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How to Diet without Dieting – Appetite Control for Joe and Jane

July 5, 2011

Thats it! Now its time. I’m starting it right now and never looking back!!! … tomorrow … aaaaafter this last piece of pizza.

Been there done that, right? Me too. I’m sure nearly all of you at some point in time have forced yourself onto restricting diets that remove your favorite foods, snacks, and desserts. You use every last bit of your willpower to distance yourself from the craving of eating the foods you love so much. Or worse you cut out entire food groups and macronutrients (carbs *cough cough*) or follow that latest fad diet that your co-workers’ cousins’ mom lost 50 lbs doing. But, as painful as it is, you do it anyway. You follow the strict diet for weeks and even months. AND IT WORKS!!! You lost weight! Great job! The weight is gone and you feel good. Just eat normally and you’ll maintain your new weight forever.

Wishful Thinking …

A year or two has passed and here we are again. The weight is back and you are ready to make the sacrifice on another short-lived restrictive diet… and so the cycle continues.

“Diets Don’t Work Because”

I know, I know, you guys have heard that phrase on every late-night “magic pill” infomercial. But it is true to some extent. It should really read, “Diets don’t work for lifelong weight management”

So… “Diets Don’t Work for Lifelong Weight Management Because”…

You have to fight yourself to do it

You don’t enjoy it

You can’t maintain it forever (You all know someone who lost a bunch of weight on a diet only to put it all back on or more. What good is being lighter for 3 months of your life when there are hundreds of months total??)

It is against human nature to not eat when you are hungry, plain and simple

And many, many more including work, family, and responsibilities getting in the way of controlling your diet.

Despite all this, people still diet because its needed to lose wieght… or is it?

Dieting is not easy, enjoyable or necessary to lose weight. Wha wha whaaaaaat ?!? Yes, that’s right. Dieting is not necessary to lose weight. What is necessary is that you burn more calories than you consume. There are even scientifically proven ways to do this WITHOUT cutting out your favorite foods, being hungry all the time or spending hours and hours in the gym. The solution is … weight loss surgery! Just kidding, but the concept is exactly the same. You manipulate your bodies hunger and fullness control system so you eat less food, but stay just as satisfied.

THE SCIENCE: With the current obesity epidemic, TONS of new research is being published on managing appetite. I present to you the latest and greatest.

Meal Frequency: If you haven’t already, read my article on Meal Frequency

Eat at least 3 times per day (Leidy, 2011)

Meal Composition: Protein, Fiber

These nutrients work by manipulating hunger/fullness hormones like CCK, GLP-1 and PYY, digestion time, and the ileal break. (Wilde, 2009) (Article soon to come on the [link]Mechanisms of Appetite Suppression[/link] for those interested)

Exercise: For optimal health, 30 minutes of moderate physical activity is recommended daily (

Moderate physical activity has been shown to reduce appetite (Martins, 2008) AND you burn more calories too.

The Glycemic Index (GI): Article soon to come [link]Glycaemic Index[/link]

Although the mechanisms are not fully understood, there is much evidence from short term studies that consuming foods lower on the GI keeps you full for a longer time compared to high GI foods. (Bornet et al 2007)

OK, OK, enough of that basic stuff … on to THE REALLY COOL SCIENCE:

The following information comes from a lecture by Barbara Rolls at the Summer Meeting of the Nutrition Society – Dietary strategies for the prevention and treatment of obesity.


One of the main points highlighted in the lecture was about controlling portion sizes of served food. It was interesting to note (although it makes sense) that when individuals have more food served to them, they eat more. Whats more interesting is that people served less food were JUST AS FULL when they finished, even though they ate less. Its almost like a visual trick you play on your stomach.

Another main point from the lecture concerned the energy density of foods. Energy density describes the amount of calories in food of a given weight. For example, a nice T-Bone steak would have a very high energy density (lots of calories for weight), whereas broccoli would have a very low energy density(low calories for weight). Studies found that individuals tend to consume a certain weight of food before they become full, NOT a certain amount of calories. The idea is that by consuming large portions of low calorie foods at the beginning of each meal, you would eat less of the high calorie foods, but still be just as satisfied. This was validated in studies where individuals not only LOST MORE weight, but MAINTAINED their weight loss more effectively. Secondary benefits of this slight change included increased vitamin and mineral intake and reduced risk parameters for several diseases including diabetes and heart disease.


A study just published this past April by Sofer et al gave striking results on how the timing of your carbohydrates throughout the day can effect hunger and weight loss by manipulating leptin. Leptin is known as the “satiety hormone”. It regulates hunger and food intake by telling you that you’re full. It has been shown that the body has the lowest levels of leptin between 8 AM and 8 PM and the highest amount at night when you are asleep. For appetite suppression we would actually want the opposite of that. We would want high levels during the day when we are awake, and lower levels at night when we are sleeping. Breaking research found that intaking the majority of your carbs at dinner time was actually able to change the pattern of your bodies leptin levels. This change had such a drastic effect on hunger and fullness that the people in the study that consumed most of their carbs at dinner lost more weight than those who ate the SAME AMOUNT of carbs, but throughout the day.


There is now evidence that food structure may play a role in controling hunger and fullness. It has been shown that barley (Schroeder et al 2009) and rye (Isaksson et al 2011) breads and cereals were able to reduce hunger more than others. (even other whole grains!)


This article covered lots of different tactics you can incorporate into your daily routine to help you reduce your appetite, eat less, and ultimately “diet without dieting.”

1. Exercise moderately for at least 30 minutes per day. Walk, run, yard work, it all counts. This will help you stay healthy, burn calories, and has been proven to reduce appetite.

2. Aim to eat at least 3 times everyday. You can eat more often if you prefer, but any less than 3 makes it harder to control hunger.

3. Each meal should contain a lean protein (meat, fish, poultry, dairy) and a good source of fiber (almost all fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts and legumes). They cause a slew of events to occur in your body that reduce hunger.

4. Consume carbohydrates low on the glycaemic index (here is a list of Low GI Foods)

5. Put a little less food on your plate. Studies show that you will be just as full when you finish, but will eat fewer calories.

6. Eat large portions of low energy dense foods at the beginning of your meals. Fruits, vegetables, soups and salads are perfect! Studies show this will allow you to eat less of your high-calorie, main course and dessert but be JUST AS SATISFIED.

7. Have a piece of rye or barley toast for breakfast. Rye and barely breads and cereals have been shown to satisfy hunger more than other types of grain.

8. Eat the majority of your carbohydrates (pastas, rice, potatoes, desserts) at dinner. This does some amazing things internally that make you more full throughout the daytime AND helps you lose weight.


Bornet, F., A. Jardygennetier, N. Jacquet, and J. Stowell. “Glycaemic Response to Foods: Impact on Satiety and Long-term Weight Regulation.” Appetite 49.3 (2007): 535-53. PubMed. Web. June 2011.

Isaksson, Hanna, and Et Al. “Rye Kernel Breakfast Increases Satiety in the Afternoon – an Effect of Food Structure.” Nutrition Journal 10.31 (2011). BiomedCentral. Web. June 2011.

Leidy JH and Campbell WW. “The Effect of Eating Frequency on Appetite Control and Food Intake: Brief Synopsis of Controlled Feeding Studies.” The Journal of Nutrition. 141: 154S-157S, 2011. Ovid. Web. June 2011

Martins, C., L. Morgan, and H. Truby. “A Review of the Effects of Exercise on Appetite Regulation: an Obesity Perspective.” International Journal of Obesity 32.9 (2008): 1337-347. OVID. July 2008. Web. June 2011.

Rolls, Barbara J. “Dietary Strategies for the Prevention and Treatment of Obesity.” Proceedings of the Nutrition Society 69 (2010): 70-79. OVID. Dec. 2009. Web. June 2011.
Schroeder, Natalia, Daniel D. Gallaher, Elizabeth A. Arndt, and Len Marquart. “Influence of Whole Grain Barley, Whole Grain Wheat, and Refined Rice-based Foods on Short-term Satiety and Energy Intake.” Appetite (2009). Web. June 2011.
Sofer, Sigal, and Et Al. “Greater Weight Loss and Hormonal Changes After 6 Months Diet With Carbohydrates Eaten Mostly at Dinner.” Obesity (2011). Intervention and Prevention. Web. June 2011.

Wilde, Peter J. “Eating for Life: Designing Foods for Appetite Control.” Journal of Diabetes Science and Technology March 3.2 (2009): 366-70. PubMed. Web. June 2011.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. July 6, 2011 8:22 AM

    Hey Jake, good article man. This is good stuff. I’ve got a question for you. I definitely understand that protein helps you reach satiety. I learned from your article that carbs will also help control appetite, that’s new to me. Some of the other information I dig into suggests that high quality fats control the I’m full switch in your brain. What’s your take on that on/off switch and having high quality fats in your diet as both an appetite suppressant and fuel source?


    • July 6, 2011 12:59 PM

      Hey Keith,

      First off, I saw some pics of you and Beth doin the crossfit competitions .. you guys look awesome!

      In terms hunger its not so much an on/off switch as a dimmer controlling a whole strip of lights. There are TONS of different factors involved and some have more effect than others in terms of the “brightness”. The mechanisms of appetite control are extremely complex (I intend to eventually dedicate an entire article to this topic) and not nearly fully understood. You are absolutely correct in saying that fats play a role in hunger regulation. Fat has been show to enhance cholecystokinin (CCK) secretion, which reduces appetite. The CCK response to fat is short lived however (30 min or so) and is also affected by other foods as well. Fats also stimulate a strong response of peptide YY (PYY) release, a peptide that promotes satiety and enhanced nutrient absorption (although proteins and fiber induce a strong response as well). Other mechanisms are involved too, but the general consensus right now is that a mixed meal (containing proteins, carbs, and fats) is optimal.

      Having said that, does the quality of the fat increase fullness/suppress appetite? A couple studies have been published in the last year directly comparing saturated fats (commonly in meats, cheeses, dairy, and many spreads), mono-unsaturated fatty acids, MUFAs, (olive oil, almonds, peanuts), and poly-unsaturated fatty acids, PUFAs, (walnuts, fishes) on appetite. One well designed study used breakfast muffins with different types of fats. The muffins contained 26 grams of either saturated, MUFA, or PUFA and was given to 3 different groups of individuals. The study concluded that there was NO DIFFERENCE in hunger, satiety, or daily calorie intake among individuals in the different groups. So, in at least the short term, the “quality” of the fat makes little difference on hunger. Another study compared difference lengths of fats, short (dairy), medium (coconut oil) and long (meats) in a similarly designed test. These breakfasts used a whopping 52 grams of the fats, respectively. Again, no difference was shown in any category related to hunger, satisfaction or calorie intake. Current evidence suggests that the type/quality of fat plays little role in the overall hunger control system. Ongoing research is currently being conducted on pinolenic acid, a long chain fat, because it specifically has been shown to effect hunger more than others. But the mechanisms behind this are currently unknown. It does show that there may be a future in fat quality and hunger, but at least right now, other nutrients play a MUCH larger role.

      Please don’t misunderstand however, that there are MANY, MANY studies PROVING the HEALTH BENEFITS of MUFAs and PUFAs and I would always recommend consuming a high percentage of your fats from these “high quality” fats, especially the omega 3 fatty acids (fish, flaxseed, walnuts, supplements, etc)

      On to fat as a fuel source… put simply, its the best there is. Fat offers so much energy packed into a small amount that its a great way to reach your total daily calories needs. Beyond that it plays many vital roles in the bodies metabolism. However, there are some things that should be noted about fat being used as an energy source. It is a very long process that your body has to go through to utilize fat as energy. In fact, there are so many steps in the process that when you need a LOT of energy in a short amount of time (like for crossfit training), your body simply cannot process fats fast enough to provide your tremendous energy needs. Carbohydrates can very quickly and efficiently be used as energy. Because of this, carbs will ALWAYS be your primary source of energy for any high intensity training and optimal performance and endurance is not achieved without proper carbohydrate consumption/stores. A diet consisting of ~60-70% carbohydrates yields the best athletic performance and should be the goal before any competition. Fat will be your main energy source when your body needs a nice consistent flow of energy, like the majority of the day or during any low- moderate- intensity exercise you perform (yardwork, walks, casual swimming, hiking, etc). The body very efficiently uses its sources of energy in this way, but utilizing the best source (fat) when it has the time to perform all the steps necessary and preserves the carbs for times when it needs lots of energy in a short amount of time.

      Ketogenic diets are a different story all together … I will probably do an entire article or series on that at some point as well.

      Piece of Cake .. Nutrition:
      Consume ~2 grams of fat per pound of body weight on a daily basis and focus on consuming “high quality” MUFAs and PUFAs especially the omega-3s. (This should yield between 20-35% of your total daily calories, depending on the rest of your diet)

      I’m not sure the proportion the paleo diet indirectly recommends, but if its not following those guidelines, it doesn’t mean its “bad” or “wrong,” and if it works for you and you enjoy it, then stick with it. However, the recommendations in terms of carbohydrate and fat percentages have been proven to optimize athletic performance, and I would recommend altering your diet for a few days prior to any major competition to achieve the best results (60-70% carbs, 20-25% fat, and 10-15% pro (percentage based on total calorie intake NOT grams of food)).

      P.S. If you like reading scientific literature, I save all the articles I use and can email any of them to you.

      Beglinger C, Degen L. Fat in the intestine as a regulator of appetite–role of CCK. Physiol Behav. 2004;83(4):617–621.
      Dunford, Marie, and J. Andrew Doyle. Nutrition for Sport and Exercise. Belmont, CA: Thomson Wadsworth, 2008. Print.
      Poppitt, and Et Al. “Fatty Acid Chain Length, Postprandial Satiety and Food Intake in Lean Men.” Physiol Behav Aug 101.1 (2010): 161-67. PubMedCentral. 4 Aug. 2010. Web. July 2011.
      Strik CM, Lithander FE, McGill AT, MacGibbon AK, McArdle BH, Poppitt SD. “No Evidence of Differential Effects of SFA, MUFA or PUFA on Post-ingestive Satiety and Energy Intake: a Randomised Trial of Fatty Acid Saturation.” Nutr J 24th ser. 24.9 (2010). PubMedCentral. Web. June 2011.

  2. July 14, 2011 12:27 PM

    Thanks. I’ll pass on the scientific lit. But I’ll dig in on this new info.

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