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Two Tips for Eating Less


One of the most popular posts on this site is my article “24 Ways to Stop Feeling Hungry.” While I am still evaluating the book You: On a Diet (currently it’s getting points added for lots of details about the workings of the human body and points off for a never-ending series of terrible similes), I’m intrigued by two hints they give for triggering the body’s natural systems for feeling full and satisfied. While I should qualify that I’ve neither tried these nor verified that they’re based on solid research (no offense intended to Doctors Roizen and Oz; I just like to check these kinds of things out), they seem promising enough to put forward for your consideration.

1. Eat a high-fiber breakfast
If you’re interested in weight loss and healthy eating, you probably already know that getting plenty of fiber helps us feel full and provides other health benefits. According to Oz and Roizen, however, eating a high-fiber breakfast specifically tends to suppress feelings of hunger in the late afternoon. My guess would be that this has to do with the speed at which the body processes fiber, but that’s strictly my own speculation.

2. Eat unsaturated fats about 20 minutes before a meal
According to Roizen and Oz, a certain amount of unsaturated fat (the “good” kind of fat, as found in foods like “nuts, seeds, fish and vegetable oils” according to the American Heart Association) naturally trigger’s one of the body’s “I’m not hungry” responses. They therefore recommend eating 65 calories or more of unsaturated fats (for instance, a handful of almonds) 20 minutes before a meal to prevent overeating during the meal. 20 minutes is about the amount of time your body needs to go from having enough food to signaling you that you’ve had enough food–which is one of several reasons eating slowly is such a great idea.

As you will have noticed, neither of these tricks has much to do with the psychology of eating: rather, they’re examples of stacking the cards in your favor to minimize the need to overcome urges you’d rather avoid. While overreliance on these kinds of techniques is likely to ultimately backfire, using them to help along more mental efforts can be a winning combination–as long as the tricks you’re using are good ones!

Photo by IainBuchanan

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New Study Connects Exercise to Easier Weight Maintenance


A comment on this entry on the “My Life as a Fat Woman” blog pointed out a press release for a study just published in the American Journal of Physiology. What the study strongly suggests is that if a person loses weight, continued exercise will reduce appetite and help their body remember to burn fat first and carbohydrates later, warding off a weight rebound. This is above and beyond the direct calorie-burning benefits of exercise! If a person loses weight and then doesn’t exercise regularly, their body will be eager to replenish the fat supply, and weight will often rebound above the original level (which is unkind of it, if you ask me).

For the full details, read the press release here , or get the full article in all its technical and scientific glory.

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Can a Little Exercise Make Hunger Go Away?

Strategies and goals


I’ve been getting fitter over the past few years: these days I’m 42 pounds lighter and much stronger than I was at the beginning of 2006. I still have about 10-15 pounds to go, though, before I’m at the weight I think is ideal, so my weight loss is still in progress. After reading (and posting about) how useful rules can be recently, I decided to experimentally adopt a rule of only eating at designated times of the day. It has been working well, but–no big surprise–sometimes I’m hungry when it’s not time to eat. To distract myself from the hunger, from time to time I’ll try some quick exercise, usually push-ups or crunches. To my surprise, I noticed that I usually don’t feel hungry after just a few minutes of that kind of effort. It was an unexpected side benefit–but was it real? And if so, what was happening?

So I did a little research, and began coming across articles like “Influence of resistance and aerobic exercise on hunger, circulating levels of acylated ghrelin, and peptide YY in healthy males”  and “Exercise-induced suppression of acylated ghrelin in humans”  . Gleaning a little information from these without being a physiologist or an endocrinologist took some doing, but these and other sources suggest that physical exercise can actually reduce hunger, at least in the short term.

This sounds as though it’s in conflict with some of the research mentioned in the Time magazine article I recently complained about, where the author claimed that exercise isn’t particularly useful for weight loss–actually, though, this idea is compatible with that research. The research in the Time article talks mainly about people concluding that they can eat more food because they exercise or rewarding themselves after exercise with food, so that often the extra food adds more calories than the exercise takes away. These have to do with our thinking. The exercise and hunger research I’ve seen deals with the release of hormones like ghrelin and peptide YY, which are physiological triggers that regulate hunger.

RealAge has a tip here where they say that exercise can make you feel less hungry if you do a combination of aerobic and strength exercises, but they don’t cite their sources, so I don’t know where their information comes from, and in any case this seems to be a bit different from the research I’ve come across. That’s not to say I think it’s untrue: I just can’t back their claims up.

Just reflecting on my own experience, I wonder if this isn’t why I tend to feel hungry more often when I’m sitting down to do something than when I’m active. In any case, my experience so far is that exercise seems to be at least a temporarily effective way to ward off hunger some of the time as long as it’s not used to promote unhealthy eating practices.

I haven’t read all of the research on this subject, and it would be long hours of work to understand what I’d read if I had, so don’t take this as gospel. On the other hand, there seems to be meaningful scientific support for the idea that eating a few push-ups for a snack can be surprisingly … satisfying.

Photo by Teecycle Tim


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