(HealthDay News) — When you’re hungry, everything’s annoying and tempers can get short. Now, animal research might help explain why.
Researchers working with rats found that the sudden drops in blood sugar that occur with hunger make people “hangry.”
“We found evidence that a change in glucose level can have a lasting effect on mood,” said study author Francesco Leri, from the psychology department at the University of Guelph in Canada.
“I was skeptical when people would tell me that they get grouchy if they don’t eat, but now I believe it,” Leri added. Low blood sugar, known as hypoglycemia, “is a strong physiological and psychological stressor,” he said in a university news release.
For the study, the researchers injected rats with a glucose blocker that caused low blood sugar. At other times, the animals got an injection of water. In each case, the rats were put into different chambers.
When the animals could choose which chamber to enter, they avoided the chamber where they had experienced low blood sugar, the researchers found.
“This type of avoidance behavior is an expression of stress and anxiety,” Leri said. “The animals are avoiding that chamber because they had a stressful experience there. They don’t want to experience it again.”
Blood tests after the episodes of low blood sugar also found more of the hormone corticosterone, an indicator of physiological stress. The rats also seemed more sluggish when given the sugar blocker.
One might say this is because they need sugar to make their muscles work, Leri said. “But when we gave them a commonly used antidepressant, the sluggish behavior was not observed. The animals moved around normally. This is interesting because their muscles still weren’t getting the glucose, yet their behavior changed,” he noted.
For people who are anxious or depressed, these findings have implications. The researchers said someone’s eating habits might be considered in treatment.
However, it’s important to note that the results of animal studies aren’t always applicable to humans.
Still, having shown that hypoglycemia might contribute to a negative mood, the researchers plan to see if long-term hypoglycemia is a risk factor for depression.
The report was published Sept. 25 in the journal Psychopharmacology.
— Steven Reinberg
Diet and Weight Loss: Why Are You Always Hungry?
Why Do You Feel Hungry All the Time?
Think it’s your empty stomach that causes hunger? That’s not the whole story. Hunger is a complicated process that all animals experience in order to maintain the energy necessary to stay alive. And it involves more than just the stomach.
Back in 1912, a researcher named A.L. Washburn swallowed a balloon after fasting. The balloon was then inflated using an air tube to simulate a full stomach. Did he stop getting hungry? For a few hours, yes. But after some time had passed, Washburn’s hunger returned, proving hunger isn’t just caused by an empty stomach. So what else is going on?
Some hunger triggers do start in the stomach. Nerves react to a full stomach, and can signal the brain to slow or stop eating. But much of the process we think of as hunger and fullness comes from a tiny region at the center of the brain known as the hypothalamus. This part of the brain receives chemical signals for fullness and hunger, and sends chemical responses to regulate those feelings.
Hunger can be triggered by many things. It may be a billboard featuring steaming croissants that makes your mouth water. It may be the time of day—many people get hungry around noon if that’s when they take their lunch. It may also be a matter of habit; if you eat in front of the TV frequently, turning on the tube could trigger hunger for you. Or your body may simply need calories.
In the following article, explore the causes of hunger. Learn what makes you want to eat, and how to control those triggers to avoid the harmful effects of overeating, which include obesity and related diseases such as heart disease and diabetes.
You May Eat When You’re Stressed
When stress first hits, it shuts down appetite as your hypothalamus preserves your resources for “fight or flight.” But ongoing stress can lead to binge eating. That’s when cortisol comes into the picture. Cortisol is a hormone that increases hunger, and it rises with chronic stress.
Cortisol can influence the kinds of foods that you hunger for, too. Studies show that cortisol inspires craving for high-fat, high-sugar foods. These foods have been shown to reduce stress, so that may explain why staying in a state of stress can lead to unwanted weight gain.
How to Avoid Stress Eating
There are two approaches that seem to be helpful to avoid stress eating. One is to keep high-fat, high-sugar foods out of your kitchen. By avoiding these foods at the grocery store, you can anticipate a moment of weakness and force yourself to snack on something healthier such as fresh fruits and vegetables.
Another tried-and-true strategy is to find ways to reduce your stress. Friends and family can help by providing emotional support. Getting low-intensity exercise helps reduce cortisol, and with it, stress. And meditation has been frequently shown in studies to reduce stress.
The nice thing about these two approaches is that you don’t have to choose. You can keep unhealthy foods out of your kitchen and still focus on lowering your stress. And if you recognize yourself as someone who copes with stress by indulging in unhealthy food, why not try both?
Dehydration Can Cause Hunger
The water you consume doesn’t just come from the faucet. Believe it or not, a slice of brown bread is almost 40% water. An apple is nearly 70% water. And roast turkey is made of about 65% water. It’s no wonder, then, that when you think you’re hungry, you may actually be thirsty.
Since your body knows it can get moisture from food as well as water, it can be easy to mistake thirst for hunger. So the next time you feel hungry outside of mealtime, try pouring a glass of water. If you’ve recently eaten a large amount of fiber, this can even help if what you’re feeling is actually hunger. Water and fiber work together to slow the body’s digestion and leave you feeling fuller, longer.
Insulin Spikes Can Bring On Hunger
Your body loves sugar. And that’s a very good thing when food is scarce. But sugar is cheap and widely available in the developed world, meaning our natural hankering for sweets can lead to dangerous obesity.
Most food gets turned into glucose, a sugar that can be converted into fat for use later. Insulin plays a big part in this. With some foods, your body has to work hard to get the sugar it needs. If you eat a carrot, it takes your body time to break the sugar down into a usable form, and your insulin responds relatively slowly. But if you feed yourself a high-sugar meal without much fiber, your insulin levels spike. The result is that you feel satisfied quickly at first. But sugar sends such a powerful signal to increase insulin that you’re likely to end up with more insulin than you need. And that’s why you tend to get hungry much sooner after a high-sugar meal.
Nutrition scientists have studied this and come up with a measurement that tells you how much insulin is likely to spike if you eat a given food. The glycemic index (GI) measures foods on a scale from 0 to 100. Foods lower on the GI encourage less insulin production, and help encourage weight loss.
Here are a few common foods, along with their GI measurements:
- Cheerios: GI 74
- Whole milk: GI 34
- Hamburger: GI 66
- Ground beef: GI 33
- Peanuts: GI 14
- Baked Potato: GI 85
Diabetes Causes Hunger
Diabetes makes it more difficult for your body to turn food into energy. People with diabetes either have a harder time producing insulin or their bodies don’t respond to insulin as well as healthy people. The result can be polyphagia, the word used by doctors to describe extreme hunger.
If you have uncontrolled diabetes, the answer to your ravenous appetite may well be medical treatment. Talk to your doctor about treatment options. You may be referred to a hormone specialist known as an endocrinologist. Diabetes is a serious—and potentially life-threatening—health problem. So if you suspect diabetes may be harming your quality of life, don’t wait—see a doctor right away.
Low Blood Sugar Makes You Hungry
If you don’t have enough glucose in your blood, you have low blood sugar, also called hypoglycemia. When you go without food for a few hours, your body normally responds by getting more energy from the liver, which releases glucose. This doesn’t work very well for people with hypoglycemia, though. Hypoglycemia makes people feel weak or dizzy after several hours without food.
Hypoglycemia can often be an unwanted side effect of diabetes medication. This a reason people with diabetes are encouraged to monitor their blood sugar from home. But some people without diabetes may also have this condition. Tumors can cause it, as well as deficiencies of enzymes and hormones and some medicines and diseases. If you suspect you may be vulnerable to this condition, talk to your doctor. Laboratory tests can get to the bottom of this problem, and solving it could curb your uncontrolled appetite.
Hunger From Pregnancy
Pregnancy affects different women in different ways. Some can barely get any food down, especially in the first few weeks as they experience morning sickness. Others find that they can’t seem to eat enough to feel full.
Along with appetite changes, pregnancy often changes the foods you crave as well. Foods you once loved may seem disgusting, while other foods may suddenly become irresistible. You may experience these appetite changes as one of your first signs of pregnancy, so to be sure, buy a pregnancy test from the local pharmacy. If it shows up positive, check with your doctor to confirm.
Eating Too Quickly Causes Greater Hunger
When you’re especially hungry, you may tend to wolf food down. That may feel good in the moment, but it can leave you feeling painfully full too. That’s because when you eat fast, your body doesn’t have enough time to register a feeling of fullness.
Eating your food slowly and enjoying it can make your mealtime more satisfying with less food. But if you’re already in the habit of eating quickly, making a change can be tough. Try this: when you begin to eat, remind yourself to slow down and focus on each bite. Chew slowly, take smaller bites, and take the time to enjoy what you eat. Savor the flavors and appreciate your food. Once you’ve eaten a healthy amount, wait 20 minutes before deciding whether to have another bite. You may find that you are satisfied with less.
Your Food Simply Isn’t Satisfying
What makes food satisfying? Different foods satisfy hunger to different extents. It makes sense when you think about it. If you ate the same caloric amount of french fries as baked potatoes, the fries would leave you hungry again sooner. But why?
For starters, eating the same amount of calories can lead to huge differences in the volume of food you eat; 500 calories of strawberries takes up a lot more space than 500 calories of milk chocolate. So even if they’re the same number of calories, boiled potatoes will take up a lot more real estate inside your stomach than french fries.
Fat, Protein, and Fiber
How much room your food takes up in your stomach doesn’t tell the whole story. What your food is made of also makes a big difference in how full it will leave you. Fatty foods empty slowly from the stomach, for example, but they are less satisfying than low-fat foods. Proteins satisfy much longer than fats, and high-fiber foods are perhaps the most satisfying of all when it comes to sating hunger.
Seeing and Smelling Tasty Things
You may not have food on your mind at all, but walking past a popcorn vendor can change that quickly. Maybe it’s the smell of buttery popcorn. Maybe it’s the sight of those freshly-popped kernels, or the sound of their popping. But for some reason you can’t stop thinking about it as your hunger begins to build.
Eating involves all of our five senses. And advertisers know this. This is something many researchers have tracked in response to childhood obesity. That research has led to some astonishing findings. One study found that kids ages 2-11 see an average of 11.5 minutes of food advertising every day in America. And the vast majority of the foods advertised to children are high-fat, high-sugar, low-nutrition foods.
Late-night television is also loaded with fast food commercials. If you find yourself snacking late at night after watching TV, you may want to think about turning the commercials off or switching up your habits if you want to lose weight.
Do Your Emotions Lead to Overeating?
Do you think people eat more during a sad movie or a happy movie? Researchers have put this question to the test. They found that moviegoers polish off nearly 30% more popcorn on average watching a tearjerker than a movie with a happy ending. This seems to show the power of emotional eating. There are many other studies like this, but some psychologists are beginning to doubt their validity.
Emotional eating is traditionally described as a coping mechanism for negative emotions like fear, sadness, and anger. But more recent studies suggest positive feelings can lead to overeating as well. If you find yourself eating more at weddings and funerals, you’re someone who gives in to emotional eating. This seems to be something nearly everyone does from time to time.
More recent skepticism has turned a closer eye to the many studies published on emotional eating. One major study found significant flaws in prior research, and suggested that people who describe themselves as emotional eaters may simply be trying to explain their irrational eating behavior in a way that makes sense to them. High scores on emotional eating didn’t make any difference in several studies looking for correlations between mood and eating, leading to this conclusion.
All this doesn’t mean emotional eating doesn’t exist—it just means we’re bad at labeling ourselves as emotional eaters. If you have a difficult emotional experience and find yourself coping with it through food, here are a few tips:
- Find a replacement. Food isn’t the only way to take your mind off of problems. Try a healthy activity you enjoy doing instead, such as playing a musical instrument, exercising, or writing a story.
- Call on friends and family. A strong support system can help you cope when life gets tough.
- Know when you’re really hungry. If you’re truly hungry, your stomach will growl, you’ll become more irritable, and you may find it hard to concentrate. If you don’t experience this type of thing at the moment, you probably shouldn’t be eating either.
Thyroid Problems Can Cause Hunger
Thyroid disorders can lead to overeating. These disorders can make you hungry all the time, even when your body has had enough food.
The thyroid is a small gland that sits inside your neck, just in front of your throat. This butterfly-shaped gland controls the hormones that regulate how quickly you metabolize food into energy. Some people with an overactive thyroid are always hungry. Even so, because your thyroid is working on overdrive you may find yourself losing weight—usually five to 10 pounds. Overactive thyroid is more common in women than in men.
Cases like this need a doctor’s care. You can have your thyroid tested, and if you do have an overactive thyroid (also called hyperthyroidism), there are treatments available. The sooner the better—unchecked overactive thyroids are linked with other health concerns such as heart problems and osteoporosis.
Medicine Can Make You Hungry
About 70% of Americans take one or more prescription drugs. Some of these can make you excessively hungry. Some of the most commonly prescribed drugs have this unwanted side effect. Tricyclic antidepressants, for example, tend to cause hunger. So do corticosteroids and the antihistamine cyroheptadine. Some antipsychotic drugs also have this affect.
If your medications are causing excess hunger, you may be tempted to discontinue them—especially if you’re concerned about your weight. That’s a bad decision to make on your own, though. It’s better to bring this problem to your doctor, who may suggest an alternative therapy to treat your health condition, or a lower dose depending on your circumstances.
Poor Sleep Can Make You Hungry
At the start of this article, you learned that the hypothalamus controls a lot of our hunger signals. It does that primarily through two important hormones: leptin, which makes you hungry in low levels, and ghrelin, which makes you hungry in high levels.
One study found that leptin drops and ghrelin rises in your body if you consistently get five hours of sleep a night or less. But further studies have found similar results after just two nights spent sleeping four hours or less. This can raise ghrelin by 28% and lower leptin by 18%. And you won’t wake up hungry for a nutritional meal, either. The research shows that people with poor sleep habits become hungrier for high-carb foods loaded with calories, as well as high-fat foods. The solution is obvious—get enough sleep to avoid hunger.
Drink Too Much, Wake Up Hungry
If you drink, it’s probably happened to you. A night of drunkenness can leave your stomach growling in the morning. This is puzzling, because alcohol has plenty of calories; it’s the second-most calorie-dense nutrient (fat is the most calorie-dense nutrient). So if your body doesn’t need more energy, what makes us feel hungry after drinking?
There have been many theories to explain this. Some suggest that because alcohol lowers inhibitions, we tend to eat more. Others say other social factors are at play when we drink in the company of others. But recent research has shown that alcohol affects hunger inside our brains, with or without drinking buddies.
Scientists showed this using mice as subjects. They kept the mice separate to eliminate any social explanations and studied their brains (specifically the hypothalamus) after they were injected with alcohol for three days. The researchers found that alcohol stimulates neurons in the hypothalamus that usually light up when you experience starvation. As you might expect, stimulating these neurons can make you very hungry.
The first thing to consider is to avoid drinking excessively. Drinking too much brings more health problems than just hunger. If you do plan to drink more than usual, here’s another solution: eat a big, healthy meal before you drink. That leaves less room for your alcoholic drinks, and it will leave you less hungry later on.
Lack of Protein Leaves You Hungry
It may sound strange, but sometimes it’s what you’re not eating that makes you overeat. Protein seems to be more satisfying and leaves us feeling fuller longer than other nutrients. A study performed on men of varying ages looked into this. The subjects were fed meals with plenty of protein, but the protein content decreased as the study went on. Researchers found that as protein decreased, the men became hungrier sooner after eating. That was true whether these men were younger or older.
This is something to consider if you’re trying to lose weight. Although you may be cutting certain items from your diet, it may actually help you lose weight if you remember your protein. How much protein should adults be eating? The CDC recommends 46 grams of protein for women each day and 56 grams a day for men.
Reviewed by Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD
Diet and Weight Loss: How to Cut Calories From Your Day
Where Do You Start?
You probably know you need to eat fewer calories to lose weight. But it can be hard to know how to make it happen every day. Your doctor or dietitian can help build a plan with the right mix of exercise and diet changes. For something simpler, online tools from sources like the USDA or National Institutes of Health give you a meal plan based on your activity level and weight loss goals.
Replace Meat With Vegetables
The reason is simple: Veggies have fewer calories, but since they have lots of fiber and water, they can still fill you up. That, along with lots of nutrients, helps you feel satisfied even though you’re eating fewer calories.
Fire Up the Grill
When you sauté meat or vegetables on a stovetop, they soak up any butter or oil they’re cooked in, which adds more calories. Grill them instead – that makes extra fat drip away from your food down into the burning coals. No outdoor grill? You can get the same effect if you broil or roast food in the oven with a slotted pan to catch the drippings.
This technique means you simmer food in a liquid — anything from water to wine to flavored broth. It’s a good way to keep extra fat off your eggs, but it’s also great for veggies, fish, chicken, and even fruit. And it’s simple to do: Just drop it in and watch it bubble until it’s done.
Hold the Mayo
A single tablespoon has around 100 calories. And are you really stopping at just one? A lot of creamy sauces, spreads, and salad dressings can quickly add on calories. The best way to keep track of them is to check the label. Low-fat or light versions of mayo might have fewer calories, or try an option like spicy mustard: 1 tablespoon = 15 calories.
Look for Healthier Swaps
For example, buy skim milk instead of whole and low-fat yogurt rather than sour cream. Sorbet might scratch your ice cream itch with fewer calories. Keep in mind that while “low-fat” and “low-calorie” sometimes go hand in hand, they are not the same. Look at the label, and don’t forget to check the serving size when you compare the numbers.
Do You Want Cheese on That?
Say no and you could spare yourself around 100 calories. You can add flavor and texture to your meals with lettuce, tomato, peppers, and even mustard. Save the cheese for a treat by itself, or if you must have it, look for a low-fat version.
Don’t Drink Your Calories
Coffee and tea are great, low-cal drink choices on their own. But add a bit of cream and 2 teaspoons of sugar and you’re up to about 60 calories per cup. At 3 cups a day, that’s more than some kinds of soda. And that heavenly 16-ounce Frappuccino that’s calling your name? It could have 400 calories or more.
You’ll save calories and add fiber and protein if you scoop up healthy spreads like hummus with celery, carrots, or sliced peppers instead of crackers or pita. Replace potato chips or cheese puffs with a lighter choice like air-popped popcorn. Pro tip: Put one serving of your snack into a bowl or on a plate. It’s easy to lose track of how much you’re munching when you eat directly out of the bag or box.
That “family size” bag of chips may seem like a better deal, but it makes it harder to control how much you eat. Unless you plan to divide it into single portions yourself, it’s better to get smaller bags that hold 1 serving each. That way, even if you can’t resist the snack, you’ll know how many calories you’ve eaten and can work them into a healthy, balanced diet.
Especially in place of soda and juices, which are loaded with calories and sugar. And diet soda isn’t much better. Some studies show you crave more sweets when you drink it, and you may gain more weight, too.
Skipping your morning meal may seem like an easy way to cut calories from your day. But it could make you more likely to overeat unhealthy food later and gain weight over time. The type of breakfast you eat matters, though: Eggs are great because they’re high in protein and satisfy hunger well. Compared to “simple carbs” made from refined flour, like doughnuts or bagels, they help you eat less throughout the day.
You’ll feel fuller, and you might even eat fewer calories. It can help to focus on what you are doing. Take small bites and chew well. Think about where the food comes from and what it took to make the meal. Ask yourself if you feel full yet.
Plan Your Meals
It’s easier to drive past the greasy burger joint when you know there’s a healthy meal at home. Choose low-cal recipes that are easy to prepare. Save time on hectic days and make as many of your meals in advance as you can. Phone and computer apps could help you plan it all out to the last calorie.
Reviewed by Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD, LD
Diet Mistake Pictures: Crash Diets, High-Calorie Drinks, and More
These Errors Can Affect Your Weight
If your favorite pair of jeans won’t fit, the scale seems stuck, or your weight drops off only to bounce back up, there’s a chance you could be making one of these 10 weight loss mistakes.
1. Relying on Crash Diets
Determined to lose 10 pounds fast, you turn to a crash diet. Perhaps your plan calls for nothing but grapefruit or cabbage soup each day. You slash your daily calories to fewer than 1,000, and sure enough, the pounds melt away. But when you eat so few calories, you train your metabolism to slow down. Once the diet is over, you have a body that burns calories more slowly, and you usually regain the weight.
2. Skipping Breakfast
Skipping breakfast seems like a simple way to cut calories, but it can make you hungry the rest of the day. This may lead to unplanned snacking at work and eating a supersized portion at lunch, making calorie counts soar. But breakfasts that are high in protein and fiber can curb hunger throughout the day. In fact, studies show people who eat breakfast every morning are more likely to maintain a healthy weight.
3. Losing Track of Your Snacks
Maybe you count calories at every meal, but what about all those nibbles in between? There’s the bag of pretzels at your desk, the little slice of cake at a party, the taste of your son’s ice cream cone. All of this mindless munching adds up and could sabotage an otherwise well-planned diet. If you’re serious about counting calories, you may want to use your smartphone or a notebook to keep track of each bite.
4. Not Snacking at All
While mindless snacking can pad your waistline, thoughtful snacking may do just the opposite. People who eat several small meals and snacks a day are more likely to control hunger and lose weight. Snacking helps keep your metabolism in high gear, especially if the snacks are protein-rich. Having a few nuts is a good, high-protein choice, and research suggests people who snack on nuts tend to be slimmer than those who don’t.
5. Loading Up on Low-Fat
Low-fat products can play an important role in your diet. Just remember that low-fat isn’t the same as low-calorie, and it’s not a license to take second and third helpings. If you pile your plate with low-fat cake, you may end up eating more calories than if you had a smaller slice of regular cake. The best way to know how much fat, sugar, and calories you’re getting is to check the nutritional label.
6. Sipping Too Many Calories
When counting calories, many of us tend to overlook what’s in our drinks. This is a big mistake when you consider that some fancy coffees and alcoholic beverages have more than 500 calories. Even the calories in fruit juice and soda can add up quickly. What’s worse is that liquid calories don’t curb hunger. You’re not going to eat any less after a high-calorie drink.
7. Drinking Too Little Water
This is one of the simplest diet mistakes to fix. Water is essential for burning calories. If you let yourself get dehydrated, your metabolism drags, and that means slower weight loss. So try adding a glass of water to every meal and snack.
8. Ditching Dairy
Full-fat milk, cheese, and ice cream are taboo for many dieters, but ditching dairy foods may be counterproductive. Some research suggests the body burns more fat when it gets enough calcium and produces more fat when it’s calcium-deprived. Calcium supplements do not appear to yield the same benefits, so dairy may have other things going for it, too. Stick to nonfat or low-fat dairy options.
9. Going Drive-Thru Too Often
The drive-thru is convenient after a hectic day, and you can always order the salad or other healthier option. But once you’re there, can you resist that milkshake or other treat? And if you allow yourself the ease of fast food once, it could become a habit. According to one long-term study, people who ate fast food more than twice a week gained 10 more pounds than those who had it less than once a week.
10. Setting Unrealistic Goals
Telling yourself you’ll lose 20 pounds your first week is probably setting yourself up for failure. If you know you won’t be able to do it, you may never start your diet in the first place. If you diet and lose 5 pounds in a week, instead of celebrating, you may feel discouraged that you didn’t reach your goal. A realistic goal is vital to successful dieting. If you’re not sure what your goal should be, talk to a dietitian.
Reviewed by Michael W. Smith, MD
Top Diets: The Best Dieting Tips Ever for Weight Loss
Tip No. 1: Drink Plenty of Water or Other Calorie-Free Beverages.
Drink a glass of water before you dive in to a calorie-laden snack. Sometimes thirst can be confused with hunger, so if you drink water first you may feel less hungry. Herbal tea (unsweetened) and flavored sparking water are good options if you’re craving more than plain water.
Tip No. 2: Be Choosy About Nighttime Snacks.
After dinner is the most common time to indulge in mindless eating. Sitting in front of the TV, you don’t pay attention to the number of calories you consume. Try forbidding nighttime snacking, or plan for a low-calorie snack (such as half a cup of lowfat ice cream or a 100-calorie pack of cookies) at a certain time.
Tip No. 3: Enjoy your favorite foods.
Moderation is the key to enjoying rich foods. You don’t have to eliminate them completely, but you can try buying only a small portion of candy instead of a bag or buying one fresh bakery cookie rather than a full box.
Tip No. 4: Eat Several Mini-Meals During the Day.
It’s hard to cut calories when you’re always hungry. People who eat four to five small meals a day report less hunger and are better equipped to control their weight. Divide your daily food consumption into small meals and snacks and spread them throughout the day. Try to eat more, earlier; make dinner the last time you eat in the day.
Tip No. 5: Eat Protein at Every Meal.
Protein is more satisfying than carbohydrates or fats, plus, it keeps you feeling full for a longer time. Protein is also important for maintenance of muscle mass. Choose healthy proteins such as lean meats, seafood, egg whites, soy, nuts, beans, or yogurt and lowfat dairy products.
Tip No. 6: Spice It Up.
Flavorful foods can also help you feel satisfied and full. You may not eat as much if the food is full of flavor. Spices or chilies can help season your food, or try eating a red-hot fireball candy if you’re craving a sweet.
Tip No. 7: Stock Your Kitchen With Healthy, Convenient Foods.
Stock up your kitchen with healthy snacks and ingredients in advance. If you know you have the makings of a quick, healthy meal at home, you can avoid the fast-food line. Some good staples to keep on hand include whole-grain pasta and breads, frozen vegetables, lowfat cheese, canned beans and tomatoes, salad greens, and pre-cooked chicken breasts.
Tip No. 8: Order Children’s Portions at Restaurants.
Ordering children’s portions in restaurants is a popular way to keep consumption to a reasonable level. Using smaller plates to make your portions appear bigger is a similar tactic. You’re more likely to feel satisfied when your plate looks full.
Tip No. 9: Swap a Cup of Pasta for a Cup of Vegetables.
Swapping one portion of starch (about a cup) for vegetables saves about 100-200 calories. Doing this for a year can lead to a full drop in dress or pants size.
Tip No. 10: Always Eat Breakfast.
Skipping breakfast is a bad idea for those seeking to lose weight. Some studies show that skipping breakfast makes weight loss more difficult, since it leads to hunger and potential overeating later on in the day. Healthy breakfast choices include high-fiber grain cereals, lowfat milk and dairy products, and fruit.
Tip No. 11: Include Fiber in Your Diet.
Most Americans don’t consume enough fiber. It’s recommended women get about 25 grams a day, while men should consume about 38 grams. Fiber has a range of health benefits. It assists with digestion, lowers cholesterol levels, and prevents constipation. Fiber can also help those on a weight-loss plan by making you feel more full. Dietary sources of fiber include beans, whole grains, and oatmeal, as well as vegetables and fruits.
Tip No. 12: Clean the Cupboards of Fattening Foods.
Weight loss is even harder when you are faced with the presence of forbidden or unhealthy foods. Clear your pantry of fattening foods, and if you want an occasional treat, pick it up on your daily walk.
Tip No. 13: Lose Weight Slowly.
A realistic weight-loss goal is to lose about 1-2 pounds a week. Just as it takes time to put on weight, it also takes time to take it off. Don’t expect instant or overly fast results. Elevated expectations can only set you up for disappointment and giving up. Health benefits begin when you’ve lost just 5%-10% of your body weight.
Tip No. 14: Weigh Yourself Once a Week.
Those who weigh themselves regularly tend to do better with weight loss, but don’t weigh yourself every day. Daily fluctuations can lead to discouragement. Weigh yourself once a week at the same time of day, ideally in the same type of clothing and on the same scale.
Tip No. 15: Get Enough Sleep.
Sleep deprivation causes hormonal imbalance that can make weight loss more difficult. Specifically, lack of sleep leads to high levels of ghrelin, which stimulates the appetite. Likewise, leptin (a hormone that signals when you are full) is produced in low levels when sleep is lacking. You’ll feel healthier — and fuller — if you get adequate sleep.
Tip No. 16: Understand Portion Sizes.
Forget the supersize mindset. Use measuring cups and a kitchen scale to measure your portion sizes for the first couple of weeks. Using smaller plates and glasses can make it easier to limit yourself to realistic portion sizes. Restaurant meals can be split into two portions, and snack foods should be portioned out in advance. Never snack directly from a large container of food.
Tip No. 17: Eat More Fruits and Vegetables.
Increase your consumption of fruits and vegetables. If you eat more of these nutritious foods, you will feel full because they are high in water and fiber. This is one instance in which eating more food can help with weight loss.
Tip No. 18: Limit Alcohol to Weekends.
Limit your alcohol intake. Alcohol is known as a source of “empty calories” because it provides calories without nutritional benefit. A bottle of beer has around 153 calories; a glass of wine has around 125. Enjoy alcoholic drinks on weekends only, with one daily drink for women and no more than two for men.
Tip No. 19: Chew Sugarless Gum.
Chewing sugar-free gum can help with cravings and help reduce hunger. Fresh breath is an added benefit. Sugar-free gum shouldn’t replace your regular healthy food choices though — and don’t overdo it. Sorbitol, a sugar alcohol sometimes used to make sugar-free gum, can cause diarrhea in some cases.
Tip No. 20: Keep a Food Diary.
The act of recording — in writing — what you eat makes you more aware of what, how much, and when you are eating. The end result is usually a reduced caloric intake due to heightened awareness. Studies also show that regularly keeping a food diary can lead to greater weight loss than that observed in people who did not keep a diary.
Tip No. 21: Celebrate Success (but Not With Food).
Treat yourself when you hit milestones and goals. Set small, attainable goals, and reward yourself for meeting them. Reward yourself with a purchase or activity, but don’t succumb to the temptation to reward yourself with food.
Tip No. 22: Get Help From Family and Friends.
Encourage your family and loved ones to help you lose weight. They may be able to join you in adopting a healthier lifestyle. They can also cheer you on when you feel discouraged and talk you out of giving up.
Reviewed by Joseph Palermo, D.O,