What are the keys to hunger-free weight loss?

Judy Caplan
Nutrition & Dietetics
Never let yourself get hungry. Also learn to identify when you are actually hungry. Many people eat out if boredom, stress, and as a response to an unconscious cue. It is crucial to know the difference between real body hunger and emotional eating.Once you get in touch with your hunger issues and are able to distinguish the difference, here are some suggestions:Avoid processed, white flour, refined sugar snacks as these can lead to over eating and rebound low blood sugar which encourages eating more sweets.Eat protein and healthy fat snacks like raw nuts, nut butters on fruit; turkey breast slices with tomato and fresh sliced avocado; bean soup; salsa and 10 baked chips with melted low fat cheese. Do not skip meals. Recognize when you are thirsty and don't confuse this with hunger.
Paula Greer
Midwifery Nursing

Getting my ravenous hunger under control when I started the YOUdocs diet was a simple as detoxing my body from the five felons of simple sugars, saturated and trans fats and enriched flours and processed foods all of which affect the body’s levels of the hormones leptin and grehlin. Learning how these 2 hormones work in the body and control satiety and hunger helped me to plan to eat small frequent meals with the right foods to increase the lovely leptin to curb my appetite and suppress the ugly grehlin that made me want to eat everything in sight. This helped me send the message to the brain that I was full and not hungry. I used the book YOU ON A DIET to help me learn how to eat the right foods and understand the mechanisms of fighting the constant battle of hunger. It worked for me and I lost 86 pounds in a year, forty of them in the first 12 weeks. Two other helpful hints drink lots of water and eat a handful of nuts 20 minutes before your meal if you are having a hunger attack.

There really is no such thing as hunger-free weight loss, as feeling hunger is an important physiological process that is important to identify, and will help guide your eating. 

An important key to healthy, sustainable weight loss is learning to recognize physical hunger as distinct from emotional hunger -- that is, using food to cope with gaps, challenges or problems in life. A growling stomach is often a first signal of physical hunger, followed by light-headedness and even nausea. Without these signs, it's entirely possible that your desire for food might be fueled by something other than physiological hunger.

Another key to long-term weight loss is being able to recognize true satiety, that lasting feeling of fullness (not being overstuffed) at a meal's end; the sign that it's time to stop eating because you're no longer hungry or deprived.

Weight Watchers will help you learn to recognize when you are physically hungry and to recognize when you've eaten enough to be satisfied. You will also learn about the kinds of foods that keep you satisfied longer.

Weight Watchers offers a comprehensive approach to weight loss that can help you reach your goals.
Ruth Frechman
Nutrition & Dietetics

If you want to lose weight and not feel hungry, eat small frequent meals. Don't starve yourself and only eat one meal a day. If you do, you may be so starving that you eat everything in sight. Keep your blood sugar levels stable, and you won't feel much, if any hunger. Include foods with protein, such as eggs, milk, cheese, beef, nuts, chicken, or fish with every meal to avoid spikes in blood sugar levels.

Heather R. Mangieri
Nutrition & Dietetics

A balanced diet is the most important.  Every meal and snack should include a source of healthy carbohydrates (including high fiber sources), a source of protein and a little fat.  This combination will not only help to stabilize blood sugars but it will also help to keep you satisfied longer.  If breakfast does not include enough protein or healthy fats, hunger will strike sooner than you want. 

Eat evenly throughout the day.  Start with breakfast and eat ever 3-4 hours.  Snacks and meals should not look that much different from one another, meaning they both include the same combination of foods.

Some healthy snack options include:

Hard-boiled egg, ¼ melon, whole grain crackers

Greek yogurt with almonds

½ turkey sandwich and a banana

Sliced apple with peanut butter, cup of milk

What works for me is grazing all day and setting a goal of only 1lb per week weight loss.  Somedays I eat as often as every hour, but its minimal portions.  When I go out to eat, I grab a small portion (less than a handful) of trail mix or a small snack of 100 calories or less to help curb my appetite.  This way, I'm not overly hungry while looking at the menu.  I choose from the Guiltless/Healthy section of the menu. 

Whenever possible, I like to review the menu online and check out the nutrition information prior to heading to the restaurant.  I find that I make better choices in the long run if I know what I'm going to order before I get to the restaurant.  I also like to eat the vegetables first so I fill up on the good stuff before getting to the GOOD stuff. 

There are a couple of things you can do to help you lose weight without feeling too hungry. First, you should try eating every 3-4 hours. It doesn’t have to be a large amount of food. A 100-200 calorie snack will work well between meals. Each time you eat, try to have a whole grain and a lean protein source. Examples of healthy snacks include whole grain crackers and low-fat string cheese, or Greek yogurt and a piece of fresh fruit. You should also consume an adequate amount of fiber each day. A minimum of 25 grams per day for women and 38 grams per day for men will work well to help curb hunger. Finally, make sure you are drinking enough water throughout the day. Sometimes the body confuses thirst with hunger. Reaching for water before your meal has also been shown to help you eat fewer calories during your meal as well.

Drinking half your body weight in water in ounces and eating portion controlled meals every 2.5 to 3 hours. As long as you don’t have a heart, or renal or kidney condition you can drink half your body weight in water in ounces. At times we have false positives to feeling hungry that are a result of dehydration. Make sure you stay hydrated during the process to prevent this feeling. Try drinking 8 ounces of water before and after each meal.

Upon wakening have your first meal within 30 to 60 minutes to refuel your body for a productive day, and then every 2.5 to 3 hours thereafter for a total of 5 to 6 meals. Have your first 3 meals within the first 6 hours of wakening, and then the remaining meals 3 hours apart. This will help you manage your energy levels throughout the day. What ever you do, don’t allow yourself to go without eating longer than 4 hours. Extended periods of not eating will trigger you to overeat when you finally get around to eating something.

If you feel hungry between meals, drink 8 to 16 ounces of water. And then move around for 20 minutes. This will help you overcome that strong desire to eat before your next meal. If you are still hungry, then your body really needs fuel.

After working out, eat 30 to 60 minutes to refuel, having 8 ounces of water before and after your meal.

DISCLAIMER The above advice is based on a combination of my training as a health coach and personal experience in losing 78 pounds in 21 weeks. Consult your physician or qualified medical practitioner before starting a weight loss and/or exercise program.
What works for me is to eat small portions through out the day. 5 to 6 meals consisting of a lean protein and complex carb.  It sounds like a lot, but they are snack sizes.  I keep them simple and prepare the night before.  Be mindful of food choices as well. The more nutrients the foods we eat provide for your body, the less hungry we feel. Also be sure you are drinking enough water.  I find eating every 3 hours or so keeps me satisfied, keeps away cravings and keeps my energy up throughout the day.
Jill Mearns
Here are a few tips to help control hunger during weight loss:
1. Choose low-calorie foods that are high in fiber as they tend to be more filling. 
2. Add some spice to your food.  When food tastes bland, it is less satisfying.  Adding fresh herbs, salsa, or spices can help you feel more satisfied.
3. Add texture to your foods - chopped nuts, greens, fruit or granola. 
4. Plan ahead.  Know what you will eat and when to avoid setting yourself up for failure.  We tend to eat more and eat less healthy when we wait until we are hungry to decide what to eat.
5. Don't skip meals - even if you are not hungry for breakfast, eat something. Also, try "front-loading" your meals - eat more early in the day and dial it back as you head into evening. 
Dominique Adair

For people trying to lose weight, hunger can be a tough obstacle.  It is important to first determine if the hunger is physical or psychological – and both are just as real, but it is important to differentiate as the best ways to manage each are quite different.  Using a food log with hunger scale -- assessing your hunger level before each meal (0 for starving to 10 for stuffed) is a good way to determine what type of hunger you’re trying to manage.  If you see your log is full of “5-10s”, you know you’re hunger is not based on a biological need for food, but perhaps anxiety, boredom, or stress.  If so, finding other behaviors to replace eating should be a top priority.  If your log is full of “0-5s” then you are actually experiencing physical hunger and here are some tips to trouble shoot that.

1. Take a look at your overall intake.  Often people who skip breakfast, or don’t plan snacks get very hungry throughout the day.

2. Avoid Processed Foods -- Refined carbohydrates especially (i.e. cookies, crackers, many low-fiber breakfast cereals, etc.) can make blood sugar go up and down rapidly, leaving us hungry.

3. Protein Portions -- Nutrition scientists now understand that it is the presence of protein at each meal and snack that has the strongest impact on satiety (feeling full).  Make sure you add a small portion of protein (nuts, hard boiled egg, string cheese, peanut butter, slice of turkey or tofu, etc.) to each of your meals and snacks.

4. Fiber – Fruits, vegetables, and unrefined grains are high in fiber and they have lots of staying power.

5. Avoid fad diets – Cycles of deprivation followed by overindulgence can create a disconnection from our biological perception of hunger.  Following a nutritious, well-balanced diet over time can contribute long term to healthier hunger management.

Kat Barefield, MS, RD
Nutrition & Dietetics
The keys to hunger-free weight loss include:
  1. Setting a safe and realistic rate of weight loss of ½ to 1 lbs per week
  2. Eating regular meals including breakfast
  3. Eating at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables per day
  4. Choosing fiber-rich foods such as whole grains, 100% whole wheat products, bran, bran products and beans instead of refined foods.
  5. Drinking adequate fluids, preferably calorie-free.
  6. Meeting your daily requirement for fiber which is 25 grams for women and 38 grams for men less than 50 years of age. For those over 50 years of age, the recommendation is 21 grams for women and 30 grams for men.
Any time you are trying to lose weight, you will likely run into the barrier of hunger. This is because losing weight requires you to be in a negative calorie balance whereby you are burning more calories than you are consuming. This will likely cause hunger or cravings, however there are things that you can do in order to manage these cravings and hunger pangs as much as possible. The following is a list of tips that will help you better manage these challenges when attempting to lose weight:

1. Eat foods that are high in fiber to promote feelings of fullness
2. Stay hydrated, hunger is a sign of not consuming enough water (96 ounces per day is recommended)
3. Increase your activity levels through exercise
4. Eat foods that are more filling per calorie, such as whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and lean meats
5. Eat approximately every three hours
6. Eat smaller portions throughout the day more frequently
7. Pay attention to habitual and mindless eating (snacking at your desk, eating in front of the television, eating bread at dinner, etc.)
8. Do not completely cut carbohydrates or fats, these help provide feelings of fullness, or satiety
9. Do not completely deprive yourself of foods you enjoy, just limit the frequency and portions

Following these tips will help you lose weight more successfully. They will prepare you for feelings of hunger and help you avoid massive cravings.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.