Why is it some people can eat three meals a day and an occasional snack and feel full while others are constantly looking for the nearest vending machine or leftover cake in the break room? It turns out there are a lot of reasons why one person may feel full longer than another. Some are factors you can control and others aren’t. According to researchers, feeling hungry can come from a variety of causes including:
- A faster than average metabolism
- Eating processed foods and refined sugar that cause blood sugar peaks and valleys
- An imbalance in hormone levels
- Confusing appetite (the desire to eat) with hunger (the physical need to eat)
- Over production of the hunger hormone known as ghrelin
- Decreased sensitivity to the hormone leptin, which signals fullness
It’s not impossible to feel full longer, but you may need to make a few changes to the way you eat and do a little research into your body’s unique system. Consider starting with a genetic metabolism test to learn more about how your body burns calories and processes nutrients—then share this information with your healthcare provider or nutritionist to make a targeted plan of attack. In addition to their recommendations, consider these tips to ward off hunger:
- Start your day with protein. It’s true. Eating a protein-packed breakfast will leave you feeling fuller hours later than a breakfast of carbs (like bagels or toast) and research shows you’ll consume fewer calories for the next 24 hours as well. Eggs are a great source of hunger-fighting protein. You may also consider a smoothie made with Greek yogurt or high protein meal replacement drink, too.
- Don’t underestimate the potato. Believe it or not, a boiled, chilled potato ranks as the most filling food there is on the Satiety Index of Common Foods. Maybe not always the most nutritious choice, but if you want to stay fuller longer, these resistant starches are processed slowly by the body and can help you fight hunger.
- Add some apple cider vinegar. Full of acetic acid, apple cider vinegar has been shown to delay gastric emptying and slow the release of sugar into the blood stream. This keeps spikes down and prevents hunger later. Try using it as the tang in your salad dressing.
- Go fermented. It’s more than a trend—fermented foods like kimchi, sauerkraut and pickles all contain short chain fatty acids that boost the brain’s sensitivity to hormones sent out by the stomach. This means better communication between the two and a better chance that you’ll stop eating when you’re full.
- Be a little nutty. Nuts are full of fiber, unsaturated fat and protein—all of which are great for slowing down your drive to eat. Adding just an ounce and a half of peanuts or 3 tablespoons of peanut butter to a meal or snack is a great way to put them to work for your body.
Winning the battle against constant hunger may require a combination of approaches. Drinking more water, exercising, and learning to listen to your body are all approaches to consider. Think hard about if you are really hungry or just eating because you can, then distract yourself or change behavior patterns to stop eating unnecessarily. The more you learn about how your lifestyle, body, and brain work together, the closer you’ll be to controlling hunger longer.