How to Control Hunger For Weight Loss


Ken Kronquist

Founder, CEO

Feb 10, 2024

Hunger and food cravings are the top reasons people give up on their diets. When hunger is out of control, few people succeed on a diet, and when it’s under control, few people fail. In this guide, we’ll cover a number of research-proven strategies that you can use to keep hunger under control. When you see numbers below like (PMID: 28618170), you can google these numbers to read the studies we’re talking about.

Food Cravings and Hunger Are Different

It’s important to understand the difference between hunger and food cravings because they have different causes and solutions. Food cravings are an intense desire to eat a particular food (or type of food)”. Hunger is the physical drive to consume enough calories. Hunger can be satisfied by any food. Food cravings are only satisfied by a particular food.  If you are struggling with true hunger, this guide will tell you what you need to know. If you are struggling with food cravings, read our separate How To Control Food Cravings blog post.

What Causes Hunger

The signal for hunger in your body is a hormone called Ghrelin that is produced in the digestive tract. An empty stomach and low blood sugar signal the body to release ghrelin, but your body is also influenced to release Ghrelin at times when your body is used to eating. People who fast for multiple days will often notice hunger near meal times, but a lack of hunger during other parts of the day. 

A major challenge for people losing weight is that levels of Ghrelin tend to increase as people lose more weight. This causes people to feel more hungry and can make people regain the weight they’ve lost.

How to Control Hunger for Weight Loss

The good news is that there are many things you can do to reduce Ghrelin and hunger. 

Eat Less and Feel More Satisfied with High Protein

Multiple studies have shown that high-protein diets help people eat less and feel more satisfied. (MID: 15466943 PMID: 19400750). Several studies show that high protein diets, help people reduce the amount people eat, even when they aren’t trying to limit what they eat. (PPMID: 16014402 PMID: 16002798). To get this benefit, try to get at least 30% of your calories from Protein (PMID: 16014402 PMID: 16002798 PMID: 18282589) 

Protein seems to affect appetite in multiple ways. First, it is slower to digest than other nutrients. This helps you feel full longer. Second, having more amino acids in your bloodstream (building blocks of protein), lowers hunger even when Ghrelin levels are high. 

Eating high protein has other benefits as well. Protein actually  causes your body to burn more calories because it takes more energy to digest protein (20% – 30% of the protein calories you consure get used in the process of digestion, compared to 5 – 10% for carbohydrates, and 0 – 3% for fat. Lastly, protein helps your body retain lean muscle when you are losing weight (PMID: 26883880  PMID: 19927027). Muscle helps you look better at any weight, function better, and it burns more calories than fat. 

Great low-calorie ways to add protein to your diet include:

  • 4 oz of checking breast 26g of protein / 120 kcal
  • 4 oz of salmon: 20g of protein / 290 kcal
  • 4 oz of sliced turkey 26g of protein / 120 kcal 
  • 1 cup of nonfat Greek yogurt: 24g of protein / 130 kcal
  • 1 cup of lentils: 18g of protein / 230 kcal
  • 1 cup of black beans: 14.5g of protein / 219 kcal

Feel Full With Fiber

Fiber is a second nutrient that’s been shown to reduce hunger. Like protein, Fiber slows down the digestion process and allows you to feel full longer. It also helps to bulk up your food so you get to eat more and feel full on fewer calories. A review of several studies found that when people ate as much as they wanted and increased fiber intake by 14 g/day, they ate 10% less per day and people lost about 4 lbs more over 4 months than people who didn’t increase fiber.

Fiber has a number of other important health benefits including, helping you regulate blood sugar, lowering LDL (or bad cholesterol), improving your digestion, and improving gut health. The daily recommendation for fiber is 38g for men and 

Great sources of fiber include:

  • Beans 9g / half cup
  • Broccoli 5 g / cup
  • Raspberries 8 g / cup
  • Pears / 5.5 g / cup
  • Breen Peas 9g / cup
  • Lentils / 15.5 g / cup
  • Oatmeal 4 g / cup

Reducing Processed Foods

Ultra-processed foods have been shown to increase hunger and cause people to eat more calories. A widely cited study had people eat an ultra-processed diet for 2 weeks and then eat an unprocessed diet for two weeks. What they found was that people ate on average of 500 calories more per day when eating ultra-processed food than unprocessed food. They gained about a 1lb per week when on the ultra-processed diet and lost about 1lb per week when on the unprocessed diet. 

The most amazing part was that even though they were eating significantly less on the unprocessed diet, they felt just as full and satisfied. 

There are probably two main reasons for this. Processed foods tend to be loaded with sugar, fat, and salt. These ingredients trigger cravings and make you want to eat more. 

Secondly, these foods also tend to have water and fiber removed. This makes these foods calorie-dense, so you can eat a lot of calories without eating a large amount of food.

If you want to move your diet more towards unprocessed foods, load up on fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans, brown rice, whole grains, low-fat dairy, fish, and lean meats.  Try to minimize packaged foods. When you do buy packaged foods prioritize foods that have fewer ingredients and try to avoid foods that make you lose control of how much you eat.


Doctors at the University of Pennsylvania recommend people drink half their weight in lbs in ounces of water each day. In other words, a person who weighs 200 lbs, should aim to get 100 oz of water. Being adequately hydrated can help reduce the feeling of hunger. 

There is also strong evidence that drinking water before meals, helps people to eat less and still feel satisfied. A study found people who drank ½ a liter of water before a meal (about a pint or 2 cups) ate 24% less food than when they didn’t drink water before a meal. (PMID: 30406058). A second study found that pre-meal water drinkers who were trying to lose weight lost 44% more weight than people who didn’t drink water before meals.


Getting adequate sleep is essential if you want to limit hunger and reduce overeating. Studies show that just 1 night of poor sleep alters our appetite-controlling hormones, leading to an increased consumption of food. (PMID: 23922121; PMC3763921.) One study found men ate over 500 kcal/day more on days when they slept less than 4 hours than they ate when they slept 8 hours. This is enough to cause 1 lb of weight gain per week! (PMID: 20357041)

Next time you’re struggling to lose weight ask yourself, is your lack of sleep hindering your weight loss efforts? If your answer is yes, here are some tips to improve your sleep…

  • Get to bed at a consistent time
  • Spend time outside during the day
  • Make sure your bedroom is dark, cool, and relaxing
  • Limit screen time before bed
  • Avoid large meals close to bedtime

If you find that you wake up and have difficulty getting back to sleep, or frequently don’t feel rested when you’ve slept for 7 hours or more, talk to your doctor. You could have a health issue that’s impacting the quality of your sleep. This will also affect your hunger levels and could

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