Okay before I get yelled at because people think this is “fat shaming,” I want to make it clear that all of these things will be explained. Hunger is one of the most common reasons that long-term adherence to a diet fails and explains why people eat too much. There are some strong physiologic actions at play here that we will go over. Many of them we can change and some of them we are stuck with. Either way we have some things we can work on to fix it.
1. Genes, Hormones, Abdominal fat, Inflammation, etc.
In the picture above, the lean guy already has a head start on his hunger meter. This could be because he doesn’t let himself get too hungry by planning meals accordingly, but it could also be due to his lack of abdominal fat and inflammation. With the guy on the right, he may have some excess abdominal weight due to genetics/epigenetics, environment, etc, but whatever the cause, it is now disrupting his hunger/craving signals to his brain (depicted by the faulty wiring). There are multiple mechanisms at play here with multiple hormones and signals being disrupted. If you really want to dig deep into this, I suggest reading these reviews (here, here, here, and here). Fixing this with weight loss and the tips below will hopefully overcome this.
2. Distracted Eating
Do you ever sit in front of the TV and just chow down on whatever is in front of your face without even thinking? We all do it from time to time but this also short circuits our hunger cues. Also related to this are the portions in front of person. The large bag of chips with multiple servings will be overeaten compared with the small self-served plate of food. I highly recommend reading “Mindless Eating” by Brian Wansink to learn more about this and his new book “Slim by Design” to learn more tips to improve on this.
3. Whole vs. Refined Foods
This may seem obvious but it is worth repeating over and over again. Whole foods like vegetables, fruits, legumes, and meat/fish will fill you up and satisfy you much more than highly refined foods like chips and candy. There are caveats to this (e.g. nutrition foods like yogurt and whey protein are refined), but the principle is there. The mechanisms at play are plenty, but the bottom line is another short circuit in your hunger meter (brain). (Read good series by Dr. Guyenet on the topic)
4. Eating Speed
Those who eat faster, eat more. Slow down! I personally have issues with this. I grew up with a dad and brother who used to inhale food right before my eyes. I wanted to be like them so I joined in. Not a great recipe for losing weight. Eat with friends and family. Converse. Put your fork down, make some jokes, laugh a bit. My wife and I recently went to Paris for the first time. We would woof down our food every dinner and notice that everyone else was there laughing with each other and only taking bites in between conversations. It was eye opening! Good habit to get into.
5. Don’t Drink Your Calories
Another tip that might seem like a no brainer is to drink mostly calorie-free beverages. Drinking sugar-sweetened beverages like juice, soda, sweet tea, etc compared with water, coffee, tea, or artificially sweetened beverages will likely lead to more calories with not much of a difference in hunger (study in children). This means you’re getting more calories without the benefit of feeling fuller. What a ripoff! A caveat to this is drinking protein containing drinks.
6. Eating Just Enough
Well if that isn’t the most vague/nebulous advice given out. This is related to the attentive eating (no distractions) up above but also adds in idea of cueing into your hunger. The Japanese call this “Hara hachi bu” or “eating till 80% full.” An intervention studying this method is likely needed but right now we have evidence that those who practice this eat less in the end. This is a tough one to practice because it means you really have to think about your hunger and if you really need to eat another bite etc.
What if I am still hungry after doing the above?
Even with the good eating tips above, the strong forces driving us to eat more may be too much. Make sure you sign up for my free course to learn how to beat it.