When it comes to losing weight, there are some things you could live without; an insatiable appetite is one of them. Appetite can feel like such an untamable beast, and a bossy one at that. When it demands to be fed, you feed it – often regardless of your weight-control goals.
So what’s the alternative to caving in? We recommend ten tactics for true appetite control. Read on to learn more!
Why diet pills don’t work
The lure of diet pills has always been their ability to suppress appetite. It seems so simple; take a pill, stifle your appetite, lose weight.
But the problem is that the minute you stop taking diet pills, your appetite returns in full force and you’ve done nothing to change the behaviours that caused you to gain weight in the first place. Any weight that you lost while taking the pills creeps (or leaps) right back on.
The temporary suppression of appetite with pills can also be dangerous. In some instances diet pills have caused permanent health problems and even death. A few years ago, the weight-loss supplement Ephedra was banned after research linked the drug to heart complications – but not before it caused serious health problems for countless consumers.
Simple appetite control
So if pills don’t work, how do you get your appetite under control?
Actually, appetite in and of itself is not a bad thing. In fact, it provides an important indicator of your body’s need for refueling; when you are low on energy, your stomach lets you know. Your appetite is not the problem; it’s how you respond to it that can be.
“Effective appetite control strategies should help curb your appetite without negative side-effects, and should also assist you in changing the eating habits that cause weight gain,” says Pat Fiducia, one of CalorieKing’s weight-loss experts.
Read on for Pat’s best tips on effective appetite control.
Ten ways to tame your appetite
- Don’t get too hungry. It may seem obvious, but if you want to control your appetite, it’s important not to get too hungry. If you don’t eat enough, your appetite will soon scream at you; so nip it before it does. Eat regular meals and two planned snacks a day to avoid getting too hungry.
- Ask yourself if you’re truly hungry. Many people don’t know how to differentiate between true hunger and emotional hunger. “Emotional hunger” is what prompts you to eat when you’re not physically hungry. True hunger only occurs when you have not had enough calories or fat to satisfy physiological needs.If you feel hungry, think about when you last ate and what you ate, and whether or not you have physical symptoms of hunger such as light-headedness and a rumbling stomach. If you’re not physically hungry, ask yourself if there are other reasons why you feel like eating, such as stress or boredom, and respond to those triggers with something other than food. For example, go for a walk, do some gardening, or call a friend.
- Drink water and take ten. Sometimes, what you recognise as hunger is actually thirst. If you feel hungry, try drinking a glass of water, take some deep breaths and tell yourself that you can eat, but in ten minutes. If you are not truly hungry, the feeling will pass after ten minutes and you will have saved on calories. Or if it doesn’t pass, nothing is lost and you won’t be any hungrier than you were before.
- Let yourself feel a little hunger. If you’re feeling hungry after a meal or snack, keep in mind that it’s also okay to feel less than full or to feel a little hungry even after you’ve eaten. In fact, most people who have lost weight and kept it off have learned to be comfortable with this feeling.
- Don’t get too tired. Too little sleep affects hunger and appetite hormones adversely. If you’re struggling to control your appetite, make sure that you’re getting enough sleep.
- Steer clear of appetite-stimulating foods. Avoid the sights and smells of junk food and foods that stimulate your appetite by keeping them out of your line of sight – out of the house, away from your desk, out of the car. Remember – out of sight, out of mind!
- Be careful at buffets. Most people’s appetites go into overdrive when eating at a buffet. In fact, people eat up to 60 percent more when there is variety, even if the variation is something as simple as a different shape of pasta. That’s because your appetite is easily bored with one food, and the more you eat of a single food, the less you will crave it – even if it’s chocolate cake. At a buffet, however, there is plenty of variety to keep your appetite interested, even if you are full.Next time you go to a buffet remember to take your motivation with you. The most powerful aid for controlling overeating is the conviction that losing weight is more important than eating as much as you want. Commit to eating no more than three selections, and take your time eating, allowing the food to digest slowly.
- Prepare for parties. Research suggests that you eat more when having a meal with a large group of people. There are many reasons for this. For example, the distraction of conversation can prevent you from listening to your appetite. Learning “crowd control” for your appetite is an excellent strategy for changing eating habits.If the “Merry Crowd” scenario is an appetite stimulator for you, pay close attention to your hunger cues when eating with friends. Take a moment out of the conversation to decide whether you are really hungry or if your unconscious is just playing tricks on you. Don’t go into a party situation hungry or thirsty. Eat some low-fat protein and drink a glass of water within one hour of when you plan to eat. And of course, remember to enjoy the company and the conversation. Eating with other people is about so much more than the food!
- Eat appetite-curbing foods. Some foods stimulate appetite while others satisfy it.Low-fibre and calorie-dense foods, such as lollies and biscuits, generally increase appetite. On the other hand, high-fibre, bulky foods curb appetite. So when you get a hunger pang, don’t reach for the biscuit tin, instead grab a Brussels sprout! Well… if not a Brussels sprout, perhaps another, tastier, high-fibre, low-calorie food to get you through the initial pang. Particularly good are foods such as legumes, high-fibre cereals, whole-grain bread, oat bran, cabbage and most vegetables.Another great way to curb appetite is to “put on the protein brakes” with low-fat protein. You fill up fast on protein because the amino acids in protein prompt a signal that tells the brain you’re getting enough. At meal times fill up on low-fat white meat or soy-based protein foods, instead of pasta or bread.
- Be mindful. Staying mindful of your weight and health goals is also a good way to calm your appetite and get things in perspective. When your appetite screams out “Feed me!” it’s always wise to take a minute to picture yourself slim and healthy, and then decide whether you are still hungry.
“At the end of the day, appetite control is all about making the right decision at the right time,” concludes Pat. “If you don’t learn to control your appetite, losing weight will always be an uphill battle. Learn to control it instead of letting it control you.”
This article was compiled in consultation with CalorieKing.com.au experts and in reference to the following sources:
Hollie A Raynor, Ph.D. and Leonard H Epstein, Ph.D., ‘Dietary Variety, Energy Regulation and Obesity,’ Psychological Bulletin, University of Buffalo: May 2001, Vol. 127, No. 3, pp 325-341.
Janet Raloff, ‘Diet Pills: It’s Still Buyer Beware,’ Science News, Aug 10 2002. Vol. 162, No. 6.
U.S Food and Drug Administration, ‘Consumer Alert: FDA Plans Regulation Prohibiting Sale of Ephedra-Containing Dietary Supplements and Advises Consumers to Stop Using These Products,’ Dec. 30, 2003. www.fda.gov