Lean Body Secrets
If you’re failing to drop kilograms, don’t blame your lack of self-control; you might just need to change your approach. Here are our top tips to help you lose serious weight
HUNGER IS ONE OF OUR PRIMAL HUMAN URGES, but it’s a tough thing to grasp, a marionette with many masters. A variety of neurotransmitters and hormones ultimately pull the strings – appetite suppressors and boosters, plus others that affect satiety and stress – and they, in turn, are manipulated by your body’s clock. There are two kinds of hunger: physiological and rewards-driven. One is ruled by your body’s instinct to find the energy it needs to survive, while the other is psychological, influenced by smell, sight, stress, and social and environmental settings – the gauntlet of daily life.
The problem is, your body, and your brain, often struggles to differentiate between the two: do you really need fuel or did a commercial just flash a juicy burger? Research reveals ways you can control your brain’s reward system to shrink your waist.
For instance, Heather Leidy, an assistant professor of nutrition and exercise physiology at the University of Missouri, used functional MRI technology to find out how people’s reward centres responded to appetising images of food after they’d eaten or skipped breakfast. She found that eating a protein-rich breakfast can dampen hunger all day long. Use this strategy – and the six others that follow – to control your cravings. Just remember that hunger is like the All Blacks backline: you can’t shut it down, but you can contain it.
Physiological hunger arises from an imbalance in your kilojoules-in versus kilojoules-out equation. To deal with hunger rationally, you have to do a bit of maths: tally your kilojoule consumption and compare the result with your total kilojoule burn. This helps you identify and ignore rewardsdriven cues.
Use the Men’s Health kilojouletarget calculator to estimate the kilojoules you need to maintain your weight. Write down everything you eat and drink for a couple of days. If you’re near your target kilojoule number and your weight is staying steady, then most of your hunger pangs are rewards-driven. If you’re trying to lose weight, cut your intake by up to 2 100 kilojoules a day.
Eat More, Weigh Less
Studies using just a simple salad have changed the way nutritionists think about hunger and food consumption. Barbara Rolls, a professor of nutritional sciences at Penn State University, recently examined the impact of eating a large-volume, 420-kilojoule salad – that’s 3 cups of chopped lettuce, ½ medium carrot, 1 sliced radish, ½ tomato, 2 tablespoons of reducedfat shredded cheddar cheese, and ½ medium cucumber tossed with 2 tablespoons of reduced-fat Italian dressing – either before or with dinner. People who ate the salad, regardless of when it was during the meal, reported feeling more full and ate 11% less in total kilojoules over the course of the dinner. Another study by Rolls found that consuming a broth-based soup or an apple before a meal can also help curb calorie intake. Why does it work? We tend to eat a fixed weight of food every day, regardless of kilojoule or nutrient content.
Eat as much as you can of foods with very low kilojoule densities – such as non-starchy vegetables, broth-based soups, and fruit, says Rolls. Consume reasonable amounts of low-density stuff, like whole grains, legumes, lean protein, starchy vegetables, and low-fat dairy. Eat only small portions of medium-density foods, like bread, cheese, nuts and higher-fat meat and dairy. And obviously, limit those high kilojoule-density food bombs, like fried snacks, candy and cookies.
Don’t Swallow Stress
When you’re stressed, your body releases the hormone cortisol, which can interfere with insulin and boost your blood glucose; it’s your body’s instant fuel for outrunning a predator on the savannah. But unless you’re actually running away from your supervisor, that fuel tends to become belly fat, even as stress strengthens hunger. Worse, a study in the journal Appetite found that stressed out eaters were more likely to consume fatty, salty, and sugary foods, like french fries, chips and candy.
For long-term solutions, “dissipate stress and you’ll dissipate stress eating,” says psychologist Lisa Groesz, author of the study in Appetite. “Think about how you interpret stressful events. Then let go of what is not in your control,” she says. And try to exercise every day; exercise is a proven stress reducer, but not because of the flood of endorphins, says Robert Thayer, a professor of psychology at California State University at Long Beach. More likely it’s through the interaction of norepinephrine and serotonin, neurotransmitters that help your brain deal with stress.
Leidy’s research suggests that consuming high-protein meals can reduce rewards-driven hunger. “Our study looked at the impact of protein at breakfast, but I would suspect that eating a high-protein snack in the afternoon would also reduce rewards-driven hunger later in the evening.” Leidy also determined that the satiety hormone peptide YY, or PYY, remained elevated for several hours after a high-protein meal.
Make sure to eat 20 to 30 grams of protein at every meal and always for your afternoon snack.
GET A GRASP ON YOUR BRAIN’S REWARDS SYSTEM TO SHRINK YOUR GUT FOR FOOD
YOU CAN’T SHOOT DOWN THOSE HUNGER PANGS, BUT YOU CAN LEARN HOW TO CONTROL THEM