The hypothalamus is a portion of our brain that controls several functions of our bodies, and of those functions, hunger and thirst are biggies.

When we eat, hormones such as leptin, ghrelin and CCK (among others) are expressed by various cells within our bodies, and these signalling molecules act on our hypothalamus which tells the rest of the body that we are “full” and therefore no longer feel hungry. In essence, we eat food, our cells produce chemicals as a result of eating, and these chemicals eventually reach our hypothalamus and cancel our feelings of hunger or thirst. It’s a heck of a lot more complicated than that, but you get the gist. “Why does this matter” you say?

Well like anything that acts on biological systems, nothing is immediate, there is a delay between signals in your taste buds, your stomach cells, you digestive cells, the resulting changes in chemistry within the blood, the formation of hormones from genes within the cells, the release of those hormones into general circulation and the binding of those hormones to the receptors of the hypothalamus – all of this takes quite a bit of time, up to or beyond 20 minutes for most people. Want to know why you visited a buffet and were hungry…hungry…hungry…still hungry…and then FULL FUL FULL, overstuffed FULL with no middle ground? Drum roll…….

There are several strategies that can be employed to capitalize on this lengthy process by those who are interested in losing weight and still want to feel satisfied at the end of the meal. In the same way that a professional competition eater or sumo wrestler eats as FAST as possible to maximize the amount of food ingested before feeling too full, the person seeking weight loss should do just the opposite.

The next time you’re feeling hungry and are worried about over-eating and downing a few hundred more calories than you’d like, or feel as though you can’t resist that slice of delicious lemon meringue pie, try one of these simple strategies – you’ll be amazed at the results.

1) Find a low calorie appetizer and spend 15 minutes casually grazing on it. A plate of raw cucumbers, celery, peppers, broccoli, and cauliflower ought to do the trick. Even if you eat 5 cups of this stuff you’ll barely be squeaking by 140 calories. By the time the main course comes around you’ll have a stomach full of low-calorie / high-nutrient food pressing on the stretch receptors of the stomach which will be soon sending our signals to the hypothalamus that you’re pretty much full. Bye-bye big appetite.

2) Drink 2 500ml glasses of water when you’re hungry. Thirst craving mechanisms and hunger mechanisms are always being confused by your body and you’ll be amazed at how often water will destroy your over-zealous appetite. You thought you were hungry when you were just dehydrated! Who knew?

3) Take you planned meal (breakfast, lunch or dinner) and divide it into courses that you’ll eat over the course of 30 minutes. Don’t prepare MORE food, just take what would normally be on your plate and divide it into thirds and eat each third in separate 10 minute blocks. Some veggies first, then your sweet potato, then your turkey (for example)This will force you to consume calories at a slower rate and give your body time to realize that it’s filling up. You will almost certainly not want a second helping if you give it some thought.

While there’s a lot more to healthy eating and weight loss than a few tricks, the above guidelines can prove invaluable to the over-eater, or those seeking to achieve better portion control. Above all, make sure you stick with high-nutrient dense foods to ensure that you’re getting plenty of vitamins and minerals “A through Z” and losing body fat the healthy way.