When hunger strikes
What is hunger? Hunger is a powerful human instinct that drives us to find food and stay alive. Being hungry is often associated with feelings of discomfort or weakness caused by lack of food, coupled with the desire to eat.
Can't shake those hunger 'pangs'? Chances are it's not what you're eating, it's how you're eating. 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 strikes.
We share five common reasons why people frequently feel famished - plus 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 WW 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.
RELATED: 24 delicious healthy breakfasts
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 SmartPoints® allowance
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 SmartPoints 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.
RELATED: Browse our lovely lunch recipes
5. You’re spending too many SmartPoints on drinks
With the ever-increasing popularity of lattes for breakfast and smoothies for lunch, it’s easy to drink your SmartPoints 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 100 extra calories 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 calorie 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.
RELATED: Is it time to rethink your drink?