How To Control Hunger: 7 Best Tips For Controlling Hunger


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In the hunger hormones article last week, you learned that there are primarily three hunger hormones that control hunger – (1) leptin, (2) ghrelin, and (3) Neuropeptide Y (NPY).

To best control hunger, you must have the right level of each individual hormone. While maintaining the right balance of hormones is not entirely under our control, there are actions you can take to help stack the odds in your favor.

Here are seven tips to ensure that you’re giving yourself the upper hand to help you control hunger:

Control Hunger Tip #1 | Reduce Sugar and Fructose Consumption

Fructose is a major contributor to insulin and leptin resistance. Fructose disrupts the signals of insulin and leptin, generally by over-taxing the liver as fructose is primarily shuttled to the liver for processing as opposed to glucose, which is shuttled to muscle and fat cells.1 2

Over time, this increased workload on the liver can cause the pathways that control both leptin and insulin to break down causing resistance in the cells. Your liver is a main organ for fat-burning. By reducing white sugar (which is about 50% glucose, 50% fructose) and substances like high-fructose corn syrup (which has a 5-25% higher fructose percentage), you allow your liver to do other things, like burning fat.

Control Hunger Tip #2 | Eat at Regularly Scheduled Times

Ghrelin is a hormone influenced by your heaviest meal of the day. Therefore, studies show that it matters less how often you eat — what is important is that you eat at regularly scheduled times. By doing so, you allow a better control over your hunger throughout the day.

For example, if you normally eat a large lunch at 12:30 pm, but decide to eat an “early lunch” at 11 am one day, it is much more likely that you will feel hungry again at 12:30. This is because your Ghrelin levels are higher at the particular time. So you increase your odds of reaching for a snack that you wouldn’t normally have. By eating at regularly scheduled times, you allow for a pattern of hunger you can have at least a short-term control over.3

Control Hunger Tip #3 | Reduce Your Conditioned Response to Stress

The way we individually deal with that stress has a huge impact on whether or not we gain weight when confronted with it. If your habitual reaction is to reach for food, then you will definitely increase your odds of gaining weight. Normally, stress induces a desire for sweet foods.4

If, when confronted with stress, you learn to take on other habits shown to reduce your overall stress levels, such as taking a small walk or doing some deep breathing, you allow yourself to get another small handle on your hunger hormones. Over the long-term, those small steps can have a much larger impact on whether you keep weight off.

Control Hunger Tip #4 | Aim for 7-8 Hours Of Sleep Per Night

Sleep plays a major role in controlling your hunger hormones in both the short and long-term. Studies show time and time again those who sleep the most weigh the least, whereas those who sleep the least, weigh the most.5

By getting onto a regular sleep schedule where you’re in bed for at least 8 hours, and actually getting 7 hours of sleep, you increase your odds of increasing leptin levels, dropping ghrelin levels, and controlling your hunger hormones overall. Sleep really is a hugely powerful tool while trying to lose fat. Use it to your advantage.6

Control Hunger Tip #5 | Eat More Fiber

Fiber has lots of benefits associated with it, but studies have shown that higher fiber intakes help to suppress ghrelin levels, while also possibly inhibiting NPY levels. By consistently eating higher fiber foods (think vegetables), you have a way of controlling these powerful hunger-inducing hormones.7 8

Control Hunger Tip #6 | Take Diet Breaks

Leptin levels are strongly associated with insulin levels and therefore if you are on a diet, make sure that you have an occasional re-feed or a 24-30 hour block of higher carb intake every week. By doing so, you allow leptin levels to rise, which helps to decrease both NPY and ghrelin while stimulating your metabolism for up to 4 days afterwards.9 10 11

Every 3-6 months (if your diet lasts that long), you should probably also take a whole month off of dieting. By doing so, you allow your hunger hormones to stabilize and increase your overall metabolic rate. Just be sure to have a plan for coming off of your diet and don’t simply jump to the other extreme of over-eating. As stated throughout the article, your hunger hormones are probably increased while leptin levels are low, setting you up for a potentially disastrous outcome if not done in a systematic way.

Control Hunger Tip #7 | Exercise

Last but not least is exercise. Exercise may be the most important aspect in controlling your hunger hormones over the long-term. Research shows that exercising helps to induce changes in the brain that help with executive function. What this means is exercise helps to strengthen your self-control from the top down. In addition to that, resistance training helps to make your cells more sensitive to both insulin and leptin, allowing the signals of these hormones to be more powerfully exerted in the body at lower concentrations.

This can be absolutely critical to the long-term success of any fat loss program as studies have continually shown that leptin levels will drop with weight loss. By making your cells more sensitive to these signals, you allow the feeling of fullness to be a part of your life, although your hunger hormones might be higher than normal. This powerful one-two combination of increased self-control with increased sensitivity to leptin is something that diet alone simply can’t do. Make sure to include exercise as an integral part of any fat loss plan. In case that isn’t enough, here are another 31 reasons to exercise.

Keep Your Hunger Levels Low

In the end, Ghrelin and NPY increase appetite and Leptin help to keep you feeling full. Lack of sleep, stress and crash diets can increase the hunger hormones while decreasing leptin levels. In addition to that, stress and sleep and obesity can cause leptin resistance making it harder for your brain to hear the signals that leptin is sending to it, setting up a potential cycle of over-eating and not feeling full afterwards. But, there’s hope.

There are specific actions you can take to get a better handle over these hunger hormones and they range from getting more sleep, to reducing your sugar intake, and making exercise a part of your fat-loss regimen.

Let us know what you think of these tips, or if you have any others to share!

References

  1. Vasselli JR. Fructose-induced leptin resistance: discovery of an unsuspected form of the phenomenon and its significance. Focus on “Fructose-induced leptin resistance exacerbates weight gain in response to subsequent high-fat feeding . Physiol. Regul. Integr. 2008; Comp. Physiol. 295 (5).
  2. Elliott SS, Keim NL, Stern JS, Teff, K, Havel PJ. Fructose, weight gain, and the insulin resistance syndrome . Am J Clin Nutr 2002;76:911–22.
  3. Kuo LE, et al. Neuropeptide Y acts directly in the periphery on fat tissue and mediates stress-induced obesity and metabolic syndrome . Nature Medicine. 2007 13, 803-811.
  4. Spiegel K, Leproult R, L’Hermite-Baleriaux M, Copinschi G, Penev P, Van Cauter E. Leptin levels are dependent on sleep duration: Relationships with sympathovagal balance, carbohydrate regulation, cortisol, and thyrotropin . J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2004;89:5762–5771.
  5. Nedeltcheva AV, Kilkus JM, Imperial J, Schoeller DA, Penev PD. Insufficient sleep undermines dietary efforts to reduce adiposity . Ann Intern Med. 2010 Oct 5;153(7):435-41.
  6. Kobelt P, et al. CCK inhibits the orexigenic effect of peripheral ghrelin. Regu Physiol March 1, 2005 vol. 288 no. 3 R751-R758
  7. Bourdon I, Olson B, Backus R, Richter BD, Davis PA, Schneeman BO. Beans, as a Source of Dietary Fiber, Increase Cholecystokinin and Apolipoprotein B48 Response to Test Meals in Men . J. Nutr. 2001 131: 5 1485-1490.
  8. Weigle DS, Duell PB, Connor WE, Steiner RA, Soules MR, Kuijper JL. Effect of fasting, refeeding, and dietary fat restriction on plasma leptin levels . J Clin Endocrinol Metab 1997; 82: 561– 565.
  9. Chin-Chance C, Polonsky KS, Schoeller DA. Twenty-four hour leptin levels respond to cumulative short-term energy imbalance and predict subsequent intake. J Clin Endorinol Metab, 2000 Aug; 85(8): 2685-91.
  10. Flier J, Harris M, Hollenberg AN. Leptin, nutrition, and the thyroid: the why, the wherefore, and the wiring. J Clin Invest. 2000;105:859–861
  11. Tomofusa I, Toshihiko S, Shiro T, Satoru F. Resistance Training Improves Insulin Sensitivity in NIDDM Subjects Without Altering Maximal Oxygen Uptake. Diabetes Care. 1998;21: 1353-1355.
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9 Comments on “How To Control Hunger: 7 Best Tips For Controlling Hunger

  1. uncadonego
    December 26, 2012 #

    Hi John,

    I have a question regarding tip #1 regarding fructose.

    The Paleo enthusiasts insist we were never meant to eat fruit, but there are other sites where raw fruits and veggie enthusiasts insist they can eat fruit all day with no ill effects.

    Besides the studies that show leptin resistance caused by fructose, there are also those studies that show fructose is linked to high blood pressure.

    In a calorie controlled diet, is the fructose from whole fruits going to really screw up you leptin sensitivity. Almost 100% of all other fructose and refined sugar has been cut out of my caloric intake. No sodas, powdered sugar, baked goods, fruit juices or fruit drinks. Only the occasional square of extra dark chocolate now and then.

    I’ve lost 76 lbs in 21 weeks, and when I’m feeling a bit peckish, I’ll often go for a few raw almonds or peanuts in the shell, but most often, I’ll reach for a tangerine or banana or apple.

    I’m just wondering if I’m screwing up my liver or leptin sensitivity in the long run.

    1. December 28, 2012 #

      @uncadonego – Leptin resistance from fructose, and really all ills due to fructose intake, are due to over consumption of fructose. People will vary in their sensitivity to fructose intake, based on whether or not they’re over-eating, if they’re over-weight and how damaged their glucose receptors are. With that said, most people should be able to consume 1-2 pieces of fruit a day without any issues, with some people being able to consume more without any issues. My recommendation was to avoid sugar and high fructose corn syrup (or really any sweetners with high fructose, ranging from agave nectar to over-consumption of honey). For example, a piece of fruit will have anywhere between 2-6 grams of fructose, but a soda will have over 20 grams of fructose (the other sugar in it is glucose at a 55/45% ratio for most). Therefore, your occassional “splurge” on a piece of fruit should be fine. Hope that helps.

  2. uncadonego
    December 26, 2012 #

    Oh sorry, P.S. if it matters, all caloric intake goes into the food journal, and I don’t exceed max daily intake because of fruit.

  3. uncadonego
    December 28, 2012 #

    Oh, so depending on what type of fruit, a person consuming 2 cokes a day is eating 3 to 10 times as much fructose as someone eating a couple of fruit. That’s considering they aren’t having more cokes, plus refined sugar and/or HFCS snacks. OK, that makes me feel a lot better. Still, over time I may want to cut down, I’m usually 5 or 6 servings of fruit a day, usually inluding two or three small bananas. Long term changes have been incremental for me, but sticking overall. I can’t believe how sweet something even like butternut squash tastes once you don’t eat sweets.

    Thanks for the reply John.

  4. Ehab
    December 29, 2012 #

    Great article as usual , very helpful to understand the mechanisms of hunger and diet

  5. Boon
    January 10, 2013 #

    Thank you for posting a well-researched article on the physiological aspect of hunger. Since I last read from my diet therapy textbook decades ago, I rarely run across a researched-based article meant for the mass like this. (I do miss university libraries and access to scientific journals). So thanks for making it available to me and others.

    1. January 14, 2013 #

      @Boon – Glad you enjoyed the article.

  6. January 11, 2013 #

    It is a big NO NO to control hunger and that is medically proven to avoid sickness especially Ulcer. If you are hungry, you can eat little provided you do control eating a lot. You can eat everything provided in smaller amount. That’s a plain truth. Stop Murdering yourself.

    1. January 11, 2013 #

      @Saeed – If you can share any research reports, that would be helpful. I respectfully disagree with you based on the research John presented in this article and his other article => http://www.builtlean.com/2012/12/26/control-hunger-tips/

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