Food & Nutrition

5 ways to beat hunger

Can't shake the hunger pangs? Chances are it's not what you're eating, it's how you're eating.
Published 29 October 2015

Ways to overcome hunger

Isn't it fascinating (and frustrating) how the ‘I have to eat RIGHT now!’ feeling can hit even when you think you’ve been making a conscious effort to stick to a healthy eating plan? The fact is, experts are discovering that it's not just a case of what you eat – when you eat, what your food tastes like and even how much you drink, can all have an impact on how often hunger pangs strike.

Here, we share five common reasons why people frequently feel famished, as well as some top tips for maximising satisfaction and keeping hunger at bay.

1. Eating at different, erratic times each day

Eating at different times every day can make it difficult for you to tune into your body’s hunger signals. The result? You end up eating because of food cues in the environment, like a box of enticing movie popcorn, when you should really be having lunch.

The fix: Plan ahead

Reviewing your WeightWatchers® app will help you zero in on when you’re most likely to fall prey to eating at erratic times. If you haven’t been tracking your food consistently, try doing so for a few days. Then create a schedule that focuses on eating within two hours of waking up and every three to five hours after that, for the rest of the day.

2. Not eating the ‘right’ type of breakfast

Although any breakfast is better than none, the foods you choose can have a major impact on how satisfied you feel for the rest of the day – or at least until lunchtime rolls around.

The fix: Build a better mix of nutrients

The key to ensuring your breakfast keeps your appetite in check until lunchtime hits is building a morning meal that contains both protein and some nutritious, wholegrain carbohydrates. Opt for no-fuss choices like a slice of reduced-fat cheese on wholegrain bread; eggs on toast; or wholegrain cereal with low-fat milk.

3. Eating a really restricted diet

People who feel deprived when they’re trying to lose weight, or are highly restricted in their eating, may be more likely to engage in periods of overeating. In other words, when you restrict yourself from enjoying a variety of foods, it may have a negative impact in your weight-loss goals.

The fix: Spice it up

Getting creative in the kitchen will give your stand-by recipes new life, and keep you feeling more satisfied and interested, in the long run. Experiment with fresh herbs that deliver a powerful flavour-packed punch, like basil, coriander, oregano and mint. Texture is also key- aim for combinations of creamy, crunchy, and chewy. Try tossing chopped nuts on your greens or mixing a tablespoon of muesli into your yoghurt.

4. Not evenly distributing your Points Budget

Do you often eat so sparingly during the day that by the time dinner rolls around you’re famished? That strategy can backfire, leading to uncontrollable overeating in the evening.

The fix: Spend some points in the morning

Eating earlier in the day is a must to avoid the likelihood of overeating, later on. Even if you’re not hungry, eat something at ‘breakfast’ even if it’s just a small snack. Treat yourself just like you do your children – you wouldn't think it’s healthy for them to skip meals.

5. You’re spending too many points on drinks

With the ever-increasing popularity of lattes for breakfast and smoothies for lunch, it’s easy to drink your points budget away, often without realising it, if the odd drink goes untracked.

And even if you are tracking them, drinking too many energy-dense beverages can ultimately leave you feeling unsatisfied. When researchers at America’s Purdue University gave study participants 450 extra kilojoules daily in the form of either fluid or food, those who ate the extra food, ate less later in the day, but the people who drank the extra kilojoules didn't experience the same effect. The reason? Chewing causes the release of hormones that signal fullness, and solid food is digested more slowly than liquids, even when it contains the same kilojoule count.

The fix: Rethink convenience

Slurping down a meal might seem fast and easy, but in the time it takes to drive to the coffee shop, stand in line, and pay for that latte, you could have had something just as quick – and far more satisfying – to eat, instead. But if it’s the comfort of a hot drink you crave, go ahead and have that latte but instead of sipping it solo, enjoy it with a few wholegrain crackers or a banana. In other words, focus on food combinations that will get you through to your next meal, no starving required.