YOU’RE NOT REALLY EATING
Maybe you’ve never liked breakfast. Or your work schedule pushes meetings through lunch. Or you just “forget” to eat. It’s time to prioritize consistent mealtimes. People who don’t eat regular meals have poorer diet quality, and skipping breakfast is associated with a higher intake of added sugars, according to a 2017 study published in Circulation. The same research found that eating breakfast also reduces impulsive snacking.
THE FIX: Don’t skip meals—intentionally or unintentionally. When you’re awake, your stomach takes about four hours to empty after a meal. If you’re hungry before then, you didn’t eat well at the preceding meal (more on that soon). If you frequently forget to eat, set a phone alarm or calendar alert.
YOU’RE NOT EATING ENOUGH PROTEIN OR FIBRE
Pick up a breakfast wrap or two from the drive-thru and you’ll stay full till lunch, right? Nope. Though they have some protein, most fast-food breakfast wraps are empty carbs. This is also why you can slam an entire order of pad thai at lunchtime and still be hungry two hours later.
THE FIX: At every meal, aim to eat about 30 grams of protein—a quantity that will increase satiety (your body’s feeling of fullness post-meal), found Purdue University researchers in 2015. As for fibre, shoot for at least 10 grams per meal. “That amount of fibre will slow emptying from the stomach and contribute to satiety,” says gastroenterologist Scott D. Levenson, M.D., director of the Digestive Care Medical Center in San Carlos, California.
YOU’RE DRINKING YOUR MEALS
Most packaged “meal replacement” shakes or fruit smoothies won’t keep you satiated for long. First, liquids empty out of your stomach in less than an hour, says Dr. Levenson. By comparison, solid foods take two to four hours. Second, blending foods pulverizes their fibres, so your body breaks them down faster, reducing satiety.
THE FIX: Listen to Mum and chew your food. A 2015 review of studies found that higher levels of “oral processing” (otherwise known as chews per bite) at a meal affect the gut hormones linked to reduced hunger and increased feelings of fullness. Try nuts in your morning Greek yogurt, jerky with your afternoon cheese snack, and al dente vegetables as a dinner side.
YOU’RE HAVING PROBLEMS IN BED
Lack of sleep may disrupt the appetiteregulating hormones, according to a 2016 report by the American Heart Association. Ghrelin, the hormone that stimulates hunger, can rise when you’re sleep-deprived. Leptin, the hormone that signals satiety, can decrease. In addition, the more hours you spend awake, the more likely you are to go and nibble something from the refrigerator.
THE FIX: Try for seven to eight hours of sleep per night. Set a regular bedtime, and remember that blue light from your devices can negatively affect sleep. Make a rule: Screens in bed, like breakfast in bed, should be a special occasion.
YOU’RE NOT ACTUALLY HUNGRY
False hunger is a real thing. Next time you think you’re hungry, run through a quick checklist: Are you bored? Tired? Thirsty? Ingesting too much social media? A 2016 study review in Brain and Cognition found that looking at food images can increase your desire to eat, triggering physiological changes that occur in anticipation of food.
THE FIX: Do your snack binges correspond to social-media binges? If so, false hunger may be at work. The next time you reach for your phone, instead take a short walk or tackle a small project with your hands. If you’re still hungry afterward, then consider a protein-rich snack.
TEXT ABBY LANGER, R.D. PHOTO 123RF