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Appetite Control for Dieters

written by: Melanie Greenwood • edited by: Stephanie Mojica • updated: 6/29/2011

Hunger and dieting don't have to go together; in fact, hunger can actually damage weight loss efforts. Learn about lifestyle methods of appetite control, and why weight loss drugs should be considered only as a last resort.

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    Hungry No More

    Some people think that hunger is a fact of life for those trying to lose weight. That simply is not true. Read on to learn why hunger can actually harm weight loss efforts, how to practice appetite control through lifestyle changes and wise food choices, and why weight loss drugs should only be used as a last resort.

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    Why Hunger Isn't Good For Dieters

    Human beings don't react well to hunger. The human body is designed to prevent death by starvation. True physical hunger (as opposed to emotional hunger) is a signal that the body has a genuine need which is not being met, just as physical pain is a signal of damage or physical danger.

    Another reason appetite control is important to dieters is that insufficient caloric intake can actually stall weight loss. Though this sounds counter-intuitive, when a person doesn't eat enough, her body decides there is a famine and responds by slowing metabolism to store fat. Eating enough to avoid constant hunger keeps the metabolism up and doing its job of burning calories (McCoy, 2010.)

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    Listening to the Body's Signals

    The most crucial aspect of appetite control is listening to the body's signals. It can be easy to get distracted by the stresses and excitements of day-to-day life and not eat often enough (skipping breakfast is especially common). It can also be easy to eat when not actually hungry.

    One good technique for learning to listen to the body's signals is to check hunger levels often. Some people set timers to ring every 2 hours or so, to remind them to check in and get a snack if hungry (which can prevent ravenous rampages.)

    Another technique is to check on emotions whenever the urge to eat between mealtimes strikes. A quick evaluation of mindset can reveal that the urge to eat is coming from stress, boredom or loneliness rather than hunger (Goldstone, 2009.)

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    Choosing the Right Foods

    Hunger can also be kept at bay by choosing the right foods. Foods rich in fiber and/or that have a high water content will contribute to a feeling of fullness more than calorie-dense, dry foods will. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and vegetable proteins are wonderful choices for dieters.

    It is also important to plan meals wisely. The most filling meals will contain lean protein and complex carbohydrates (the type of carbohydrates founds in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains). These foods sustain energy for several hours because they leave the stomach more slowly than refined sugars and fats. (Kessler, 2009.)

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    Weight Loss Drugs: Only as a Last Resort

    Often, people desperate to lose weight, perhaps for a special event such as a wedding or party, turn to weight loss drugs as a method of appetite control. This is not a good idea. Weight loss drugs are approved for use only by individuals whose weight presents serious and immediate danger to their health, don't remove the need for exercise and healthy eating, carry the risk of side effects, such as liver damage, and sometimes aren't covered by insurance (Mayo Clinic, 2010.)

    By contrast, eating enough to maintain metabolism, noticing and responding to true hunger, avoiding emotional eating, and planing fullness-producing meals have no health risks, no side effects, and don't cost a penny.

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    Goldstone, J. (Ed.), (2009, 19 September). Emotional Eating and Weight Loss. MedMD Medical Reference. Retrieved 26 May, 2010 from

    Kessler, D. (MD). (2009). The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite. New York, NY: Roadale.

    Mayo Clinic Staff. (2009, Feb 9). Weight-Loss Drugs: Can a Prescription Help you Lose Weight? Mayo Clinic. Retrieved 26 May, 2010 from

    McCoy, K. (2010). Can Eating Too Few Calories Stall Your Metabolism? Learn why cutting out too many calories can keep you from losing weight. Everyday Health. Retrieved 26 May, 2010 from