Did you know that most people who lose weight by dieting end up gaining it back within five years, according to the National Institutes of Health? Dr. Michael Lyon and Dr. Michael Murray, authors of Hunger Free Forever, believe that the key to success is appetite control. In their new book, they outline strategies to reduce and satisfy your appetite, beat your cravings and take the weight off for good.
Get Your Appetite Under Control
Many people fail to lose weight because they’re on a blood sugar roller coaster. High-sugar, low-fibre foods such as pastries, cookies, soft drinks and white rice, create a surge in blood sugar followed by a quick drop. “The brain has powerful mechanisms to maintain proper glucose levels, and any time there’s a rapid drop, brain cells go on alert to trigger appetite,” Murray explains. Worse, as you gain internal belly fat, it causes biochemical and hormonal changes that increase appetite and cravings. So opt for high-fibre, low sugar foods that keep blood sugar more stable, which will reduce appetite and cravings. Examples include lentils, green beans, lettuce, spinach and tomatoes. Lyon also recommends that individuals take a super-soluble fibre supplement called PolyGlcopleX (PGX) that was developed at the University of Toronto through St. Michael’s Hospital, which will also help stabilize blood sugar. It’s available at pharmacies and health food stores across Canada.
Eat Foods That Promote Fullness
You also want to eat foods that promote a feeling of satiety. Foods that take up a lot of room in your stomach will make you feel full. But choose low-calorie foods. Compare two cups of chopped apple to a cheeseburger and large fries. Both take up about the same amount of room in your stomach, but the apple contains only 120 calories, whereas the burger and fries contain approximately 1,300. High-viscosity foods, such as high-fibre soups, beans, brown rice and oatmeal, also help keep you full. “Our body has to work harder to digest them,” so you’re fuller longer, says Murray.
Rev Up Your Metabolism
Watch your caloric intake to help maintain metabolic balance. If you consume more calories than your body burns, you’ll gain weight, but if you don’t eat enough calories, your body goes into starvation mode. For weight loss, Murray recommends women consume between 1,200 and 1,800 calories a day; men, between 1,300 and 2,000. You might also incorporate natural calorie burners that rev up your metabolism, such as green tea, red pepper, ginger and garlic.
People tend to eat more when more food is placed in front of them, yet feel no more satisfied. “What we consider normal portions has become grossly distorted,” Murray says. Here’s what a portion looks like for different types of foods:
• Lean meat: the size of your palm and thickness of your finger
• Whole grains: the size of your fist
• High-fat foods (such as cheese, chocolate): the size of your thumb
• Non-starchy vegetables: the amount you can hold in your hands
• Fruit or low-fat dairy: the size of your fist
Transform Your Habits
It’s easier to make healthy food choices when you’re not feeling ravenous as a bear. So plan a quick, healthy menu for the week. Also eat more slowly: It can take 20 minutes for your brain to get the message you’ve eaten enough. And eat mindfully. “Eating in front of the TV, you can easily put away that whole bag of chips before you even notice,” Lyon says.
When you feel stressed out, your body releases the adrenal hormone cortisol, which stimulates the growth of existing as well as new fat cells in the belly. And more belly fat, in turn, leads to increased appetite and cravings. So learn to manage stress through meditation, relaxation exercises and getting a good night’s sleep.
The thought of visiting the gym regularly might not thrill you, but the more muscle mass you have, the more fat you burn. Muscle burns up to 15 times more calories per day than fat. Strength training three times a week is key to building muscle mass. “Women might want to do the circuit training, using hydrolic machines,” Lyon says. Supplement your program with aerobic and flexibility exercises.
Program Yourself for Success
“[The weight loss process] starts with being ready for change…to be ready for change, you have to have the right mental attitude,” Lyon explains. So take steps to build your self-esteem. Create a goal statement, keep a personal success journal and fuel your successes with positive affirmations.