If you were to run a Google search for ways to suppress your appetite, you would easily find thousands of results. These would include pills, powders, and diets all claiming to keep you from feeling hungry. For those looking to lose weight, these products and diets may seem appealing as you think you can lose weight by suppressing the desire to eat.

It is important to recognize that there is a difference between hunger and appetite and that suppressing your natural hunger signals can be harmful to your weight loss goals and more importantly, your health.

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Here are some things you will want to know about hunger and appetite if you want to lose weight.

1. Hunger and appetite are not interchangeable terms.

Hunger is the body’s physical way of expressing the need to refuel with food. It is driven by internal factors such as energy needs, hormones, and nutrient levels in the blood. You may initially feel hunger pains or “grumbling” and emptiness in your stomach when hunger is setting in. It is not wise to ignore these signals.

Appetite is a desire to eat, not a need to eat. Many factors may influence an individual’s appetite, including stress, emotions, hormones, and sleep. External factors play a large role in one’s desire to eat and everyone’s appetite will vary. It is important to be able to differentiate between emotional desires to eat and genuine hunger signals.

2. Commercial products to suppress appetite are not beneficial.

Appetite suppressants are marketed to appeal to those looking to quickly lose weight without diet or lifestyle changes. These products disrupt the natural hunger signals sent from your brain and thus decrease the desire for food intake. Intentionally ignoring your natural need to eat can be dangerous.

How to suppress appetite 2

If you do not honour your feelings of hunger and go too long without eating, you may begin to feel weak, lightheaded, and shaky. This is the body responding to low nutrients and low energy. Without adequate energy and nutrients, the body will eventually begin to go into starvation mode and your metabolic rate will slow down.

Restricting calories and ignoring your hunger signals is an ill-advised weight loss plan because it is dangerous to deprive your body and it cannot be maintained long term.

3. Learn to differentiate between a true hunger and an emotionally stimulated appetite.

If you are feeling hunger pains in your stomach after a few hours without eating, this may be your body signalling that it is time for some food. When you are thinking about food, are you thinking of what you can eat to satisfy your need for energy and nutrients or what foods will satisfy an emotional need?

If you are experiencing physical hunger, you will feel those hunger pains subsiding as you eat and you will begin to feel satisfied.

When emotions and stress are influencing your appetite, you will find that no amount of food can satisfy your desires. This is because you are not feeding a true hunger, but an emotional hunger. When appetite is being directed by emotions and desires, you will not be satisfied by food.

4. Redirect your emotional desires to eat.

When you are feeling that your appetite is driven by emotions and stress rather than true hunger, it is important to have coping mechanisms. Instead of heading to the kitchen to grab a snack, try some of these alternatives to eating:

–  Head out for a walk. Low intensity exercise and deep breathing can help reduce stress and clear the mind when you’re feeling emotional. Studies have shown that stressed and emotional eaters are more likely to reach for foods high in fats and sweets so reducing stress can help you make better food choices when it is time to eat.

–  Call a friend or family member. Before you head to the cupboard, talk to someone who can provide you with support. Talking about the emotional barriers you are facing will be far more beneficial than feeding them.

–  Engage in a hobby. Whether you enjoy listening to music, reading a book or magazine, or playing with a pet, doing something you enjoy can distract you from your emotional hunger. By the time you are finished, you will realize if you were feeling physical hunger or emotional hunger.

5. Eat foods that will keep your satisfied, longer.

If you are looking to lose weight, you must learn to eat food that will keep you feeling full. This will help you control your desire to eat.

Studies have shown that eating smaller, more frequent meals will help curb your appetite between eating.

What can you eat to keep you feeling full? Eating foods that are high in water and fiber content will fill you up without doubling your portions. This is because they will fill your stomach, plus fiber is known to slow digestion which means you won’t get hungry as quickly.

Lean proteins, such as lean meat, fish, and eggs, have also been observed in studies to reduce hunger between meals, especially when they are included at breakfast. Including these foods at meal times may help reduce your desire to snack between meals.

6. Getting adequate sleep may help you manage your appetite.

Sleep has been associated with body mass index, specifically short sleep cycles are linked with higher body mass index.  Hormones are still active while you sleep. The hormone ghrelin, a hormone that stimulates appetite, is found to be increased after shorter sleep duration.

Leptin, a hormone that decreases appetite, is found to be decreased after sleep deprivation. This means that when you are not sleeping enough, there is more of the hormone that increases appetite and less of the hormone that suppresses appetite in circulation throughout your body. That is a double dose of hormone imbalance related to shorter sleep duration.

In addition to regulating hormones involved in appetite control, sleep can be helpful in improving mental and emotional wellness. Improved mood links back to controlling emotional eating.

When it comes to controlling your hunger and appetite, remember to take a step back and ask yourself “Am I feeling physical hunger or emotional hunger?” If you are not experiencing the signals of a true hunger, try to relieve stress or to distract yourself from your emotional appetite.

The key take away message is that you cannot turn to commercial appetite suppressants or limit your food intake if you are looking for long lasting health and weight management. Listen to your body and long term results will follow.

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