Strategies to Help Curb Your Appetite


Face it – if we were to list the astonishing array of diet plans offered to the public by various conscientious nutritionists, book publishers, and caffeinated TV marketers you’d still be reading until tomorrow.

There’s a great deal of discussion about “satiety” these days in the diet world. Curiously, the word “satiety” originally referred to “being full or gratified beyond the point of satisfaction,” 1 but has since morphed into a different concept. “How to achieve satiety” sounds a bit like Eastern philosophy, but there’s been a good deal of serious press about this idea:

“There’s nothing new about taking in fewer calories to lose weight. What is new in fighting the battle of the bulge is a diet weapon that reduces calorie intake by managing hunger. It’s called ‘satiety’. Not exactly a word that rolls off your tongue (pronounced ‘sa-TIE-atee’). It’s a diet and nutrition buzzword for the state of feeling full, one word in a new vocabulary that includes terms like ‘energy density’, ‘sensory-specific satiety’, and ‘volumetrics.'” 2

It turns out that there’s some interesting info on volumetrics:

Researcher Barbara Rolls, PhD, and her colleagues at Pennsylvania State University have done extensive research on the “volumetric” theory of eating more low-calorie, high-volume foods.

“We have found in numerous studies that when you allow people to eat as much as they want of foods that are high in volume yet low in density (calories), they eat less at the meal or during the day,” says Rolls.

Rolls also goes on to state that there are basically two simple volumetric strategies: “Eat a salad or bowl of broth-based soup before the meal to reduce intake at the meal; or reduce calorie density by increasing water, air, or fiber and take out a little fat – but not so much that the dish loses its taste.”

How does it work? Foods containing water, air, or fiber have fewer calories than other foods and also cause the stomach to stretch and empty slowly. In addition, the simple act of seeing a large amount of food – like a big salad – can help you feel more satisfied.3

No guru, no method, no fancy diet name

We’re not here to sell a diet plan – far from it. Most of us understand from the reams of information available that eating the right foods, in proper portions, watching sugar and calorie intake, and regular exercise are the chief factors in maintaining a healthy weight. Plenty of us deal with heredity when it comes to body shape and size, but that’s a question we’ll leave aside for now.

But feeling hungry can be disorienting, and uncomfortable, and constant snacking is a difficult strategy at work, while traveling and when you have so many other balls in the air. What’s more, given the general definition of snack foods (when you Google the term, the synonym that is first is “junk food”) and their ubiquity, people will go for the quick fix, the fast option. Plus, there are issues with toting around various nutritious goodies like carrot sticks that need refrigeration.

Simple ways to curb your appetite

One simple concept is mentioned above: eating foods high in water and fiber, and low in caloric density. Especially fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy, clear soups and lean protein, which add bulk to your meals and help fill your stomach. Lean protein, like lean meat, fish, poultry, soybeans, and eggs help with creating a sensation of “fullness”:

“You are most likely to feel fuller after eating protein than other nutrients, including fiber, and one of the theories behind why higher-protein diets work well with weight loss is because they help you not feel hungry,” says Purdue University nutrition professor Wayne Campbell, PhD.

Two recent studies from Purdue demonstrate the satisfying nature of lean protein. In one study, female participants who took in about 30% of their calories from lean protein felt more satisfied and maintained muscle mass better than another group that ate less protein.

“We found that an additional 20-30 grams of protein or a 3-4 ounce portion of lean protein was enough to influence appetite,” says Campbell. “We have also shown that when diets are inadequate in the amount of protein and don’t meet national recommendations, desire to eat increases.” 2

And one more thing from Professor Campbell about water: drinking a glass before a meal is a great trick, filling you up a bit before you feast. But take note, you drinking-water-to-kill-your-appetite followers:

“Beverages high in water do not last as long in the stomach as solid foods,” says Campbell. “Hunger will not be reduced as much with a liquid as with a solid, so if you are choosing between a meal replacement drink or a meal replacement bar, go for the bar for greater satiety.” 2

The benefits of eating often

There’s also the “eat-early-and-often” approach. Some of us are always on the go and rarely have time to sit down and eat a regular meal. So constant “nibbling” is a possible strategy. Try an avocado. It takes a long time to digest and can help suppress your appetite. Flaxseed is great for fiber and omega-3s, also a source of protein; the University of Copenhagen did a study about its effects on appetite.4 There are various legumes that work: beans, peas, lentils and chickpeas are excellent sources of protein, high in soluble fiber and complex carbohydrates that help slow digestion. A quick bowl of soup, Greek yogurt, almonds, apples and cottage cheese are other good ideas.

If you’ve moved on from supersized sodas, the three-martini lunch, and “I’m stuffed”, the new you can be your old self again!

1. American heritage dictionary, pg 1092
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