If you’re trying to lose weight—or if you’ve already shed a few pounds but find yourself struggling to keep it off—one of the biggest enemies you’ll face is fake hunger. Those random cravings that sneak up on you between meals and trick you into rummaging through the kitchen looking for something to munch on even when you’re not truly hungry.
Following are four effort-free brain hacks you can start using immediately to help you head off that fake hunger before it sabotages your weight loss efforts.
1. Watch a funny video:
Next time you feel between-meal hunger creeping in head straight to your computer and find a funny video to watch. We’re partial to pet antics around here, but anything that gives you a good belly laugh from old Laurel and Hardy routines to giggling babies will do the trick. The key is to truly let yourself laugh with abandon and chances are you will quickly forget about that craving to stuff your face.
Why it works:
Often fake hunger sets in when we’re feeling drowsy or bored. It turns out laughter is a natural remedy for both issues.
When you laugh a bunch of different changes take place in your body. Your breathing gets faster driving more oxygen to tissues throughout your body. Your blood pressure rises making you feel more alert. And your face muscles and other muscles throughout your body are stretched improving your circulation.
In other words laughter is essentially a mild form exercise, which naturally drives down your appetite by suppressing your hunger hormone gherlin.1,2
Plus, according to research published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, a good belly laugh releases endorphins, such as serotonin and dompamine.3 And these feel-good hormones act as natural appetite suppressants.4
2. Brush your teeth:
When the urge to rummage through the fridge kicks in head for the bathroom and brush your teeth instead. This simple trick is often all it will take to dull your urge to graze.
Why it works:
This brain hack works because we’re naturally creatures of habit. We typically brush our teeth only after we’re done eating a meal or before we climb into bed. So when you brush your teeth at a completely different time of the day to interrupt your fake hunger you’re simply harnessing your brain’s fondness for routine. Your brain gets the signal that you’re done eating, or ready to turn in for the night, and it dials back your appetite.
3. Pick up the phone:
At the first sign of fake hunger call up your bestie and chat for a five to ten minutes. Better yet try Facetime, Skype or some other video chatting app so you can see her smiling face. By the time you hang up chances are you won’t even remember you had the munchies.
Why it works:
Fake hunger often strike simply because we’re feeling down. But connecting with a good friend can instantly boost your mood by triggering your brain to release oxytocin a bonding chemical.5 Oxytocin it turn supports the production of appetite suppressing and mood boosting serotonin.6 In other words just a few minutes connecting with a friend and you can sat bye-bye to that bad mood and those cravings.
4. Pinch your earlobe:
Is that leftover cake calling to you from the kitchen? Gently pinch the bottom of your ear where it attaches to your jaw and massage for a minute or two and poof, like magic, your craving will likely disappear.
Why it works:
This brain hack draws on the ancient Chinese practice of acupuncture. The bottom of your earlobe is the location of an appetite suppression point. Practitioners of acupuncture, and the alternative practice called acupressure, believe that stimulating this point can help calm cravings. And according to a study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine they’re onto something. Women who used acupressure techniques after losing weight were able to maintain that weight loss significantly better than ladies who didn’t use the ancient practice to help control their appetites.7