Hunger. A key and seemingly unavoidable part of the human experience. Or maybe more correctly, a seemingly unavoidable part of the dieting experience

Hunger is what most people dread when it comes to dieting. That and not being able to eat all of the things they usually would.

While the latter is pretty much unavoidable depending on the diet you pick (some diets like 5:2 are less restrictive about what you eat), being hungry can be avoided pretty easily.

It starts with understanding the two sides of hunger: physical and psychological.

Physical hunger is the hunger we experience due to a lack of something in our bodies. Typically it’s when there isn’t enough food for our bodies to break down for energy, but we can also experience the hunger sensation when we are dehydrated and need to drink more water.

To fix it, focus on eating filling foods. If you’ve been around at Lifesum for any period of time, then you understand that not all calories are created equal. 250 calories looks different depending on the type of food being consumed. The key then, is to eat foods not purely based on their calorie content, but also on what they offer nutritionally and how long it takes your body to break them down. Proteins and fats are harder for your body to digest, so they keep you fuller for longer and physically demand more of your body in the break down process. The same goes for complex carbohydrates like those found in vegetables and whole grains; eat more of these and less simple carbs to feel fuller for longer.

Psychological hunger is less to do with actual hunger and more to do with the way we feel. A lot of us tend to eat when bored, tired, or emotional; it’s not really about what our bodies need.

To combat eating in lieu of sleep, finding an engaging activity, or sorting through difficult feelings, ask yourself, “do I want to eat because I haven’t eaten enough of the right food?” It may surprise yourself how often the answer is no.

Overall, when it comes to dealing with your hunger, the best tool is planning. This doesn’t mean that you need to plan exactly what to eat everyday, but it does mean planning when. Decide in advanced when you’re eating breakfast, lunch and dinner, and try to avoid unplanned snacking or eating; just because something is offered to you doesn’t mean you have to eat it. Knowing when meals are coming can help you to make choices that will keep you full until your next meal; and that’s the ideal scenario for everyone.

Femi A-Williams is a health and fitness convert trying to reconcile a healthy lifestyle and a happy food life. She is 80% whole grain and 20% donut.

All posts by Femi A-Williams