I'm Trying to Lose Weight But Am Always Hungry

Hunger is one of the biggest challenges you face when trying to stick to a weight loss diet, especially in the beginning of the diet. To lose weight, you must consume fewer calories, and if you're not used to smaller amounts, the change can leave you hungry. Once your body adjusts to the lower calorie intake, you'll find hunger less of an issue. Learn some ways to curb your appetite, so you can successfully reach your weight loss goals.

Woman eating (Image: Fabrice LEROUGE/ONOKY/Getty Images)

Low-Glycemic Meals Curb Appetite

The glycemic index of your meals play a role in how full you feel after eating and for how long. The GI refers to how quickly carbohydrates in your food raise blood sugar. High-glycemic foods raise blood glucose rapidly and higher; whereas, low-GI foods raise glucose gradually and steadily, which helps keep blood sugar stable and wards off hunger. Research links low-glycemic meals to reduced food intake and body fat reduction, according to a review published in The Proceedings of the Nutrition Society.

To help control your appetite, avoid spiking your blood sugar by choosing low-glycemic carb-containing foods. Non-starchy vegetables, legumes, most fruits and whole-grains are good low-glycemic options.

Fiber Helps Control Hunger

Dietary fiber may help curb appetite in a number of ways. For one, it slows digestion and glucose absorption, keeping your blood sugar steady. It also provides bulk to food without adding extra calories.

A particular type of fiber called beta-glucan has been shown to reduce food intake. After eating a beta-glucan-rich breakfast cereal, participants ate close to 100 fewer calories at their next meal, according to a study published in the October 2009 issue of the Molecular Nutrition and Food Research journal.

Researchers found that beta-glucan increases a hormone called cholecystokinin, which affects satiety and slows gastric emptying and is likely responsible for the decrease in food intake.

Add beta-glucan to your weight-loss meal plan to take advantage of its appetite-control benefits. Some whole grains contain beta-glucans, such as wheat and rye, but oats and barley are especially rich in this appetite-curbing fiber. Swap your usual morning foods for steel-cut oats and oat bran cereal to get off to a good start at managing your appetite. Add barley to soups or use it in place of rice for stir-fries or side dishes.

Vegetables contain fiber also; because of the additional fiber and their high water content, veggies have a low-energy density -- fewer calories per volume of food. This means you can fill up on veggies without taking in a significant amount of calories. Make sure to nosh on a wide variety of vegetables. Have veggies with your meals and fill up on salads with and between meals, and skip the croutons, cheese and fatty dressing, which are higher in calories. Instead, focus on building a veggie-packed salad with mixed greens and drizzle on flax-seed oil or a vinaigrette.

The recommended intake of fiber for men and women age 50 or younger is 38 and 25 grams daily, respectively.

Dietary Fat Increases Fullness

At one time, the recommended advice was to decrease fat intake as much as possible to lose weight, but experts now know that low-fat diets don't work. Fat not only gives food flavor, but it plays a critical role in your health and helps slow digestion and keep your appetite in check by increasing feelings of fullness. The goal is to consume a moderate amount of fat and to choose mostly unsaturated sources. So, instead of reaching for a non-fat item, incorporate healthy fats into your meals to increase satiety. Incorporate oily fish and nuts and seeds oils such as olive, sesame, flax seed, safflower and canola to get some healthy fat.

Fight Hunger with Protein

Aim to have protein with your meals and snacks. Not only does protein take longer to digest, keeping you full for longer and your hunger at bay, the amino acids it's made up of help regulate appetite and calorie burning during a calorie deficit, according to research (See Ref 10: abstract). Scientists found that aiming for a higher intake of 1.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight is more beneficial than erring on the lower 0.8 to 1 gram end of the daily requirement (See Ref 10: abstract). Through its actions on metabolism and feelings of fullness, researchers concluded protein plays a role in fighting obesity, according to the results published in the August 2012 issue of the "British Journal of Nutrition (See Ref 10)."

Add lean, nutritious sources of protein to your shopping list and plan your meals accordingly. Good sources include eggs, chicken and turkey breasts, nuts and seeds, Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, tuna and other fish, tofu and soy foods, as well as lean cuts of beef such as sirloin and eye of round.

Eat Enough Calories While Trying to Lose Weight

Reaching a healthier body weight is an excellent way to improve your health, and while it's necessary to decrease your calorie intake, it's also important to avoid eating too few calories. Not getting enough calories can not only leave you hungry, but it may cause nutrient deficiencies and related health problems such as anemia -- lower-than-normal red blood cells. The number of calories you need depends on factors like your current weight, age and gender, but women shouldn't go lower than 1,200 calories per day, and men shouldn't eat fewer than 1,800 calories a day, according to the American College of Sports Medicine.

Online calculators can help you determine your daily baseline calorie needs with a decent degree of accuracy. Make sure you're not subtracting too many calories in an effort to expedite weight loss. It's typical to cut calorie intake between 250 and 500 calories a day. If you're feeling too hungry at a 500-calorie deficit, opt for a lower calorie deficit. A little higher calorie level may help you feel less hungry, but just be aware you may lose weight more slowly.

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