While hunger evolved as a system for telling us when we need nourishment, in modern times our feelings of hunger can often get out of step with our actual bodily needs–especially for those of us who are trying to get more fit. When you’re getting enough nutrition but your body is still crying out for food, these techniques can help make hunger a non-issue. Each of these tactics is based on scientific research and/or experience of people who have lost and kept off substantial amounts of weight. Some may sound weak or unlikely, but try any that you haven’t tried already, since many are much more potent than they seem.
Remember that feelings of hunger are often temporary: if you can last a little while, often they will go away.
If you’re interested in finding out where hunger comes from, read this recent article.
Rethink the hunger
1. Remind yourself that if you have enough nourishment and are trying to lose weight, hunger is a good sign: it’s often an indication that your fat stores are going to be raided.
2. Visualize what the hunger will help you achieve.
3. Accept the hunger. Reconceive it as not painful, but healthy.
4. Enjoy toughing it out; take pleasure in being contrary. Tell the hunger, “Is that all you got? Come on, bring it!”
5. If your hunger is arising because you’re upset, use idea repair techniques to detect and fix the problem ideas.
6. Focus your attention on things other than food. Thinking about food will tend to make you more hungry.
7. Start doing something really engrossing that will take up your attention.
8. Get into a conversation.
9. Eat something very healthy and low in calories, like celery; an apple; or very low-calorie, fiber-rich crackers. If you don’t have anything like that handy, go buy something that fits that description. (Do not pick up a bag of M&M’s while you’re out.)
10. Chew some gum (if you’re in a place where that wouldn’t be inappropriate). You won’t be able to eat (or much need to) while the gum lasts.
11. Drink tea or another no-calorie/very low-calorie drink (preferably with no cream, sugar, etc.).
12. Drink water. Every time you feel like taking a bite of something, take a swig of water instead. In addition to providing a substitute for eating, water also gives you a temporary feeling of fullness.
13. Start an activity during which you can’t eat (e.g., working on your car, cleaning a bathroom).
14. Go to a place where you can’t eat (e.g., a library).
15. Physically remove any inappropriate foods: give them away, throw them out, or simply put them somewhere hard to get at.
16. Choose specific times during the day when you’ll eat, and make a rule that you won’t eat outside those times. While this may not work perfectly, if you get in the habit of short-circuiting food deliberations with the thought “Nope, not time to eat right now!” you can take your mind off food, which lessens the urge to eat.
Change your physiology (immediate techniques)
17. Resolve not to eat anything for just a short time (say, 10-20 minutes). This can work especially well if you’ve just eaten something, as it takes a little while for feelings of satiety to set in after you’ve eaten. Other kinds of emotional and physiological hunger triggers, too, are likely to go away after only a short time.
18. Get some very brief exercise: jumping jacks, dancing for a couple of songs, push-ups, crunches, a few minutes on an elliptical trainer or treadmill, etc. Research seems to show that even a little exercise can help fight feelings of hunger.
19. Go for a short walk: this supplies the benefits of exercise and distraction, tends to improve mood (due to both the exercise and the change of scene), and gets you physically away from the food … just don’t end your walk at a bakery.
20. Avoid sugary foods: eating foods with a high sugar content can cause your body to deploy extra insulin. The insulin cleans out all the sugars in your bloodstream, causing a temporary shortage that sends signals to your brain: “Dangerously low on sugar! Need Twinkies, stat!” This can create a vicious cycle and is probably one of the factors that encourages binges.
21. Eat something low in calories but high in protein, like nonfat yogurt or canned tuna. Protein appears to lessen feelings of hunger both in the short-term and throughout the day; for instance see this article.
Change your physiology (longer-term techniques)
22. Exercise on a daily basis: this can raise your metabolism, yet can actually help suppress hunger for up to 24 hours. Doing 30-60 minutes of vigorous exercise when you’re actually hungry will tend to suppress the hunger while you exercise in addition to giving you the metabolism boost. Exercising twice a day is ideal for helping to minimize hunger.
23. Eat in moderate amounts: avoid eating a lot at any one time. Doing this consistently over time when it has not been done in the past can help reduce stomach size (meaning the organ itself, not the fat over it). Binges tend to keep the stomach at a larger size.
24. Eat a diet full of fresh fruits and vegetables, protein, and fiber. Fiber helps you feel more full with fewer calories consumed, while protein helps minimize physiological hunger demands.
If you find yourself facing hunger often, link to or print this post and read it through when you’re feeling hungry. If you’re still hungry by the end of it and no solution jumps out at you, try something that’s new to you or that has worked for you before from what you’ve just read.
Image by Corrie Howell