I have a big appetite. Always have. Guessing I always will. Even with the elimination of wheat (which drastically reduced my appetite), I still, on some days, find myself in a bit of a "calorie crunch" by the afternoon. Meaning, I'm close to my calorie limit and still starving. So, here's a bit of an "inventory" that I take when I find myself with a bottomless belly:
- Have I drank enough water? We probably all know this one by now, sometimes "hunger" is actually "thirst".
- Have I gotten enough sleep? Lack of sleep causes an imbalance of hormone levels which can increase appetite.
- Have I eaten enough protein? If you are not meeting your protein needs, your body will keep telling you you're hungry even if you've eaten a whole bag of potato chips.
- Have I eaten enough fat? Good, healthy fats are not only very satisfying but help maintain hormone balance which affects appetite.
- Have I eaten too many carbs? Too many carbs (and/or sugar) can screw up your blood sugar and cause the famous "sugar let down" where you stay hungry and crave carbs for the rest of the day. Remember, carbs, especially simple carbs, are metabolized the same as sugar in your body. Don't look at sugar content, look at carb content.
- Have I eaten too little carbs? Likewise, you don't want to eat too little carbs either because your body needs carbs to function. How much? It depends. This is where my rule #1 for lifestyle change comes into play. Educate yourself about yourself.
- Have I had a good cardio session lately? Cardio temporarily reduces most people's appetites.
- Have I strength trained extra hard lately? Sometimes you really do need extra calories if you're building muscle.
- Am I eating enough calories? You never want to reduce your calorie intake too low and, likewise, you don't want to remain in a calorie deficit for an extended period of time. Its best to have days in which you "re-feed" yourself by eating at your calorie limit. How often should be determined on how your energy & hunger levels are during your deficit.
- Have I eaten enough (literally) filling foods today? If you are surviving on protein shakes and bars (sometimes a necessity, I agree), you are taking in concentrated calories in the form of "small" food. Your belly is still pretty much, literally, empty. Sometimes a big bowl of soup, a plate full of veggies or even a bigger protein shake can provide all you need to finally feel full.
- Is my hunger physical or emotional? If your belly isn't hungry, its probably your brain which means you have some stuff to deal with. Step away from the cookies and deal with it!
- Am I eating frequently enough? One of the biggest things I started doing to eliminate binges is to eat frequently. Some days that means eating something every hour! Excessive? Hmmm, I'm gonna say, judging by my results, no. Just remember, I'm not eating cake every hour. I might have 5 egg whites the first hour, a serving of nuts an hour later and so on. Low calorie, high quality.
- Have I consumed artificial sweeteners? Artificial sweeteners make you feel hungry and trigger cravings because when your tongue tastes something sweet it tells your body that sugar is on the way. Your body does everything that your body does when this is truly the case then it waits. When the sugar doesn't come....it gets pissed.
- Am I doing something that I associate with eating? Sometimes if I'm watching t.v., going to the movies, driving by McDonalds, etc., I "think" that I need to eat. When I really analyze this I often realize that there is some sort of "trigger" in my midst (t.v. is my biggest trigger which is one of the many reasons I don't really watch it anymore).
So you've gone through the list, tried everything, and you're still hungry? Eat! And eat now before you get any hungrier and lose control. While you're still rational, fill your plate with quality, low calorie, whole foods (as in, single ingredient foods: lean meat, fruit, veggies, etc.), chew slowly and give your body what it obviously needs.
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