Your weight is largely influenced by how much you eat and your level of physical activity. The general rule when it comes to losing weight is reducing your calorie intake while increasing your level of physical activity. Unfortunately, most weight-loss diets, along with vigorous exercise, often lead to an increased appetite and hunger.
This makes shedding weight and keeping it off extremely challenging. There are, however, a few ways you can effectively lower your calorie intake without starving yourself, so don’t stress. Here’s how to eat less by making a few adjustments during mealtime.
15 Simple Ways To Eat Less
To lose weight by eating, you have to make a few changes to your diet and eating pattern. If you are constantly snacking on chips, then eating, spending hours over the weekend in the gym, it will be almost impossible to lose weight. You, therefore, have to find a balance between the two.
Exercising can cause an increased appetite. You may get disappointed because instead of losing weight, you end up gaining a few more pounds. There’s no need to stress out about it but rather form new eating habits gradually that will help you eat the right amount and, over time, help manage your weight after establishing methods of weight loss that work for you.
The trick to losing weight fast is to carefully choose the quality of the foods you eat while reducing your portion sizes. This, along with exercise, helps you burn more calories than you consume. Ensure you do not starve yourself in the process of trying to eat less as your body needs energy to function properly.
Still not sure how to train yourself to eat less? Try slowly making changes to your eating behaviors. You can start by keeping track of how much food you eat, switching to whole foods, limiting mealtime distractions, and eventually using portion control dinnerware.
Here’s how to eat less food and not be hungry:
This is probably one of the most cliche dieting tips, but there are actual reasons with solid scientific proof. Many people mistake thirst for hunger, so they end up eating when they need a glass of water. So, drink a glass of water whenever you think you are hungry. If this satisfies you, then you were not hungry.
Water is a natural appetite suppressant. Drinking water before meals also helps decrease hunger, increase the feelings of fullness and promote weight loss (2). One study found that non-obese young males who drink at least 2 glasses of water right before a meal ate 22% less than those who do not. Researchers believe that 500 ml of water is enough to adequately stretch the stomach to relay fullness signals to the brain (14).
Drinking some soup before your meal also has the same effect. Scientists observed that taking a bowl of soup before the main meal decreased hunger and reduced calorie intake by about 20% (20). Try drinking about 2 liters of water every day.
Fill Up On Fiber
Fiber refers to any carbohydrate that cannot be digested by the body and is very important. And not only for weight loss but also for gut health. Eating fiber-rich foods helps prevent constipation. Fiber also feeds friendly bacteria in your gut.
A High fiber intake slows the digestion of food, helping you stay full for longer. It also stretches the stomach and slows the emptying of the stomach. Additionally, fiber can ferment in the bowels producing short-chain fatty acids that promote fullness (24).
A recent study observes that including fiber-rich legumes such as chickpeas, beans, peas, and lentils in your meal can increase the feeling of satiety by about 31% compared to meals without such legumes (8). In a different review, eating an extra 14 grams of fiber per day was shown to lower calorie intake by about 10% and resulted in weight loss (6).
Different types, however, differently affect the feelings of fullness. Soluble fiber types such as beta-glucans, guar gum, and pectins are more filling than less soluble forms of fiber (10).
Most fiber-rich foods such as whole grains, vegetables, and fruits contain many nutrients, including vitamins and antioxidants. Also, foods such as vegetables and fruits are low in calories meaning you can eat lots of them without increasing your calorie intake. Fiber-rich foods are thus one of the best foods to eat for health and for weight loss.
Opt For Solids Instead Of Liquids
Did you know that it is easier and quicker to overconsume calories in liquids than in solids? Much as all foods, whether solid or liquid, influence how many calories you consume, it takes a shorter time to drink a bottle of milk than to eat a bowl of cereal. You may also try to eat less solid food, but most people don’t pay attention when it comes to liquids.
Liquid and solid calories also affect appetite differently. Solid foods require more chewing, allowing more time for fullness signals to reach the brain. Chewing also allows the food to stay in contact with the taste buds longer, promoting the feeling of fullness (18).
Eat Protein-Rich Foods
Protein is one of the best things to eat to lose weight. Adding protein to your diet increases satiety, reduces appetite, helps you build muscle and lose fat (23). Protein Rich Foods range from animal meats like pork, chicken, beef, and mutton to plant-based protein sources such as chia seeds, beans, compensation, peas, and lentils.
For example, one weight loss study compared two breakfasts with the same number of calories: one consisting of eggs and the other of bagels. Over eight weeks, individuals who ate the egg breakfast lost 16% more body fat and 65% more weight (11).
A high protein diet may also help prevent muscle loss after you lower your calorie intake. Protein should account for about 20 to 30% of your total calorie intake or 1.0 to 1.2 grams per kilogram of your total weight (7).
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Use Smaller Plates
Using small plates and bowls is an easy way to control your portion sizes and eat less. We tend to eat all the food we serve ourselves. So, if you serve yourself on a large plate, you will feel satiated after eating everything you served yourself.
By reducing the size of your dinnerware, you reduce your meal portions. You, therefore, unconsciously eat less food and even reduce food wastage (19). Also, swap short wide glasses for narrow tall ones when taking alcohol and other high-calorie beverages.
Practise Mindful Eating
Most of us rush through meals because of some reason – you are late for work, or you have a project deadline to meet, or you need to catch the bus in time. The result is that you have overeaten by the time the fullness signal reaches your brain. Usually, it takes about 20 to 30 minutes for the stomach to signal your brain that you are full.
Mindful eating is simply paying attention to the food and appreciating it. This practice helps you gain better control of your eating habits. It involves eating slowly, paying attention to your body, and eating until you are full (15).
By eating slowly and paying attention to food, you can appreciate your food and make eating an intentional and not an automatic act. Also, by mindfully eating, you can better distinguish physical hunger from emotional hunger.
Research shows that practicing mindful eating helps people derive more pleasure from food. Being fully aware during your meals and focusing on quality over quantity can help you eat less and eliminate binge eating behaviors (16).
Eat Foods Rich In Omega-3s
Omega-3 fats, especially those found in fish, can increase leptin (satiety hormone) levels (17). A high omega-3 diet may additionally increase fullness when you reduce your calorie intake to lose weight (1).
Up until now, these impacts were just seen in overweight and hefty members. There are plenty of ways to eat fish. You can prepare a tuna or salmon salad, bake the fish, or grill it.
Spice Your Meals With Ginger Or Pepper
Another effective way to eat less is to add spices such as ginger and pepper to your meals. Both spices have several health benefits and additionally help curb hunger.
A recent study found that taking 2 grams of ginger powder diluted in hot water during breakfast reduced hunger after the meal (13). In a different study, the effects of capsiate in sweet peppers and capsaicin in hot pepper were studied. It found that these components help curb hunger and increase the feeling of fullness (22).
Avoid Skipping Meals
Skipping meals might seem like a great way to eat less. This can, however, lead to increased food cravings and appetite, causing you to overindulge during subsequent meals. You may therefore end up adding weight as a result of eating more.
Going for long durations without nourishment can leave you feeling tired. Not getting the right amount of calories can also slow your metabolism. You may also experience intense cravings for high fat and high sugar foods that could increase your calorie intake.
Instead of skipping meals or starving yourself, eat balanced meals and healthy snacks, including veggies and fruits, to prevent hunger and provide you with energy.
Measure Out Your Portion Sizes
Are you wondering how to eat less carbs or how to eat less sugar? You could measure the carbs you serve on your plate and swap sugary foods with fruits. To eat less, you need to control your portion sizes.
The only way to get the correct portion sizes is to measure them out. A portion size refers to the total amount of food you eat. It is important to note that portion sizes don’t mean the same as serving sizes (the recommended amount of a type of food one should eat).
The simplest way is to invest in a set of portion control dishes with individual compartments for each main food group. You can also use measuring cups to measure out your portions. Alternatively, you can use a food scale, although this may be tiresome.
You can also use simple-to-remember visual cues to approximate portion sizes. Here is a brief guide:
- Three ounces of poultry, fish, or meat is about the size of a deck of cards.
- One cup of vegetables and fruit is about the size of one baseball.
- One serving of nuts and nut butter is the same size as a golf ball.
- One slice of bread or waffles should be the same size as a compact disc.
- ½ a cup of pasta or rice should be the same size as ½ a baseball.
- ½ a cup of desserts such as ice cream should be the same size as ½ a baseball.
Avoid Distractions During Meal Times
Be it eating popcorn while watching a movie, watching a show during dinner, or working during lunch, eating while being distracted is common. What most are unaware of is that mealtime distractions unconsciously increase how much food you consume.
A meta-analysis of 24 different studies found that individuals who are distracted while eating consume more calories during that meal. This is independent of your activity, be it watching TV, playing video games, or using your phone (9).
During meal and snack time, get rid of all distractions, whether electronic devices or magazines. Concentrate on your meal and take time to enjoy it.
Coffee has several benefits for your health. Coffee contains caffeine, a stimulant that can help you burn fat and keep your concentration levels up. This beverage can also decrease your appetite and help you eat less.
Research indicates that coffee increases the release of peptide YY (5). This hormone is secreted in the gut when there is food in the digestive tract. It helps promote the feeling of satiety and slows down the movement of food along the digestive tract.
Decaffeinated coffee has been shown to produce the highest reduction in hunger, with its effects holding for up to 3 hours (5).
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Get Plenty Of Quality Sleep
Sleep is incredibly essential. Just like the body needs food, so does the brain need rest. Sleep plays a crucial role in regulating hormone levels, including the hunger and satiety hormones ghrelin and leptin.
Getting inadequate sleep is associated with increased ghrelin and reduced leptin levels. Short sleep duration can increase hunger by about 24%, decrease leptin by about 18% and increase ghrelin by about 26% (4).
Sleep deprivation is also associated with an increased risk of obesity (3). Getting enough sleep is thus as essential as eating right and exercising. Make sure you get over 6 hours of quality sleep each night.
You probably are familiar with the term stress eating. Stress can affect how much you eat. Excess stress increases the levels of cortisol, the primary stress hormone.
Although the effects vary from one individual to another, high cortisol levels increase food cravings and the desire to eat (25). Stress may also lower the levels of a fullness hormone, peptide YY (21).
Reducing your stress levels helps to reduce hunger and lowers your risk of obesity. Avoid stressful conditions. Try talking to a friend, meditating, or journaling to manage stress.
Pay Attention To The Food Portions While Eating Out
It is easier to overindulge when you are eating out at your favorite restaurant. You might have been trying to manage your portions and eat less, but you cannot help yourself when you go out. You may end up throwing away days of building proper eating habits.
Make sure to stay aware of how much you consume at all times. Most restaurants serve larger than standard portion sizes (12). Ask for half the meal, then have the rest packed to go. Always ask for a side of vegetables.
If you have company, you can share the meal with your friend. Also, ask that dipping sauces and condiments be served on the side. Make sure to avoid all-you-can-eat offers and buffets.
Eating less requires making a few small changes to your dietary patterns. You do not have to figure out how to eat less than 1000 calories a day to eat less. And frankly, a calorie diet below 1200 kcal may increase hunger and result in overeating.
All you need to do is keep track of your calories and eat nutrient-dense whole foods. You also need to avoid skipping meals as it leads to an increased appetite. Remember that it is crucial you get enough sleep and avoid stressful conditions. Eating less is not just about weight loss but also about developing new habits for a healthier you in the long run.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- A diet rich in long chain omega-3 fatty acids modulates satiety in overweight and obese volunteers during weight loss (2008, sciencedirect.com)
- Association between water consumption and body weight outcomes: a systematic review (2013, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Associations between sleep loss and increased risk of obesity and diabetes (2008, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Brief communication: Sleep curtailment in healthy young men is associated with decreased leptin levels, elevated ghrelin levels, and increased hunger and appetite (2004, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Coffee, hunger, and peptide YY (2012, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Dietary fiber and weight regulation – (2001, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Dietary protein – its role in satiety, energetics, weight loss and health (2012, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Dietary pulses, satiety and food intake: A systematic review and meta‐analysis of acute feeding trials (2014, onlinelibrary.wiley.com)
- Eating attentively: a systematic review and meta-analysis of the effect of food intake memory and awareness on eating (2013, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Effects of dietary fibre on subjective appetite, energy intake and body weight: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials (2011, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Egg breakfast enhances weight loss (2008, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Expanding portion sizes in the US marketplace: implications for nutrition counseling (2003, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Ginger consumption enhances the thermic effect of food and promotes feelings of satiety without affecting metabolic and hormonal parameters in overweight men: a pilot study (2012, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Immediate pre-meal water ingestion decreases voluntary food intake in lean young males (2015, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Mindful Eating: The Art of Presence While You Eat (2017, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Mindfulness-based eating awareness training for treating binge eating disorder: the conceptual foundation (2011, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Omega-3 fatty acids: a review of the effects on adiponectin and leptin and potential implications for obesity management (2013, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Oral processing characteristics of solid savoury meal components, and relationship with food composition, sensory attributes and expected satiation (2012, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Portion size me: plate-size induced consumption norms and win-win solutions for reducing food intake and waste (2013, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Soup preloads in a variety of forms reduce meal energy intake (2007, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Stress inhibits PYY secretion in obese and normal weight women (2015, link.springer.com)
- The effects of capsaicin and capsiate on energy balance: critical review and meta-analyses of studies in humans (2012, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- The effects of high protein diets on thermogenesis, satiety and weight loss: a critical review (2004, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- The role of gums in satiety/satiation. A review (2013, sciencedirect.com)
- What is eating you? Stress and the Drive to Eat (2012, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)