Tips to curtailing appetite

Published 5:58 pm Thursday, August 29, 2013

When consulting with folks for weight loss, many will say, “My problem is I have a huge appetite; I’m just hungry all the time.”

Today I’m going to present approaches to help control your appetite, and explain some of the complexities that cause us to overeat.

First, let’s get clear that appetite and hunger are not the same. Hunger is the body’s physiological reaction to low levels of glucose in the bloodstream. It’s the body’s chemical response to the need for fuel. Appetite is the desire for food, and while still biochemical in response, can be triggered by a complicated array of signals such as memory, sight or smell. Hunger says, “I’m hungry, I eat; I’m full and I stop.”

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Appetite says, “I’m hungry, I eat; I’m full, but that dish looks so appealing, I’ll have more.” Ever heard the saying, “Your eyes are too big for your stomach?” Both physiological and psychological impulses can sometimes prevent us from registering we’ve had sufficient nourishment. Here are some proven methods to avert the impulse to overeat.

1. Chew slowly. People who eat hurriedly consume more calories than those who don’t. It takes about 20 minutes for the brain to get the signal that you’re not hungry anymore. Chewing longer also makes matters more suitable for your gastrointestinal tract. Another benefit of chewing longer is better nutrition. Fruit and vegetable cells are coated with cell walls made of cellulose. Cellulose is microscopically like little bits of wood, and we can’t digest it very well. Chewing longer breaks open more of these fruit and vegetable cells, thereby increasing bioavailability of their nutrients.

2. Get enough rest. Lack of sleep sets off hormonal changes that can increase appetite. Insufficient sleep raises levels of the appetite raising hormone ghrelin, while decreasing levels of the appetite lower hormone leptin. Leptin signals that your body has had enough to eat.

3. Lift weights and get aerobic exercise. When you exercise, blood pulls away from your GI (gastrointestinal tract) to fuel your muscles. This in turn decreases appetite.

4. Choose water-rich foods. When we speak of water-rich foods, we’re talking about fruits and vegetables. These foods are low in fat and sugar (particularly vegetables), are loaded with water, so they help you feel fuller longer. They’re low in calories too.

4. Don’t go long periods without eating. Some folks think fat loss is simple. You don’t eat, so you won’t gain weight. Unfortunately it isn’t that simple. When you starve yourself, your brain decreases it’s production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps you feel full and controls mood. Also, when you go long periods without food, your body doesn’t know you’re purposely depriving yourself (the body can’t distinguish between what you have to do and what you choose to), it just recognizes foods not coming through the system, and then advances into survival mode. When that happens, the body holds on to as many fat stores as possible. Eating small meals (mainly vegetables) all through the day apprises your body that food is available so it doesn’t need to hold on to so much fat.

Diet or exercise question? Email me at or visit David Crocker of Landrum has been a nutritionist and master personal trainer for 27 years. 

He served as strength director for the Spartanburg YMCA, head strength coach for the USC-Spartanburg baseball team, S.C. state champion girl’s gymnastic team, and the Converse college equestrian team. 

He served as a water safety consultant to the United States Marine Corps., lead trainer to L.H. Fields modeling agency and taught four semesters at USC-Union. David was also a regular guest of the Pam Stone radio show.