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10 Effective Ways to Navigate Hunger & Cravings in Weight Loss

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, 7 min read

10 Effective Ways to Navigate Hunger & Cravings in Weight Loss

Let's face it – hunger pangs and irresistible cravings can be downright annoying, especially when you're trying your best to stick to a healthy eating plan. However, despite their nuisance, these signals play a crucial role in our body's communication system and should not be ignored. Cravings can be seen as a failure or weakness, however, learning to tune into these signals and respond appropriately is key to achieving sustainable weight loss success.

Together, let’s explore the ins and outs of managing hunger and cravings during weight loss. From understanding the underlying causes to implementing effective strategies, we'll uncover how to navigate these challenges to enhance your weight loss journey. Let’s stop getting annoyed at our bodies signals and instead learn how to conquer them for weight loss success. 

What’s the difference between hunger and cravings?

The terms “hunger” and “cravings” are often used interchangeably, but they actually refer to distinct physiological and psychological experiences. While hunger is a natural signal from your body indicating a need for nourishment, cravings are often driven by external factors and can lead to overeating or indulging in less healthy food choices.

Hunger is a physical sensation that arises when your body needs fuel and nutrients to function properly. It's typically accompanied by physical symptoms such as stomach growling, weakness, or lightheadedness. On the other hand, cravings are more psychological in nature and involve a strong desire for a specific type of food, often unrelated to actual hunger. Cravings can be triggered by emotions, environmental cues, or even memories of past eating experiences. Understanding the difference between hunger and cravings is essential for making mindful food choices and managing weight effectively.

With that in mind, you might be thinking “so should I respond to hunger and cravings differently?” Well, we’re glad you asked. 

When you're truly hungry, it's your body's way of signalling that it needs nourishment. In response to hunger, you should aim to eat a balanced meal or snack that provides essential nutrients and energy to fuel your body. Focus on incorporating protein, healthy fats, fibre, and carbohydrates into your meal to help satisfy hunger and keep you feeling full and energised.

Cravings, on the other hand, are often triggered by external cues, emotions, or habits rather than genuine physical hunger. Cravings are often seen as a negative and it can be seen as weak to “give in”, but this is far from true. Acknowledging a craving and embracing it in a mindful way with moderation allows you to satisfy your craving, and move on with your life. Often, if we ignore a craving, it leads to a whole packet of biscuits rather than a couple, and that’s where things go wrong.

When responding to cravings, acknowledge and address the situation mindfully. Instead of giving in to every craving, try to identify the underlying cause. Are you craving a particular food because you're stressed, bored, or sad? Once you understand the root of the craving, you can explore alternative ways to address the underlying need without resorting to food. Sometimes, you might just be craving something sweet, and that’s okay. Approach it in a mindful way, savouring the taste, smell and texture of the food, and consuming it in moderation rather than over doing it. 

10 top tips for managing hunger and cravings:

  1. Eat Protein-Rich Foods - Focus your attention on protein rich meals which will keep you satiated and feeling fuller for longer. This doesn’t just have to be plain chicken, broccoli and rice. Try different lean meats and fish (e.g. chicken, turkey, tuna), throw in some wholegrains (e.g. brown rice, quinoa, buckwheat) and add flavour to your meals through herbs and spices! Explore high protein desserts (e.g. greek yogurt and protein powder) that leave your sweet tooth satisfied and your muscles repaired! 
  2. Stay Hydrated - Water is used in the process of metabolism by supporting the breakdown and distribution of nutrients in our body. Dehydration can slow metabolism or be mistaken for hunger and cause excess calorie consumption, both leading to weight gain. Hydration requirements vary based on body weight, physical activity and environmental factors, so ensure you prioritise personalised hydration for optimal well-being.
  3. Focus on Fibre - Fibrous foods slow digestion, keeping you full longer and stabilising your blood sugar to prevent overeating from sugar crashes. Fill your plate with vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower and leafy greens, as well as fibrous wholegrains such as quinoa, buckwheat, beans and pulses, which are also high in protein.
  4. Practice Mindful Eating - When you are hungry, it can be tempting to grab food from the cupboard. Instead, practice mindful eating by focusing on preparing your food and eating it without distractions. Focus on the taste, texture and smell, allowing your senses to recognise it is time to eat and fully embracing the moment. This will help you to reduce overeating and feel satisfied quicker. 
  5. Get Enough Sleep - Sleep helps to regulate your hormones involved in hunger, and prevents excessive snacking during the night. It also helps you feel more energised, giving you the motivation you need to exercise and support your weight loss journey. 
  6. Practice Portion Control - When you are preparing your meal or snack in response to hunger or a craving, portion out an appropriate amount onto a plate rather than eating it straight from the packet. Focus on eating larger portions of low energy dense foods like fruits and vegetables and reduce portions of high energy dense foods. This will help you to eat mindfully without overconsuming due to hunger. 
  7. Eat Regularly - This may be a surprise, but regular eating (3 meals a day, 2-3 snacks) will control your blood sugar levels and reduce hunger and cravings. Don’t let yourself get to the point of starving before you eat - that may cause excessive, uncontrolled eating. Ensure you are having a balanced breakfast, lunch and dinner with snacks in between that align with your meal place. 
  8. Plan Ahead  - Having a structured meal plan can help prevent impulsive eating and increase variety in your diet to reduce cravings. Meal planning allows you to shop for appropriate ingredients to avoid impulsive choices and reduce costs! Remember to not just focus on meals, but have healthy snacks planned in advance to have on hand when hunger strikes to reduce quick, unconscious and unaligned choices.
  9. Enjoy treats in moderation - Satisfy your cravings without feeling deprived. Achieving balance with a nutritious diet involves enjoying higher calorie foods in moderation. Overly strict restrictions can backfire, leading to intense cravings and overeating which will impact your weight loss journey and lead to your feeling as though you have failed. Opting for moderation ensures sustainable, healthy habits for the long term.
  10. Be Kind to Yourself - Having a craving or feeling hungry is not a weakness. Extreme hunger may be a sign that your meal plan is not fulfilling your nutritional needs and cravings may be a sign you’re missing out on essential nutrients. Re-evaluate your plan and be compassionate, you are not failing for having natural body signals. 

If you are embarking on a weight loss journey, managing hunger and cravings can be a new experience that may require patience, planning and trial and error to see what works best for you. Sometimes you may respond to cravings appropriately and other times you might need some more support - that is more than okay. This is a journey that requires change and motivation. Only by working through our triggers and implementing effective coping mechanisms can we achieve long-lasting change to support our health and wellbeing. 

If you are struggling to lose weight on your own, our Weight Management Programme is here to support you on your weight loss journey. Our Support Programme will guide you through important topics such as nutrition, supplements and exercise, helping you to make the most out of your journey. Sign up to our Weight Management Programme today to begin your journey to a healthier, happier you. 

The information provided is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Seek the advice of a doctor with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never delay seeking or disregard professional medical advice because of something you have read here.

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