18/04/2013 13:53 BST | Updated 18/06/2013 06:12 BST

Coping With Hunger When You're Trying to Lose Weight

Here is a question I was recently asked by one of my readers:

"I am trying to lose weight by cutting down and thinking about what I eat. However, I don't know what to do when I feel hungry.

I know you're going to say 'eat something'. However, if I choose the sensible option, I'm not satisfied and if I choose something else, I either end up not losing any weight or putting some on! What's the solution?"

What should you do when you're trying to lose weight, and you feel hungry? This is a common situation that many people come across. And working out a good response to hunger is crucial to successful weight loss.

Here are a few things I would suggest:

1. Hunger can be from cutting meals too much.

In the question above, the person says that the hunger they feel is difficult to satisfy. What can often happen is that people cut back their meals too much and then feel extra hungry in between.

This is really a case of robbing Peter to pay Paul. You think you're doing something really virtuous by cutting back what you eat at mealtimes, but actually you're making yourself too hungry between meals.

And what happens in these scenarios is that you end up "chasing the hunger".

Most of us have been in this situation, where we end up having one snack after another trying to "scratch the itch". We end up eating more calories in snacks than we would have had, if we'd just had a more substantial meal.

2. There is no "one-size-fits-all" answer to dealing with hunger.

Hunger is not always the same. Even for the same person! Your hunger at 11am is different from your hunger at 5pm which is also different to the hunger you feel at 11pm.

You'll know that what you need to satisfy your hunger at 11am is quite different to what you would choose to satisfy your hunger at 11pm.

And so, this requires trying different things and finding the best snack response. What is the best response? The snack that gives you the most satisfaction of hunger for the fewest calories.

3. Thirst vs Hunger

Always check that what you're feeling is definitely hunger. A common tip is when you feel hungry, have some water, because sometimes you may mistake thirst for hunger. Leave a few minutes after drinking water to see if it has satisfied the feeling.

4. Hunger Isn't an Emergency

If you had half an hour before your next meal and you felt hungry, what would you do? For some people, being hungry is the worst thing that can happen. It's a disaster and they have to do something about it immediately. It's no coincidence that these people tend to be overweight.

If you can learn to tolerate small periods of hunger, knowing that you'll be eating very soon, you will prevent yourself from indulging in unnecessary snacks.

A Crucial Skill

Ultimately learning to cope with hunger is a crucial part of becoming slim and healthy without dieting. This means understanding your particular mindset and habits around hunger and coming up with more useful ways to deal with it.

For more about a behavioural approach click here.