EAT WELL TO BE WELL: Strategies taking a bite out of an uncontrolled appetite

No one says having an appetite is necessarily a bad thing. It’s only when your appetite is surging out of control causing excess weight gain or making you primarily choose not so healthy foods that it needs to be restrained.

The word appetite should not be confused with the word hunger as they each have separate definitions. Hunger is the physiological need to eat. In other words, our body needs nourishment and calories to keep us alive and functioning at our optimal best – we have to eat in order to live. Appetite however, is the psychological desire to eat. Appetite is a learned motivation and a positive sensation rewarded by the accompanying sight, smell and taste of food. You may have just eaten a meal making you feel full but then someone mentions, “let’s go get ice cream” and suddenly you have an appetite for this delicious dessert.

“For some people a common reason for them struggling at being successful at sustained weight loss is because their appetite is very strong,” stated Dr. David Samadi, chairman of urology and chief of robotic surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. “It may not be so much of a lack of willpower but rather that their body is sending powerful signals telling them to eat.”

In the past, weight loss diets focused on the amount or quantity of food eaten. The message was if you ate less, you’d reach a healthy weight. Now in the past five to ten years, there is increasing evidence that the quality of food choices influence how much you eat and therefore body weight.

“Our stomach talks to our brain telling it when it is full,” explained Dr. Samadi. “Our adipose or fat cells also talk to our brain impacting our appetite, hunger, and calorie intake along with a wide range of other indicators of our cardiovascular and metabolic health. One way to reduce the message to the brain telling us to “eat more” is to follow a healthier eating plan.”

A study published in The Journal of Nutrition showed that dietary patterns can influence how much of certain hormones are produced by adipose tissue. The study found that as improvements were made in overall diet quality – higher intake of vegetables, fruit, whole grains, nuts, legumes, and polyunsaturated fat while reducing intake of sugar-sweetened drinks, red/processed meat, trans fat, and sodium – there were better levels of hormones involved in communication between adipose tissue and the brain.

“Our fat cells produce hormones and one of them is leptin. Leptin helps regulate our appetite and the amount of calories we burn,” said Dr. Samadi. “When people gain weight, they produce too much leptin causing the brain to become resistant to leptin’s appetite-suppressing effects resulting in more hunger and a slower metabolism.”

The researchers from the study found that when a person improves their diet quality over time, leptin levels are reduced which can help delay leptin resistance.

Not only does following a healthy, high-quality dietary pattern an effective means of reducing appetite but using simple behavioral strategies can aid greatly in appetite control. Here are some smart strategies to help keep appetite and cravings in check:

Stick to regular meal and snack times. Your stomach comes to expect food at certain times. Grazing all day long teaches you to crave a continual supply of food.
Eat a very high fiber diet. Aim for 35 to 40 grams of fiber daily to help control appetite and aid weight loss. Spread intake across meals and snacks. Increase fiber slowly and drink at least six to eight glasses water daily.
Have a good source of protein at each meal. Have an egg at breakfast or put sliced chicken breast on a salad at lunch. Protein fills us up helping with satiety.
Use more foods with strong flavors. Foods with strong flavors can make you feel fuller than mild tasting foods.
Slow down when eating. Eating fast and taking big bites doesn’t allow you time to enjoy the aroma, flavor and texture of food needed to help you feel satisfied.
Know your trigger foods. If certain foods cause you to lose control of your eating, keep them out of the house or at least hidden from sight.
Control variety of food. The greater the variety of foods available, the more we tend to eat (like at a buffet). Limit the different high-calorie foods you have on hand (such as buying only one kind of cookie), but stock up on many different non-starchy veggies.
Make a tempting food inedible in your mind. For example, imagine that the baker accidentally put chili powder in the cinnamon rolls.

“Another useful strategy in controlling appetite is to distract yourself when having a craving,” advised Dr. Samadi. “Find something else to do putting the craving out of your mind. Call a friend, go for a walk, or leave the room where the tempting food is. We are all susceptible to appetite temptation. Diverting our attention from the food to something else gets our mind off the food helping to put the brakes on an out of control appetite.”

One other strategy is sufficient sleep. At least seven to eight hours of sleep each night is required as insufficient sleep can result in reduced levels of some gut hormones that help suppress appetite.

Cheryl Mussatto, MS, RD, LD, is a registered dietitian with a master’s degree in Dietetics and Nutrition from the University of Kansas and a bachelor’s degree in Dietetics and Institutional Management from Kansas State University. She is a clinical dietitian for Cotton O’Neil Clinics in Topeka and Osage City, an adjunct professor for Allen Community College, Burlingame, Ks where she teaches Basic Nutrition, and is a blog contributor for Dr. David Samadi and www.nutroutine.com, an online market place connecting nutrition experts with customers worldwide. View her website at www.eatwell2bewellrd.com and she can be contacted at cmussatto@hotmail.com.
Dr. Samadi is a board-certified urologic oncologist trained in open and traditional and laparoscopic surgery and is an expert in robotic prostate surgery. He is chairman of urology, chief of robotic surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital and professor of urology at Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine. He is a medical correspondent for the Fox News channel’s Medical A-Team and Sunday Housecall and is the chief medical correspondent for AM 970 in New York City, where he is heard Sundays at 10 a.m. www.samadimd.com

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