Whether you’re trying to lose weight, maintain weight loss, or just stay healthy, at some point you’re going to be hungry. Simply eating whenever the urge strikes isn’t always the healthiest response, and that’s because starving yourself isn’t as easy as you might think.
A complex network of signals throughout the brain and body determines how and when we feel hungry. The question of why we feel hungry is not always easy to answer. The urge to eat arises not only from the body’s energy needs, but also from a multitude of cues in our environment and the pursuit of pleasure.
What Is Hunger? Homeostatic vs. Hedonic
Before we begin, it’s important to understand exactly what hunger is: What’s going on in your brain and body that makes you say, “I’m hungry”?
It turns out that feeling hungry can mean at least two things, and they’re quite different. Of course, there’s the traditional concept of hunger: if you haven’t eaten for several hours, your stomach will start to growl, and you’ll feel the usual physical sensations associated with hunger. This feeling of hunger comes from your body’s need for calories; the need for energy triggers the signal that it’s time to eat, he said.
Researchers refer to this type of starvation as “homeostatic starvation,” Lowe told Live Science. Homeostatic hunger is driven by a complex set of signals in the body and brain that tell us we need food for fuel.
Dealing With Short-Term Hunger: Cravings
The “craving” to eat may sound like cravings, and there is an overlap between the two. However, cravings are cravings for a specific food, while hedonic hunger is cravings for savoury foods in general. To understand the elaborate theory of intrusion and how it applies to cravings, consider this: people are not always aware that they are hungry until the feelings become very strong or until a person has nothing else to eat when the hunger strikes foreground of your attention. Hence, if a person was to eat something, the thought would be handled and there would be no need to crave or crave anything.
If someone hasn’t eaten, they can stop at this intrusive thought. Maybe they would imagine the sight, smell, and taste of the food, think about where to get it, etc. Thinking about food is pleasant, we continue to do so and make our awareness that we are hungry (and not eat yet), getting worse, she said. By developing the initial intrusive thought, the person has developed a craving.
Dealing With Short-Term Hunger: Cravings
The “craving” to eat may sound like cravings, and there is an overlap between the two. However, cravings are cravings for a specific food, while hedonic hunger is cravings for savoury foods in general.
People are not always aware that they are hungry until the feelings become very strong or until a person has nothing else to worry about, and so the awareness of hunger comes to the forefront of their attention. If a person were to eat something, the thought would be handled and there would be no need to crave or crave anything. If someone hasn’t eaten, they can stop at this intrusive thought. Maybe they would imagine the sight, smell, and taste of the food, think about where to get it, etc.
Ways to Reduce Hunger and Appetite
1) Eat Enough Protein
Adding more protein to your diet can increase feelings of fullness, lower hunger hormone levels, and potentially help you eat less next time.
In a small study of 20 healthy overweight or obese adults, those who ate eggs (a high-protein food) instead of cereal (a low-protein food) experienced increased feelings of fullness and decreased hunger hormones after breakfast.
Another study of 50 overweight adults found that drinking a high-protein, high-fibre beverage 30 minutes before eating pizza appeared to reduce participants’ feelings of hunger and the amount of pizza eaten.
The appetite-suppressing effects of protein are not limited to animal sources such as meat and eggs. Plant proteins, including beans and peas, can be just as helpful in keeping you full and moderating your intake.
At least 20 to 30% of your total caloric intake from protein, or 0.45 to 0.55 grams per pound (1.0 to 1.2 grams per kg) of body weight is enough to provide health benefits. However, some studies suggest up to 0.55 to 0.73 grams per pound (1.2 to 1.6 grams per kg) of body weight. However, other studies have found conflicting results regarding high-protein diets.
2) Choose High-Fibre Foods
High fibre intake helps you feel full by slowing digestion and affecting the release of satiety hormones, which increase feelings of satiety and regulate appetite.
In addition, fibre consumption helps produce short-chain fatty acids in the gut, which are thought to further promote satiety.
Viscous fibres like pectin, guar gum, and psyllium thicken when mixed with liquids and can be particularly filling. Viscous fibres occur naturally in plant foods but are also commonly used as dietary supplements. A recent review even reports that high fibre; viscous beans, peas, chickpeas, and lentils can increase feelings of fullness by 31 percentage compared to equivalent non-bean meals. High-fibre whole grains can also help curb hunger.
Still, study methods examining how fibre intake affects appetite have not always been consistent, and some researchers believe it’s too early to generalize about the relationship between fibre and appetite. Diet High-fibre foods often contain many other beneficial nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and beneficial plant compounds.
Therefore, choosing a diet that includes enough fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, and seeds can also promote long-term health. Plus, combining protein with fibre can provide dual benefits for satiety and appetite.
3) Drink Plenty of Water
Animal studies have also found that thirst is sometimes confused with hunger. A small human study found that people who drank 2 glasses of water immediately before a meal ate 22% less than those who did not.
Interestingly, starting your meal with a broth-based soup can have the same effect. In a previous study, researchers found that eating a bowl of soup before a meal reduced hunger and reduced total calorie intake from the meal by about 100 calories.
However, this may not be the case for all. Genetics, the type of soup you eat, and several other factors play a role. For example, soups with savoury umami flavour profiles may be more filling than others.
While the neurons that regulate appetite for water and food are closely related, much remains to be learned about exactly how they interact and why drinking water might also satisfy hunger or appetite for solid food.
4) Choose Solid Foods to Satisfy Hunger
Solid calories and liquid calories can affect your appetite and your brain’s reward system differently.
Two reviews of recent research found that solid foods and those with a higher viscosity (or thickness) significantly reduced hunger compared to thin and liquid foods. In a small study, those who ate hard foods (white rice and raw vegetables) for lunch consumed fewer calories at lunch and the next meal than those who ate soft foods (risotto and boiled Vegetables).
Another study found that people who ate foods with more complex textures consumed significantly less food overall during the meal. Solid foods require more chewing, which can give more time for the satiety signal to reach the brain. On the other hand, softer foods are eaten quickly in large bites and are more easily overeaten.
5) Eating Mindfully
Under normal circumstances, your brain helps your body recognize when you are hungry or full.
However, when you eat too quickly or when you are distracted, your brain has a harder time picking up these signals.
One way to solve this problem is to eliminate distractions and focus on the food in front of you, a key aspect of mindful eating. Unlike external cues like advertisements or the time of day to eat, mindful eating is a way to tap into internal cues of hunger and satiety, like thoughts and physical feelings.
6) Eat Slowly
When your appetite or hunger is high, it can be especially easy to overeat. Slowing down the rate at which you eat could be one way to curb the tendency to overeat.
One study found that people who ate faster ate larger bites and consumed more calories overall.
Another study found that foods eaten slowly were more filling than those eaten quickly. Interestingly, some recent research even suggests that you’re eating pattern can affect your endocrine system, including blood levels of hormones that interact with your digestive system and signals of hunger and satiety, like insulin and pancreatic polypeptide
7) Learn Which Dishes to Eat They Work
You may have heard that eating from a smaller plate or using a certain sized utensil can help you eat less.
Reducing the size of dishes can also help you subconsciously reduce food portions and consume less food without feeling deprived. If you have more on a larger plate, you’re likely to eat more without realizing it.
Some studies have found that eating with a smaller spoon or fork may not directly affect your appetite, but it may help you eat less by slowing down your eating pace and letting you eat smaller bites.
8) Regular Exercise
Exercise is thought to decrease activation of brain regions associated with cravings, which may lead to lower motivation to eat high-calorie foods and higher motivation to eat low-calorie foods. also reduces hunger hormone levels while increasing feelings of satiety.
Some research shows that aerobic and resistance training are equally effective at influencing hormone levels and post-workout meal size, although it also suggests that higher-intensity training later has greater effects on appetite.
In general, exercise appears to have a relatively positive effect on appetite in most people, but it is important to note that studies have found large differences in the way people and their appetites respond to exercise.
9) Getting Enough Sleep
Getting enough sleep can also help reduce hunger and prevent weight gain. Studies show that not getting enough sleep can increase subjective feelings of hunger, appetite, and cravings. Lack of sleep can also lead to increases in ghrelin, a hunger hormone that increases food intake and is a signal that the body is hungry, and in the hormone lepton, which regulates appetite.
10) Control Your Stress Levels
Excessive stress is known to increase levels of the hormone cortisol. Although its effects can vary from person to person, it is widely believed that high levels of cortisol increase food cravings and urges to eat and have even been linked to weight gain.
Stress can also lower levels of the peptide YY (PYY), a satiety hormone. On the other hand, some people react differently to stress.
11) Eat Some Ginger
Ginger is associated with many health benefits due to the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of the bioactive compounds it contains. As for appetite, ginger has a reputation for increasing appetite in cancer patients by helping settle the stomach and reducing nausea.
Recent research, however, adds another benefit to the list: They can help reduce hunger.
12) Opt For Filling Snacks
Snacking is a matter of personal choice. Some people like to include snacks in their daily eating routine, while others don’t. If you have trouble regulating your hunger and appetite throughout the day, some research suggests snacking can help.
13) Don’t Deprive Yourself
The relationship between appetite, hunger, and cravings is complex and involves many biological pathways. Researchers are still working to understand exactly what happens when you limit certain foods and whether it’s an effective approach to curbing cravings for those foods.
Some people tend to experience cravings more intensely and are therefore more susceptible than others.
Eliminating your favourite foods from your diet entirely is not necessary for most people. After all, you can and should eat your favourite foods. If you have a craving for a certain food, enjoy it in moderation to see if it eases the craving and reduces your appetite again.
The Bottom Line
Hunger and appetite are normal bodily functions. Typically, they are simply a signal that your body needs energy, and it is time to eat. The tips mentioned here are just a few simple ways to reduce your appetite and hunger during times when these sensations feel stronger than normal. If you’ve tried these things but still feel hungrier than usual, consider talking to a doctor about additional support to regulate your appetite.