Most diets leave a person battling with hunger yet the most effective way to lose weight should not involve any struggle with hunger.
The body needs food to survive and one of the ways the body makes sure that it gets this fuel is through the feeling of hunger. For most people in developed countries, not having enough food is not a problem. Instead, people are more concerned with losing weight and controlling their eating. The body has a fine balance, however, and eating too little by ignoring hunger can lead to gaining weight rather than losing it. This is often what is behind the yo-yo pattern of weight loss and regaining typical of most dieters. Successful weight loss is not a matter of how little a person can eat, but how they balance their eating.
Not only does the body’s metabolism slow down if it’s not fed enough (leading to a body that stores fat readily and burns it more slowly), but ignoring hunger to the point of excess leads to out of control eating. Almost everyone has experienced the feeling of ravenous hunger at one time or another and its resulting feeding frenzy. A slower metabolism and overeating spell weight gain, not loss. Clearly, careful care of hunger is important in any plan for losing weight.
How to Measure Hunger
The best way to conceptualize hunger in order to control it is to take the following steps:
- Think of a hunger scale from 0-5 with 0 being no hunger at all, and 5 being ravenous hunger at which point it’s hard to control eating.
- Ask yourself at different times during the day, “What number is my hunger at right now?” This will make you more aware of hunger levels and prevent hunger from becoming excessive.
- Try to sense how each number feels with respect to how much hunger there is at each level.
How to Use the Hunger Scale to Control Hunger and Eating
The following tips will help control hunger, prevent overeating, and keep metabolism from slowing down:
- Strive to eat when hunger is just starting (which is usually between 2 and 3).
- Try not to let hunger go beyond 3 before eating.
- Strive not to eat if not hungry at all. Eating when not hungry tends to condition the body to think of food when it’s not hungry leading to more eating overall.
Ironically, being hungry can help a person lose weight. By using hunger as a signal of when to eat and catching it early, a person can avoid overeating, compulsive eating, and a slower metabolism. Even better, eating more frequently is a lot more fun than battling starvation. So it’s best to eat when hungry to lose weight.