You might be here because you’re a few days(or even longer) into your new diet and feeling HANGRY. I get it, losing fat can be hard work and requires some sacrifice. You're quite literally purposefully underfeeding your body so of course you’ll be a little hungry along the way.
But… don’t give into the myth that you have to be starving all the time. You can feel full & satisfied even when you’re trying to lose weight.
The first step to staying full while losing fat:
Make sure you’re not doing something too restrictive.
If your current fat loss plan has you cutting out entire food groups, only eating during a certain time frame, or on some really low calories, pause. Of course you’re going to be hungry all the time if you’re trying to lose fat in a restrictive way!
It’s time for a new plan. Before we continue I want you to find your sustainable calorie deficit here and then come back to this article.
Ok cool you’ve got your calories? You’re not cutting out food you love? You found something that you may actually be able to stick to for longer than a week? Great! Now let’s really dive into how to stay full while losing fat.
Get that protein in
Protein is huge while you're in a calorie deficit for a lot of different reasons including building & maintaining muscle, aiding recovery, and helping you feel more full. Protein is a highly satiating food and centering your meals around it is going to leave you feeling a lot more full than a meal that’s mostly just carbs and a little fat. If you can ensure you’re eating adequate protein you’re going to feel fuller for a lot longer.
How much protein should you be eating though? Start with .7g-1g of protein per lb of bodyweight or goal bodyweight. If you have a lot of weight to lose you probably want to use your goal bodyweight for this calculation.
Real life example because math is hard: If you weigh 150lbs and are using bodyweight you’d want to shoot for 105g-150g of protein per day.
150x 0.7 = 105 150x1 = 150
If you think that sounds like a lot, you’re not alone. Many people are under eating protein right now and it’s the hardest macro group for my clients to hit at first. Don’t fear though, there are a few simple ways to increase your protein to help you stay full while losing fat.
Center all of your meals around protein. AKA pick your protein first. Rather than thinking you’ll have “lasagna” or “a wrap” for lunch, think “chicken” or “fish” with a carb & veggie side. Make protein the star of the meal and you’ll be surprised how much easier it is to hit your daily protein target.
Eat a little bit more of what you’re already eating. If you’re having 2 eggs every morning, start having 3. Rather than 4oz of turkey, have 5oz-6oz. This is probably the easiest way to immediately increase your protein intake so it’s a good place to start.
Pick protein filled snacks. Cheez-its are delicious but they’re not super satiating. Instead pick protein based snacks that will keep you more full while you’re losing fat. Things like greek yogurt, hard boiled eggs, protein shakes, and turkey slices or sticks are great options.
Eat for volume
You may have heard people talk about “eating for volume” or “volume eating” and thought wth is that? It’s actually pretty simple. It’s referring to eating more food, without necessarily eating more calories. High volume foods are typically foods that are lower in calories(and often higher in water content) so you can eat a lot of them and feel more full, without blowing through a ton of calories.
For example: You could have 1 cup of pretzels for 150 calories OR you could have 5 cups of air popped popcorn for 150 calories. You’d probably want to pick the popcorn most of the time because you’ll be able to physically eat more food for the same amount of calories. Popcorn is a high volume food.
Other high volume foods that will help you stay full while losing fat:
-Leafy Green vegetables
-Most vegetables actually
-Really any fruit
Try adding at least one volume food to every meal. A few ideas would be to serve things on a big bed of greens, use egg whites with a whole egg, add cauliflower rice to jasmine rice, snack on fruit when you’re feeling hungry or add some protein powder to oatmeal in the morning for breakfast.
Along with eating for volume you should choose more nutrient dense options when trying to stay full while losing fat.
Yes, all foods fit while you’re in a calorie deficit and it’s super important to eat the foods you love along the way. But…a big salad with grilled chicken and rice is going to keep you much more full than 2 slices of pizza will for about the same amount of calories. Sometimes you will want the pizza and that’s ok! But most of the time you want to be eating more nutrient dense foods.
While you technically can lose weight if you’re eating nothing but twinkies, ice cream & chips and still hitting your calories…you’re likely going to be hungry most of the time and not feeling too hot. Instead, focus on eating nutrient dense foods like fresh veggies & fruit, lean protein & complex carbs. This will leave you feeling full for much longer, more energized, and just make eating in a calorie deficit feel a lot easier.
Assess your sleep
Have you ever noticed that your cravings intensify after a bad night's sleep? It’s not coincidental. Sleeping less than 8 hours has been linked to lower leptin levels and higher ghrelin(2 opposing hormones in appetite regulation). The differences in these 2 hormones caused by shorter sleep times will lead to an increase in appetite and hunger.
AKA when you’re sleeping less or getting poorer quality sleep, your appetite increases and so can your cravings. If you find yourself constantly hangry even when eating nutrient dense foods & adequate protein, a good next step is to take a look at your sleep quality. You want to strive for 8hrs a night to help these hunger hormones regulate and feel more full while losing fat.
Limit alcohol intake
Ok before you immediately click out of this article…hear me out.
The reality is that while you’re in a calorie deficit your calories are limited a bit. And if you want to stay full while losing fat, you probably want most of your calories for the day going towards things that are going to fill you up and provide some energy for your body. That’s not alcohol.
While you absolutely can drink alcohol and lose fat, you’re going to be a lot more satisfied throughout the day if you’re putting 300 calories towards a big bowl of oatmeal as opposed to 2 glasses of wine. You don’t have to cut out alcohol completely but you might want to start limiting your intake a bit. Rather than a glass of wine every night would you be ok with a glass every other night? Instead of 5 drinks on a Saturday(which could be the same calories as an entire meal), could you have 3 instead?
Limiting your alcohol intake is going to help you stay a lot more full while losing fat and your calorie deficit will feel a lot easier and manageable!
The last thing to note when trying to stay full while losing fat:
A small level of hunger is normal while you’re in a calorie deficit and trying to lose weight. These tips will help to keep you feeling more full and satisfied but a little bit of hunger, especially as you’re going to bed, is normal. On the flip side, you don’t want to be ravenous and starving all of the time. If you are even after adapting all of these strategies it might be time to reassess your plan and possibly bump up your calories a bit.
That's all I've got! Thanks so much for reading until the end and being a part of this community! If you have any more questions please reach out, I'd love to hear from you. And if you want someone to take all of the guesswork out of this for you and ensure you’re following a sustainable fat loss plan, sign up for 1:1 coaching here.