Trying to lose a few pounds? A large part of eating too much is about our appetite; if we could get that under control, the weight would simply fall off. Here are a few strategies.
Can water help you stay full? I know after I drink several glasses of water I eat less. In fact, some studies support this notion. Water can help you lose weight by keeping you feeling full and helping to reduce your consumption of other high-calorie drinks (and foods). A recent study found that over the course of 12 weeks, dieters who drank water before meals three times per day lost about 5 pounds more than other dieters. Try drinking about two 8-ounce glasses before each meal.
There are many types of nuts with health benefits. In addition to other benefits, nuts (almonds, pistachios, walnuts, etc.) can help fend off hunger. They're high in fiber and protein -- both hunger fighters. Just limit portions to about 1 ounce, because nuts are high in calories, too.
3. Naturally occurring fiber
Foods that are naturally high in fiber (e.g., 100 percent whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes) fill you up because they take up room in your stomach and slow digestion. Why only "naturally occurring" fiber? According to the journal Nutrition Review, inulin (often added to foods as fiber) may help you go to the bathroom in the same way natural fiber does, but it doesn't have the same effect on slowing down stomach-emptying (making you feel full longer) or helping to lower cholesterol.
When you're tired you're less likely to make healthy food choices. And many sleep-deprived people believe they "deserve" to eat something sugary and fatty. A few studies have demonstrated that lack of sleep leads to an increase in the hormone ghrelin (which tells the body to eat) and a decrease in the hormone leptin (which tells your body to stop eating).
Studies show that you need roughly 7.5 to 8.5 hours of sleep to get the benefits for diet and exercise. You should have a regular bedtime seven days per week. Also, check your mattress and box spring. When was the last time you replaced them? Make sure your room temperature is comfortable. Get rid of the TV in the bedroom. And make your sleep environment quiet.
5. Watch a comedy
According to an article in the journal
Appetite, watching a comedy can reduce your appetite. In the study, one group watched a 7.5-minute clip of an animated comedy with a plate of cookies in front of them, while the control group did not watch the film. The comedy group ate about one medium chocolate chip cookie less than the control group.
6. Eat more veggies
Veggies help you lose weight because they're high in fiber and water (see above), plus you get a lot of food for few calories. For instance, for the same 227 calories in one brownie you could eat 7.5 cups of broccoli.
Because soups are water-based, they tend to make you feel less hungry without adding too many calories, so you eat less. Barbara Rolls, Ph.D., a professor of nutrition at Penn State University, has led several studies that show soup can help you lose weight when consumed prior to a meal. One study found that eating soup prior to your meal could reduce total consumption by as much as 100 calories. There are many great-tasting, low-calorie soups by Campbell's, Healthy Choice and Amy's Kitchen. Just watch out for sodium and keep calories under 100 per cup.
8. Limit alcohol
Alcoholic drinks are like liquid doughnuts. Alcohol impairs judgment, which means that you eat and drink more. To top it off, most people enjoy eating high-calorie, high-sodium snacks when they drink. Alcohol can be especially harmful to dieters because it may cause blood sugar levels to drop, which can stimulate your appetite.
Try some good, lower-calorie drink options: red or white wine, wine spritzers and drinks made with seltzer or club soda. And steer clear of drinks that are really desserts (e.g., cream or ice cream drinks).
9. Reduce stress
When you're stressed, your body releases cortisol, a hormone designed to help you either fight or flee. But when the cause is not a lion about to attack but rather a stressful e-mail, the cortisol may trick your body into thinking it has done something active in response to a perceived threat and send a signal to your brain to refuel your body.
The other biological reason why stress can derail your diet is that carbs help you feel better. Judith Wurtman, Ph.D., co-author of The Serotonin Power Diet (Rodale, 2008), was the first to connect food with mood when she found that carbohydrates boosted a potent brain chemical called serotonin, which controls mood, sleep and appetite and, when elevated, helps you to feel more relaxed and calm.
When stressed, we long for comfort foods such as brownies, doughnuts, candy, ice cream, pizza, mashed potatoes and fried chicken. One reason is that your parents probably gave you an ice cream when you had a bad day at school or when you lost the big game, so these are what you're used to having in times of discomfort.
10. Eat less saturated fat
A study done at the University of Cincinnati and reported in Brain Research proposes that human beings can learn how much food they should eat to be at a healthy weight. However, the researchers found that diets high in fat impair the function of the hippocampus, which results in less ability to notice the "stop eating" cues. Bottom line: Lower your intake of saturated fats by eating lean meats and low-fat dairy.
Charles Platkin, Ph.D., M.P.H., is a nutrition and public health advocate and founder of DietDetective.com.