How to Convince Your Body That It Needs Less Food

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Getting fit and losing weight are not easy tasks when you feel perpetually hungry. The tricky part is, giving in and overeating will not only sabotage your current health goals, it could also set you up for future hormonal imbalances and even lifestyle-related diseases like insulin resistance (the precursor to Type 2 diabetes), heart disease and certain cancers. So what can you do to keep your hunger in check?

If you’re looking to get fit, but your hunger tends to outweigh your resolve, here are nine genius ways to eat fewer calories and trick your body into feeling satisfied.

1

Hydrate

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Ask yourself: Are you hungry or are you actually just thirsty? The hypothalamus regulates both hunger and thirst signals in your brain. Dehydration can scramble those signals. You may just need some water, but your brain is telling you to grab a chocolate bar instead.

Nutritionist Tip: Sip on water throughout the day, in between meals and especially when you get a craving to snack on sweets. Aim to drink about half of your body weight in ounces to hydrate your body daily rather than the standard eight 8-ounce glasses a day.

Read more: 16 Snacks That Are OK to Eat at Night

2

Smarter Appetizers

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When eating out, it’s easy to reach for that basket of bread and butter and fill up on empty calories that offer little to no nutritional value — all before your actual meal arrives at the table.

Nutritionist Tip: Order a salad or soup as soon as you sit down so you have something to munch on while you wait for the main meal. Leafy greens are high in volume and fiber, so they help you feel full longer on fewer calories. If the salad doesn’t interest you, try eating a cup of lentil, minestrone or miso soup before your meal to fill up your belly with low-calorie liquids. Just stay away from bisques or other cream-based soups. You’ll most likely eat less of your main meal and consume fewer total calories in the end.

Read more: 10 Warm Salads to Keep You Lean

3

Get Your Sleep

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Have you heard that insufficient sleep correlates with weight gain? It turns out that subjects in a sleep study who had less than five hours of sleep a night had increased levels of lipids (called endocannabinoids) in their bodies. Basically, these molecules are responsible for hedonic eating, or, more simply put, eating foods that taste great and give us pleasure. Yes, endocannabinoids sound a lot like cannabis! And, coincidentally, they bind to the same receptors as the active ingredient in marijuana. Basically, getting high or lack of sleep can both cause a case of the munchies.

Nutritionist Tip: Get those golden slumbers! If you have trouble sleeping, figure out the root cause. Are you eating too close to bedtime? A body that is busy digesting food may have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. Are your stressful thoughts consuming your headspace? Try using a meditation app to help calm down your mind and body before you go to sleep. Or is that last jolt of caffeine keeping you up? Whatever the cause, figure it out because it could be sabotaging your goals.

Listen now: Why America’s Obsession with ‘Happiness’ Is Totally Stressing Us Out

4

Crunch on Crudite

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Sometimes it’s the crunch we are actually craving and not the tortilla chips. If you find yourself munching away on chips or pretzels, it’s most likely not the food itself that you're craving. It may have more to do with stress, anger or other emotions that diminish as you crunch away.

Nutritionist Tip: Swap your processed crunchy foods for baby carrots, radishes, celery or an apple and make some noise. These foods are less addictive then salty, sweet and processed junk foods, contain fewer calories and have a lot more nutrients and fiber.

Read more: How to Meal Prep for Weight Loss Like a Pro

5

Keep Your Cabinets Stress-Free

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A lot of times we’ll keep junk-food snacks in the house for guests and kids, but we wind up mindlessly snacking on them too. If you want to get serious about your nutrition, find healthier alternatives for your kids to snack on and keep the junk out of your house (for everyone’s sake). Any food that contains artificial ingredients, chemicals, processed vegetable oils or large amounts of sugars should be omitted from your shopping cart.

Nutritionist Tip: Don’t buy or keep foods in your home that you binge on. Period.

6

Eat a Protein-Packed Breakfast

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Eating a high-carb breakfast like sugary cereal or a bagel can contribute to blood sugar and insulin spikes early in the day. And after the spike a crash always follows. The crash may make you feel irritable and cause you to crave more food in hopes of getting yourself out of that slump. Next thing you know, you're chugging a sugar-filled Frappuccino.

Nutritionist Tip: According to a study by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, starting your day with a protein-packed breakfast can help curb your snacking on high-fat or high-sugar foods later in the day. Eating a high-protein breakfast like eggs or Greek yogurt can reduce cravings and overall ghrelin (hunger hormone) levels throughout the day.

Read more: 14 Protein-Packed Breakfasts to Power You Through the Morning

7

Use a Meal Tracker

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Some of us have no idea how many calories we consume in a day, which can work fine for people who are very in tune with their body’s needs. But for the rest of us, if your daily food intake far exceeds your caloric needs, you'll likely struggle to reach your fitness goals. That can be motivation enough to start cutting back on portion sizes and extra snacking.

Nutritionist Tip: Using a meal tracker like MyPlate, even for a short period of time, can be an eye-opening experience. Tracking all of your meals, snacks and liquids per day will give you a good idea if you are overconsuming (or even underconsuming). Stay honest with the app and track everything you eat and drink — yes, even that sneaky mid-afternoon piece of chocolate.

8

Practice Mindfulness

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Are you the type of person who can’t eat just one serving from a bag of chips and can't walk by free samples at the supermarket without snagging a couple? Mindless eating is very common, especially when we are stressed, anxious or bored. If this sounds like you, developing a practice of mindfulness can be extremely helpful.

Nutritionist Tip: You can read a book on mindfulness, work with a health coach or simply start becoming more aware of everything that goes into your mouth. When you begin to feel yourself reach for snacks when you aren’t hungry, place your hand on your belly and take 10 deep breaths. Deep breathing helps supply the brain with more oxygen and relax the nervous system, leaving you calmer and better able to make smart choices.

Read more: 6 Ways Meditation Gives You a Fit Body

What Do YOU Think?

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How do you cut back on calories and still feel satisfied? Share your tips and tricks with us in the comments below!

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Overview

Getting fit and losing weight are not easy tasks when you feel perpetually hungry. The tricky part is, giving in and overeating will not only sabotage your current health goals, it could also set you up for future hormonal imbalances and even lifestyle-related diseases like insulin resistance (the precursor to Type 2 diabetes), heart disease and certain cancers. So what can you do to keep your hunger in check?

If you’re looking to get fit, but your hunger tends to outweigh your resolve, here are nine genius ways to eat fewer calories and trick your body into feeling satisfied.

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