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Why can’t I just eat less? 7 reasons you can’t stop snacking & easy ways to banish cravings

IF you’re on a weight loss mission, you’ll be well attuned to the ‘calories in vs calories out’ equation. 

After all, despite other factors coming into play, calories are the biggest factor to take into consideration when losing weight.

Can’t help snacking? It could be down to your sleep patterns or the fact you’re not eating enough at mealtimes

But, it’s easier said than done to just ‘eat less’.

Feeling like you’re always craving a snack? Or do you find that you’re never actually full, despite eating big meals? 

This constant hunger can really get in the way of our weight loss goals.  

Here, the experts reveal why exactly you might be struggling to eat less, and the simple solutions to help fix it…

1. You’re not eating enough

“Eating more won’t necessarily prevent you from reaching your weight loss goals,” says Eli Brecher, Nutritionist and Founder of Eli Brecher Nutrition

“In fact, the very opposite may be the case. Our hunger hormone, ghrelin, is produced when the stomach is empty, to signal to the brain that it’s time to eat. 

“Allowing hunger to get out of control may lead to overeating at the next meal, ordering more than we need in a restaurant, and late night binge-eating after a day of calorie restriction – and let’s be honest, we don’t binge on cucumber sticks and lettuce,” explains Eli.

She adds that these consequences are counterproductive for weight loss, and often stimulate a vicious cycle of bingeing and restricting. 

Eat regular, balanced meals and listen to your hunger cues. 

“If you skip breakfast but experience a mid-morning slump that leaves you overindulging at lunchtime and grazing for the rest of the day, try having a protein-rich breakfast instead,” adds Eli. 

Try Greek yoghurt, oats and fruit or eggs on toast with salmon. 

2. You’re skipping meals

“To effectively manage snack cravings, it’s extremely important to ensure that you are eating three meals per day that contain all the essential nutrients your body needs,” says Jess Hillard, Nutritionist for Warrior supplements.

“This includes carbohydrates, protein, vegetables, and healthy fats. 

“By not eating at key mealtimes, your body will find it difficult to stabilise blood sugar levels and will leave you feeling in a state of constant hunger. 

“To avoid this and ensure your energy levels are consistent throughout the day, eating at key mealtimes is essential.”

3. You’re not moving enough

Food is one thing, but movement can play a huge role in weight loss too.

“Don’t just sit around waiting to see results,” says Jess.

“You have to be proactive in your fitness regime and the weight loss should follow. 

Exercising regularly is essential to a healthy routine so find a workout or class you enjoy and try to stick with it. 

“Working out with a friend should help keep up the momentum.”

Even regular walks can help; try devoting a set amount of time every day to movement, scheduling it into your calendar like an appointment. 

4. You’re not sleeping enough

“When the body is sleep-deprived, the production of ghrelin goes up, making us feel hungrier. 

“Meanwhile, the production of leptin (the fullness hormone) goes down, which makes you even more likely to overeat,” explains Eli.

She recommends getting at least eight hours of sleep per night to help control appetite impulses.

“While this isn’t always possible depending on individual circumstances, keep in mind that your hunger and cravings may be impacted as a result. 

“Focusing on nutrition and lifestyle practices to enhance your sleep can make a real difference.”

Eli suggests quitting caffeine after lunchtime (this includes dark chocolate and tea too!) and incorporating daily walks to help regulate the body’s natural body clock.

5. You’re bored

“Most of the time we aren’t even hungry for these snacks and we just find ourselves making endless journeys to the fridge, for lack of anything else to do,” says Jess.

“When you are sitting on the sofa in the evening, why not engage in a sudoku puzzle or an adult colouring book, to keep your mind active and stop it wandering towards the snack cupboard?”

As well as this, try to keep sweet, sugary foods out of the house. 

On your next food shop, avoid the biscuit, crisps and chocolate aisle and spend your money on other more nutritious options like fruit and nuts. 

If you don’t have junk in the house, then you won’t be able to eat it, even if you want to.

6. You’re on a blood sugar rollercoaster

“When we eat predominantly carbohydrate/sugar-based meals or snacks, this can send our blood sugar skyrocketing – and then plummeting shortly afterwards,” says Eli.

“The drop in blood sugar can make us feel ‘hangry’ and leave us reaching for the biscuit tin, perpetuating the cycle. 

“Elevated blood sugar over the long-term is also linked to diabetes, heart disease, inflammation, accelerated ageing and many other health complications.”

Hop off the blood sugar rollercoaster by incorporating protein, fats and fibre into your meals and snacks, as these can all help minimise this spike and crash, by slowing down the release of glucose into the body. 

“Instead of a slice of white toast with jam, go for wholegrain seeded bread with natural peanut butter and a sprinkle of mixed seeds on top,” reveals Eli. 

“Upgrade your snacks with smarter choices – try combining apple slices with almond butter, or carrot sticks with hummus.

“Despite the increase in calories from the nut butter/hummus, this will actually keep you feeling satiated until your next meal, so you don’t end up grabbing a bar of chocolate from the office vending machine.”

7. You’re in the luteal phase of your menstrual cycle

For women of childbearing age, hormone fluctuations are a normal part of the 28-day cycle. 

“The luteal phase of the monthly cycle occurs around a week before your period is due. 

“Cravings are significantly more common during this time of the month, which is thought to be due to an increase in the hormone progesterone,” says Eli.

She says that during this phase, it’s wise to listen to your body. 

“If you feel the urge to have a square or two of chocolate, go ahead. Balance and moderation are key. 

“Similar to the binge-restrict cycle described above, ignoring your cravings could make them worse and you may end up raiding the cupboards later on.”

Eli adds that it’s important to ensure you’re consuming enough nutrient-dense foods, including complex carbs, like brown rice and whole wheat pasta, high quality protein and healthy fats, to keep hormone-related cravings at bay.

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