Saturday, March 27, 2010

Ways to control appetite (& weight) -- from Berkeley Wellness Letter

Here are some useful tips about keeping off the pounds. Have tips like this sent to your in-box by signing up for Berkeley Wellness Alerts.

If you’re trying to lose weight and calorie counting hasn’t worked, making changes in your environment and behavior may help keep your appetite in check. Here’s a look at what drives overeating and how you can gain control.

The volume of a meal. We tend to eat about the same amount of food regardless of its calories. Thus, many weight-loss plans stress foods that have a lot of volume relative to their calories (that is, bulky foods with more water and fiber and less fat, such as fruits, vegetables, broth-based soups, and cooked whole grains), in place of low-volume, calorie-dense foods (such as cheese and crackers).

Specific food components. There’s some evidence that, for many people, foods high in protein increase satiety more than high-carb foods. For example, an egg breakfast may keep you full longer than a bagel breakfast.

Palatability. Most people find foods high in fat and sugar more pleasurable. It’s theorized that sugar and fat activate the brain’s “reward system” and blunt the body’s normal response to satiety signals, thus making it easier to overeat.

Portion size and visual cues. Many people eat to “clean their plates,” relying on visual cues rather than hunger to tell them when they are done. In a “bottomless bowl” experiment, people who ate from soup bowls that automatically refilled (without them realizing it) consumed 73% more soup.

Distraction. Eating while watching TV, working, or engaging in other tasks can make you eat more. When distracted, you 
are more likely to use visual cues rather than hunger/satiety signals to tell you when to stop eating.

Variety. The greater the variety of foods, the more people tend to eat. Eating the same food dulls the palate, and you become satiated sooner. Introduce a food with different sensory qualities, however, and appetite returns, which may be why there’s often “room for dessert.”

Emotions and social circumstances. People often eat for reasons other than hunger—when they are stressed, depressed, angry, lonely, even happy and excited. And they often eat because of social pressures, such as at parties, or simply because it is mealtime.

Putting it into practice

Use small plates, bowls, and cups; buy single-serving snacks, or portion out servings in small bowls or plastic bags; avoid all-you-can-eat buffets; and don’t eat in front of the TV or computer, or while reading or driving. Perhaps most important, practice mindful eating. This includes eating slowly, taking pleasure from each bite, and being aware of your surroundings—and eating only when you are hungry.