Lots of people are deciding to lose weight. Wonderful! Congratulations! However, many fear they cannot control their appetite and that hunger and cravings will spoil their weight-loss programme. There are reasons why you may struggle to control your appetite and there are solutions to the problem.
UNCONTROLLED BLOOD SUGAR
Research shows many individuals simply cannot eat sugars and starches without losing control of their appetite, because unbalanced blood sugar levels are a major cause of food cravings. Examine your own appetite and the physical, emotional, and mental response you have to some foods like sugars chocolates and other processed carbohydrates.
When you eat a diet of processed carbohydrate foods (starches and sugars), they break down into sugar (glucose) that goes quickly into your blood. Because your body cannot tolerate a high blood sugar, it produces the hormone insulin that removes sugar from the blood and deposits it into the cells.
If you eat these foods regularly, your body may then begin producing too much insulin and the opposite state – low blood sugar occurs. You may be familiar with the feelings of low blood sugar – being tired, irritable, even shaky and sweaty. To bring blood sugar levels back up, your body sends your brain a chemical message saying, “I need sugar, eat some sugar.” Hence you crave sodas, bread, biscuits, cakes, pasta, or anything with sugar or starch. In effect, carbohydrate cravings are a biochemical response to low blood sugar, and are not just a lack of willpower!
There are several foods and beverages that I call appetite-control foods. They make your stomach feel full, contain few calories and do not disturb your blood-sugar levels.
That’s right: water is a powerful appetite suppressant. If you drink an eight-ounce glass of water when you first start feeling hungry, you will find that it suppresses your appetite in nearly every case. Yes, drink a full glass of water and have the discipline to avoid eating for 10 minutes, and you will find that your appetite is either completely gone or dramatically reduced. Some experts suggest that often when we are dehydrated, we mistakenly interpret those signals from the body as hunger pangs, and reach for food instead of water.
Green tea as distinct from the black tea found in regular tea bags is an excellent beverage for appetite and weight control. It not only controls appetite but it stimulates the body’s metabolism to burn fat, enhances energy levels, offers protection from several cancers, and is useful for hypertension and circulatory disorders. These benefits are not dependent on the small amount of natural caffeine found in green tea. Green tea can be had hot or cold with natural sweeteners. Adding cows milk to tea will rob it of some of its health benefits.
Soy Protein Shakes and Snacks
Healthy forms of protein are excellent appetite control foods, as protein does not cause blood-sugar imbalance. Soy protein shakes provide an excellent low-calorie liquid meal that will satisfy you. I particularly advocate soy, as medical research has documented its many health benefits. The soy shake I use and recommend is produced by Herbalife International, who manufactures 20 per cent of all protein shakes worldwide. Avoid meal-replacement drinks that contain lots of sugar and carbohydrates and not enough protein. Fruit-flavoured beverages; bars and miso soup and soy beans are other ways to use soy for appetite control while enjoying the other health benefits of soy.
Vegetables such as lettuce, cabbage, callaloo, broccoli, bokchoy, field greens and other leafy vegetables contain so few calories that you hardly need to count them. Feel free to eat an unlimited quantity of green leafy vegetables. They are “free” foods that are rich in water, fibre, vitamins, minerals and cancer-fighting substances, while at the same time, they fill your stomach, make you feel full and turn off the hunger signals in your brain.
You can consume these green leafy vegetables in different ways. Cook them lightly or make a variety of different salads and add a low-calorie salad dressing like home-made olive oil and vinegar. Avoid commercial salad dressings that boast of being low fat and cholesterol free but contain MSG, high-fructose corn syrup, and other unhealthy ingredients.
Eat the largest apple you can find of either the Jamaican or American variety. Sure, they contain a few calories and some carbohydrates, but the apple will fill you up, and that will stop you from eating far more calorie-rich foods. The same is true for other not-so-sweet fruits like grapefruit and berries.
If you are very hungry, it’s very easy to reach for some processed foods like a bag of chips or crackers, for example. You start nibbling and may consume 1,000 calories or more. But, it’s almost impossible to eat 1,000 calories worth of apples or grapefruit. These fruits are great appetite suppressing foods because the fibre fills up your stomach and turns off your appetite before you overeat. Plus, they contain various vitamins and minerals and anticancer agents.
When hungry, swallow a couple of fibre tablets before you begin eating. Fibre tablets are made from oat bran fibre, apple-pectin fibre, or other natural fibres. They create a feeling of fullness when taken with water. If you are trying to lose weight, I recommend an activated-fibre tablet which traps and eliminates excess fat in any food that you subsequently eat. Always drink plenty of water when you take these tablets because without enough water, your digestive system may become sluggish.
Control your appetite with food and don’t let food control you.
Written by Dr Tony Vendryes. You may email Dr Tony Vendryes at email@example.com, or listen to An Ounce of Prevention on POWER 106FM on Fridays at 8 p.m. The programme streams live on the Internet.