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7 Tips for Controlling Your Hunger’s On and Off Switches

Duct tape over your mouth isn’t how your body regulates food intake. Your body does it naturally, through hormones. Here are some quick tips for satisfying your appetite. From You: On a Diet by Michael F. Roizen, M.D., and Mehmet C. Oz, M.D.

Get Over Sticker Shock. You should read food labels as actively as you read the stock ticker or the horoscopes. Don’t eat foods that have any of the following listed as one of the first five ingredients:

  • Simple sugars
  • Enriched, bleached, or refined flour (this means it’s stripped of its nutrients)
  • HFCS (high-fructose corn syrup — a four-letter word).

Putting them into your body is like dunking your cell phone in a glass of water. It’ll cause your system to short out your hormones and send your body confusing messages about eating. Today’s yearly per capita consumption of sugar is 150 pounds, compared to 7.5 pounds consumed on average in the year 1700. That’s twenty times as much! When typical slightly overweight people eat sugar, they on average store 5 percent as ready energy to use later, metabolize 60 percent, and store a whopping 35 percent as fat that can be converted to energy later. Any guess as to where 50 percent of the sugar we consume comes from? HFCS in fat-free foods like salad dressings and regular soft drinks.

Choose Unsaturated over Saturated. Meals high in saturated fat (that’s one of the aging fats) produce lower levels of leptin than low-fat meals with the exact same calories. That indicates you can increase your satiety and decrease hunger levels by avoiding saturated fats found in such sources as high-fat meats (like sausage), baked goods, and whole-milk dairy products.

Don’t Confuse Thirst with Hunger. The reason some people eat is because their satiety centers are begging for attention. But sometimes, those appetite centers want things to quench thirst, not to fill the stomach. Thirst could be caused by hormones in the gut, or it could be a chemical response to eating; eating food increases the thickness of your blood, and your body senses the need to dilute it. A great way to counteract your hormonal reaction to food is to make sure that your response to thirst activation doesn’t contain unnecessary, empty calories — like the ones in soft drinks or alcohol. Your thirst center doesn’t care whether it’s getting zero-calorie water or a mega-calorie frap. YOU-reka! When you feel hungry, drink a glass or two of water first, to see if that’s really what your body wants.

Avoid the Alcohol Binge. For weight loss, avoid drinking excessive alcohol — not solely because of its own calories, but also because of the calories it inspires you to consume later. Alcohol lowers your inhibition, so you end up feeling like you can eat anything and everything you see. Limiting yourself to one alcoholic drink a day has a protective effect on your arteries but could still cost you pounds, since it inhibits leptin.

Watch Your Carbs. Eating a super-high-carb diet increases NPY, which makes you hungry, so you should ensure that less than 50 percent of your diet comes from carbohydrates. Make sure that most of your carbs are complex, such as whole grains and vegetables.

Stay — Va-Va-Va-Voom — Satisfied. In any waist management plan, you can stay satisfied. Not in the form of a dripping double cheeseburger but in the form of safe, healthy, monogamous sex. Sex and hunger are regulated through the brain chemical NPY. Some have observed that having healthy sex could help you control your food intake; by satisfying one appetite center, you seem to satisfy the other.

Manage Your Hormonal Surges. There will be times when you can’t always control your hormone levels; when ghrelin outslugs your leptin, and you feel hungrier than a lion on a bug-only diet. Develop a list of emergency foods to satisfy you when cravings get the best of you — things like V8 juice, a handful of nuts, pieces of fruit, cut-up vegetables, or even a little guacamole.

ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Michael F. Roizen, M.D., is a New York Times bestselling author and cofounder and originator of the very popular RealAge.com website. He is professor and chair of the Division of Anesthesia, Critical Care Medicine, and Pain Management, and chief wellness officer of the Cleveland Clinic. Mehment C. Oz, M.D., is also a New York Times bestselling author and the health expert of The Oprah Winfrey Show. He is professor and vice-chairman of surgery at New York Presbyterian Columbia University and the medical director of the Integrated Medicine Center and the director of the Heart Institute. They are the coauthors of You: On a Diet: The Owner’s Manual for Waist Management (Copyright © 2006 by Michael F. Roizen, M.D., and Oz Works LLC, f/s/o Mehmet C. Oz, M.D.).

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