You’ve said it to yourself or even out loud probably almost every day of your life: I’m hungry. But are you really hungry or just bored, anxious, distracted, etc.? Humans have an innate fear of hunger, but since most of us know when and where our next meal is coming from, we need to learn how to figure out if it’s truly hunger or are we just playing games with ourselves? Check out these tips for how to eat less and spot actual hunger.
#1 Measure Your Hunger
How in tune with your body are you really when it comes to feeling hungry? In order to figure out just how hungry you are, use this handy scale.
- Starving: This is when you’re uncomfortably hungry and maybe even a little light-headed. Your body’s blood sugar has taken a dive and you’re likely to binge eat. This can be dangerous territory, so don’t let yourself get this hungry.
- Hungry: You’re thinking about eating and you know if you don’t get something soon, you’ll enter the starve zone.
- Moderately Hungry: Your stomach is growling and you’ve got plans to eat soon. This is the best time to feed your body.
- Satisfied: You’ve eaten, but you could still have a few more bites (even though you probably shouldn’t).
- Full: Your belly is starting to feel the discomfort of overeating and the food doesn’t actually taste as good as it did the first few bites. This is a good sign to stop.
- Stuffed: You feel uncomfortable and like the food may come back up.
#2 Refuel Often
If you’re still not sure about when you should eat, set an alarm for 4-5 hours after a balanced meal. Experts say eating frequently helps sustain you and will ensure your blood sugar doesn’t drop so low you reach for the first thing to cram into your face, which is usually something bad.
#3 Eat Breakfast
Your mom was right. It is the most important meal of the day. Studies show that adults who eat breakfast (even a small one) will consume fewer calories during the day. If you’re not hungry right away in the morning, opt for a later breakfast. Short on time? Prepare something the night before like cut up fruit. Grabbing a yogurt or a pack of instant organic oatmeal is a great day starter as well.
#4 Increase Food Volume
Foods with higher fluid content can actually help stave off starvation better than those foods that don’t. Experts suggest a correlation between eating foods like fruits and veggies (which have high water content) versus food like chips or crackers (with almost no water content) and weight loss. Your body feels fuller, longer because you’re increasing the volume of your food. To add this technique to your existing diet, start with a salad before dinner, always choose fresh fruit over dried fruits and boost the volume of any meal by adding fresh veggies like broccoli, tomatoes or spinach.
#5 Fiber, Fiber, Fiber
It takes a long time for your body to break down fiber, so eating lots of it will make you feel fuller, longer. You should be getting at least 25 grams of fiber a day from foods like carrots, apples and whole grains, as well as legumes and raw green veggies.
#6 Boost Your Protein Intake.
It’s true. Eating lean meats like fish, chicken and turkey as well as eggs will actually help you feel more satisfied, but consider actually eating more of the protein than anything else on your plate. A serving should be the size of the palm or your hand (not including fingers). Not into meat? Black beans, chickpeas and edamame are also loaded with protein and fiber and low in fat.