A little bit of warning to start with. The idea of this post is absolutely not to ignore your hunger. If you did so and waited until you were absolutely starving, you would just end up ‘stuffing your face’ when you eventually eat…. not at all what we want here.
The objective rather, is to learn to recognize when you’re truly hungry and to manage your appetite so you don’t overeat.
What You Eat During Your Main Meals Has An Impact On Your Appetite
What you eat during your main meals is important.
If you eat processed food, high in simple sugar, you’ll feel hungrier much quicker after you’ve eaten because simple sugar are broken down quickly in the stomach. Once your stomach is empty, you’ll feel hungry again.
For the stomach to stay full longer, eat protein, carbohydrates and fat together to slow down digestion. We tend to forget proteins.
Another good idea, is to start your meal with food high in water and fiber such as salad or soup (see our article on Weight Loss Tip: The Soup Secret.) The fibers will fill your stomach up and will make you feel less hungry for the rest of the meal.
Research has also been found out that eating spicy food (cayenne pepper) can contribute to an increase in metabolism (making you consume more energy) and can cause a mild loss of appetite – especially if you are not used to eating spicy food. Unfortunately the effect tends to disappear the more you get used to it.
1- Start your meal with food high in fiber such as salad or soup
2- Eat a mixture of protein, carbohydrates and fats at each meal
3- Spice up your food with cayenne pepper from time to time
Curbing your appetite is also making sure you don’t eat too much during your meals.
It takes 10 minutes for your stomach to signal to your brain that you’re full. So, eat slowly so the message gets there before you’ve eaten too much. Take time to enjoy your food. Read our article on mindful eating.
Research has also found the more you chew, the more your appetite is reduced. They asked young adults to eat a pizza chewing up to 40 times before swallowing. They found a reduction in hunger, preoccupation with food and a desire to eat. CCK hormone (related to fullness and satiety) was increased. Ghrelin hormone (which stimulates the brain to increase appetite) was reduced. The more you chew, the less you eat. It might not always feel good to chew for that long (which might be part of the reason why desire to eat is tempered), in which case aim to chew longer than you normally do. This will help also with the point made above (leaving some time to your brain to process the fullness message from your stomach).
If you listen to your body and stop when you’re full, you’ll probably leave some food on your plate. Take note of how much food you actually ate. That’s all you need. Unfortunately, plates and portions have become increasingly bigger over time and we’re subconsciously programmed to finish everything on our plate no matter how big they are. So, get reacquainted to what a normal portion should be. In the future, when you cook, cook smaller amounts.
Something else worth trying is accupressure. It has some detractors but research have found good results especially with Tapas Accupressure Technique and Japanese magnetic beads on the ear’s accupressure points.
A simple technique that works for me is to gently press between the thumb and forefinger the fleshy part of the ear next to the jawbone (the part that you feel moving in front of your ear when you open and close your mouth). I do that for a minute and it takes my mind off food. Try it and let me know what you think!
When you eat is important too.
Control Your Appetite By Eating At The Right Time
Many nutritionists and diets recommend to eat regularly up to 5 meals a day so you’re never too hungry, which, overall, should lead to a smaller calorie intake per day.
This could well be true for some people but it depends entirely on what your eating habits are.
If you tend to eat large portions and have unhealthy snacks, then eating 5 meals a day would, I’m afraid, just result in eating more. It’s far better to learn to be more attune to your body and its hunger signals so you eat just when you’re hungry but not too hungry and you stop when you’re full.
You’re truly hungry when your stomach is empty. 50% of the stomach content is emptied 2.5 to 3 hours after a meal. Your stomach is completely empty 4 to 5 hours after a meal. This timing depends on how much and what you’ve eaten. However, these figures give you an indication.
So, if you’re feeling hungry, ask yourself when you last ate.
Was it less than 3 hours ago?
If so, it might not be true hunger but rather thirst (which is often mistaken for hunger) or it could be emotional eating.
– drink a glass of water
– wait for 20 minutes
If you still feel hungry after 20 minutes, then eat
If your next meal is scheduled for more than an hour away, consider a small snack.
The Best Snacks To Curb Your Appetite
Here are some idea of healthy snacks that help with appetite control:
- Drink green tea
Green tea has been found to contain molecules (epigallocatechin gallate) that decrease your appetite. However, too much of it could cause hormonal issues (and other issues related to its caffeine content). So, drink in moderation (less than 5 a day).
- Snack on nuts (almonds, walnuts, cashews)
Nuts are very nutrient rich and make a good snack IF you choose the natural flavour ones (no added salted, ro flavour) AND only eat a handful (15-20 maximum) otherwise, you’ll eat too many calories and defeat the purpose. Almonds are particularly good as they help also with satiety (feeling fuller longer).
- Eat an apple
Apples make great snacks because they’re full of soluble fibre which makes you feel fuller longer. They take a lot of chewing (see above) and they’re good for you (see our article on Apple Wonderfood).
- Have a couple of squares of dark chocolate
Dark chocolate (70% cocoa or more) contains healthy nutrients (particularly antioxidants and flavonoids) without the sugar and fat of its milk chocolate equivalent.
The same rules apply to snacks as to meals: do not eat a snack unless you are truly hungry, eat slowly and stop when you’re full.
to tide you in until your next meal.Healthy options include:
apple, handful of nuts, a couple of square of dark chocolate
and green tea in moderation.
This is a good moment to reiterate that if you have a desire to eat without feeling hungry you might simply suffer from emotional eating. If it’s the case, one of the best things to do to curb your appetite is to tackle emotional eating to stop mindless and unhealthy eating. Don’t feed your emotions (stress, sadness, boredom). Don’t use food as a reward. Emotional eating leads to regret, guilt and a few extra pounds. Identify your triggers and try to find other ways than food to feed your emotions (call a friend, take up an activity, have a bath,…). Read our article on Emotional Eating for a detailed guide on how to break this habit.
Pay Special Attention to Your Breakfast
Finally, you might have heard many times that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. In my view, they’re all important but breakfast does deserve special attention because it sets you off for the day.
You should eat breakfast but more importantly you should eat the right things at breakfast.
A bowl of cereals, a glass of orange juice and coffee will give you mostly simple carbohydrates which will quickly go in your bloodstream, making you quickly hungry again. It’s the best way to start a day of sugar cravings.
What you want is something that sustains you longer.
- proteins (eggs, ham)
- bread (not white bread – but wholemeal bread or bread with seeds and nuts, a bread that contains complex carbohydrates which will take longer to break down in your stomach)
- cheese (calcium decreases your desire to eat)
- fibers in the form of a portion of vegetables (tomatoes, mushrooms,…). Fruit in very small quantity is ok, but remember that fruits although high in fibers also contain sugar.
Of course, do not eat too much. Always think of your portions and eating slowly so you can stop when you’re full – wake up earlier 😉
and say good-bye to sugar in the morning
A last interesting thought: ChronoNutrition or Chrono-Diet
I want to leave you with a last interesting idea, that of Chrononutrition or Chrono-Diet.
It’s a diet that was invented by a French doctor in the 80’s.
I generally don’t like diets but this one is not really a diet in the sense that no food is banned. The Chrono diet promotes a way of eating. It suggests which type of food to eat, in which quantity (depending on your own morphotype) and at what times of the day so it makes the best use of the natural highs and lows of our internal hormones.
In the Chrono Diet you will find many of the ideas we’ve covered here:
- Breakfast rich in protein and calcium
- Lunch and dinner with a mixture of protein, carbs and fats (the Chrono-Diet specifies animal proteins and carbs at lunch time, fish or lean meat and green vegetables for a light dinner)
- Afternoon snack with chocolate, nuts and fruits (the Chrono-Diet specifies to have a snack 5 hours after your lunch)
I find this diet interesting because it promotes a healthy lifestyle and a healthy relationship with food.
It is close to the way I eat and I find it a good way to maintain weight loss.
One interesting rule that this diet promotes is that it allows for 2 cheats a week. Being able to cheat is my last tip to curb your appetite. Counter-productive? No. You cannot be perfect 100% of the time. If you try, you’ll probably give it up alltogether. It’s better to be realistic. Aim to be good 90% of the time.
Being 90% perfect is much better than not trying at all.