There is a reality about weight loss that people need to be aware of. Losing weight requires you to feel hungry from time to time. There is no way to lose weight without feeling some degree of hunger. Believe me, I have exhaustively explored this issue. I have tried appetite suppressants. I have tried food combinations.
I have tried meal-timing strategies. I have tried just about everything natural under the sun to eliminate those hunger pangs and food cravings that you get when you are attempting to lose weight and there is nothing that completely eliminates those cravings. Hoodia gordonii helps, as I’ve stated in previous articles, but it by no means turns off your hunger like a light switch.
There are many strategies that help reduce hunger: avoiding refined carbohydrates, getting plenty of natural sunlight on your skin, drinking large amounts of water on a regular basis, and getting plenty of fiber in your diet. But there is nothing that absolutely eliminates hunger. The bottom line is that if you are going to lose weight, you are going to experience hunger at one time or another. This is especially true if you, like me, engage in strength training. Nothing gets your appetite whipped into a fury like the leg press.
The key in all this is realizing there’s nothing wrong with experiencing hunger from time to time. It’s a normal human response to a decrease in your consumption of calories. The problem that most people encounter when they feel hungry is they feel it’s some sort of emergency. It feels like they are dying or wasting away when, in fact, the body is just signaling that it doesn’t have enough calories to add new fat to the fat stores it’s already carrying around. The first feelings of hunger are really more of a false alarm than anything to be concerned about. At least from a logical point of view. (But when you feel like you’re starving, logic goes out the window, right?)
A person who is aiming for a low percentage of body fat learns to manage their hunger so that it becomes something they can live with. In my own experience with losing weight - and remember, I dropped 50 pounds of body fat using absolutely no drugs or pharmaceuticals of any kind - I found that there are several “lifesaving” foods and beverages you can turn to when you are feeling intense hunger pains but you don’t want to consume foods that add significant calories to your daily intake.
These foods and drinks are what I call emergency appetite control foods. What these foods and beverages have in common is that they make your stomach feel like it’s full of calorie-rich foods. But in reality, you are filling your stomach with foods that contain almost no calories or carbohydrates. This way, even though your stomach is full, you are not adding calories to your intake. But your body is temporarily fooled into thinking you’ve just woofed down a triple-plate buffet.
In other words, if you eat two cups of cashews versus two cups of cabbage, your body can’t really tell the difference for the first few minutes. Your stomach will turn off the hunger signals thinking you have eaten a large quantity of food regardless of whether you are eating cabbage or cashews, but in fact the cabbage may only contain 20 calories while the cashews contain as much as 900 or even 1000 calories. Two cups of cashews provides probably half the calories you need for the entire day, whereas two cups of cabbage provides virtually no calories whatsoever. You burn off the cabbage just digesting it. (Raw cabbage is, in fact, an outright cure for ulcers. But that’s another article…)
Emergency appetite control food #1
Fresh drinking water. That’s right: water is a powerful appetite suppressant and if you drink an 8-ounce glass of water when you first start feeling hungry, you will find that it suppresses your appetite in nearly every case. If you just drink a full glass of water and have the discipline to wait 10 minutes, you will find that your appetite is either completely gone or dramatically reduced.
Your next choice, if water does not do the trick for you, is to purchase a 32-ounce quart of natural, organic vegetable broth. You can get organic vegetable broth from Trader Joe’s, health food stores, or even many of the finer grocery stores that have a natural health section. The key is to get organic vegetable broth that does not contain excitotoxins. These are ingredients that cause neurological disorders because they overexcite and harm nerve cells. Those ingredients are MSG, yeast extract, autolyzed yeast extract, hydrolyzed vegetable proteins, and other similar ingredients. Warning: watch out for broth products made by Kitchen Basics. They claim their products don’t contain MSG or yeast extract, but when I tried their product, I experienced a massive “MSG headache” that tells me it contains free glutamic acid that isn’t listed on the label. (I’m very sensitive to MSG.) The brand of broth I buy is Trade Joe’s house brand, which does not contain free glutamic acid.
You can also choose organic chicken broth if you prefer the flavor of chicken. Once you have that, simply empty the entire quart into a very large bowl, heat it up and eat it like soup. You will probably be unable to get through the entire bowl without feeling full. And how many calories have you consumed? Not 900 like you get in two cups of cashews or 1200 like in a big Mac, not even 300 calories like you get from a typical protein bar, instead you get 20 calories only. That’s right: you can feel full on 20 calories by drinking an entire quart of organic vegetable broth.
Emergency appetite control food #2
The next best strategy is to turn to green vegetables such as lettuce, cabbage, bokchoy, and other leafy vegetables. They have so few calories that in my own diet, I don’t even count them. That’s right: I allow myself to eat an unlimited quantity of any green leafy vegetables without even recording the number of calories I have consumed. In my book, they are “free” foods.
It takes just as many calories for your body to digest them as you get out of the foods themselves. And yet at the same time, they fill your stomach and make you feel full, turning off the hunger signals in your brain. You may have also heard these called “negative calorie foods.”
You can consume these green leafy vegetables in a couple of ways. Most people don’t like to eat them plain. Instead, you can fill up a very large bowl (I am talking about something the size of a family dinner salad bowl) with lettuce and salad greens, then add only 100 calories worth of salad dressing. You will want to find some of the lower calorie salad dressings out there, and of course you want to avoid MSG, high-fructose corn syrup, and other ingredients in salad dressings. There are many very good salad dressings that only have 25 calories per tablespoon. Using those dressings, you can put four tablespoons of salad dressing on your salad and start munching away. In a few minutes, you will feel quite full and yet will have only consumed 100 calories that count. Remember the calories for the green leafy vegetables are free. You only count the calories of the salad dressing itself. This is an excellent way to fill your stomach and turn off your hunger signals while only giving yourself 100 calories.
Another strategy that uses green leafy vegetables is to stir fry them in a pan with no oils whatsoever. Just use water and flavoring such as onions, garlic and soy sauce. Simply stir fry all the green vegetables you want, add the spices and eat it. I do not count the calories in onions or garlic either, nor do I count the calories in soy sauce since none of these spices have very high calorie density. As a result, that entire meal goes in your stomach and counts for zero calories. Once again, it’s a great way to curb you appetite without consuming large quantities of calorie rich food.
Emergency appetite control food #3
This is one of my favorites: I call it my “instant banana pudding” recipe, but of course, it’s nothing at all like store-bought pudding. You’ll need a blender for this one.
Add a quart of soy milk to the blender, then a couple of scoops of unsweetened banana-flavored simply natural spirutein soy protein powder. (Sources are listed in the downloadable book, “Secret Sources.” Add stevia powder as the sweetener. I also toss in some supergreens powders, but you may want to avoid that at first, since it’s an acquired taste (and it turns your banana pudding green).
If you were to blend this up, you’d have a banana-flavored soy protein shake. But we’re not done yet: while the blender is running, put in about 1/2 tablespoon of guar gum powder, plus another 1/2 tablespoon of xanthan gum powder. These are thickeners. Within seconds, your blender will start whining and the whole mixture will attain the consistency of pudding. Now just pour it into a bowl and eat it like banana pudding! The mixture has near-zero carbs, no sugars, and is high in soy protein. Plus, it tastes great and fills you up fast. This is my favorite choice for a late-night appetite emergency.
You can get guar gum and xanthan gum at a health food store, or order online at a vitamin supplier.
Emergency appetite control food #4:
The last food is pickles. That’s right, pickles. But I am not talking about the pickles you find at a regular grocery store. Nearly all pickles you find in grocery stores contain artificial food coloring. They have a yellowish tint to them that has been added through the use of chemical colors. This is not a natural ingredient and so it is something you want to avoid purchasing. Instead, you want to buy completely natural pickles like the ones you get at Trader Joe’s that are made without artificial colors or flavors and that have an extremely low calorie count as well. An entire jar of pickles may give you only 50 calories or so and yet they can be quite satisfying and take up a considerable amount of space in your stomach, thereby turning off your appetite cravings.
Just don’t buy pickles containing any added sugars or artificial colors. Some pickles are, believe it or not, loaded with sugar. They’re more like candied cucumbers than pickles. Read the ingredients labels to be sure what you’re getting.
By the way, while you’re eating pickles, it’s an excellent time to take some calcium and mineral supplements, too. The acidity of the pickles will accelerate the absorption of calcium.
Emergency appetite control food #5:
Here’s an easy one: apples. Yep, apples. Eat the largest apple you can find. Sure, you’ll get some calories and some carbs, but the apple will fill you up for quite a while, and that will stop you from eating far more calorie-dense foods.
Let me explain why this is such an effective strategy. If you’re crazy hungry, it’s very easy to reach for some processed foods (bag of chips, for example) and start munching away until you’ve consumed 1000 calories or more. And that’s about half the total calories you need for the entire day!
But I dare you to try to eat 1000 calories worth of apples. It’s impossible. You’ll fill up even before reaching 400 calories, probably. Apples are great appetite suppressing foods because the bulky fiber fills up your stomach and turns off your appetite control hormones before you overeat. Plus, apples contain various phytonutrients, vitamins and minerals. They’re even a decent source of folic acid.
How to further suppress your appetite:
One more supplementary strategy to all of this is that you can multiply the appetite suppressing effects of all foods by swallowing a couple of fiber tablets before you begin eating. Fiber tablets or capsules would include psyllium husk, glucomannan, oat bran fiber, apple pectin fiber, or other natural fibers. You can find fiber supplements at any health food store. Be careful to watch the dosage of the fiber and drink plenty of water as you take these pills because without adequate water, they can gum up in your digestive tract and in extreme cases, they can block your digestive tract. So, you want to drink plenty of water with them.
By consuming both the fiber and the water before you start eating, you’ve already significantly turned off your appetite. Then by consuming these extremely low caloric density foods and beverages, you will further suppress your appetite. You can get an entire meal into your stomach for 100 calories or less and you can trick your brain into thinking you consumed an all-you-can-eat buffet.
But there’s a catch to all this: in about an hour or so, your body will figure out that there isn’t much energy in the food you’ve consumed. Your hunger will begin to return, but at least you delayed the onset of that hunger by an hour or more. If you combine this with physical exercise, you can delay it even further because the very act of exercising releases stored body fat and converts it back into blood sugar, which raises your blood sugar level and suppresses your appetite cravings.
You can also extend the effect of this by taking appetite suppressant supplements. Hoodia gordonii is one I’ve reviewed quite extensively, and it is currently increasing in popularity. My own experience is that hoodia tincture can help, but even hoodia doesn’t shut off appetite completely.
Also, you don’t want to starve yourself by eating these 100-calorie meals all day long. Remember, starvation is the fastest way to train your body to hold on to body fat. These are just items to get you past a difficult time when your appetite is unbearably intense.
Each day, you still need to get nutrition into your body in the form of whole foods and whole food supplements. The kind of meals I consume are soups made with quinoa, salads with low-calorie dressing, raw fruits and nuts, or avocado shakes made by blending avocado with soy milk and stevia. Of course, I also consume my superfood shakes on a regular basis. They are made from superfoods green powders such Jenny Lee Supergreens, Berry Green or The Ultimate Meal.
Overall, keep in mind that weight loss takes effort. You will experience moments of intense hunger, and these low-calorie, filling foods are one excellent way to get through a difficult time without packing on the pounds.
Revision date: July 5, 2011
Last revised: by Sebastian Scheller, MD, ScD