Letting your brain tell you when your stomach is full or empty.
One of the greatest challenges for people trying to lose weight is appetite control. Just the sight or smell of yummy food can make you think you’re starving. When you’re used to eating all the time or filling up on junk food it’s difficult to retrain your eating habits. But it can be done!
Losing weight or maintaining weight is largely about knowing when you’re hungry, eating the right foods to relieve the hunger, and then knowing when you should put the fork down and stop eating. Believe it or not, this isn’t a Jedi mind trick or some kind of fancy guesswork. It requires discipline and knowing your body. Your brain was designed to give cues for appetite control. All you have to do is listen to them.
The hypothalamus may be a small part of the brain, but it has a big job. Known as the control center of the brain, the hypothalamus regulates body temperature, sleep, hormones, mood, thirst, and—you guessed it—hunger. Inside the hypothalamus is an area called the appestat. This center is responsible for controlling your sense of hunger and satiety.
Unfortunately, over time, poor eating habits and bad nutrition can interfere with the signals sent by the appestat. Your stomach may be full but your brain thinks you’re still hungry and vice versa. If this is the case for you, there’s good news. You can retrain your body to listen to your appestat by paying attention to what your body tells you, limiting portion sizes, and eating the right foods at the right times.
Gauge Your Fullness
Let your brain tell you when you’re full or need second helpings. For a week, keep a food journal. After each meal, note how hungry or full you felt immediately following the meal. A five is feeling so stuffed you almost feel sick.
Four, you feel uncomfortable and bloated from overeating. Three, you feel satisfied. Two, you’re a tad bit hungry. And one, you need to eat soon because you’re feeling weak and uncomfortably hungry.
Manage Your Hunger
After a week of journaling, review your ratings of food and fullness. A journal filled with fours or fives is a sign you’re overeating. It’s time to eat slower, chew longer, and take breaks between bites. As soon as you start to feel a slight pressure in your stomach, stop eating and remove the food dishes from in front of you. Don’t go looking for second helpings until you’ve waited 10 minutes. It takes up to 20 minutes for your brain to recognize and communicate fullness, so give it enough time to do its work.
If you rated your fullness at mostly threes, you’re doing a good job at knowing when to eat and when to stop. Continue on your dieting journey, while eating plenty of fiber, protein, and healthy carbohydrates.
Constant hunger or never feeling satisfied will show up as ones and twos in your journal. Maybe you’re not eating enough calories, not eating the right calories, or not eating often enough. Such a diet plan often backfires, as it’s impossible to maintain a diet when you’re constantly starved. Weight management following a diet based on drastic caloric reduction is also difficult. Eat enough calories to maintain your energy level, never skip a meal (this includes breakfast), and at least every three hours eat a meal or snack that includes protein, healthy carbs, and fiber.
Before eating, while eating, and between meals, drink plenty of water. A side effect of dehydration is feeling hungry, so listen to what your body is telling you. Feeling hungry? Drink a glass of water, and then see how your stomach feels.
Downing a glass of water before a meal will help you feel full faster, and drinking during a meal will help you eat slower and recognize when your brain is telling you that you’re full.
Following these tips will help you learn to listen to your appestat. What’s it telling you right now?
Not That Much
Eating 3,500 extra calories over time will lead to one pound of weight gain. Now do you see the need to stop eating when you’re full?