Alright -- how can I curb my appetite?
September 12, 2006 10:21 PM   Subscribe

Diets -- what foods have you eaten that worked surprisingly well to curb your appetite and helped you lose weight? Anecdote is fine! Let me explain a few things...

It seems there's tons of weight loss advice all over the Internet, and because it's polluted with all kinds of vested interests and "party line" approaches, I want to turn to the hive mind. For starters, here's some of the conventional wisdom I have a beef with:

1) Low fat foods. The Atkins camp has already made it pretty clear that low-fat foods increase hunger, and I believe it based on my own experience and the fact that it's a huge basis for their diet.

2) Fruit. We're told to grab fruit when we're hungry, but these are basically packages of complex sugars. How can this possibly help with appetite?

3) 3 Meals A Day (TM). I find that eating breakfast, even stuff without tons of sugar, supercharges my appetite! On the days that I skip breakfast, my eating habits stay in check. Go figure.

I don't mind hearing crazy ideas like tacos or gin & tonics! Hell, if it's worked for you I'm interested in hearing about it.

So far I'm suspecting that low glycemic index foods might be the holy grail. Also introducing coffee into the diet might help due to the appetite suppressant effect (and as a programmer I can hardly argue with a mental boost). Also I'm ramping up my meat consumption... I do not know why but I've had a growing suspicion that high protein intake might be an effective appetite suppressant.

Right now I'm basically avoiding foods that are specifically low-fat, and avoiding high-fructose corn syrup products, the bane of America, which I understand has some basis for boosting appetite and is of course extremely sugar-dense. To help curb appetite I've experimented a tiny bit with psyllium husk capsules... the effect seems to be doubtful and I'm thinking I may have to go with actual psyllium of some sort to get the same effect.

The exercise angle is all taken care of -- and while indeed exercise is an important part of any weight loss plan, it's double-difficult for me because exercise [i]boosts[/i] my appetite! One time back in 1999 my wife and I started doing 10-mile cycling every couple of nights, but we got so hungry that the trips to Wendy's right afterward basically negated the benefits we got.
posted by hodyoaten to Health & Fitness (29 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
Heard of the Shangri-La Diet? All the nerds are into it lately.
posted by evariste at 10:31 PM on September 12, 2006

NutritionData has profiles of pretty much every food out there, and they include an evaluation of the food's "fullness factor" as well as a score gauging how well the food will help you lose (or gain) weight.

I'm told that fiber is key in helping you lose weight and feel full after eating less.

I've lost a lot of weight in the last few months by limiting fat to 20 grams a day but eating enough calories to feel full (1,200-- but I'm very petite). I don't feel hungry between meals because I eat a ton of protein and vegetables. A typical meal for me is 3 or so ounces of meat and ton of broccoli. Very filling and it yields tons of energy.
posted by chickletworks at 10:56 PM on September 12, 2006 [1 favorite]

Brown seaweed?
posted by evariste at 10:56 PM on September 12, 2006

A diet high in protein and healthy fats helped me drop ~60-65lbs in the course of 8 months.

Over the course of the last year (especially the last few months) I stopped being so diligent about what I was eating. I was eating breads, cakey things, starches, etc. and noticed my clothes starting to get a bit snug. Last Monday I brought out the tape measure and found that I'd added a couple inches to my waistline.

On Tuesday I started eating in my high protein and good fats way again and I've already dropped two inches from my waist. My appetite is under control again and I'm pretty damn happy.

I keep the following in the house:

sliced turkey breast
olive oil
rib-eye (I splurge, there just isn't a better cut of beef)
Veggie sausage patties (morning star are lower carb)
Turkey bacon
mixed greens

Essentially I avoid sugars and processed flour while trying to keep healthy fats around.
posted by FlamingBore at 11:13 PM on September 12, 2006 [2 favorites]

Short answer: Protein + complex carb, completely free of ANY sweetener, is the only thing that will hold me.

Long answer: I think a big problem with discussing "appetite" is that people usually don't distinguish between cravings and genuine hunger. When people talk about wanting to suppress their appetite, they're usually referring to the former. Is your stomach actually growling, or are you just trying to diet and finding it hard to resist the allure of sugary/carb-y/fatty things?

If it's cravings you want to suppress - actually, not just cravings, but your inability to resist them - then that's very different from wanting to suppress hunger (which you probably shouldn't do.).

So, how can you curb your cravings? Here's the thing: the world of diet info is a vast cesspit of soundbites and unrealistic pep talks about "serving sizes" and "portion control," with buzzwords like "glycemic index," "low-carb," "low-fat," "calories," "saturated fat," swarming like flies in the common consciousness. These are all things that (usually) have some meaning in some form, but are about as useful in practical application as a lone jigsaw-puzzle piece floating in a gutter. It is absolutely astounding how much money and how much effort are spent creating and implementing diets and fitness programs to so little ultimate effect.

So, you want to curb your cravings and lose weight. Why? Because you want to be healthier, right? Yet you're willing to consider coffee and gin&tonic starvation diets!!! I started to type out all the implications of this (and it's SO not just you) but I'm beginning to feel like an activist rambling about her pet issue, so I'll go on.

Basically, the only nutrition source that's actually ever made sense and changed anything for me is Radiant Recovery. It's about the fifty millionth billionth time I've recommended it on this website, simply because it's the only thing I've found that's consistently realistic in theory and effective in practice. It addresses a lot of the very things you brought up in your post. So check it out. But if not, here's my short anecdotal advice:

When you say your breakfast ignites your appetite for the rest of the day, even though you're avoiding "sugar-laden" foods, I suspect what's actually happening is that what you're eating for breakfast triggers *cravings*. Try eating breakfast with a good amount of protein (like 1/6th of your body-weight in if you weigh 180, that'd be 30 grams) and a complex carbohydrate like whole-wheat toast. Honestly, eating simple carbs of any kind, at any time, causes me to crave more. Fruit is generally better than, say, ice cream, because of the added fiber. But you're right: fruit still has a lot of sugar and I pretty much avoid it. Broccoli is your friend.

Anyway, what's worked for me is not very glamorous - and maybe that's why it's worked. If you'd like to talk more about this (and I ALWAYS have more to say on this subject), please drop me an e-mail.
posted by granted at 11:23 PM on September 12, 2006 [3 favorites]

Yet you're willing to consider coffee and gin&tonic starvation diets!!!

Upon rereading your post, I was totally putting words in your mouth. My bad. [sheepish emoticon]
posted by granted at 11:27 PM on September 12, 2006

posted by fshgrl at 11:29 PM on September 12, 2006


I cook up a bag in a crock pot and put in some chicken boullion. Sometimes I spice it up (salt, pepper, a bit of bacon, sour cream, or jalepeno tortilla chips), but it's great plain too.

Also: Oat bran w/ a little bit of peanut butter and brown sugar for breakfast. Fills me up until past lunchtime... (and lowers my cholesterol, too). :)

I use 1/3 cup oat bran with 2/3 cup water, microwaved for 90 seconds. SO EASY.
posted by eleyna at 12:11 AM on September 13, 2006

(Oat bran, of course, is not limited to breakfast-time, if you're not a breakfast eater. Try it out though - it's keeps me full.)
posted by eleyna at 12:15 AM on September 13, 2006

I am getting so sick of this same question appearing on AskMe that my gut reaction is to say - LARD.

Eat your vegetables. How can you have any pudding if you don't eat your vegetables?

Want to be hardcore? Go vegan. It's not for me, but it's the ultimate diet. If I ever really get into trouble I am comforted by the fact that I can just go vegan and basically fix everything.
posted by caddis at 12:52 AM on September 13, 2006

What works for me - High fibre, lots of Bran. Popcorn if you need a munchie type of snack (easy on the butter).

Also avoid the sugar bowl at all costs - I use sweetner in coffee and drink diet sodas, and it doesn't make me crave sweets. Some people avoid it, and think it buys into the whole sugar-industrial craving complex. Not my experience.

I also have a policy of never eating anything low-fat, I usually eat fast food quite a bit and if I am craving something enough just eating it. In recent weeks I am down about 10-12lbs (since July 31) but I have been going to the gym after consulting a personal trainer. This was really good.
posted by Deep Dish at 12:03 AM on September 14, 2006

Yerba mate has been shown to be a good appetite suppresant, and it tastes good too. It is slightly linked to some cancers however, so if you are overly worried about you might want to skip it.
posted by scodger at 12:14 AM on September 14, 2006

More or less exactly what flamingbore said. I lost 60lbs on a high-protein, low-carb diet (eating more fruit than Atkins allows). As soon as I began eating bread, muffins, etc., it started to come back.

If I don't eat starchy carbs, I don't get hunger pangs. Starchy carbs are the devil to me, except for a bowl of oatmeal or muesli in the morning.
posted by essexjan at 12:35 AM on September 14, 2006

I object to being called a nerd, but I would like to second the Shangri-La diet. I've been using it for a few months and the results are amazing. The longest I had ever been able to stick to a diet was a few days, but I've lost 25 lbs so far on the SLD. Basically, you ingest flavorless calories (via sugar water or light tasting oils) no less than an hour before/after eating once a day (although I have been doing it once every three days with equally strong results, YMMV). The number of calories depends on how strong of an appetite suppressant you desire; 150~ flavorless calories is the low end, and 370~ is if you've got a long way to go, weight loss wise.

What I like about it is that unlike lots of the diets out there, you are given the freedom to make your own choices about what you want to eat, versus preplanned meals and menus. I eat what I like, but thanks to the diet I am able to make wiser choices about my portion sizes. And really, that's the only way to go. The book (which is quite cheap, but checking it out at the library should give you all the info you'll need) also stresses the benefits of low GI foods. If you combine the smarter eating habits you have in mind (lots of protein, low-GI foods, ix-nay on the HFCS) with the SLD I am certain you'll reach your goal, although you didn't say exactly what it was so I'll assume it's moderate weight loss. If you have ?s my email is in my profile.
posted by apple scruff at 12:47 AM on September 14, 2006

I'm extremely skeptical about the whole concept of a diet that can curb your appetite. I think it's just made up to sell the latest batch of fad diets.

Personally, the only thing that works for me is simple bulk. I think fullness is purely about how much matter is in your stomach. So for me: lots of carbs, lots of vegetables. Plenty of potatoes, rice, inch-thick slices of bread with the thinnest layer of diet spread, carrots, peas, parsnips etc. Just count the calories and make sure you have a calorie deficit: you can actually get a huge mass of stuff for pretty few calories that way.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 12:54 AM on September 14, 2006

i find giving up breakfast is the simplest way to weight control, as you suggest. chili peppers i believe are reputed to be an appetite depressant. i find that pine nuts work a little like that for me: feel hungry, have a mouthful of pine nuts, desire to eat more drops off. but i may be imagining.
posted by londongeezer at 12:55 AM on September 14, 2006

You said you didn't believe low fat diets worked, but that's what worked for me. I gave myself one cheat day a week (Saturdays since that's when my friends tended to want to go out) and that was the only day I could eat off-list foods. That helped me control my impulses to eat cheesecake and such, since I could bargain with myself ("wait until Saturday and you can buy those new jeans").

I did not find a low fat diet increased my hunger. What I wanted was sugar. I wasn't really hungry.

I found potatoes - just potatoes broiled with a bit of oil (just enough to keep them from sticking to the casserole dish) and summer savory or basil - were a very filling way of eating sugar.

Mostly I ate nuts for my protein - lots of almonds and walnuts - and loads of vegetables. Root vegetables seemed more filling than leafy/lentils. And brown and wild rice, and whole wheat pasta, and as I have a bread machine I could make my own breads with whole wheat flour, soy flour, and seven grain cereal. I can share a recipe if you're interested.

The trick with low fat, if you go that route, is to eat complex carbs and avoid pre-packaged foods advertised as low fat, because they add sugar to make the foods more palatable, which completely defeats the purpose of the diet.
posted by joannemerriam at 3:13 AM on September 14, 2006

One of my favorites is law-fat or fat-free Greek yogurt. It's got tons of protein and is very filling without being fattening. I like to eat it with a whole-grain pita, or add some mint leaves, or dip celery sticks or carrots in it. You can also make a quick tzatziki if you want more flavor.
posted by boomchicka at 4:34 AM on September 14, 2006

It sounds like you haven't actually started eating caffeine with meals. Do that. It's easy and socially acceptable. Caffeine slows gastric emptying so your meals will digest slower, and has a general energizing appetite suppressant effect after that.
posted by rxrfrx at 4:45 AM on September 14, 2006

Sweet potatoes.

posted by konolia at 5:14 AM on September 14, 2006

Raw almonds. Just a few to satisfy my late afternoon hunger pangs. And they taste just OK so I can stop at just a few.
posted by flickroad at 5:55 AM on September 14, 2006

Lots and lots of coffee, lots and lots of water.
posted by scratch at 6:08 AM on September 14, 2006

Hold on to your hat. Here's the answer:
ice cream.

Yes, it's true. Years ago, in my 20's, I lost weight eating ice cream for breakfast. It's satisfying and delicious, and calms the stomach.

Decades latter, again, ice cream. This time, part of a diet known as the "3 Day Diet". You eat ice cream every evening. It helps a great deal. 110 grams of plain vanilla. You might think the sugar would be an issue, it seems not. The fat seems insignificant too. If I skip the ice cream, I am very hungry in the morning (unusual).
posted by Goofyy at 6:38 AM on September 14, 2006

I agree on the low fat thing not working for me. I cut my fat intake to about 25 percent of my daily calories for a while, and I was hungry ALL THE TIME.

Keeping it at 30 to 35 percent is much more manageable.

I then get about a third of my remaining calories from protein and the rest from complex carbs (100% whole wheat bread, thick cut oatmeal, etc.), high fiber foods, fruits and veggies.

For some reason, packing most of my protein into the first half of the day helps a lot.

When I have 1 or 2 runny fried eggs (cooked in a non-stick pan w/no calorie cooking spray) and a slice of 100% whole wheat bread (unbuttered) for breakfast, I don't get hungry again until lunch time. When I have cereal, oatmeal, buttered toast, whatever, I do get hungry again within a few hours.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 7:09 AM on September 14, 2006

Also helpful to me: Keep each of my three main meals at under 400 calories, then have several 100 or 200 calorie snacks throughout the day.

Good snacks include: mixed nuts, a 100 calorie bag of popcorn, carrots, an apple, a slice of cheese, cheerios, a small amount of apple sauce, a home-cooked muffinn, etc.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 7:15 AM on September 14, 2006

Re: Radiant Recovery - Clearly, cutting back on refined sugar makes perfect sense, as does a lot of the advice I saw on the site, but the part about how eating a potato before bed every night making one both lose weight and stop needing anti-depressants seems very strange to me. Granted -- do you seriously eat a potato every night? I'm not being snarky, I'm just curious!

Personally, I've found that eating balanced meals works well - meaning I try to make sure that each meal is high in fiber (usually whole grains), contains protein (which is hard when you're mostly a vegetarian), and includes a vegetable (that's the easy part!). When I do this and have high fiber+protein snacks, I tend to crave sugar a lot less and lose about a pound a week. And I crouton's ideas for snacks are good. I like eating an apple and peanut butter or cheese and crackers (see, fiber + protein!).
posted by echo0720 at 8:25 AM on September 14, 2006

uh yeah, someday soon I'll learn proper grammar.
posted by echo0720 at 8:27 AM on September 14, 2006

Hi Echo -

Yeah, I think the potato every night is the only gimmicky-sounding part of the program, but there's a biochemical explanation for it (which you can find on the site), and it really does help for mild to moderate depression. I had severe depression so ended up substituting antidepressants for it, but I did have it almost nightly for about a year, and found a HUGE difference in my mood on the days I had it versus the days I didn't.

On the community forum on the site (which I've been reading on-and-off for nearly six years), people have reported it also helping with all sorts of miscellaneous things. One I remember in particular is a woman who'd been having night terrors for most of her life, to the point where she'd wake up mid-scream on the front porch, and the potato was the only thing that stopped them. I know it sounds ridiculous - it's a freaking potato - but there we go. Having it with the skin on also really does make all the difference with regards to glycemic index and triggering cravings and so forth.

Anyway, I guess the only way to find out if it works for you is to try it, right? The only thing is that it won't raise serotonin unless you've had enough protein three hours prior, so definitely make sure to do that. The best way, I think, is to follow the seven steps on the site (or book) as outlined, but I don't think there's any harm in experimenting. Word of warning: if you have too big of a potato at first, you'll probably have super-weird dreams that night, so beware!
posted by granted at 9:51 AM on September 14, 2006

Oh, I forgot to mention that I lost fifteen pounds while eating the potato every night, so no worries about it holding you up in that regard.
posted by granted at 9:53 AM on September 14, 2006

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