If you’ve ever tried to lose weight, you’ve likely experienced the constant cravings, tummy rumblings, and hanger that inevitably come with trimming down. And although your coworkers may have finally realized your stomach growls aren’t the ominous signal of an abrupt downpour, we have a feeling they wouldn’t mind if you got rid of the false alarm. Luckily, quieting your tummy isn’t hard to do. The secret is a three-step process: reign in your insatiable appetite by ridding your environment and mind of the triggers that cause cravings, cut out the foods that make you hungrier, and, finally, spend your calories on foods that boost your satiety and help you eat less yet still feel full.
Below we’re sharing our tips for how to help shut off your hunger hormones so you can power through your presentation without daydreaming about chocolate bars. Now, your brain can finally focus on things other than always trying to find food!
First, Reign In Your Appetite
They sound like they mean the same thing, but hunger and appetite are separate processes. Hunger is the physical need for food when your body senses a dip in blood sugar. Appetite, on the other hand, is the conditioned desire to eat—often what you feel when you see that piece of chocolate cake right after you’ve had a more-than-filling dinner. The former may keep us alive, but the latter causes us to become fat. And it’s also the reason why we never seem to feel full after we’ve eaten our fill. Luckily, with the following tips and tricks, you can suppress your appetite and harness your hunger to work for your weight loss efforts.
Whether it’s your job, spouse, or kids, stress can be a dieter’s worst nightmare. According to dietician Julieanna Hever, MS, RD, CPT, “Stress kicks up your cortisol levels into high gear, which promotes hunger and overeating.” So even if you’re eating well, you might not feel full if you’re constantly stressed, explains a study published in Behavioural Brain Research. The authors discovered that when obese women had higher levels of cortisol, their levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin failed to decrease after a meal, and their perception of hunger was higher than those who had low levels of cortisol. So although they ate the same meal, the stressed group was more likely to continue eating to satisfy their hormone signals.
Besides fitting more of these stress-fighting foods into your diet, Hever recommends stress management techniques such as meditation, walking, or talking to a friend or therapist to help you deal with the underlying issues promoting stress. When you’re less stressed out, you’ll be less likely to fill up unnecessarily.
2. Beef Up Your Salads
No diet feels complete unless you’re eating a salad almost every day—but you could technically be doing it wrong. Although greens are packed with nutrients, vitamins, and minerals, if your salad is lacking substantial, energy-providing carbohydrates to fuel your brain and muscles or protein to keep you feeling satisfied, you’ll be tired and hungry soon after and crave more fuel, explain The Nutrition Twins, Lyssie Lakatos, RDN, CDN, CFT and Tammy Lakatos Shames, RDN, CDN, CFT.
Pair your salads with a source of healthy fats, like an avocado or nuts, or protein, like quinoa, beans, eggs, chicken, or salmon. Protein and fats take a longer time to digest, which means they’ll stay in your stomach, promote feelings of fullness, and thus, have an appetite-suppressing effect. A study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition discovered those who ate a protein-rich meal had a lower response to ghrelin and were less hungry hours later compared to those who ate a carb-heavy meal.
3. Drink Up
Those who feel hungry are often just thirsty, according to a study in Physiology & Behavior. Sixty percent of the time, people will eat instead of drink when their body is actually in need of a tall glass of water. That’s because a part of your brain called the hypothalamus regulates both hunger and thirst, and sometimes it mixes up its signals. When you make sure to drink enough water throughout the day—and especially before meals—you’ll not only fill up your stomach to help ward off hunger, but you’ll also keep your energy levels up and your metabolism from dipping while you’re eating less.
Drink two cups of water before delving into a meal. An American Chemical Society study found this tactic to cause people to eat 75 to 90 calories less than people to didn’t quench their thirst over the course of a meal. And if you’d like to jazz up your drink of choice, grab a tea bag of Rooibos. According to research, the flavonoids found in this herbal tea can reduce stress hormones that trigger hunger and fat storage.
4. Turn Off the ‘Toons
With such hectic schedules, many of us choose to multitask by eating dinner while catching up on our favorite shows. So while you may be able to get in on the office conversation about last night’s episode of Game of Thrones, you’re putting your waistline at risk; That’s because of a little thing called distracted eating. When we eat in front of the TV or computer or on the road, it can prevent the signal of satiety from reaching our brains in regular time. Research has shown that people can consume hundreds of extra calories when distracted as opposed to focused on their food.
To avoid this pitfall, turn off any distractions around you while you’re eating and focus on all the aspects of your meal when you eat so you don’t continue mindlessly munching.
5. Perceive Larger Portions
Dieting requires you to reduce portion sizes—and that means your plates, bowls, and cups as well. A study in the International Journal of Obesitydiscovered people were more satisfied for longer periods of time after researchers showed participants a large portion of fruit went into their smoothie compared to participants who were shown a small piece of fruit—even though both groups were actually given the same size smoothie to drink. The authors of the study suggest the key to losing weight could be in manipulating our beliefs about how filling we think food will be before we eat it.
Try the trick at home by using smaller plates and glasses that make your portions look more generous, it’s just one of the 15 Ways to Break Your Bad Eating Habits. That way you’ll trick your brain into feeling fuller, even though you’ve actually eaten less!
6. Cut Your Food Into Smaller Pieces
One way to curb your appetite? Findings from an Arizona State University study suggest you should cut your food into smaller pieces. Researchers found that when people ate a whole bagel cut into small pieces for breakfast, they consumed 25 percent fewer calories at lunch compared to those who ate the same bagel whole.
Get more meal satisfaction from less food throughout the day by intentionally cutting sandwiches or proteins into smaller, bite-sized pieces during breakfast and lunch. This can help trick your brain into thinking you’re eating much more than you actually are.
7. Eat More Slowly
Ever scarf down a full meal in 5-minutes flat to still feel hungry afterward? That’s because it takes time for the signal from your stomach to get to your brain that you’ve just eaten. Without that signal, we typically eat past our actual fullness. Instead, try stretching your meal to be a full 20 minutes. Why the 20-minute limit? It takes that long for hunger hormones to relay the message between themselves, and then to your brain.
Split up your dinner into two rounds: When your entrée arrives, start by eating half, then wait at least 10 minutes before finishing it off. Sip some water (to fill you up a little more), and chat to give your stomach a chance to digest and decide whether you’ve had enough—regardless of what that restaurant-sized plate might be saying.
8. Pregame With a Salad
See green! Multiple studies have found that noshing on a low-calorie, high-volume snack can help you fill up and reduce total caloric intake over the course of the meal. According to Cornell researchers, pre-loading your meals with salads can actually help your body control its blood glucose levels by minimizing post-eating spikes. So you’ll not only stay fuller longer, but you’ll also save your body from an inflammation-inducing spike in blood sugar.
9. Get Some Shuteye
Feeling full isn’t just about what you’re eating, it’s also about taking care of your body. When you don’t get enough quality sleep, your body has trouble regulating its hunger hormones: ghrelin, the “I’m hungry” hormone, shoots up while leptin, the “I’m full” hormone, decreases. Not only that but University of Chicago researchers found that sleep deprivation increases your body’s levels of chemicals called endocannabinoids—and yes, these same chemicals are what cause the infamous “munchies” after one smokes cannabis. Endocannabinoids are responsible for the desire to indulge in something sweet, salty, or fatty—even when you aren’t physically hungry.
To more easily reach those expert-recommended six to eight hours of sleep a night, power down your devices an hour before bed, develop a bedtime routine that consistently signals your body it’s time to sleep and try to maintain a consistent sleep schedule. All are just a few of the 30 Things To Do Before Bed to Lose Weight.
10. Stick to Solids
Smoothies and juices might be all the rage right now, but if you’ve ever had a meal-replacement drink and been hungry almost immediately after, here’s why: Your body doesn’t register liquid calories the same way as it does with solids. In fact, energy obtained from fluids has been shown to be less satisfying than calories from solid foods, so we’ll tend to drink more before we feel satisfied, according to a study in the journal Appetite. Experts hypothesize that the physical act of chewing can increase physiological satiety responses—one recent study in Food Quality and Preference attributed the satiety signal with the fact that hearing the crunch of food can serve as a way to monitor your consumption—or that whole foods are more slowly digested than liquids, a process known as gastric emptying, causing your stomach to actually feel fuller, longer.
We certainly love our smoothies around here, but if you’ve become victim to always feeling hungry it might be best if you laid off on the blended meals.
Then, Cut the Junk
Yes, having a cleaner kitchen leads to less overeating, but we’re specifically talking about cutting out the junk food in your diet. You can help accelerate your weight-loss success by removing these worst, hunger-inducing ingredients and their common food culprits from your kitchen.
11. Ditch Diet
It might be “sugar-free” but don’t take that as an excuse to overindulge. Artificially-sweetened drinks have been known to ramp up your appetite even more than real sugar because these ingredients bypass evolutionary satiety mechanisms. According to a study in the British Journal of Nutrition, researchers found that while drinks sweetened with glucose and fructose (two components of regular table sugar) increased satiety and decreased the hunger hormone ghrelin, drinks sweetened with an artificial sweetener were not able to affect satiety hormone signaling at all. Not to mention, artificial sugar alternatives have been associated with destroying proper gut health.
12. Toss the Junk Food
It’s no wonder food manufacturers would take the bet that “You can’t eat just one!” The odds are in their favor! Junk foods are chemically-engineered to trick your brain into thinking you’re still hungry. “Essentially, these foods are calorically dense but lack actual nutrition. So, you have to eat more and more of the food before your brain gets the message that you are actually full,” shares Rebecca Lewis, RD for HelloFresh. That’s because scientists have discovered the perfect blend of additives, flavors, and textures that hack our evolutionary nutrient receptors. These processed foods stimulate such a strong reward connection in our brains that it tricks our brains into thinking we need the food, making it very easy to overeat.
13. Say “No” to Fat-Free
Not all yogurts are created equal. When you opt for the “healthy” skim or low-fat option, you’ll oft be looking for more to eat. That’s because consuming healthy fats are digested slowly and help to satisfy our appetite. Not to mention, because fat provides flavor, many low-fat foods, like yogurt and peanut butter, are pumped full of taste-boosting sugars and salt—which can cause you to eat more.
14. Pass on the MSG
It’s not just Chinese food that you have to look out for when it comes to the appetite-revving additive, MSG. Anything from chips and soups to snack bars and processed meats contain this additive under the guise of hydrolyzed vegetable protein, autolyzed yeast, or yeast extract. MSG, or monosodium glutamate, is used as a flavor enhancer in a variety of processed foods. Research suggests that MSG causes a drastic increase in appetite. One group of researchers hypothesize it’s because this neurotransmitter-mimicking chemical activates taste bud cells that release the “happy” hormone serotonin—because our brain evolutionarily connects MSG with eating a nutrient-dense piece of meat—which causes us to crave even more of it. Be sure to steer clear of food with this additive on the label.
15. Say Sayonara to Sugar
If you rarely eat home-cooked meals, you could be taking in a whopping 87 percent of your total daily calories from added sugar, according to a study published in BMJ Open. That’s because manufacturers sneak the health-harming additive into almost every processed food—and many will surprise you. Eating foods with sugar, as well as highly refined carbohydrates, causes an increase in the fat-storing hormone insulin. When there is a lot of insulin, too much sugar is shuttered away in fat cells, leaving none for your blood. The result? A huge crash and subsequent low blood sugar level that makes you feel hungry shortly after consumption.
Lastly, Stock Up These Foods
Whether these foods prolong feelings of fullness or suppress your appetite by increasing levels of leptin, either way, they’re going to help you feel full with fewer calories. To whittle your middle down to a flat belly, eat more of these foods that will curb your cravings, and your hunger pangs at bay for hours.
High-fiber foods are a must when it comes to feeling full on fewer calories. This macronutrient is digested slowly in your gut and also helps add bulk to foods, which gives you the satisfaction of chewing and a feeling of a full stomach. Leafy greens, carrots, and celery are all excellent choices, but artichokes sit at the top of the pack. That’s because a single medium artichoke serves up 40 percent of your daily required fiber intake. Plus, artichokes are also one of the foods highest in the soluble fiber, inulin, which acts as a prebiotic, feeding your good gut bacteria. Maintaining proper gut health also helps to control your leptin and ghrelin levels.
17. Resistant Starches
You know refined carbs break down quickly in your body and can grow belly fat, but not all carbs have the same effect. In fact, the right starchy foods can actually help you trim down. Slightly underripe bananas, beans, and raw oats are rich in resistant starch, a source of prebiotics which passes through your upper gut undigested. Instead, they move down to your large intestine, where they feed gut bacteria, leading to prolonged feelings of fullness and the fermentation of anti-inflammatory compounds which help blast fat. Another source of resistant starch, boiled and chilled potatoes, are also one of the most filling foods there is, according to a study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
18. Trail Mix
Portable, tasty, and full of the satiating trio of protein, fiber, and healthy fats: trail mix is one of the best food to help you feel full. Plus, snacking can also help to reduce binging at mealtimes by keeping blood-sugar levels stable and your metabolism humming, which prevents the body from storing fat.
Grab a bag of spinach to quash your food cravings naturally. Recent research suggests specific compounds, known as thylakoids, found in the membranes of spinach leaves may serve as a powerful appetite suppressant. The study, published in the journal Appetite, found that a drink that contained spinach thylakoids significantly reduced women’s cravings for snacks and sweets. A cup of spinach has only 7 calories, so throw a handful or two in your smoothies, salads, and stir-frys to fill up without filling out.
Spice up your life! This warm spice has been found to help maintain your fasting blood glucose levels, according to a study in the Journal of Medicinal Food. When your blood glucose levels say constant for longer, your body won’t trigger the release of the hunger hormone ghrelin, so you’ll be kept from indulging unnecessarily. Sprinkle it on yogurt, oatmeal, popcorn, or sub it for sugar to add flavor to coffee.
Don’t worry—eating fat won’t always make you fat. Avocados are packed with heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, like those found in olive oil and nuts, that dim your hunger switches and ward off the munchies: a study in Nutrition Journal found that participants who ate half a fresh avocado with lunch reported a 40 percent decreased desire to eat for hours afterward. Oh, and did we mention that these same unsaturated fats can also prevent the storage of belly fat? It’s a win-win, as the more belly fat we have, the harder it is to control our appetite, according to a new study from the University of Florida.
Ditch the processed, sugary cereals and eat a bowl of oats in the morning. According to research published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, eating oatmeal results in greater feelings of satiety than cold breakfast cereal. Why? The belly-filling power of insoluble fiber. In one Canadian study, researchers discovered that those whose diets were supplemented with insoluble fiber had lower levels of the hunger-inducing hormone ghrelin.
Chickpea hummus is not only packed with satiating protein but having the Mediterranean dip stocked in your pantry also give you an excuse to eat more filling, fiber-rich vegetables. Legumes—which also includes beans, lentils, and peas—have been found to be some powerful appetite suppressors. A review, published in the journal Obesity, discovered that subjects who consumed ¾ to 1 cup of legumes daily felt as much as 31 percent fuller than those who abstained.
They might be small, but raspberries are a mighty hunger fighter. A small study in the journal Appetite found that young women who consumed a mere 65-calorie cup of berries ate about 20 percent fewer calories an hour later than women who ate the same number of calories in candy. Translation: Eating berries won’t just quell your cravings, they’ll ward off overeating, too. That’s because just a cup of raspberries provides 8 grams of satiating fiber. Don’t feel restricted to popping them plain, either. Throw them into a smoothie or on top of a salad—you’ll do your entire body a favor.
25. Greek Yogurt
Greek yogurt packs a one-two punch when it comes to beating hunger pangs: it packs over 20 grams of satiating protein and a whopping 20 percent of your daily calcium needs. Without enough calcium in your body, you’re more likely to experience anxiety and depression—which can increase cortisol and hunger hormone levels. Because chewing helps boost satiety, add some nuts or baked oats that are high in fiber to add a crunch to the creamy yogurt.
26. Apple Cider Vinegar
Mix up an apple cider vinaigrette and those wimpy salads might actually be able to tide you over until dinner. That’s because a study in the journal BMC Gastroenterology found that the acetic acid in the vinegar can both delay gastric emptying and slow the release of sugar into the bloodstream—two powerful components of extending feelings of fullness. A separate study in Diabetes Care among pre-diabetics found the addition of 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar to a high-carb meal reduced the subsequent rise in blood sugar by 34 percent!