“Hunger is one of the main reasons people have trouble losing weight and maintaining weight loss,” says Dr. Angela Fitch, associate director of the Massachusetts General Hospital Weight Center. When you eat less, your body slows your metabolism (making it harder to shed pounds) and also makes you feel hungrier (by tweaking levels of ghrelin and leptin, hormones that regulate feelings of hunger and fullness), she explains.
While some level of hunger is natural and normal when you’re trying to lose weight, if sticking with your calorie goal has been a challenge, there are a few ways you can lessen the burden.
“As it’s easy to mistake thirst for hunger (especially when you’re already hungrier than usual) and water can help you feel fuller, make sure to stay hydrated throughout the day,” says Dr. Robert Kushner, medical director of the Center for Lifestyle Medicine at Northwestern Medicine in Chicago.
2. START WITH SOUP
For a simple but effective strategy, have a cup of soup as a starter for your lunch or dinner, suggests Dr. Fitch. Flavorful, aromatic and filling thanks to water and fiber-rich veggies, soup can make for a helpful and affordable staple when it comes to dialing down diet-induced hunger.
Case in point: People who had a low-calorie soup before their meal ended up eating about 20% less calories than those who didn’t, finds one study by nutrition researchers at Penn State. Just make sure you reach for clear-broth soups like chicken and vegetables rather than cream-based soups or chowders (which tend to be high in calories and fat).