| July 7, 2021

Why am I so hungry?

Clients often come to me saying they’ve never been able to stick to a diet, because they get too hungry and then end up binging, often by the end of the first day.

By Michelle Moen

Read time: 4 min.

Clients often come to me saying they’ve never been able to stick to a diet, because they get too hungry and then end up binging, often by the end of the first day. There’s a few reasons for this, but ideally, on a diet you should be a little hungrier than normal, but not starving. Here’s a few key points to watch out for, to better set yourself up for a successful dieting phase.

You cut calories too low

Most people go way too aggressive too quickly when they start dieting, which will leave you feeling hungry and defeated when you inevitably crack. I start most of my clients on a 300-400 calorie drop initially, looking for a 1lb per week weight loss. This is more than enough, and gives us plenty of room to continue dropping when your weight starts to plateau. The goal should always be to lose weight on as high of calories as possible.

You’re eating too many processed foods

I’m not here to demonize processed foods. There’s a time and a place for chips, crackers, and ice cream. When you’re in a dieting phase, however, the priority should be to whole foods. Whole foods are naturally lower calorie (usually), with more fibre, and tend to keep you fuller, longer. In addition, once calories drop we want to keep nutrient consumption high, since you have fewer calories available to reach your daily needs.

You’re only paying attention to calories

You will lose weight, no matter what, if you’re in a caloric deficit. Where it can get tricky, however, is figuring out your ideal macro split. Theoretically, you could get most of your calories from carbs and still lose weight, but it would be less than ideal. Protein is still an essential macronutrient, which means if you avoid eating protein long term, you would get very ill. The same thing is true for fats.

To start off, you can set your fats around 1g/kg of body weight, protein to 2g/kg of goal body weight, and roll the rest of your calories over to carbs. Again, this is just a rough idea of where you can start. Some people feel better on higher fats, others on higher carbs. It can take some trial and error to figure out what works best for you. This method would reflect a higher carb split. Protein will stay relatively the same whether you’re dieting or at maintenance, to maintain lean body mass.

Your food environment sucks

Keep the candy dishes stowed away, put the cookies in the cabinet you never look in, and keep fresh fruit and vegetables around instead. Cravings can often be induced by the visual cue of physically seeing it around, so store everything out of sight that you don’t want to mindlessly snack on. When you do choose to indulge, make it a conscious choice.

You have insulin resistance

One of the best ways to get your insulin sensitivity under control is to lose weight, but having insulin resistance can make it harder to adhere to a diet. Strong, rampant sensations of hunger can come on quickly, rather than the slow gradual build of hunger that most people experience instead. You’ll need to be more mindful of your dieting strategy. Aim for 3-4 complete meals a day, with at least 30-40g of protein, and avoid snacking.

You’re close to your period

This will depend on the lady, but some women can burn up to 300 calories more leading up to their periods. It definitely is not all in your head. Be aware that this can happen, and reach for satiating foods around this time to keep you on track. Snack on boiled eggs, beef jerky, vegetables and fruit for some extra calories during this time.

You’re overdoing cardio

Cardio is great, and essential for maintaining heart health, but it can really drive up appetite depending on the person. If this is true for you, stick to steady state cardio, keeping heart rate around 120-130 bpm, up to 30 minutes, 2-3x a week.

You’ve been in a dieting phase too long

There will come a point when someone has been dieting for far too long. We are not meant to live in a caloric deficit. There is no dieting strategy that can offset some of the hormonal responses we experience when we diet for long periods of time. Drive calories back up to maintenance for at least 3 months, before evaluating if you’d like to lose more weight.

Low food volume

If your diet is mostly nut butter, pasta, and fresh press juices, you might have a hard time sticking to a diet. While these foods are all wonderful to include (if you like them!), they’re not particularly filling. Weight loss is more than just eating healthy, overall caloric load still matters.

Overall, aim to keep your diet composed mostly of whole foods, set appropriate macros, get 10-15g of fibre per 1000 calories, and keep food volume high. My clients often note that they’re eating more food than they’re used to, even though I dropped their calories. To be clear, they’re technically eating less, I just bumped up food volume, so psychologically they feel like they’re eating more. Dieting phases don’t have to completely suck. Give these tips a try and watch your hunger dissipate.

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