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In the News

Control Your Hunger Pangs and Lose Weight

By Dr. Bob Arnot, Reader's Digest, June 1997.

Dieting can be like holding your breath: eventually you have to say uncle. Then, like catching your breath, you're doomed to inhale nearly every scrap of food in sight.

Curiously, we have trained ourselves to wait for hunger, to endure hunger, even to enjoy hunger. But hunger is the No. 1 saboteur of the best-laid weight control plans.

I know. Recently, I deliberately gained almost 20 pounds to test weight-control strategies. Putting the weight on was easy. But when I got serious about losing it, I was alarmed that my weight continued to soar – even though I was eating low-fat foods.

Eventually I lost the weight. And the key to keeping the pounds off was learning to control my hunger. The following are proven hunger-cutting techniques that just may help you.

Get Off the Sugar Rollercoaster

When I was trying to reduce my weight, a local baker came out with a low-fat coffeecake. I took one bite and said, "wow! This tastes awesome! I bet I could eat the whole thing." And then I did.

But I was soon overcome with uncontrollable cravings. that's because the sugar in the coffeecake caused my blood glucose level to spike, then fall. This sent a signal to my brain that my body needed more energy, more food. It was a vicious cycle.

You might say, “Hey, I don't eat that much sugar.” And that's the trap. Even savvy, weight-conscious consumers eat hundreds of foods that rapidly convert into glucose. Surprisingly, many of them are the highly over-promoted complex carbohydrates.

Whole grains are terrific, but bagels and other refined starches – cream of wheat, instant rice and potatoes, and white-flour pasta – should be struck off the grocery list of anyone trying to lose weight. These foods are quickly converted by the body into simple sugars, ultimately triggering hunger.

In one revealing study, a group of participants was given whole-wheat bread on one occasion and white bread on another. Both times the participants were told to eat until they were full. The group consumed far fewer calories when they ate the whole-wheat bread, and yet were as satisfied as when they ate the greater amount of white bread. Why? One likely reason is that the white bread broke down into sugar more quickly and caused more hunger. The other reason brings is to the next point.

Fill Up with Fiber

Fiber, derived from plants, is classified as soluble or insoluble. Both types are beneficial. Soluble fibers dissolve in water, and so they soak up liquids. Insoluble fibers do not dissolve in water, though they assist in moving waste through the body.

Soluble-fiber foods are among your most important weapons against hunger. When water and soluble fiber mix in the gut, the stomach and small intestine expand, sending satiety signals that shut off further eating.

That's why the experimental subjects were satisfied with fewer calories when they ate whole-wheat bread than when they consumed white bread, which has the fiber refined out of it. The more fiber you load up on early in the day, the more effectively you may kill hunger – and impulse eating – into the evening hours, where it counts the most.

Especially useful are the high-soluble-fiber foods, such as beans of all kinds, some high-fiber cereals, pumpernickel bread, oat bran, cabbage and Brussels sprouts.

Stretch Your Stomach with High-Bulk Foods

Dr Terry Shintani, director of preventive medicine at the Waianae Coast Comprehensive Health Center in Hawaii, is a pioneer of the idea of high-bulk (and therefore low-calorie) foods for weight loss in his work with obese Hawaiians. “If you're overweight,” he says, “it's not because you eat too much. You overeat because you eat too little!”

Vegetables can give you a maximum amount of stomach-satisfying food bulk for a minimum number of calories. For instance, one pound of cucumbers contains only 76 calories. Lettuce, celery, cabbage and zucchini are also good choices for dulling hunger pangs.

Some fruits can provide good bulk, too, but choose them carefully. Raisins, prunes and figs contain high amounts of fructose, a fruit sugar that increases the production of fat in the liver, some of which can end up around your waist. Lower-sugar fruits include cherries, plums, grapefruit, peaches and pears. As for fruit juices, they are to fresh fruits what white flour is to whole wheat. Go for the bulky fresh fruit instead.

Learn to Graze

Biochemist Robert Pritikin has found that grazing can work wonders for serious compulsive eaters. At his Pritikin Longevity Center in Santa Monica, CA., guests eat three light meals, plus snacks at 10:30am and 2:30pm. And they lose weight. "The frequent feedings minimize gorging because they keep you from becoming excessively hungry. As a result, you don't feel hunger pangs," says Pritikin.

That doesn't surprise Stephen Bailey, a Tufts University professor of anthropology, who says the "three squares a day" evolved to fit with factory life during the Industrial Revolution. “If you look back in time, people grazed,” says Bailey. “That's what our bodies are meant to do.” When you snack, you probably don't feel as hungry as when you sit down to eat a meal. As a result, you don't overeat.

But one word of warning: to the public, snacking means mostly junk – fat, sugar, refined carbos. Instead, grab a whole-wheat quesadilla, some brown rice, a small amount of low-fat cheese, or a bowl of high-fiber cereal with skim milk, If you're hungry at work, snack on low-fat yogurt. These 200 to 400 calories of protein and complex carbohydrates can prevent a thousand-calorie binge in the evening.

Let Protein Put on the Brakes

When was the last time you are five salmon steaks or six pieces of chicken? Research suggests the reason you haven't is because the amino acids in proteins prompt a signal that tells the brain you're getting enough.

It's important to get your protein from low-fat sources, such as beans, fish, poultry, yogurt and cottage cheese. Why? While the body has no storage capacity for protein--any excess is excreted--it has a nearly unlimited capacity for storing fat. So once fat is absorbed, it is packed away in cells and can pile up on your waist and hips.

Be a Creature of Habit

It's consistency that allows most people of the world to keep their appetites in check. People eat the same rice, potatoes or corn every day, year in, year out. Our tremendous diversity of foods, however, allows us a never-ending range of dietary sins.

If you habitually eat certain foods, you can much more easily control your intake. And you will know that a familiar and still tasty lunch suppresses your hunger quickly and predictably.

By killing your hunger, you grasp the ultimate self-control over bingeing and overeating. As your body fat drops, you'll feel calm and energetic – but without the hunger pangs that come with food deprivation.

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