Isn’t food just the best thing in the world? Anything from home-style cooking, to fine dining, a lekker braai and something sweet is always heart-warming and satisfying. Unfortunately, sometimes we indulge too much and/or too quickly. This can be harmful to our health. When the kilos start to pile up or when our eating habits get out of control, it can start to affect your self-esteem, self-image and confidence. It can also become a habit after a while which can be quite hard to break. Most of us have no idea about how counting calories works, or even how many calories there are in each thing we consume. The more you educate yourself about these aspects, the better you can protect your health and ultimately even the health of your family and loved ones.
I think we’ve all realised how easy it is to indulge too often during the lockdown period we’ve been in, being stuck at home with food on our minds every 5 minutes. However, it would be good to know how to curb your appetite to get you through winter without gaining unnecessary and avoidable weight or even reducing what you have gained.
There is science-based research on how to curb your appetite and/or ultimately lose weight, and it might be easier than you think.
The first thing that usually happens to me when I want to lose weight and I limit my calorie intake, is that my mind keeps wanting more because I’m focusing on eating less. This is then when I start to feel irritated, cranky and perhaps even more hungry than I was before. I’ve found that instead of focusing on what I can’t have, I focus on making healthier choices. These choices will assist you in gaining control over your appetite.
Drink more water before meals and throughout the day
I’m one of the lucky people that truly love drinking water. I get thirsty often, so I always have a bottle of water close by. Try drinking an extra glass or even two 30 minutes before a meal. This will fill up your stomach so that you don’t feel as hungry which can help you consume less food. If you don’t like the taste of water, try to at least get into the habit of drinking a glass of water 30 minutes before a meal, or even 10 minutes before. This will help you get closer to the 8 glasses of water per day that is proven to keep you healthy and enhance the feeling of fullness.
Eat more protein
Studies have been done on people who ate protein for breakfast and those who did not. Those who consumed an egg, remained fuller for longer as opposed to those who ate a bagel. Another benefit is that a higher protein intake can help to prevent muscle loss when day-to-day calories are reduced for weight loss. By increasing your protein intake, it can help curb your appetite by helping you stay fuller for longer. Options for protein-based foods are lean meats, eggs, beans and peas, soy products and even Greek yoghurt.
Don’t drink your calories
It is easy to consume too many calories during the day when drinking soft drinks, tea, coffee and other beverages. Solids helps to keep you fuller for longer. When you chew solids it also gives your brain the chance to get the signal of fullness. Scientists believe that when you chew your food for longer, the chewing time allows solids to stay in contact with your taste buds for a longer period. This the can enhance the feeling of fullness which will help curb your appetite.
Add more fibre-rich foods into your diet
When your diet contains a high-fibre intake it can help to stretch the stomach and even slow down its emptying rate. This can impact the release of fullness hormones, which is what you want.
Adding fibre-rich beans, peas, chickpeas and lentils to your meal, according to recent evaluations, can enhance the feeling of fullness by 31%, in comparison to equivalent meals that don’t contain beans. Fibre-rich foods also contain many other beneficial nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and supportive plant compounds.
The best way to add fibre to your diet is to ensure it contains sufficient fruits, whole grains, vegetables, beans, avocados, nuts and seeds. This will not only help curb your appetite but has long-term health benefits too.
Use smaller plates
We all know the idiom ‘Your eyes were bigger than your stomach’, and I must say when this happens to me, I feel quite embarrassed. Afterwards, I normally also feel uncomfortable, but hey, like I said in the beginning, food is the best thing in the world to me. When you eat out of smaller plates, your brain sees a much fuller plate thinking that this will surely fill you up. So, it might be a trick to your brain, but I’ve tried it and it certainly helps.
A study that was done observed that even nutrition experts unconsciously served themselves 31% more ice cream when they ate out of larger bowls. If you think about it, when you have more food on your plate you will probably eat all of it. Research has also shown that the minute your start feeling full is when you should stop eating. Keep the leftovers for lunch the next day because soon after dinner your food will settle even more, and you will feel full. So, when you force yourself to finish what’s on your plate you consume extra calories that could be unnecessary, and you are just causing your own discomfort later.
Ensure you get enough omega-3
Omega-3 fatty acids are found in deep sea fish oil and it is such an important nutrient for every person, young and old. It supports brain function and memory, can help regulate cholesterol, supports hormone production and regulation, reduces cardiovascular disease and decreases inflammation (especially with regards to joint pains and gout).
Omega-3 can assist in increasing levels of the fullness hormone called leptin. When calories are restricted for weight loss purposes, omega-3 fats can increase fullness after meals. The research that has been done was mainly observed in overweight and obese participants. More research will have to be done to conclude if it also applies to lean people. However, that doesn’t take away from the benefits of ensuring you get a daily dose of omega-3. Taking a good, pure omega-3 supplement is also advisable to gain all the benefits it has to offer as most of us don’t eat enough fish every week.
I sometimes wish exercise was as convenient as lying on the couch and watching TV, but the benefits of exercising are way better than being a couch potato. An assessment based on 20 different studies found that appetite hormones immediately suppress after exercise, especially with high-intensity workouts.
Exercise can decrease the activation of brain areas linked to food cravings. This can ultimately lower your motivation to eat, which sounds pretty good to me. Exercising will of course help to reduce the calories you have consumed when you’ve indulged too much or couldn’t curb your appetite. So, try exercising at least 3-4 times a week to gain all these benefits and more.
Get enough sleep every night
Even though we are all different and some people can function on only 4-6 hours of sleep or less a night, I am definitely not one of them. I need my 8-9 hours of sleep. Often, when you do not get enough sleep, perhaps because stress is keeping you awake or your mind was racing with ideas, the following day you might want to eat more to keep you going. Sleep is extremely important for us to recharge and recover. Depriving yourself of rest will have negative side effects.
Studies have shown that insufficient sleep can increase hunger and appetite by up to 24%, and decrease levels of some fullness hormones by up to 26%. Although life happens and sometimes it messes with your sleeping patterns, try to create and stay in a good sleeping routine to ensure you can function optimally every day.
Since the winter months are approaching and most of us have probably gained some weight during the lockdown while being stuck at home, we should work on adjusting and curbing our appetites now. Remember, it’s all about healthy choices. What you choose to eat, do and even think about, affects your whole being. Let’s get through winter feeling good, healthy and confident by being more mindful about what we eat daily.