6 fat loss questions you need to know the answers to

How can you lose weight without feeling hungry?  Is it really so important to eat breakfast?  What's the best way to control cravings and which is more effective at shifting the pounds — eating less or exercising more?  We asked Rachael Anne Hill the answers to all these and more.

Whenever I cut calories to lose weight I am constantly hungry. What can I do?
Make sure you eat little and often throughout the day. This will help to prevent your blood sugar levels from dropping which can send hunger levels sky high.  Include plenty of foods in your diet that are high in water, fibre and protein too such as fruits, vegetables, beans, pulses, nuts, fish, chicken, lean meats and wholegrains as these will help to fill you up without piling on the calories.  Finally, there is evidence to suggest that even mild dehydration can also increase feelings of hunger so make sure you drink at least 8 glasses of water a day.

Will skipping breakfast really hinder my ability to lose weight?
Studies indicate that people who eat breakfast tend to be slimmer and have a lower overall fat and calorie intake than those who don't.   This is probably because eating breakfast helps to elevate blood sugars which keep hunger pangs and cravings for high calorie, fatty foods at bay.  If you really can't face breakfast try getting up a little earlier.  This will give your body more time to come round to the idea of eating.  If that's not an option make a fresh fruit smoothie or take something with you in the morning like a banana or a low fat, whole meal muffin.  Alternatively keep a box of cereal and skimmed milk at work or buy a ready prepared bowl of fresh fruit salad and a low fat yogurt and simply eat your first meal of the day a little later.

[See also: How to avoid cold weather weight gain]

Will eating late at night cause me to gain weight?

As long as you are not taking in more calories than you actually need, eating at night time won't make you any more likely to gain weight than eating throughout the day.  The important thing as far as controlling your weight is concerned is how many calories you eat, not when you eat them.  That said, it is a good idea to spread your calorie intake evenly in the form of regular small meals and snacks as this will help to keep blood sugar levels constant, energy levels high and hunger pangs at bay.

Should I switch to artificially sweetened products?
There is a lot of controversy surrounding the health benefits of eating artificial sweeteners.  Recent research has suggested that although they may help to lower calorie intake they may in fact, stimulate appetite and therefore lead to even more weight gain than if you had eaten the real thing.   Try to re-train your taste buds to become accustomed to eating less sugar instead.

How can I stop myself craving chocolate when I diet?

Firstly, don't ban yourself from eating it.  If you do, the cravings for it will only get stronger.  Instead allow yourself a small number of 'treat' calories a day and use them up on whatever chocolate snack you like.  Many people find that when they give themselves permission to have a little of what they fancy on a diet the urge to over indulge in it subsides.

Is it better to eat less or exercise more to lose weight?

Exercise is great for your body. It keeps your heart healthy, makes you feel good, tones your muscles and helps to protect you against a whole host of diseases.  It's also great at helping to prevent you from re-gaining any weight you might lose.  However, in order to lose weight it's the calories you eat that count so by all means exercise regularly but don't be fooled into thinking that by doing so you can eat what you like — it won't work.

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