We recently did a blog all about foods to avoid as they make you more hungry and it was very popular. So here’s a blog on things we can do, and foods we can eat to help reduce our appetites and prevent hunger.
The problem with weight loss programmes is that, all too often, people following them get too hungry – which is a miserable and impossible status to endure for too long! That’s why the Motivation programmes are so successful – clients can happily follow our programmes for long periods of time, without experiencing a problem with hunger at all. They are designed with that in mind. So here’s the science behind why it works:
6 (Scientifically Backed) Ways to Reduce Appetite
1. You Eat Enough Protein
It’s a fact that adding more protein to your diet can increase feelings of fullness, encouraging you to eat less at your next meal and to consume less calories over the day, leading to weight loss. One weight loss study compared two breakfasts containing the same amount of calories: one was based around eggs, and the other around bagels. The results were outstanding: the participants who had the egg breakfast lost an impressive 65% more weight and 16% more body fat over the eight-week study period than the other group.
It’s important to also eat your protein regularly – at Motivation, we ask our clients to stick to a schedule of eating some form of protein every 3-4 hours for optimum appetite control (and also to preserve muscle mass while losing weight). This is where protein bars come in so handy (plus they’re delicious!)
2. You Fill Up On Your Water
Drinking water can help to decrease the amount of hunger you experience before meals. In fact, studies show that people who drink just two glasses of water just before their meal eat around 22% less than those who don’t. It may also promote weight loss, although scientists aren’t exactly sure of the mechanics. Some believe that a fully hydrated body has a faster metabolism than one that is dehydrated. Others put it down to the stretching of the stomach, with the belief that about 500 mls of water is enough to stretch the stomach and to send signs of fullness to the brain.
Researchers have also found that eating a bowl of soup immediately before a meal has a similar effect (reducing the calorie intake in that meal by about 100 calories) – so make sure to order that bowl of soup as a starter next time you eat out!
3. You Slow Down (and Use a Smaller Plate)
Eating quickly or while you’re distracted (such as, in front of a screen) can make it more difficult for your brain to recognise the normal signals of feeling full. Savour your food and try to be mindful when you’re eating.
One study showed that, when blindfolded, subjects ate considerably more food, which highlights how important it is that we are present and engaged when eating food. Slowing down and eating at the table can make a dramatic impact on, not only how much you actually consume, but also how satisfied and full you feel. Similarly, eating on a smaller plate will automatically lead to smaller portions, without you feeling deprived.
One study to back this up showed that participants who served themselves snacks from large bowls ate, on average, 142 calories more than those who ate from smaller bowl. For more on this topic, read my blog on the importance of eating at the table.
4. You Target Middle Weight
Neuropeptide Y is a hormone that influences appetite and energy balance. Higher levels of this hormone are believed to increase appetite and may even change the percentage of calories you store as fat Interestingly, researchers have discovered that body fat, especially the type found around your organs (visceral fat) may increase production of NPY. Visceral fat leads to inflammation in the body (which can lead to cancer) and can increase the risk of heart disease and type II diabetes (and, shockingly, it’s even linked to dementia).
At Motivation we are particularly focused on our clients losing this type of fat (which we measure regularly with our Tanita scales). Listen to our podcast here to learn some more fascinating facts about visceral fat.
5. You Get Enough Sleep and Reduce Stress
We are blue in the face saying this – but that’s because it’s just so important! Studies show that too little sleep can increase hunger and appetite by as much as 24%, and decrease levels of some fullness hormones by up to 26%. The ideal amount of sleep is around 7-8 hours each night. In studies, those who get only six hours each night a showed a 55% higher risk of obesity.
With regards to stress, the risk is associated with higher levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, which has been linked to food cravings and also with interference with our usual fullness hormones. We often cannot change our circumstances (such as a job we don’t like or worries about relatives or a partner) but there are techniques, such as CBT and relaxation/mindfulness skills that can help reduce the impact that that stress has on us.
6. You Eat High-Fibre Foods and Oily Fish
Eating a food high in fibre will stretch the stomach, signalling to the brain that it’s full, whilst also slowing the stomach’s emptying rate and influencing the release of fullness hormones. So where can you get your fibre from while on a weight loss programme?
As well as always opting for wholegrains over white carbs, including some lower sugar fruits and plenty of vegetables is the best option to up your fibre. But don’t forget the humble bean – a wonderful weight loss food (read the recent blog on beans here).
In fact, a recent review reported that adding fibre-rich peas, chickpeas and lentils to your meal can increase feelings of fullness by 31%, compared to equivalent meals that aren’t based on beans. Similarly, oily fish seems to do the trick in helping the brain to think it’s full as the omega-3 fats stimulate the fullness hormone, called leptin (other foods high in omega-3 fats include seeds and nuts, such as chia seeds and almonds). As well as eating these foods, our clients at Motivation are also recommended to take an omega-3 supplement while following their weight loss plan.