Dieting would be so easy if it weren't for those cravings and food cravings. But there are ways to counteract them. In this article, you'll find out how.
If you want to lose weight, you have to keep an eye on your calorie balance. In concrete terms, this means that you need to eat fewer calories than you consume. This means: increase your calorie consumption by moving more and reduce your calorie intake through food. So far, so simple. But what do you do when you're plagued by cravings?
Hunger or appetite?
First of all, you should realize that most of the time these situations are not real hunger. Hunger is an innate function of our body to protect us from malnutrition. In the context of a diet and the associated negative calorie balance, it is quite logical that our body makes itself known through hunger, but in a moderate calorie deficit, this should be kept within limits. Much more often it should be appetite. Compared to hunger, appetite is by no means a protective function, but rather a natural reaction to sensory stimuli. For example, you're walking through town and suddenly your nose catches the smell of your favorite food. Your mouth immediately waters and the craving for this very food increases. This has little to do with hunger, it is simply lust. Psychological components also play an important role here. You're sitting in an ice cream parlor with friends, and everyone is enjoying their sundaes. Whether you're hungry or not, the urge to eat ice cream will automatically increase. You see: appetite is clearly more specific than hunger. If you're really hungry, you almost don't care what you get to eat, the primary craving is satiety.
Sure, even if you know it's not hunger but appetite, it's not easy to give up. But if you're honest with yourself, you also know that you can handle appetite much better. A feeling of hunger can be very uncomfortable to painful, appetite is not. So the next time your mouth waters at the sight of a food, realize that it's probably not "real" hunger.
Hunger and satiety
In our body, there are hunger and satiety centers that are very closely connected. However, not all connections have been conclusively researched. Nevertheless, a lot is known today about how hunger develops. You can make use of this knowledge.
Recommendation number 1: Go for complex carbohydrates!
Our body constantly monitors the concentration of glucose in the blood. Receptors in the stomach and liver report this to the hypothalamus, where a hunger and satiety center is located. When blood glucose levels drop, your brain sends hunger cues.
So, to control your hunger, it is advisable to avoid a sharp drop in blood sugar levels. The main way to do this is by choosing the foods you eat, especially carbohydrates. You need to know that your body must first break down carbohydrates into simple sugars in the digestive tract before it can utilize them. This means that if you consume large amounts of simple sugars such as glucose, your body will very quickly have a lot of sugar at its disposal. This will cause the blood sugar level to rise enormously. Your body will react to this with increased insulin secretion in order to regulate the blood sugar level again. The result: the blood sugar level drops again, usually well below the initial level, which causes your body to send you hunger signals.
The situation is completely different if you eat complex carbohydrate sources with a high fiber content. These contain mainly multiple sugars, which your body has to break down in a series of processes in order to be able to utilize them. The rise in blood sugar levels is therefore slower and more moderate, but more constant and long-lasting. Therefore, whole grain products, legumes and potatoes are good choices.
Recommendation number 2: Control the number of meals you eat!
Lush meals will spike your blood sugar levels more violently than smaller ones, as long as the foods you choose are the same. With this in mind, there are two reasonable strategies for planning the number of meals you eat.
The first is the more traditional one: eat several smaller meals throughout the day. In this way, you prevent strong blood sugar fluctuations and also don't have long "hunger" phases. The disadvantage: For many, these small meals are not very satisfying. This has psychological reasons on the one hand, but also physiological ones, which we will discuss later.
An alternative is to concentrate your meals in a limited time window, also known as intermittent fasting. Here you have a time-limited, sharp rise in blood glucose levels, but also a very long phase in which these are very low, which leads to a low insulin level. And this in turn is beneficial if you want to lose weight. Plus: the meals are larger and therefore provide greater satiety.
Which of the strategies is better for you, you have to try out. Both have advantages and disadvantages. In the end, it depends on your type which works better.
Recommendation number 3: Eat slowly!
No matter how many times a day you eat, it is important that you eat consciously and slowly. The reason is simple: It takes a certain amount of time for the food we eat to trigger a satiety stimulus in our body. So if you gobble down your food in a hurry, you usually eat more than you actually need to in order to satisfy your hunger. Studies show that the appetite-suppressing intestinal hormones GLP-1 and PYY are released over a significantly longer period of time and in greater quantities when meals are eaten slowly.
Positive side effect: By crushing the food in your mouth, you make it easier for your body to absorb the nutrients from the food. In addition, from a psychological point of view, it is advisable to eat consciously. If you constantly eat something on the side in a hurry, you hardly notice how much you have really eaten.
Recommendation number 4: Drink plenty!
Even before the satiety hormones in the intestines become active, our body uses mechanical stimuli to recognize how the contents of our stomach are doing. If it is quite full, the stomach walls expand, which reduces the feeling of hunger and increases satiety. The recommendation to drink a large glass of water before each meal is therefore absolutely sensible. It also helps you stay hydrated.
Recommendation number 5: Choose high volume foods!
Besides the water trick, there is another way to speed up the mechanical satiety stimulus: Choose foods that are high in volume and low in calories. First and foremost, these are foods that contain high amounts of water and fiber, which means vegetables in particular. So consider broccoli and co. not only as a necessary source of vitamins and minerals, but also as a real weapon in the fight against hunger.
Recommendation number 6: Eat enough proteins and healthy fats!
Protein has the highest satiety value of all macronutrients. The reason: It lowers the level of the appetite-increasing hormone ghrelin and simultaneously increases the concentrations of important satiety hormones. It also ensures that gastric emptying is delayed.
In addition, protein-rich meals increase your energy expenditure, as your body has to expend a lot of energy to utilize the protein.
The choice of fat sources also has an influence on your feeling of hunger: while large amounts of saturated fatty acids can actually promote hunger, studies show that polyunsaturated fatty acids reduce the concentration of ghrelin and lead to an increase in satiety hormones.
So, it is recommended to focus on nuts, flaxseeds and fatty fish in the diet.
Recommendation number 7: Avoid liquid calories!
While our body is very good at recognizing the calories we consume through solid foods, it has a hard time identifying liquid calories. As a result, the release of ghrelin is suppressed and hunger remains even though large amounts of calories have been ingested.
In addition, many soft drinks contain high amounts of fructose, which inhibits the release of the satiety hormone leptin. So water and sugar-free teas are definitely the better choice.
Recommendation number 8: Get plenty of sleep!
If you don't sleep enough, you run the risk of constant cravings. The reason: lack of sleep causes ghrelin levels to rise. In addition, the release of growth hormones increases during sleep, which help you build muscle and lose fat. Sufficient sleep is therefore not only important for regeneration and performance, but also effectively helps you lose weight.
Recommendation number 9: Distract yourself!
Do you know this? You had a lot to do all day and hardly got to eat, but somehow you were hardly hungry either. But as soon as you sit on the couch in the evening, you can hardly stop yourself?
That is quite natural! That's why it's advisable to seek distraction during cravings. Read a book, go for a walk, do your taxes. All of these things will help you avoid thinking about food.
Recommendation number 10: Stay slim!
This sounds strange at first, but it makes perfect sense. Our brain constantly monitors the stored fat reserves in the fat cells. If these are sufficient, your body produces leptin. However, this mechanism is often disturbed in people suffering from obesity. Although there is sufficient fat, people feel hungry. Therefore, it is advisable to always keep an eye on the body fat percentage.