Research Proof… Diets Make People Hungry! Strategize For Success!

A recent research article amused me. The researchers wanted to see if people got hungry while dieting. (I could have saved them some time on that question.) The diet reduced daily calories by 25% for 4 days. Then they measured appetite drive, the wanting of food, and cravings. After the 4-day diet, they let people eat as much as they wanted. Imagine eating just ¾ of what you are used to for 4 days and then someone asking you if you were hungry and if you wanted to eat at a big buffet. The researchers found people saying “Yes, bring it on! I’m hungry!”

In fact, after reducing calories by 25% for 4 days, and once the diet ended, people immediately overate and increased calorie intake by 66%! The individuals indicated they “wanted” their favorite foods more than usual, and once consumed, they reported they “liked” their favorite foods more than ever. Here’s the outcome…

A 25% reduction in calories was 700 calories less per day. However, once back to an “eat like you want” diet, they ate an EXTRA 1848 calories on the first day of “freedom”! How long do you think the typical dieter can keep weight off if the appetite skyrockets by 1848 calories every time they diet for 4 days? Here is the lesson…

APPETITE is every dieter’s primary enemy, and that enemy usually wins with time!

Appetite is any craving, desire, liking, or wanting of food or beverages. For some, appetite is mainly about stomach hunger. For others, it is the craving for a sweet treat after a stressful, tiring day (after all, we do deserve it, right?!). And we all have a tendency to eat “comfort foods” when we feel down or blue. Social settings, centered around favorite foods, may be enough to get us off our diet and back to eating those addictive snacks we promised ourselves not to eat.

Our excessive appetites, in a world of tasty, high calorie foods, are making us gain weight. In fact, Americans consume around 382 calories more per day now than we did in the 1970’s.

Here are four simple reasons for increasing appetites in recent decades:

  1. More food options. The food industry has expanded our choices, to guarantee they have things we enjoy and will buy.
  2. Foods taste better. Increased sugar content, better flavors, and improved textures through “food engineering” have us enjoying foods more than ever.
  3. Food is more convenient. Remember when gas stations just delivered gas! Now, they are all about the tasty, sugary treats served inside the “convenience stores” on every corner. Food is everywhere!
  4. Stress is increasing due to modern technology. Work, people, and demands can now find us at any time and in any place. And that stress results in more eating of “comfort foods” that make us feel less stressed, while adding to our waistlines.

By eating an additional 382 calories per day now compared to 1970, Americans have experienced an epidemic of obesity. In fact…

The typical adult in America now weighs 35 lbs more than the typical adult 40 years ago.

Why don’t we just stop eating those extra 382 calories? It turns out, we like food! That’s called appetite! Take away our food and we get a bit grumpy, unsatisfied, and craving our previous foods and snacks.

Research published in 2015 reported that for dieters losing 5% of their weight, 78% regained all their weight within 5 years. One study actually showed that, on average, self-dieters actually gain 1 ½ pounds after 1 year of dieting. If dieting is just going to make us hungry to the point of overeating, what’s the point? How can we control the appetite monster? What are effective strategies to keep off the maximum amount of weight long term? Research helps us answer that question. Here are research-based strategies that are foundational among my recommendations for losing and maintaining MAXIMUM weight loss, with the least regain from hunger and cravings.

5 Powerful Strategies for Diet Success:

Strategy #1: Use a very low calorie diet (VLCD) rather than a slower weight loss diet.

By losing the maximum amount of weight during the first 3-6 months of dieting, more weight STAYS off! That’s right, lose it quickly and lose a lot to increase your chances of weight loss maintenance.

Research quoted in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition states it well, “Indeed, an increasing number of studies now indicate that a substantial initial weight loss predicts a larger long-term net weight loss.” People who lose the most tend to keep more weight off more successfully!

Very low calorie diets are the diet option most of our patients choose for this reason. Most of our patients want to lose as much as possible in the least amount of time and have the best chance of keeping it off long term! VLCD’s, when appropriate, can increase success.

Strategy #2: Emphasize protein while dieting.

On average, emphasizing protein increases weight loss maintenance by 17%. Protein is an essential nutrient that is insufficient on most diets. Without adequate protein, the metabolism slows unnecessarily and appetite tends to increase. Both these factors can interfere with weight loss and weight loss maintenance.

Strategy #3: Use meal replacements!

Meal replacements, according to research, also increase success by an average of 17%. AND, meal replacements are a solution to achieving strategies #1 and #2. Our medically designed meal replacements make it far easier to achieve a very low calorie intake while consuming a generous amount of HIGH QUALITY protein. Our meal replacements are designed for maximum appetite control and protection of muscle while dieting. By automating portion control and maximizing convenience, meal replacements can make maximum weight loss simple.

Strategy #4: Use anti-obesity medications!

These increase weight loss maintenance by 26%, on average! Medications for weight loss can have a profound effect on appetite and food cravings. Most of my patients choosing appetite-reducing medications say weight loss has never been easier. And patients using medications tend to keep their weight off far easier (and therefore more successfully) than patients who choose to diet without the benefit of modern medication approaches to weight loss.

Strategy #5: Utilize medical support long term.

Many studies have now confirmed the benefit of personal medical visits to maximize weight loss and weight maintenance. Regular visits provide personal support, accountability, and problem-solving, as well as keeping access to the latest of support strategies.


Weight loss is hard, far more difficult than most people realize. The main error I’ve seen self-dieters make over the years is to underestimate the difficulty of controlling an aggravated appetite from simple diets. Appetite control is mandatory for weight loss success. Unfortunately, will power and good intentions tend to be unsuccessful for most people. If you are overweight and have struggled to lose weight on your own, contact us. Comprehensive, personalized, modern medical weight loss strategies are making weight loss easier and more successful than ever before.

And remember, Optimum Health is ALWAYS worth the effort.

For Optimum Health,

Rick Tague, M.D., M.P.H.

1. AM J Clin Nutr 2016;103:1008-16 “Energy depletion by diet or aerobic exercise alone: impact of energy deficit modality on appetite parameters
2. Family Practice News, 2015 July 28. “Can obese patients attain normal weight?”
3. Am J Clin Nutr 2014;99:14-23. “Weight loss maintenance after VLCD

Rick Tague, M.D., M.P.H. & T.M. is a nutrition & weight loss specialist and the Founder & Medical Director of the Center for Nutrition and Preventive Medicine, P.A.

Dr. Tague is an Alpha Omega Alpha honors graduate of Tulane University School of Medicine in New Orleans. He also holds a Masters Degree in Public Health from Tulane. Dr. Tague is board certified by the American Board of Obesity Medicine and the American Board of Family Medicine. His medical practice has focused on optimum health, nutrition, and weight loss since 1996.