Ever wonder why some people eat more than others? And why do we, at times, eat more than we should, even to the point of stomach discomfort? The answer lies in a simple word, “appetite”, which can be defined as follows:
Appetite: A desire (longing, craving, felt need) for a food or drink. Any motivation to consume a food or drink that contains calories.
In fact, appetite is the primary enemy of dieters. And, it shows up at just the wrong moment. We may be perfectly content until we walk by some heavenly smelling freshly baked bread or until someone offers us our favorite cookie or some other sweet treat. Or, we may be fine until a co-worker or employer makes another “comment” that adds to an already stressful day.
Indeed, weight loss would be much easier if it weren’t for the obstacle of an excessive appetite. Theoretically, weight loss is easy. Just eat less! Well, it sounds easy. There is just one problem…
The appetite drive is powerful and relentless and controls our eating behavior, influencing what we eat, when we eat and how much we eat. It keeps us wanting food and eating excessively, even if we have gained far more weight than we ever wanted.
So what is the dieter to do after gaining to the point of excessive risks of cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, and joint pain? And how does someone battling weight overcome (or prevent) the quality of life consequences of fatigue, activity limitations, low self-esteem, depression or sexual dysfunction?
The truth is that significant weight loss (and maintenance) MUST include effective, long-term appetite control. If you are one of my patients, you know that I recommend a thoughtful combination of strategies to manage not only your appetite, but also sluggish metabolism problems and nutrition issues.
Part of appetite management involves lifestyle changes. Let me share four simple strategies to get you started on the path to lasting appetite control:
Powerful Practices for Appetite Control:
Practice #1. Drink Water First!
Even mild dehydration increases the appetite. Make sure that you stay well hydrated. This will often prevent or minimize hunger and cravings. 2 glasses of water can work wonders in just a few minutes. For best results, drink health-promoting beverages throughout the day, especially late afternoon and immediately before meals. These are times we often tend to be dehydrated.
And remember, mild dehydration can cause fatigue, kidney stones and difficulty concentrating, as well as hunger and cravings.
Water, coffee, tea, and calorie-free flavored waters are great options for staying hydrated, happy, and healthy. Plan and prepare each morning, so you can keep your favorite beverages at hand throughout the day.
Practice #2. Sleep Adequately
We need our sleep. Too little sleep alters the appetite hormones (ghrelin and leptin), creating uncontrollable hunger and cravings. Further, most people eat more when they are tired, subconsciously attempting to boost their energy.
Fatigue, from poor sleep patterns, lowers our resistance to tempting foods and can create a ravenous appetite that is very hard to resist.
The amount of sleep we need is age-dependent. Here are my recommendations:
- Age 0-10 years: 12+ hours of sleep per night.
Note: 58% of obese children sleep less than 8 hrs. 90% of kids getting 11+ hours are normal weight. Sleep is mandatory to keep kids trim!
- Age 11-16: 10-12 hours is a minimum.
- Ages 17-21: 9-11 hours.
- Ages 22-25: 8-10 hours.
- Ages 26-30: 7-9 hours.
- Ages 30-60: 7 ¼ – 7 ¾ hours is optimal for most.
- Age > 60: 6 ½ to 8 hours. Do not exceed 9 hours. Limit naps to less than 3 hours per week.
Keep sleep a top priority to keep your appetite tamed.
Practice #3. Eat Breakfast and Snacks
Our patients see the value of eating our appetite-controlling meal replacements and other prescribed meals and snacks throughout the day, beginning with breakfast. Research confirms that those who skip breakfast eat more calories by the time the day is over. Appetite stays controlled in most people eating nutritiously, on schedule, in proper amounts. High quality protein should be the foundation of each meal.
One of the keys to success with this approach is eating regularly, beginning with a high quality protein breakfast and continuing every 2-3 hours. Morning and afternoon snacks are crucial to tame the appetite before lunch and supper, when most Americans overeat.
By controlling appetite and delivering excellent nutrition, frequent eating of high quality, protein-rich meals and snacks (such as our meal replacements) is one of the most powerful tools available for appetite control and weight loss.
Practice #4. Manage Stress
Remember that stress, the “Health Terminator”, is a true enemy of dieters. By increasing stress hormones, such as ghrelin and cortisol, which increase appetite, stress makes it next to impossible to control our eating. Self-discipline is typically no match for a stress-induced appetite.
Deal with stress to resolve it quickly and aggressively.
Whenever possible, make decisions that will successfully put your stress in your past and not in your future!
In the mean time, stay on an eating schedule, including nutritious foods, during times of stress. Staying on your typical normal eating routine during times of stress can be lifesaving. Rest, fitness activities, and taking recommended Essential Nutrients (vitamin supplements) are other keys for successful stress management.
Remember…. appetite is the primary enemy of dieters. It can be subtle, relentless, and deadly, but very controllable! Be intentional and plan ahead for optimal success.
Always let us know if you are struggling.
Remember, those who 40 lbs or more overweight or who have failed on prior diets often benefit from appetite-suppressing medications as one of their appetite-controlling strategies. For those with a long history of overweight or with genetic family tendencies for overweight, these medications can make all the difference for success.
Sometimes a new nutrition plan is needed. Vitamin deficiencies should always be addressed. At other times, the timing or quantity of meal replacements needs adjusted. Medication changes (dose, type, or timing) may be necessary over time.
Don’t let your appetite take your health in a direction you don’t want it to go. Use the simple strategies above. Let us help you control your appetite so you can actually control your eating. Because when eating is controlled, Weight Loss and Optimum Health is finally possible!
For Optimum Health,
Rick Tague, M.D., M.P.H.
P.S. Appetite control is just one of the keys to successful weight loss. Personalized medical plans are often necessary for optimum weight control. If you need assistance, give us a call or visit us at TagueNutrition.com.