Yup, you’re not yourself when you’re hungry (but don’t reach for a Snickers!). Your hanger is caused by chemistry: Preliminary research suggests that the same hormones that make you feel hungry when you cut calories also make you more impulsive and irritable. Tell your loved ones and pets that everything is okay. You’re about to learning some effective strategies for living and coping with “hanger.”
Surf the Urge
Many times your hunger can seem overwhelming to the point where the only reasonable solution to defeating this mounting urge is to give into it. But your hunger and urges to eat certain foods are not always driven by our body’s actual need for calories. You might be tempted by stress or social cues (watching football = eating chicken wings) or smells (walking by a pizza shop). Surfing the Urge is a strategy developed by psychologist Alan Marlatt, Ph.D., where you envision your craving like a wave. The wave rises, but then it also comes crashing down and dissipates. Using this visualization and knowing that your craving will subside can help you resist food temptation and stay on track.
Double Up on Protein at Breakfast
The easiest way to squash hanger is to eat protein. The more protein you eat, the fuller you’ll feel. Target breakfast, which is generally the meal where most people don’t eat enough of the nutrient. You want to hit at least 30 grams of protein from whole food (not shakes) in order to keep your hunger at bay until lunch. Adding 1 cup of Greek yogurt to your breakfast will get you over 20 grams of protein. If you are maxed out on eating eggs then adding lean meats, like 4 strips of Canadian bacon, or a handful of nuts, like pistachios, are other ways that you can add 12 grams (equivalent of 2 eggs) or 6 grams (equivalent of 1 egg) of protein respectively to your breakfast.
Start with a Bowl of Soup
Research shows that you can use water to trick your body into being full and eating about 10 percent fewer calories during mealtime. All you need to do is have this water in the form of a bowl of broth-based soup before your main meal. You will also derive the added benefit of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants found in soup to further support your immune function and overall health. Drinking water when you’re feeling cranky can also help.
Bump Up the Fiber at Lunch
If you find yourself exceedingly hungry in the middle of the afternoon, you may be suffering from reactive hypoglycemia. This is low blood sugar caused by your body being too aggressive metabolizing the carbohydrates from your previous meal. A simple solution for this is to increase the fiber you eat at lunch. So add ½ to 1 cup of beans to your meal. The fiber in the beans will help slow digestion, making it easier for your body to control blood sugar.
Close Your Computer and Turn Off Your Phone
Eating while you’re a distracted affects your hunger later in the day. When you eat, turn off your phone, close your computer and just eat. By paying attention to eating your body will be more likely to mentally register the calories and you’ll feel less hangry in a couple hours. The reverse can work too: When you’re feeling hungry or irritated, watch a funny video or two. The distraction and laughter can help you reboot and have a more positive outlook, according to research from the University of Western Ontario.
Exercise More, Diet Less
In the moment, do pushups until you’re exhausted. Focusing on your form will take your mind off your hunger. In the long-term, you know that to lose fat you need to create an energy deficient. Many people think that means they have to cut calories by simply eating less of them. The problem, however, is that your body (the smart machine that it is) notices you’re eating less and releases ghrelin, the hunger hormone. The more calories you cut, the more ghrelin floods your system. Fortunately, you can create an energy deficient without goading your body into releasing hunger hormones. The next time your fat loss stalls, see if you can exercise more (adding an interval training session to your week) instead of eating less.
Get More Zzzz
Insufficient sleep (even just one night!) can cause an increase in ghrelin, plus a decrease in leptin, a hormone associated with fat loss. Make seven to eight hours of sleep as non-negotiable as hitting the gym when it comes to your fat loss plan.