That's all well and good, but when hunger strikes, it can be really easy to lose focus — and control. Here's how to stave off hunger, and ensure success when reducing calories:
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1. Don't skip breakfast. If you do, you'll be starving and cranky by mid-morning. A breakfast with complex carbs and low-fat protein will help stave off snack attacks. Breakfast should actually be your biggest meal of the day.
2. Plan ahead. Make sure that you have low-calorie snacks and drinks with you. Drink plenty of water and eat snacks such as celery with low-fat cream cheese or apple slices with a slice of low-fat cheese. The opposite of organization is chaos, and nothing gets accomplished there.
3. Make sure that you have some fat included in your diet — you need some. Choose healthy fats, such as olive oil. Mediterranean people include a lot of olive oil in their cooking and they have famously low rates of obesity and heart disease. Fat gets a bad rap. It is an essential nutrient like protein and carbohydrates.
4. Take note of what times of day you become hungry and plan your meals and snacks accordingly. If you always cave in around 4 p.m., schedule a snack for 3:30 and drink a big glass of water, too. You have to become attuned to your body's natural rhythms to condition it to do what you want it to do.
5. Don't cut your calories too drastically. It will make your metabolism slow down and cause you to be plagued with hunger all of the time. Haphazardly slashing calories is one of the worse things you can do if permanent weight loss is your goal.
6. Eat several servings of bulky low-calorie foods a day. Broccoli, cauliflower, salads, most vegetables — these will fill you up and help stave off hunger.
7. Stay away from sugary snacks and simple carbohydrates such as sweetened drinks, sticky buns, cake and doughnuts. If you eat them, our blood sugar will soar. Then, when your blood sugar crashes, you'll find yourself irritable, jittery and famished. This kind of eating is probably what put the weight on in the first place, hmmm?
8. Eat sufficient protein. Scientific studies show that protein leaves people feeling full longer than carbohydrates do. Lean meat, of course, is your first and probably best choice. Vegetarian options are viable as well, but watch the additional calories, as many vegetarian protein sources are plant based, which means more carbohydrates.
9. Eat complex carbohydrates. By eating them a half an hour to an hour before exercising to fuel your workout session, you don't end up feeling absolutely ravenous afterward. Too many of my clients had to learn this the hard way. Getting hungry in the middle of a workout is a horrible feeling. Avoid it. Fuel up!
If you're eating to get lean and mean, you have to do it smart. Hunger is a formidable opponent, and has defeated otherwise strong people. These nine tips, and defeat hunger once and for all.
Chad Smith is a Hagerstown personal trainer and co-owner of Home Team Fitness LLC. Go to www.hometeamfitness.net for more information.