This is a means of powerful optical illusion known as the Delboeuf Illusion. It works as we believe things are smaller when we compare them to things that are larger.
- Cut out sugar: It may not be completely avoidable, but sugar leaves you craving more. Sugar increases your insulin levels and creates an overdrive of calorie-storage. This process increases your hunger, slows your metabolism and makes it difficult to lose weight. Cutting back on sugar can do the opposite of this whilst also improves your mood and energy levels. Although it is beneficial to cut sugar from your diet, there are plenty of natural replacements to sugar on the market, such as stevia and sorbitol.
- Drink water: Sounds easy, right! But hitting the goal of eight cups of water a day can be more challenging than it seems.Drinking water can help decrease the hunger you feel when you crave a snack and before meals. It can also increase the feeling of fullness after a meal and promote weight loss. Studies show that drinking two glasses of water immediately before a meal can decrease eating by 22% compared to those who don’t drink water. It is said drinking about 500ml of water is sufficient to fill the stomach and send signals of fullness to the brain. However, water is emptied out of the stomach quickly so it is advised to drink water as close to the meal as possible.
The best way of reaching the target is to carry a 2L bottle of water with you everywhere. Then you know exactly how much you have had and how much to go!
- Choose food with starch, protein, fibre, iron and carbohydrates: and enjoy a balanced diet.Each of these will help you feel fuller for longer. Protein, in particular, can increase the feeling of fullness and curb appetite in your next meal. According to a study for weight loss, participants who had breakfast consisting of eggs lost 65% more weight and 16% more body fat to participants who ate bagels. A high fibre diet further slows down the processing time of food in your stomach and influences the release of fullness hormones. One review report depicts that adding fibre-rich beans, pears, chickpeas and lentils to your meals can increase the feeling of fullness by 31%, compared to meals which aren’t based on beans. Each of these will help you feel fuller for longer. Fish and nuts are great examples of foods that satisfy your tummy!
- Eat mindfully: when you focus on your food, your brain can decipher whether you are hungry or full. However, if you eat quickly or while you are distracted, it can make it more difficult for your brain to recognise these signals. You can resolve this by eliminating distractions, such as watching TV or using your phone, and focus on the food you are eating. Do you notice binge eating behaviour and snacking are often associated with watching TV? This is because you are not paying attention to what you are eating, but to the shows you are watching. Another example is when you go to the movies, you buy a giant bucket of popcorn and a large soft drink. If you were to think about it, having that much popcorn and soft drink in 1-2hrs would seem too much. Since you are focused on the movie, you would be able to finish both the popcorn and soft drink like it’s nothing! So when you are eating a meal or snack, try to avoid watching TV or using your phone.
- Get enough sleep: you may be thinking ‘What? How does sleep relate to our eating habits?’. Well, if you think about it, we need energy to continuously function throughout the day and the ways we replenish energy is through sleep and food. If we do not have a balance of these factors, we will overcompensate one for the other, right? Getting a good quantity and quality of sleep is extremely important to reduce hunger and decrease weight gain. A study shows that little sleep can increase hunger and appetite by up to 24%, and decrease levels of fulness hormones by up to 26%. Another illustrates sleeping less than seven hours per night can decrease fullness levels after breakfast by 26%. It is recommended to have seven to nine hours of sleep per night.
- Manage your stress: stress not only disrupts your mood, but also impacts fullness hormones and increases your desire to eat. High stress levels decrease peptide YY, a hormone that signals fullness, and increases cortisol, a hormone increasing cravings and feelings of hunger. A study discovered that participants ate an average of 22% more calories after sitting a stressful test, in comparison to eating after a non-stressful test. Though it can be difficult to reduce stress levels, it is possible.
Understanding the concept of over eating is not as complicated as it seems. It is important that we realise feeling hungry is normal and not to be afraid of it. We don’t need to panic when we feel temporarily uncomfortable due to our cravings and excessive appetite. You are ultimately in control of your eating behaviours and have the power to regulate them. Being self-aware of what is really driving your hunger is the key.
When you become aware of your eating habits and behaviours related to excessive eating, incorporating these steps into your everyday life and managing your hunger will become easier. Eating the right proportion of healthy food in relation to your body’s actual requirements has the ability to positively enhance your lifestyle. You can enjoy better physical and emotional health, better sleep and increased longevity.