Managing Hunger when Changing the Way You Eat

Anytime we eat differently than our normal pattern – whether that’s less or more or different types of foods – it’s very possible our hunger and fullness will be impacted. Hunger is an interesting sensation – in and of itself it’s an important component of survival. Our body triggers hunger as

healthy food bowl

an indication of needing calories; however, we are learning more and more about the impact of a wide variety of factors (environment, hormones, neurotransmitters, etc.) on hunger.

An individual trying to healthily lose weight may find hunger increasing at a certain point during weight loss, at which point we may need to focus on certain tactics to help manage hunger. The body does not necessarily recognize weight loss as a positive thing (for example, improving knee pain or blood sugar levels); rather, it may attempt to fight back as a survival mechanism and promote weight regain through increased hunger.

The following tactics may help understand and manage hunger during weight loss:

1. Minimize eating too frequently or too infrequently. For most of us, going too long between meals can lead to overeating at the next one – we’re ravenous when we start eating, eat quickly to appease the hunger, and miss the fullness signal because it comes well after we’ve already finished the plate. On the flipside, eating too often can lead to consuming more calories and training the body to expect constant snacking. Like goldilocks, find a pattern that’s juuuuuust right for you. Typically having a meal or snack every 3-4 hours is appropriate. Getting hungry sooner than 3 hours after a meal? It might have been too small. Still not hungry at 4 hours after a meal? It might have been too big.

2. Get adequate protein. Protein is preached for a reason. Research shows it’s important for maintaining muscle when losing weight, and it’s also the most beneficial nutrient when it comes to satiety. Research also shows it is best consumed in amounts of roughly 20-30 grams every 3-4 hours (see #1 above – lines up well!). Include this amount of protein at meals and aim for 5-15 grams at snacks.