We’ve made the decision to focus on eating more healthy food. We are determined! We are focused! We have a diet plan.
Off we go. We start so well, but within a short amount of time we are so hungry all the time and our diet goes out the window… Again.
I know very well indeed how incredibly frustrating it can be! So I’ve put together some things to think about which may help you to stay on track.
But remember that the most important thing about dieting is to pick a diet that you can sustain! It needs to be a personalised diet that will fit in with your lifestyle, your priorities and your goals.
Are you eating enough?
Of course we need to be in a calorie deficit to lose fat, but if you put yourself into too much of a deficit then your body will always fight you with everything it has and even if you do lose ‘weight’ you will lose muscle as well as fat. Your body doesn’t care how important it is to you to lose fat! It’s just trying to keep you alive, functioning well, prepared for times of famine and ready to have a baby (if you are of that gender/age).
Make sure your calorie deficit is not too big. Somewhere between 10 – 25% less than your maintenance calories diet is ideal. Be prepared to take a little bit longer to achieve your fat loss goals. However, instead of going too hard, too extreme, too quickly and completely failing (and being miserable the whole time you are doing it), you’ll lose weight the sustainable way and feel great.
Also remember that you shouldn’t be in a calorie deficit constantly. You need to eat at maintenance calories for a week or two at least every six weeks to re-set all your hormones and recover. The incorporation of re-feed days every week (or twice per week) is also an incredibly effective means of re-setting hormones, keeping you sane and kick starting further fat loss, even whilst still keeping you in a calorie deficit. But don’t forget – you still need to get back to maintenance calories on a regular basis.
Are you getting enough volume?
If you are eating five to six meals per day, perhaps your meals are too small to trigger the satiety hormones. Try eating three larger meals and see if that works better for you. There are no studies to back that eating many meals throughout the day actually boosts your metabolism.
Another way to trigger your satiety hormones is to fill up on foods that take up space without adding too many calories, such as leafy greens, konjac noodles, psyllium husk and green vegetables. These also add in fibre, which has heaps of additional health benefits.
Are you actually thirsty?
You may feel hungry when in actual fact you are just thirsty. Keep your water intake high throughout the day, between two and three litres is great. Along with the multitude of health benefits, you will also feel fuller and less likely to mistake thirst for hunger.
Are you eating enough protein?
As well as all the fantastic muscle building and recovery benefits of protein, it also has a high satiety so you feel fuller for longer after eating protein. Plus it has a higher thermic effect, so it burns more calories to digest than the other macros.
Are you tired?
If you aren’t getting enough sleep then your body will signal that it needs more energy. You can either get this energy from sleep or from food, your body doesn’t really care which, so you get to choose! Often when we feel hungry late at night we can just go to bed rather than succumbing to a late night binge.
Is it just ‘time to eat’ or a habit that is being triggered?
If you always eat at 10am then you are training your body to expect food at that time, whether you are truly hungry or not. Sometimes we just eat out of habit, for example as a reward after completing a difficult task, or whenever we have a cup of coffee we also have a biscuit.
Habits can become deeply ingrained but they can be broken! The best way to break a habit is to replace it with something else, so if you’re used to having a sugary biscuit with your coffee try replacing it with a less sugary one, a protein ball, some nuts or a piece of fruit and keep improving your choices until they become your new normal. Throw out all food that you don’t want to be tempted by.
Have you eaten mindfully?
If we eat mindlessly then we end up consuming heaps of calories without experiencing any fullness from them. Have you ever sat down in front of a riveting TV show or movie and thought to yourself “I’ll just have a few lollies or chips or popcorn” and before you know it the whole bag is gone without you even remembering eating them?
Your brain is so distracted by what you are watching that it hasn’t registered what you’ve eaten. When you eat, turn off all distractions and really focus on what you are eating. Take your time, chew slowly, appreciate all the nuances of taste.
Are you skipping meals?
This ties in with number one, but obviously skipping meals will make you hungrier later in the day.
Are you eating to avoid difficult emotions?
This is such a common occurrence! Some emotions are difficult to experience so we avoid them by eating instead, ‘pushing down’ the emotion so we don’t have to feel it, or eating as a means to comfort ourselves through it.
We need to experience all of our emotions and find other means of getting through them, whether it is talking with someone, taking out stress in a boxing class, writing in a journal or confronting a difficult person.
Eating is just masking the root of the problem and then we add to the difficulties we are experiencing by feeling guilty about eating and feeling bad about our bodies.
Have you adjusted your calorie intake to support your activity level?
If you’ve added three intense weight training sessions a week and some cardio when you were previously inactive, then you are going to require more calories to support the extra activity!
Are you eating or drinking ‘empty’ calories?
If what you are eating doesn’t supply your body with the nutrients it needs, then it will keep telling you to eat more until it receives them.
Choose the best, most nutrient dense foods that you can in every situation. Same goes for drinking a heap of calories – they just don’t register with your body the same way that actual wholesome food that you have to chew does. Things like sugar in your tea, flavoured syrups in your coffee, cans of soft drink, alcohol, even some smoothies that you think are healthy but which have more calories than a proper meal – are often the culprits!
Most importantly, are you trying to fill a void within yourself?
If the void is not physical, like genuine hunger, then no amount of food is going to fill it.
Is it an actual emptiness from lack of love, care, support, spirituality, creativity? If so, you need to fill it yourself, not rely on food or other people to fill it. You are the one who can do it! Look at your life – see what is missing and then find a way to include it.
Are you lacking excitement in your life? Perhaps you could plan a trip away, or take up an exciting hobby like mountain bike riding, or join an adventure group of some kind.
Are you lacking love? Perhaps you could get a pet, reconnect with your family or friends on a deeper level, or show yourself a lot of love by taking the time for self care, which could include meditation, baths, home spa treatments, writing yourself love notes, massages, eating healthily, exercising – whatever makes you feel loved and valued.
You are the only person who is going to be with you for your entire life, and the only one who is always on hand to be your own best friend!