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May 5, 2021

Five Tips for Controlling Hunger

During the past year, I must admit, I’ve often caught myself eating for no reason. Sometimes, an hour after lunch, I’m in the pantry rummaging for a snack. Funny thing is, when that happens, I’m usually craving “something,” but I have no idea what. During the first three weeks of the pandemic, I lost 11 pounds from extreme stress. Then over the course of about three months, I gained back about 18 pounds from what I would call mindless eating (that put me up about 7 pounds).

Sometimes it’s just difficult to get your appetite under control. A global pandemic is one of those times. And the problem with a global pandemic is no one really knows when it will be over—the best information I’ve found so far says we have about 9 to 12 months to go. Ugh!

In the meantime, let’s talk about some ways we can control hunger as we press towards the end of pandemic.

1. Start Your Day with Fat

Always start your morning with some fat. Eggs, sausage, bacon, butter, macadamia nuts, avocados, whole milk, and whole milk yogurt are all great high-fat foods that will curb your appetite and help keep you satisfied until lunch. Fat makes you feel full. It takes longer to digest than protein and carbs. It’s also the only macronutrient that doesn’t affect your insulin.

Also, eating more fat for breakfast will boost your metabolism and help you with fat loss. A 2010 study published in the International Journal of Obesity found that eating a breakfast high in fat produced normal blood sugar profiles throughout the day. However, eating a breakfast high in carbohydrates increased appetite, promoted weight gain, and dysregulated insulin.

2. Get More Sleep

With the worries associated with a pandemic, sleep has become a rarer commodity. In the beginning, I lost sleep worrying about my family’s health, our business, and even how we were going to pay our bills. Sleepless nights go hand-in-hand with stressful times. We know losing sleep can affect our health in countless ways—upsetting our appetite is one of those ways.

When you sleep, your body puts a lot of effort into regulating hormones. We know that hormones make us do things we don’t necessarily want to do in many aspects of our lives. Appetite is one of those areas. A study conducted by PLOS MEDICINE found that not getting enough sleep affects the two most important appetite regulating hormones. Short sleep lowers levels of leptin, the hormone that tells your brain to stop eating when you are full, and increases ghrelin, the hormone that signals you to eat more food.

3. Reduce Stress

Stress can have a funny effect on your feelings of hunger. Your body will trick you into feeling hungry when you’re stressed out. One of the best things to do to reduce your stress is get outside and go for a walk. Fresh air, sunshine, and physical activity can quickly change your mood and take your mind off your worries. Another great way to reduce stress is a high-intensity strength training workout. It only takes 20 minutes to knock your stress down several notches. We have some clients who do their 20-minute workout twice a week because of the stress-reducing benefits.

If you find yourself stress-eating, make sure you are reaching for simple foods. Keep healthful snacks like fruit, nuts, and yogurt around so you will reach for those instead of chips and cookies when stress overwhelms you.

4. Drink More Water

We confuse dehydration with hunger all the time. That’s because your hypothalamus regulates for both hunger and thirst, and sometimes it mixes up its signals. We recommend that you drink at least 8 to 12 cups of water a day, and even more if you’re more active. Most people fall short and end up feeling hungry when they just need more water. A recent study published in Obesity found that drinking two cups of water before a meal causes people to eat 75 to 95 fewer calories.

5. Hide the Snacks

In an effort to get their employees to eat less candy, Google conducted and in-house experiment nicknamed “Project M&M.” They simply put the candy in opaque containers, and instead emphasized the placement of dried figs, pistachios, and other healthful snacks in clear glass jars. This small change curbed candy consumption by 3.1 million calories in just seven weeks. A study from Cambridge University found the sight of food causes us to release hunger hormones, leading to false cravings.

If you’re going to have food in sight at your house or workplace, make it healthful food. Hide the junk.

Hopefully one—or all—of these tips can help you be less hungry throughout your day. Controlling hunger takes some work, but if you put in the effort, you will win the war.

Stay Strong,

Bo Railey