What to do when you are hungry and on a diet

Improve Glasgow
Hungry, peckish, famished, Hank Marvin – you know the feeling, right?

But what does that deep belly growl of yours want? Do you have to listen to it? And, most importantly, how do you control it?

These are the questions we’ll answer today.

The first port of call, sailor, is Captain Obvious telling you that hunger plays an important role in keeping you alive. It’s a warning signal that energy has been used and a cue that you better find some grub pronto.

Satiety – or fullness – is the flip side of hunger. 

You eat until your hunger is gone, you have eaten enough key nutrients or your stomach is full. This signal is passed on, you then drop your fork and push your plate away. 

This is the fundamentals of what scientists call ‘set point theory’.

This theory states your body maintains your level of body fat between a high and low point through your hunger and satiety signals.

(Imagine this like an air conditioner unit maintaining the temperature of a room by blasting hot air if it’s too cold, or cold air if it’s too hot.)

But, as always, it’s not that simple.

Our meat vehicles are more complex than air conditioning. Food is way more than just fuel for us humans – it’s part of our culture.

We celebrate with food: “New job? Let’s get pizza!”

We also grieve with food: “Lost your job? Let’s get pizza!” 

Furthermore, a study has shown you consume more calories in line with the number of people you eat with; from 440 calories when you’re alone to almost double that with 13 others present.

To compound this emotionally-driven, socially-rewarding consumption of food, we also live in a Chocolate Factory world. We’re surrounded by high-calorie, high-reward foods all day. No wonder we’re hungry all the time!

I hope it’s clear from my ramblings that the drive to consume food is far deeper than consuming or not consuming in order to maintain your weight. 

But that, thankfully, doesn’t mean you’re stuck between Blackpool rock and a fried plaice forever.

The methods below will give you strategies to manage your hunger and cravings and aid you in reaching your dieting goals.

Method 1: Explore your hunger

Are you hungry? Are you sure? 

Because hunger cues are easily misinterpreted.

Stress, boredom, close proximity to food, thirst, advertisements and habits can all drive you to eat, even when you’re not truly hungry.

It’s therefore worthwhile to slow down when you feel the drive to eat. Once you’ve slowed down, take the time to explore your hunger.

Be curious and don’t judge yourself. Be mindful about your eating and ask questions like:

Before you eat:

  • How would I rate my hunger out of 10?
  • What has influenced my drive to eat?
  • Am I sure I want to eat right now?

Whilst you’re eating:

  • How am I eating? (Slowly, distractedly, etc)
  • Do I want to stop eating yet?

Once you’re finished eating:

  • Am I happy with the food choices I made?
  • How would I rate my fullness out of 10?

These questions help to develop your relationship with hunger and allow you to listen better to your true hunger cues.

I admit it might seem a little weird at first and might not be for everybody.

But, honestly, those who have tried this method have made massive positive changes to their relationship with food. Try it, perhaps by putting your answers to the questions in a journal. I’m certain you’ll find interesting insights.

Method 2: Satiety Strategies

Exploring your hunger helps to improve your relationship with hunger and satiety. The satiety strategies that follow will actively help to reduce your hunger, increase your fullness and make it easy to stick to your diet long term.

I created the 4Ps model to do exactly the points above. The 4Ps are:

  1. Plan
  2. Patience
  3. Protein
  4. pFibre

Ok, technically the ‘3Ps and 1F model’, but that doesn’t sound sexy. Let’s dig in to them:

Plan

Look at your day for when you’re most hungry. 

Does your stomach serve as your alarm clock? Perhaps you go to bed dreaming of Cadbury Dream bars?

Whatever time you like to eat, it’s probably worth saving a good chunk of your food intake for then.

Personally, my work schedule and preferences mean a big meal for dinner. When I’m dieting, I’ll follow an Intermittent Fasting approach where I consciously skip breakfast and save more calories for later in the day.

Another important aspect of planning is your ‘state’.

You have two ‘states’ to deal with and, unfortunately, the relationship between the two isn’t rosy.

Firstly, your ‘hot state’.

This can be described as a deep, inner drive for the stimuli required to satisfy your current state, regardless of the long-term consequences.

Hunger is a ‘hot state’.

And that’s why you never go to the supermarket hungry.

Because when you do, your ‘hot state’ ensures hot wings will end up in your basket, even if that goes against your long-term goal.

Secondly, your ‘cold state’.

This state is more calm and collected. You make rational and sensible decisions that benefit your long-term goals.

But there’s a problem.

When you make a plan for the future while in a ‘cold state’, you will underestimate the power of the deep, inner drive for hot wings that appears when you get hungry.

Long story short, you suck at knowing how your future self will feel. 

And without knowing and being empathetic for how your future self will feel, you will make a plan that is unsustainable for the long term.

Therefore, it’s important you take into account the ‘state’ you are in when you make your plan and that you cut yourself some slack if your ‘hot state’ takes over.

Patience

How fast do you eat?

Probably not as slow as you should as it takes approximately 20 minutes of eating for the signals of fullness to reach your brain.

The only way that’s happening for me is if I’m blindfolded and eating with chopsticks.

It is, however, an important point. 

Slowing down your fork means less food but more fullness. That allows either faster progress or more calories available for you throughout the day to snack on.

Pass the chopsticks – I’m in.

Protein

A study comparing a group of dieters following either a high-protein diet or a normal-protein diet showed the higher protein group had greater fullness throughout the day and lower late-night desire to eat.

But it doesn’t stop there.

When your weight loss diet is composed of 1.2-2g of protein per kilogram of your bodyweight, you can retain your muscle mass whilst losing body fat.

And it still doesn’t stop there.

The more muscle you have, the more calories you can consume whilst still losing weight – win!

The benefits of eating a high-protein diet can hardly be overstated.

That’s why at Improve Glasgow we recommend eating a source of protein with all or most of your meals so as to hit that protein target without having to worry too much about tracking or punching numbers into a calorie counting app. 

Fibre

Fibre is a portion of food that cannot be fully digested by humans.

Apart from massively improving your health, fibre helps you feel fuller and aids digestion. 

Aim for at least 25g of fibre per day from vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, seeds and wholegrains.

And before I say goodbye and bon voyage, there is an important final note you need to know.

You will get hungry on your diet.

This is not only normal but necessary in the weight loss process.

But hopefully the information in this article helps you to understand more about hunger, how to deal with it and how to keep it at bay without binging and derailing your progress.

I really hope it helps. 

 

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