beat hunger pangs

Top 9 Tips and Tactics to Banish Hunger

Whatever dieting method you’re using to lose weight, hunger can be a real problem – especially in the first few weeks

“How do I get over the hunger pangs? I'm trying to eat loads of veg and pulses etc I'm pescetarian, I'm also eating carbs but not too much bread. I had toast and smoked salmon for breakfast today, cous cous salad for lunch with fruit for snacks. I had carrot sticks and dip after work and I'm making a pasta and roast veg bake for dinner. What else can I do? Help please. 😊”

Sound familiar?

This post on the wlr Advice and Support board reflects the experience of many of us and got a lot of super helpful responses*.

So here’s the top 9 tactics recommended by dietitian Juliette Kellow along with real life examples put into practice by those who are losing weight successfully.

1 ~ Don't be scared of hunger

After months or years of constantly overindulging and never really feeling hungry, it's easy to forget what that gnawing, empty sensation in our stomach feels like. It's no wonder then that when we initially change our eating habits, hunger pangs make us feel uneasy and uncomfortable - and leave us reaching for the biscuit tin! While many diets claim you'll never feel hungry, this is often an unrealistic promise.

Experiencing hunger, especially when you first start a new way of eating, is quite normal.

The key is to learn to recognise the sensation, not be scared by it, and then deal with it appropriately.

  • Firstly, rather than looking at hunger in a negative way, think positively. Can it actually feel good to be hungry and to really look forward to a meal?
  • Secondly, before eating, you may find it helpful to identify how hungry you really are: rank your hunger on a scale of one to 10, where one is fully satisfied and 10 is starving. Only reach for a snack when your hunger ranks at seven or above.

“I think partly this is just you getting used to eating less. You need to ensure that you are getting 'calorie value' and eat the right things, but also you simply have to get used to the sensation of hunger. Have some lowish calorie good value snacks available for 'emergencies', e.g. oatcakes with a slice of cheese.” Annie5

“Try lowering your loss to 1/2lb pw then increasing it gradually as you get used to eating less. I did this and found that I was comfortable with the allowance for a 1lb pw loss. There’s no point leaving yourself hungry as you’ll only make yourself miserable and constantly thinking about food.” Bouncy62

“As others have said, a bit of a feeling of hunger is not necessarily a bad thing. I think it also depends on how much of a calorie reduction you’re now on. My weight gain has been gradual with just eating a few hundred more than I should per day. Before Christmas, reducing my intake felt quite easy. However a couple of weeks of eating virtually double my daily rate on here over the Christmas period has made this week feel very difficult!” niccade

2 ~ Take a hunger reality check

Is it real physical hunger you’re feeling or is the need to eat based on how you’re feeling emotionally? Or even out of habit (for example, you always have a mid-afternoon snack.)

Do the ‘broccoli test’ on yourself to help you determine. If you’re really hungry, you’ll be as happy to eat a bowl of broccoli as anything else.

A slightly more realistic version of this test is to ask yourself if you’d eat a piece of fruit. If you don’t want to eat fruit, the chances are your hunger is coming from somewhere other than the physical need for food.

That doesn’t mean you should cut out all your favourite snacks and treats, but plan for them in frequency and amounts that work within the calorie allowance you’re aiming for.

“The other thing is, don't restrict too hard, don't cut all of your favourites out (even if you think they are "bad"), trying to be too good, always results in a rebound, whether it's emotional ("I'l have just one taste" then the whole package is gone etc) or due to hunger.” Casey76

3 ~ Eat breakfast and don't skip meals

Skipping breakfast (or any other meal) can give you hunger pangs that quickly leave you reaching for chocolate, crisps and fizzy drinks to boost flagging energy levels!

Studies at the University of Leeds found that eating earlier in the day helps to prevent people from getting hungry, losing control and overeating in the evening.

By spreading meals evenly throughout the day - including breakfast - you'll feel satisfied for longer and be less likely to give in to snack attacks.

“I find oats for breakfast (porridge made with water, some sunflower, pumpkin and chia seeds and fruit (either frozen berries or a chopped apple or pear or maybe half a banana) and a dash of milk or yogurt makes a good start and I can’t recommend having a big bowl of soup at lunch highly enough. It might seem strange having nothing else with it at the beginning but if the soup has lentils or beans (I'm veggie but yours might have some meat or fish) you dont need anything else!” aliev

4 ~ Pack in some protein

Eating small amounts of lean meat, chicken, fish, dairy products and eggs may help to keep you feeling fuller for longer.

Research shows that protein-rich foods help to improve satiety - the feeling of fullness you get at end of a meal - and the more satiated you feel after eating, the less likely you'll be to feel hungry between meals. More research is needed to prove this conclusively. Nevertheless, chances are you'll feel fuller for longer if you swap a couple of biscuits mid afternoon for a skinless chicken breast, tuna (canned in water) or lean ham with salad.

“If you find that you are always hungry at 4, this is probably due to low blood sugar after lunch. You could try incorporating more protein heavy items with lunch, e.g. cheese, fish (tuna, sardines and mackerel are all handily available in tins), eggs, a chicken breast fillet cooked how you like. Also include some fats, so, some full fat yogurt or an avocado.” Casey76

“I find a boiled egg keeps hunger away and pretty low in cals.” Katiecate

5 ~ Go for low GI foods

Foods with a low Glycaemic Index (GI) slowly release sugar into the blood, providing you with a steady supply of energy. This leaves you feeling satisfied for longer so that you're less likely to snack.

In contrast, foods with a high GI cause a rapid - but short-lived - rise in blood sugar, leaving you lacking in energy and feeling hungry within a short time, so that you end up reaching for a snack. Bottom line: eating foods with a low GI prevents swings in blood sugar, helping you to have better control over your appetite because you feel fuller for longer.

Good low GI choices include most fruit and veg, wholewheat pasta, porridge, wholegrain cereals, lentils, beans, nuts, brown and basmati rice and wholemeal bread.

“I found limiting processed carbs (bread, rice, pasta) while upping beans, lentils etc really helped stabilise those hunger peaks and troughs.” aliev

6 ~ Go to work on an egg

According to research from the Rochester Centre for Obesity, eating eggs for breakfast can help to prevent hunger sufficiently so that calorie intakes are reduced by more than 400 calories throughout the rest of the day!

It seems that eating eggs for breakfast makes you feel fuller for longer so that you eat less at your next few meals. Combine them with wholemeal toast and a glass of vitamin-C rich unsweetened orange juice, which will help the body make the best use of the iron in the eggs.

“you might find eggs more filling as a breakfast (e.g. two poached eggs on a slice of wholemeal toast)” Annie5

7 ~ Quench your thirst

Before grabbing something to eat, check whether you're really thirsty rather than hungry. It's easy to confuse thirst and hunger with the result that many people grab a snack when what they really need is a glass of water.

Water is needed for every chemical reaction in the body, including burning fat. And not only will it help to fill you up, it'll work wonders for your skin and hair.

For maximum 'filling power' opt for sparkling water - the bubbles will help to fight those hunger pangs.

“I also get hunger pangs and find that drinking water, sparkling water especially, helps a lot.” Bouncy62

8 ~ Fill up on fibre

When it comes to kicking hunger, swap all things white for all things brown.

There are several reasons why high-fibre foods help to combat hunger. Firstly, foods containing a lot of fibre generally take longer to chew. As well as helping you to feel more satisfied, this automatically slows down the speed at which you eat, giving your brain time to register feelings of fullness so that you're less like to overeat.

Secondly, fibre acts like a sponge and absorbs and holds on to water. This means fibre-rich foods swell up in your stomach, helping to fill you up. But best of all, because fibre is harder to digest, it stays in your stomach for longer keeping you feeling fuller for longer, so you're less likely to want to snack between meals.

9 ~ Stock up on low-calorie fillers

Keep your fridge and cupboards stocked with a selection of low-calorie foods that can easily be turned into hunger-busting snacks or tasty starters.

Try the following when hunger hits:

  • Bowl of salad with balsamic dressing
  • Vegetable sticks with salsa or tzatziki (or make your own yogurt dip by mixing 1 small pot low-fat plain yogurt with 1 clove of crushed garlic, 1tsp mint sauce and 1 tsp lemon juice)
  • Small (~20g) serving of nuts – surprisingly filling in small amounts
  • Bowl of low-fat soup or a low-cal cup-a-soup
  • Prawn cocktail with a teaspoon of seafood dressing
  • Slice of lean ham
  • Slice of wholewheat crispbread with low fat soft cheese
  • Corn-on-the-cob (hold back on the butter!)
  • Bowl of fresh fruit salad or piece of fresh fruit, apples are great for taking the edge off hunger
  • Small pot of yoghurt (low sugar)
  • Make a mix of your favourite nuts and seeds and portion them out into 20 -30g portions ready to go when you need a quick fill

“You could try planning and logging in advance healthy snacks. I eat five times a day and am rarely hungry. crudite and humous or dip for morning snack and fruit and yoghurt for afternoon snack. I find I can eat these in a decent portion size, so they fill me up. Sometimes I have a biscuit or small cake for the same calories but it always just leaves me wanting more.” Jasper

“I think one is better off with more than 3 meals a day, 4 or five is good, small meals, even if one meal is a soup, or a banana and a few grapes! I find a Slim fast bar (217 calories, inc all the nutrients & vitimins of a good meal) is very good for one meal - while you are reducing weight, not maintaining.” skinny7

* If you’d like to read the whole thread (a really interesting and helpful 37 replies) take a trial and go to the Advice and Support board. The original post (Jan 8 2020) is titled Hungry, posted by Ninnin. Use the board search if you’re reading this a long time after publication.

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