Stomach growling? Those are your hunger hormones talking. The top three—ghrelin, cortisol and leptin—signal when you’re hungry, when you’re full and even when your body is jonesing for specific snacks. The good news: They can easily be manipulated to reduce cravings and keep you from overeating.
Hit the sack
One night of poor sleep can cause ghrelin to increase, triggering hunger, according to a study from the University of Chicago. You may not always be able to get a full seven hours, but if you’re trying to eat less, make sleep a priority.
Get back on the wagon
Reach for produce instead of something fried—healthful foods can suppress ghrelin, which promotes fat storage and causes you to crave fatty foods, says Scott Isaacs, MD, professor at Emory University School of Medicine.
Eat more slowly
It takes 20 minutes for hormones to relay the message to our brain that we’re no longer hungry. So take a sip of water or put your fork down between bites and snack on foods that take longer to eat, such as unshelled nuts or peel-and-eat shrimp.
Not only does stress zap willpower, it increases cortisol, which can lead to cravings and weight gain around the belly. When anxiety strikes, turn to exercise, deep breathing, music or a call with a friend to distract you from food.