How to curb appetite?

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Ten natural ways to suppress appetite

A person can use the following ten evidence-based methods to suppress their appetite and avoid overeating:

1. Eat more protein and healthful fats

Share on PinterestEating foods rich in protein or fat can reduce hunger cravings and suppress appetite.

Not all foods satisfy hunger equally. Compared to carbohydrates, protein and certain fats are more effective for satisfying hunger and keeping people feeling full for longer.

A person can replace some sources of carbohydrate with proteins and healthful fats to help keep their appetite under control.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend the following high-protein foods:

  • lean meats
  • eggs
  • beans and peas
  • soy products
  • Greek yogurt

The guidelines also recommend that a person gets their healthful fats from natural sources such as nuts and seeds, avocados, and olive oil.

2. Drink water before every meal

Drinking a large glass of water directly before eating has been found to make a person feel fuller, more satisfied, and less hungry after the meal.

Another study, which looked at appetite in 50 overweight females, showed that drinking 1.5 liters of water a day for 8 weeks caused a reduction in appetite and weight, and also led to greater fat loss.

A soup starter may also quench the appetite. Research from 2007 showed that people reported feeling fuller immediately after the meal if they had a liquid starter.

3. Eat more high-fiber foods

Fiber does not break down like other foods, so it stays in the body for longer. This slows down digestion and keeps people feeling full throughout the day.

Research suggests that fiber can be an effective appetite suppressant. High-fiber diets are also associated with lower obesity rates.

On the other hand, another review found that introducing extra fiber into the diet was effective in less than half of the studies they looked at.

More research is needed to identify which sources of fiber are the most effective for suppressing appetite.

Healthful high-fiber foods include:

  • whole grains
  • beans and pulses
  • apples and avocados
  • almonds
  • chia seeds
  • vegetables

4. Exercise before a meal

Exercise is another healthy and effective appetite suppressant.

A review based on 20 different studies found that appetite hormones are suppressed immediately after exercise, especially high-intensity workouts.

They found lower levels of ghrelin in the body, a hormone that makes us hungry, and higher levels of “fullness hormones” such as PPY and GLP-1.

5. Drink Yerba Maté tea

Research shows that a tea called Yerba Maté, which comes from the Ilex paraguariensis plant, can reduce appetite and improve mood when combined with high-intensity exercise. Yerba Maté is available for purchase online.

6. Switch to dark chocolate

Dark chocolate has been shown to suppresses appetite compared to milk chocolate. One study showed that people ate less during their next meal after snacking on dark instead of milk chocolate.

7. Eat some ginger

Consuming a small amount of ginger powder has been shown to reduce appetite and increase fullness, possibly because of its stimulating effect on the digestive system. This was a small-scale study, so more research is needed to confirm this effect. Ginger powder is available for purchase online.

8. Eat bulky, low-calorie foods

Reducing general food intake while dieting can leave people with a ravenous appetite. This can cause a relapse into binge eating.

However, dieting does not have to mean going hungry. Some foods are high in nutrients and energy, but low in calories. These include vegetables, fruits, beans, and whole grains.

Eating a large volume of these foods will stop the stomach from growling and still allow a person to burn more calories than they consume.

9. Stress less

Comfort eating due to stress, anger, or sadness is different from physical hunger.

Research has linked stress with an increased desire to eat, binge eating, and eating non-nutritious food.

Mindfulness practices and mindful eating may reduce stress-related binge eating and comfort eating, according to one review. Regular sleep, social contact, and time spent relaxing can also help tackle stress.

10. Mindful eating

The brain is a major player in deciding what and when a person eats. If a person pays attention to the food they are eating instead of watching TV during a meal, they may consume less.

Research published in the journal Appetite found that eating a huge meal in the dark led people to consume 36 percent more. Paying attention to food during meals can help a person reduce overeating.

Another article showed that mindfulness might reduce binge eating and comfort eating, which are two significant factors that influence obesity.

The National Institute of Health recommend using mind and body-based techniques, such as meditation and yoga, to curb appetite.

How to Control Your Appetite to Lose Weight

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by: Sara Ryba, R.D., C.D.N.

Critical to weight loss and long-term weight management is knowing when you’re hungry, what to eat for that hunger, and when to stop eating once you feel full. To help my clients with this challenge, I created an easy tool I call “appestat” — an appetite thermostat — to describe the body’s hunger and fullness cues. Learning how to read your “appestat” will give you a new understanding of feeling hungry or full.

Step 1: Learn to read your appestat

Take a look at the appetite gauge below. I’m sure you can relate to these feelings.

Then, for the next week, keep a simple journal indicating your hunger or fullness through the day.

After you’ve completed a few days of the journal, go to Step 2 and learn how to adjust your eating patterns for satiety, weight loss and weight management.

Appetite Gauge

5: You’re absolutely stuffed! You’re so full you feel nauseous. This likely occurs after a feast, such as Thanksgiving, or after a binge.
4: You’re uncomfortably full. You feel bloated. This can occur after a restaurant meal where you eat an appetizer, dinner and dessert all within 30-40 minutes.
3: You’re perfectly comfortable. You feel satisfied. This feeling usually follows a healthy, balanced meal. You may find a slight yearning for a sweet with this sensation, but it will go away within 5-10 minutes if left alone.
2: You’re slightly uncomfortable. You’re just beginning to feel hungry. This usually sets in two to three hours after a balanced meal. This feeling should be a red flag to find a meal or snack that contains protein, carbs and fat as soon as possible.
1: You’re very uncomfortable, and feel weak and lightheaded. You’re unable to concentrate. This type of hunger usually sets in if you’ve skipped a meal, or if you’ve not eaten any protein all day long. If this is a frequent occurrence, be sure to keep a healthy snack — such as almonds or a string cheese — on hand at all times!

Step 2: Use your appestat to manage your hunger

If you’ve learned that you’re mostly rating a 4 or 5 on the appestat, meaning you’re frequently feeling too full, try these techniques:

  • Eat more slowly. Aim to chew each bite of food 10-15 times, and put your fork down in between bites.
  • Wait 10 minutes until you go back for second helpings.
  • Divide your meals into two servings that are eaten two hours apart.

If you find that you’re continually rating a one or two, meaning you’re perpetually hungry, try these techniques:

  • Don’t let more than three hours go by without eating a meal or a snack.
  • Always include a protein, carb and fat in your meal or snack.
  • Make sure that you’re consuming ample calories and that these calories are spread evenly throughout the day. You may want to bulk up your breakfast meal and let the calories taper as the day goes on.

If you find that you’re consistently rating a 3, meaning you’re pretty satisfied most of the day, congratulations! You’re likely eating a balanced diet, with four to six mini-meals and snacks throughout the day. Keep up the good work.

More appetite facts to chew on

The power of protein and water

If you feel hungry, but know that you’ve had a balanced meal within the last hour, consider adding more protein and/or water to your diet.

One major side effect of dehydration or protein depletion is hunger, even when you’re receiving ample calories. So be sure to refill your water bottle and to include lean protein at each meal and snack.

The exercise phenomenon

Over the long run, exercise will increase your appetite; however, you may find that immediately after exercising, you’ve no appetite at all. Beware of this sensation. This almost-nauseous feeling is likely due to the wonderful blood-sugar control that you have after exercise, but within 30-60 minutes you will likely feel famished, ready to eat anything that is not nailed down. In order to prevent any nutritional mishaps, be sure to have a meal or snack planned out within 30-45 minutes after completing your workout.

Another thing to keep in mind: It is alright to start your workout feeling mildly hungry. A small snack before starting your workout is OK, but too much food in your tummy can drag you down.

7 Tricks To Suppress Appetite

Do you want to be able to make healthy meals on a weeknight, but feel like it just takes too long?

This is where pressure cooker meals come to the rescue! With an electric pressure cooker, like an Instant Pot, you can make meals a lot faster than on the stove or in the oven. You also just set the time, and let it do its thing while you do yours, until you hear the beep.

Taking advantage of this time-saving device to make healthy meals is easy, but it’s hard to know where to start in searching through all of the recipes online. It takes forever to browse around and find something you want to make.

Let’s get you started with 27 easy recipes for healthy pressure cooker meals you can make this week – along with some info on why they’re healthy to motivate you to make them.

1. Chipotle Burrito Bowls

This recipe is not only spectacularly delicious, but shows you how to use the pot-in-pot method for your pressure cooker to make rice and beans at the same time. This way, you can flavor them differently, and portion out each section of your burrito bowl for a gorgeous meal.

Check out the recipe here!

2. Maple Bourbon Chili

Adding sweet potatoes and a little splash of maple syrup and bourbon takes an already delicious chili to the next level. This one is also vegetarian, so it’s free from cholesterol and saturated fats, and the kidney beans bring cholesterol-lowering fiber and homocysteine-lowering folate for a heart-healthy bowl of goodness.

Check out the recipe here!

3. Butternut Squash & Sage Risotto

Risotto is so luxuriously creamy and rich, but the traditional method takes a lot of time and constant stirring. Making it in your electric pressure cooker means you can set it for five minutes, and let it go on its own. This recipe pairs slightly sweet butternut squash and earthy sage for a perfect fall meal.

Check out the recipe here!

4. Lentil Ragu

Lentils make a perfect stand in for ground beef in this hearty and flavorful ragu. They’re a good source of folate, iron, B vitamins, and fiber – all of which help contribute to your energy levels and heart health.

Check out the recipe here!

5. Moroccan Winter Squash and Chickpea Tagine

A lighter take on a traditionally slow-cooked North African dish, this vegetarian tagine from is cooked quickly in the pressure cooker. The easy pickled raisins sound like an exciting flavor boost to try!

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Check out the recipe here!

6. Chickpea Bolognese Spaghetti Squash

Swap the meat for protein- and mineral-rich chickpeas, and the spaghetti for vitamin-rich gluten-free spaghetti squash! Cooking spaghetti squash in your pressure cooker cuts the time down significantly from baking it, so you have this delicious and nutritious meal on the table quick enough to enjoy even on a weeknight.

Check out the recipe here!

7. Lasagna Soup

All the delicious comfort of lasagna, but as a one-pot stew you can make quickly in your pressure cooker. Richa gives the helpful tip that because pasta cooking times can vary, look at the time on the package you’re using and divide by two to get the time you should set on your pressure cooker.

Check out the recipe here!

8. Cranberry Pumpkin Seed Quinoa Salad

Learn how to make perfectly cooked quinoa in your pressure cooker with the helpful video, and then toss it into a tasty salad that you can pack up for lunches on the go.

Check out the recipe here!

9. Thai Coconut Chickpea Stew

A flavorful, creamy, protein-rich soup with just five main ingredients, and ready in twenty-three minutes. Perfect for a weeknight, with enough leftovers to take for lunch the following day.

Check out the recipe here!

10. Pasta Puttanesca

Making pasta in your pressure cooker is easy and quick, and perfectly flavored here with capers, olives, and tomato sauce. Including crushed red pepper flakes gives a little kick of spiciness, and also works as a slight appetite suppressant, so that you’ll be less likely overeat this yummy dish.

Check out the recipe here!

11. Butternut Squash Soup

This gorgeous golden-colored soup is full of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory carotenoids. It’s dairy-free, gluten-free, and oil-free – but doesn’t skimp on flavor! The addition of a granny smith apple is brilliant, to add to the depth of flavor and bring out the natural sweetness of butternut squash.

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It has a little kick from some curry powder, but if you wanted to appeal to younger taste buds you could leave that out and it would surely be a hit.

Check out the recipe here!

12. Minestrone Soup

Minestrone is a perfect example of comfort food that’s wholesome at the same time. It usually needs to simmer for quite a while to cook the potatoes, but in your pressure cooker, it’s done in no time. Packed with vegetables, kidney beans, and pasta, this is a fully balanced meal in a bowl.

Check out the recipe here!

13. Chana Masala

Using an authentic blend of Indian spices, and perfectly pressure-cooked chickpeas, you can create your own restaurant-level chana masala at home! Spices like ginger and turmeric are anti-inflammatory, and cumin may help with blood pressure, cholesterol, and sugar balance.

Check out the recipe here!

14. Quinoa Pilaf

Pair protein-rich quinoa with anti-inflammatory turmeric, along with a heap of whatever vegetables you have on hand, and turn it into a delicious healthy meal in 20 minutes. This is proof that easy and healthy meals definitely don’t have to be boring!

Check out the recipe here!

15. Cajun Red Beans with Sausage

Infuse some red beans with cajun seasonings and vegetables, then toss in some vegan sausage if you like. This is perfect for batch cooking, to portion your meals for the week or freeze for later, so that you don’t resort to take out on those hectic days.

Check out the recipe here!

16. Cuban Black Beans and Rice

Soft cooked black beans and rice, seasoned with garlic, onion, cumin and topped with an easy salsa of fresh lime juice, avocado, tomato, and red onion sounds like an absolutely perfect meal. Not only is this delicious, but you’ll get thirty-two percent of your daily protein needs in just one serving.

Check out the recipe here!

17. Creamy Vegetable Soup

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This soup has a whole lot of vegetables packed in for maximum nutritional power, including cauliflower which is loaded with cancer-fighting compounds. At the end, you stir in cashew cream to create a rich creamy broth without any dairy.

Check out the recipe here!

18. Chik’n Stew

Go a step beyond chicken soup by adding all sorts of veggies and chickpeas for a hearty and nourishing stew. It’s so easy to put together: simply put everything in your pressure cooker, set the time, and then stir in some spinach before serving.

Check out the recipe here!

19. Split Pea Soup

Split pea soup is so rich and hearty, and usually takes a long time to cook on the stove, so it’s a perfect one to speed up in a pressure cooker. This recipe uses all the classic flavors of split pea soup, but replaces the saturated fat and nitrates of bacon with a dash of liquid smoke. The smoky tempeh crumbles are perfect toppers, and if you don’t make your own, you could just use tempeh bacon.

Check out the recipe here!

20. Thai Peanut Chickpea Soup

Peanut butter adds such a full, rich flavor to this soup, and packs so many vegetables in to get you all kinds of nutrients. It’s gluten-free, oil-free, vegan, uses the one pot of your pressure cooker, and is ready in just thirty minutes.

Check out the recipe here!

21. Portobello Pot Roast

With zero cholesterol and saturated fat, this makes a healthy version of hearty comfort food – all made in your pressure cooker for a quick dinner with minimal cleanup!

Check out the recipe here!

22. Three Sisters Soup

The three sisters are the Native American trinity of corn, beans, and squash that were planted together because they were mutually beneficial as they grew. This soup brings them together with the beautiful flavors of sage and ancho chili powder.

Check out the recipe here!

23. Indo Chinese Corn Soup

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Indo Chinese cuisine is Chinese recipes adapted to Indian tastes, so this hearty soup is flavored with toasted sesame oil, cumin, and ginger. It’s thick enough that as Kristina suggests, you could enjoy it with rice for lunch the following day.

Although corn isn’t always thought of as a health food, it’s a good source of B vitamins and iron for energy, as well as zinc and selenium for immune health.

Check out the recipe here!

24. Goulash

A bit like the building blocks of minestrone, but with paprika, this Hungarian soup makes a nourishing, wholesome, and delicious meal the whole family is sure to love. This recipe replaces meat with cholesterol-free and high-fiber lentils for a heart healthy version.

Check out the recipe here!

25. Indonesian Black Rice Pudding

This is so wholesome but also so delicious it can double as breakfast and dessert! With just three ingredients, it’s simple to make, and cooks a lot faster in your pressure cooker than on the stove. As Katie points out, the black color of the rice indicates that it has the same powerful antioxidants as blueberries.

Check out the recipe here!

26. Blueberry Quinoa Breakfast Bowl

All you need are three ingredients and two minutes on high pressure to make this delicious and protein-packed breakfast bowl. It makes four servings, so you can portion it out for the week ahead. Top it with maple syrup, pecans, and almond milk for the full experience.

Check out the recipe here!

27. Sugar-Free Apple Butter

This is so easy to make, and with the sweetness coming from the natural sugars of the apples and dates, you can’t go wrong!

A great dish to make in a big batch after going apple picking, so you can enjoy it all winter. Spread it on a bagel, scoop it on top of your oatmeal or pancakes, or have a little bowl for a snack or healthy dessert.

Check out the recipe here!

So there are no excuses left, now that you have 27 easy recipes you can start making healthy meals in your pressure cooker. The beauty of having healthy food ready to go is that it makes take out that much less tempting. And the magic of electric pressure cookers is that you can set it and forget it, while you unwind after work and come back when you hear the beep to dish up the goodness.

For more easy pressure cooker recipes to explore, check out 17 Power Pressure Cooker Recipes for Rushed Weeknight Meals .

Featured photo credit: Ella Olsson via unsplash.com

10 Ways to Deal with Hunger Pangs While Dieting

3. Spice up your meals and snacks

Control hunger pangs by sending “full” messages to the brain with spicy aromas like ginger, turmeric, curry, chili powder, and cayenne, advises Dr. Alan Hirsch of the Chicago Smell and Taste Treatment and Research Foundation. These plant extracts also increase metabolism.

4. Eat protein every four hours

Protein acts as an appetite suppressant to help control hunger pangs. Eating two to three ounces of protein triggered a 25 percent spike in energy, increasing fat metabolism 32 percent, and lasting up to four hours, in research conducted by the University of Wollongong in Australia.

5. Watch your sugar intake

Sugar’s aliases are corn syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, brown sugar, honey, maltose, corn sweeteners and dextrose. Don’t eat simple sugar foods alone — ensure they are mixed with a meal to help control your hunger. Richards J. Johnson, M.D., of the University of Florida showed in his research that communication between the digestive tract and the brain’s fullness center was disrupted by high-fructose corn syrup, making appetite control difficult.

6. Exercise regularly

According to a 2008 study published in the American Journal of Physiology: Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology, any form of aerobic exercise helps regulate appetite to control hunger pangs.

7. Snack strategically

Weight loss diets like The Mayo Clinic Diet manage hunger and reduce binging with snacking. The Mayo Clinic Diet recommends snacks that have 100 calories or less to stay in your daily calorie goal. The diet also suggests fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds and low-fat dairy products to reduce hunger pangs.

8. Eat slowly

A 2009 study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolismfound that eating slowly results in a greater sense of fullness, reducing the intensity of hunger pangs.

9. Chew gum

Chew low-calorie gum when you feel stomach hunger coming on. According to recent research conducted by the University of Rhode Island, chewing gum before and after meals helps reduce your hunger and the amount of calories you eat.

10. Stomach pains may be unrelated to hunger

If your hunger pangs do not go away when you consume food and drink, seek medical attention immediately. The pain may be caused by some gastrointestinal disorder that is in the early stages, and such disorders can be isolated and treated if caught early.

Eric Robinson has a surprising tool for weight loss. It’s something we all have, but perhaps don’t use it as much as we’d like: our memory.

Dieters often feel that they are waging war with their stomachs, but psychologists like Robinson believe that appetite is formed as much in the mind as our guts. So much so that if you try to remember the last food you’ve eaten, thinks Robinson, you can get thinner without the hunger pangs.

“Lots of research has now shown that subtle psychological factors can impact how much you eat – but people still aren’t aware of the influence,” he says. “And that’s important, given the worldwide obesity problem.” If this is true, how could it work?

The inspiration for this latest thinking comes, in part, from people with very poor memories, suffering from a deficit known as anterograde amnesia. You could meet these people and have a deep, involved conversation – but after 20 minutes they wouldn’t have the faintest idea who you were. “Something happens to them, but you come back 20 minutes later and they have no recollection of it,” says Robinson, who is based at the University of Liverpool.

Forgotten food

The same is true of the food they eat. One of the key studies involved a former musician and a former banker, both of whom had developed anterograde amnesia after a herpes infection damaged parts of the temporal cortex, the part of the brain that lays down new memories. They were first given a plate of sandwiches and cake, which they ate until they were full. The plates were taken away – only to be returned with more helpings 15 minutes later. While healthy volunteers would tend to feel too full to eat more, the two amnesic subjects happily filled themselves a second time. “They forget they’ve had their last meal, and so if they are offered another one, they’ll eat that too,” says Glyn Humphreys, at the University of Oxford, who conducted the study.

LISS training

‘Low-intensity steady state training such as walking, light jogging and swimming is great for reducing and regulating blood sugar levels, which in turn reduces cravings and hunger pangs,’ says Wiener.

‘This is due to your muscle cells slowly increasing the amount of glucose (the sugar in your blood stream) they require to fuel your muscles. Over time, this will help your body better use insulin (the body’s hormone for turning sugar into energy), lowering your blood sugar levels in the process.’

Strength training

Lifting more at the squat rack could help you lift less to your mouth: ‘Lifting heavy weights and putting your body under physical strain is known to suppress and reduce the hunger hormone ghrelin,’ says Wiener. ‘Ghrelin is what stimulates your appetite, with raised levels leading to unnecessary snacking or overeating.’

HIIT training

‘It’s not just ghrelin that has an effect on hunger levels,’ says Wiener.

‘Leptin is produced naturally in your body and stored in fat cells, and it’s function is to signal to the brain when you are full from eating. The lower your levels of leptin, the more chance you have of feeling hungry.

‘Leptin also has an impact on the speed of your metabolism, which again can lead to hunger, snacking and overeating. The mental strain and level of fat you burn during high-intensity interval training, increases leptin levels, giving you that feeling of being fuller for longer.’

Now you know all about identifying huger pangs, check out WH’s Healthy Slow Cooker recipes.


Appetite is “the desire to fulfill a bodily need.” The type of appetite we are most familiar with is hunger — which drives us to eat so we obtain enough calories, get essential vitamins and minerals, and experience satiety/satiation (the feeling of fullness during and after eating).

What does it mean when you lose your appetite? There are many reasons for not feeling hungry at all, or for getting full quickly once you start eating. For example, constipation, certain diseases, stomach viruses, eating disorders, and even cancer can all cause decreased hunger. To boost your appetite and keep your body in balance, there are many natural remedies that can be helpful. Below you’ll find lots of tips for regulating hunger by improving your diet, stress levels, exercise and eating habits.

What Is Loss of Appetite?

Loss of appetite is defined as “absent hunger” or “when your desire to eat is reduced.” (1) Technically, anorexia is the medical term that describes loss of appetite. However this usually refers to unintentional appetite loss, which is different than the eating disorder anorexia nervosa that is associated with intentional food restriction.

Appetite regulation is a complex process that is controlled by communication between different systems in the body. This includes the central nervous system (especially the brain), digestive system, endocrine system and sensory nerves, which together govern short-term and long-term appetite. A healthy, balanced appetite helps the body stay in a homeostatic state, meaning you’re able to meet your needs for energy (calories) and nutrients while still maintaining a healthy body weight.

Even though many people struggle with cravings and have a hard time with weight/fat loss, experiencing a temporary loss of appetite from time to time is a common problem. Is losing your appetite dangerous or something to worry about? A short-term loss of appetite isn’t necessarily a problem, and often is a natural reaction to being sick, overfed, very busy or emotionally stressed.

Ongoing appetite loss, on the other hand, can lead to serious complications if you develop nutrient deficiencies or rapidly lose too much weight. When you don’t eat much for several days or more, you aren’t able to obtain enough macronutrients (carbs, protein or fat that provide energy) or micronutrients (vitamins and minerals). This leaves your body feeling tired and stressed out, plus it can lead to loss of muscle mass, a decrease in strength, and poor cognitive function.

In the elderly, malnutrition due to loss of appetite is associated with problems including: impaired muscle function, decreased bone mass, immune dysfunction, anemia, reduced cognitive function, poor wound healing, delayed recovery from surgery, and, ultimately, increased morbidity and mortality. If you’ve lost your appetite due to being sick or having an underlying illness, this can be problematic because poor nutrient intake can slow recovery and limit improvements from treatment. (2)

Signs & Symptoms of Loss of Appetite

Losing your appetite can result in symptoms that you’d probably expect, like not wanting to eat, not feeling hungry despite going for a long period without food (fasting), and possibly unintentional weight loss. Other symptoms that might occur at the same time as loss of appetite include:

  • Feeling full after eating only a small amount.
  • Having a bloated stomach, feeling nauseous or having other symptoms of indigestion like heartburn/upset stomach.
  • Feeling fatigued and weak.
  • Having trouble concentrating and focusing or experiencing brain fog.
  • Trouble sleeping.
  • Constipation.
  • Swelling and fluid retention.
  • Mood changes, including low motivation and depression. (3)
  • Developing a fever, having chills or experiencing body aches if you’re sick.

Will loss of appetite always lead to weight loss? It can if it persists for more than one to two days. If you temporarily lose your appetite due to something like emotional stress or an illness, chances are you will feel hungrier once you’re feeling better. This can lead to increased hunger for several days as you recover, so sustained weight loss is not very likely in this situation. On the other hand, if you lose your appetite for weeks or months due to an underlying physical or mental health condition, then weight loss is much more likely. For example, depression and inflammatory bowel disease (IBS) can cause decreased hunger that lasts for many weeks.

If you’ve lost your appetite due to a specific health condition (more on this below), then you’re likely to experience many other symptoms besides those mentioned above. For example, it might seem counter-intuitive, but struggling with an eating disorder such as anorexia nervosa can actually cause you to lose your appetite due to a slowdown in metabolism and changes in the digestive system. This can be very unhealthy because it leads to very low calorie intake, causing deficiencies and changes in basal metabolic rate, heart health, bone density and hormone levels.

Loss of Appetite Causes & Risk Factors

Many factors influence how hungry, or not hungry, you feel. Some examples are: (4)

  • Activities of sensors in your gut that respond to the physical presence or absence of food.
  • The level of hormones being secreted by your gut. This includes ghrelin (increases appetite and is secreted by the stomach in response to fasting), peptide-YY (suppresses appetite and secreted by the ileum and colon in response to food intake), and cholecystokinin (suppresses appetite and secreted by the small intestine in response to the presence of fat and protein).
  • Your mood and how stressed you feel.
  • How tired or energized you feel based on your sleep.
  • The reward you get from food that’s available to you (based on the hedonic system).
  • Different components in foods you’ve recently eaten, such as sugar, carbs, fat or protein.
  • Your current body weight.
  • Your thyroid health and metabolism.
  • Inflammation affecting your digestive system.
  • Levels of reproductive hormones, such as testosterone, estrogen or progesterone that can fluctuate throughout the month/menstrual cycle. (5)
  • Levels of stress hormones, such as cortisol.
  • The time of day, which affects your circadian rhythm and hormones.
  • Poverty, loneliness and social isolation are social factors that have been found to contribute to decreased food intake (including among the elderly). (6)

What can cause you to lose your appetite? Some of the most common loss of appetite causes include:

  • Overeating at an earlier time, such as previously in the day or week. Over-eating can increase satiety hormones which makes you feel less hungry. Of course the opposite is also true: under-eating less can increase ghrelin and decrease leptin levels, making you hungrier.
  • A sedentary lifestyle, since this can cause weight gain or an increase in leptin levels, which makes you feel less hungry.
  • Older age. Because of changes to the digestive system and a slowing down of the metabolism, poor appetite is a common problem in older people, whether they live at home, in nursing/care homes, or staying in the hospital. (7) Medication use, low activity levels, depression, pain, ill-fitting dentures or age-associated changes in taste and smell are other contributing factors. Unintentional weight loss (more than a 5 percent reduction in body weight within six to 12 months) has been found to affect about 20 percent of older adults and is associated with increased morbidity and mortality. (8)
  • Nausea, due to conditions like a stomach virus, food poisoning, a digestive disorder, or pregnancy. Very sudden loss of appetite causes are usually conditions that affect the digestive system directly, such as food poisoning or an illness.
  • Emotional or physical stress, such as financial or work-related problems, or even over-exercising, which increases stress hormones.
  • Reactions to certain medications, including narcotics such as codeine, digoxin, fluoxetine, quinidine and hydralazine.
  • Gastritis, or stomach inflammation and erosion of the lining of the stomach (called the gastric mucosa).
  • Liver disease, which can cause fluid accumulation in the abdomen (ascites), fatigue and pain.
  • Kidney failure, which can cause edema, nausea and abdominal pain.
  • COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), which causes shortness of breath and the need to cough during eating, which is uncomfortable. (9)
  • Anxiety, nervousness or depression.
  • Crohn’s disease and other types of inflammatory bowel disease.
  • Hormonal imbalances. Do you sometimes feel very hungry but other times have no appetite? This can be a sign of fluctuating blood sugar levels, cortisol levels, or thyroid hormones. Estrogen and progesterone changes throughout your menstrual cycle, pregnancy or menopause can also alter hunger.
  • Hypothyroidism.
  • Eating disorders, such as anorexia, binge eating disorder or bulimia.
  • Dementia and other cognitive changes.
  • Heart disease.
  • HIV/AIDS.
  • Cancer.
  • Mental illnesses. (10)
  • Certain diets and dietary practices can also decrease your appetite, such as the ketogenic diet (thanks to the production of appetite-decreasing ketone bodies) or intermittent fasting. (11) These dietary interventions don’t usually cause a total loss of appetite, but can decrease cravings and prevent overeating. This is why they are a great tool for promoting weight loss in people who are overweight or obese.
  • Loss of appetite and feeling full very quickly can also be the result of bariatric weight loss surgery, since this decreases the volume of food that the stomach can comfortably hold.

Loss of Appetite and Cancer:

According to the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), changes in appetite are common with cancer and cancer treatments. (12) Why does cancer cause a lack of appetite? Cancer and cancer treatments, like chemotherapy or immunotherapy, can cause many changes to metabolism, the digestive system and to hormone production. All of these factors can decrease hunger. For example, some of the negative effects that cancer/cancer treatments may have on the body that lead to loss of appetite include:

  • An enlarged spleen and compressed stomach, leading to fullness.
  • Edema and ascites, or buildup of fluid in the abdomen that leads to bloating.
  • Fatigue, sleepiness or even calmness caused by certain medications.
  • Increased nausea and vomiting.
  • Development of mouth sores, oral infections, dry mouth and mouth pain. These can lead to difficulty swallowing and pain when chewing.
  • Changes in taste and smell that decrease the pleasure associated with eating.
  • Constipation, cramps and abdominal pain.
  • Depression and anxiety, which can make it hard to eat.
  • Unintentional weight loss. (13)

What types of cancer cause loss of appetite? Bladder cancer, stomach cancer, rectal cancer and colon cancer are types that tend to affect appetite most because these cause inflammation and other negative changes to the digestive organs. But you can experience loss of appetite if you’re treating any type of cancer with medications, radiation or chemotherapy.

Conventional Loss of Appetite Treatments

The first step to treating appetite loss is identifying and addressing the underlying cause. Depending on how severe someone’s loss of appetite is, and any complications it may be causing, doctors can use various medications and interventions to normalize hunger levels. Some treatments that may be used to reverse loss of appetite and its effects can include:

  • Anti-nausea medications, including those used to treat nausea during pregnancy such doxylamine and B6, pyridoxone (vitamin B6), promethazine (an antihistamine) and cyclizine (an antihistamine).
  • Supplements and meal replacement products that can provide electrolytes and relieve constipation, cramping or fatigue.
  • Medications that contain progesterone, which can improve appetite and weight gain. Examples are megestrol acetate or medroxyprogesterone.
  • Steroid medications, which can decrease symptoms like swelling, nausea, weakness, or pain associated with underlying illnesses.
  • Metoclopramide, which helps move food out of the stomach more easily.
  • Antidepressant or anti-anxiety medications.
  • A cannabinoid product called dronabinol that is used to stimulate appetite. In some states within the U.S. and other parts of the world, medical marijuana is also used to boost appetite, decrease pain and help to ease anxiety.
  • Exercise programs, which can stimulate appetite hormone secretion.
  • In severe cases, tube feeding might be used to get calories and nutrients directly into the stomach to treat weight loss and nutrient deficiencies.

6 Natural Remedies for Loss of Appetite

1. Change Your Eating Patterns

Here are tips for changing the times of day that you eat, the amount you eat at once, and other factors to consider:

  • Rather than eating one or two big meals that can lead to indigestion or fullness, split meals into five to six smaller meals a day. Also add snacks whenever you feel hungry.
  • Eat your biggest meal when you are feeling most hungry, whether that’s breakfast, midday or dinner.
  • Try to eat at regular times each day, since this pattern helps train your body and regulate your appetite.
  • Eat whole foods that are energy-dense if you find it hard to eat big enough meals — meaning foods that should provide a decent amount of calories, healthy fats and protein. Good choices are: olive or coconut oil, grass-fed butter, eggs, grass-fed beef, full fat dairy, nuts and nut butters, avocado, and protein smoothies. You can increase your calorie intake without feeling overly full by adding oil, butter, cheese, coconut milk, or nut butters to recipes.
  • Make food taste more appealing by adding sea salt, spices and condiments you like.
  • Don’t consume very large amounts of fluids right before meals, which can suppress your appetite. Drink moderate amounts of water between meals rather than with meals, and try to base your fluid intake on your level of thirst.
  • Limit caffeine consumption since caffeine can increase nervousness/anxiety, irritate your stomach and decrease appetite.
  • Keep a variety of fresh foods at home so you always have access to something you like.
  • Eat in a relaxed environment where you are not rushed, such as with family or friends (not when driving or working!)
  • Change the texture or temperature of food if it makes it easier to consume, such as by blending, steaming, boiling or chilling.

2. Treat Nausea

It’s common for loss of appetite and nausea to occur together, especially during pregnancy or when you’re sick with a virus, the flu, etc. Here are natural remedies that can help treat nausea:

  • Sit up for about an hour after eating to relieve any pressure on the stomach. Try to eat at least three hours before bedtime to help you digest.
  • Drink ginger tea or apply ginger essential oil over your chest or abdomen. To make your own ginger tea, cut ginger root into slices and place them into a pot of boiling water for 10 minutes.
  • Take a supplement containing vitamin B6, which helps to decrease PMS, morning sickness and symptoms of an upset stomach. (14)
  • Make a belly-calming beverage using chamomile tea and lemon juice.
  • Inhale peppermint essential oil or rub it into your neck and chest.
  • Get some fresh air, open a window and take a calming walk outside.
  • Try alternative therapies like meditation and acupuncture.

3. Identify & Treat Underlying Digestive Problems

If you deal with loss of appetite due to digestive issues like being constipated, bloated or having heartburn, then addressing the underlying cause of your symptoms is critical. Some ways to help improve gut health and digestion include:

  • Eating an anti-inflammatory diet. Include a variety of fresh veggies and fruits, healthy fats, and “clean” protein sources like wild-caught fish, grass-fed meat, and pastured eggs.
  • Eating high-fiber foods to help prevent constipation, including chia or flax seeds, cooked veggies, avocado, roasted root veggies, and foods high in magnesium.
  • Eating probiotic foods, like fermented yogurt or cultured veggies.
  • Limiting or avoiding foods that can worsen digestion problems like IBS or IBD, including: conventional dairy products, gluten-containing foods, processed foods with synthetic additives, refined oils, fast foods, fried foods, processed meats and FODMAP foods that worsen symptoms.
  • Managing stress.
  • Getting enough sleep.
  • Doing an appropriate amount of exercise (not too much or too little).
  • Drinking enough water.
  • Quitting smoking.
  • Not taking any unnecessary medications, including antibiotics (you can talk to your doctor about this).

4. Take Steps To Treat Depression and Anxiety

Depression and anxiety can affect your appetite by altering stress hormones and increasing inflammation. If you cope with depression or anxiety by drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes and drinking lots of caffeine, know that these substances will blunt hunger too (especially caffeine and smoking). Some ways that you can manage stress and help fight depression include:

  • Practicing yoga, meditation and breathing exercises.
  • Spending more time outside, and getting some sunlight exposure to boost vitamin D levels.
  • Taking adaptogenic herbs to support your nervous system.
  • Seeking out emotional support from family, friends, a therapist or a support group.
  • Unwinding by using essential oils like lavender, chamomile or holy basil.
  • Taking an Epsom salt bath before bed to relax muscular tension.
  • Getting a massage or visiting an acupuncturist.

5. Get Enough Physical Activity

Exercise is known to be a natural appetite-regulator, especially aerobic exercise that lasts more than 20–30 minutes, vigorous/high intensity exercise, and strength-training that adds muscle mass to your frame. Depending on many factors, exercising can both increase your appetite and also help to normalize it longterm because of how it affects hormones and inflammation. (15) If you’re currently pretty sedentary and want to begin exercising, start with light exercise such as a 30-minute walk each morning. Walking before meals can also help improve your appetite and enhance digestion, even if it’s a short, casual walk.
Exercise also has numerous other health benefits — including helping to relieve stress, lower inflammation, improve sleep, and maintain muscle mass, which is beneficial for your metabolism, especially as you age.

6. Fight Fatigue & Improve Energy Levels

If you’re experiencing loss of appetite and tiredness, there are certain things you can do to help improve your energy levels and treat fatigue:

  • Aim to get seven to nine hours of sleep per night. To regulate your circadian rhythm, try to sleep and wake at similar times each day.
  • Sleep in a cool, very dark room.
  • Eat a nutrient-dense diet. Limit sugar, processed grains and caffeine.
  • Diffuse peppermint oil and other uplifting oils in your home.
  • Sip on green tea, which provides steadier energy, instead of coffee or other stimulants.
  • Practice meditation and other stress-relieving activities before bed.
  • Give yourself mental breaks throughout the day to unwind, rest, take a slow walk outside or practice deep breathing.

Precautions

Talk to your doctor if you regularly experience gastrointestinal symptoms beyond loss of appetite, such as nausea, vomiting, bloating, pain and constipation. Your doctor can recommend tests that might help identify an underlying cause. It can also be helpful to meet with a registered dietitian or nutritionist for advice on meal planning, grocery shopping and symptom management if loss of appetite is interfering with your quality of life.

Key Points About Loss of Appetite

  • Loss of appetite is defined as “absent hunger” or “when your desire to eat is reduced.” The main symptoms associated with loss of appetite include: nausea, bloating, constipation, weakness, fatigue, pain and mood changes such as depression.
  • There are many causes of loss of appetite, some of which only cause short-term changes in hunger and others which cause long-term changes.
  • The most common causes of decreases in hunger include: older age, being nauseous because of an illness or pregnancy, liver or kidney disease, stress, depression, digestive problems or disorders, thyroid disorder, hormonal imbalances and chronic health problems like HIV or cancer.

6 Natural ways to treat loss of appetite include:

  1. Change Your Eating Patterns
  2. Treat Nausea
  3. Identify & Treat Underlying Digestive Problems
  4. Take Steps To Treat Depression and Anxiety
  5. Get Enough Physical Activity
  6. Fight Fatigue & Improve Energy Levels

Read Next: What Is Ascites? (+6 Natural Ways to Manage Ascites Symptoms)

Loss of Appetite Coping Strategies

GIST and its treatments often cause loss of appetite. There are some things that can be done to help stimulate your appetite.

Cooking and eating methods to prevent Loss of Appetite:

  • Eat small meals. Eating a small amount of food more frequently will not make you feel full. If you eat less, you may want to eat less. Therefore, eating more often may stimulate your appetite.
  • Prepare food that smells good and looks good. This will make you want to eat more. Also avoid areas that have unpleasant odors as this will decrease your appetite.
  • Avoid greasy and fried foods. Foods that make you feel gassy should also be avoided as these make you feel full. Examples of gassy foods are beans, cauliflower, broccoli and carbonated drinks. The goal is not to feel full, but to nourish yourself.
  • Make sure to eat with people and be social. People usually eat more when they are socializing and meal time is fun and enjoyable.
  • Use a large plate. This technique makes it look like you are eating less food, and makes the task of eating seem less overwhelming.

For loss of appetite due to taste changes, see the post on Altered Taste/Taste Disturbance.

Other Coping Strategies:

  • Exercising. If cleared by your physician, exercising reduces stress and increases metabolism which will increase your appetite.
  • Take care of mouth sores and other mouth-related problems that can make eating unpleasant.
  • Have prepared foods ready to go in case you get hungry and can’t or don’t want to cook.
  • Change your scenery. Going out to a restaurant or different setting may make you hungry.
  • Eat when you are the most hungry. If you know you are hungry at a certain time of the day, eat your biggest meal then, when it will be easiest for you.
  • Try different and new food. Trying something new may excite you and increase your appetite.
  • Try eating soft foods when you are not feeling well (e.g., pancakes, eggs, casseroles, cheese, pasta, potatoes)

Consulting with your physician is always a good idea and should be done with any side effect. There are many appetite-stimulating drugs that your physician can prescribe to help you want to eat more.

A loss of appetite can also be caused by pain, depression, nausea, vomiting, constipation, diarrhea, etc. Therefore, it is very important to let your physician know if you are experiencing any of these other symptoms so that it may be possible to begin treatment and allow your appetite to increase.

Just remember, when you do have a loss of appetite the following things are very important for your health and well-being:

  • Eat foods high in calorie and protein content. Foods high in protein are peanut butter, eggs, nuts, cereal, chicken, steak, meat, etc. Foods high in calories are cheese, yogurt, ice cream, peanut butter, etc.
  • Drink high-calorie beverages, such as milk, Ensure, smoothies, Boost and Carnation Instant Breakfast.
  • Eat bread with meals to add more calories.
  • Add milk and cheese to things you cook to add more calories.

Good nutrition is very important in cancer survival. Make sure to eat healthy and well to keep your energy up!

OncoLink: Loss of Appetite
American Cancer Society: Loss of Appetite

How to Curb Your Appetite When It Feels Out of Control

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My name is Maura, and I’m an addict. My substance of choice isn’t as dangerous as heroin or cocaine. No, my habit is…peanut butter. I feel shaky and out of sorts every morning until I get my fix, ideally on whole-wheat toast with blueberry jam. In emergencies, however, I spoon it straight from the jar.

But there’s more to it than that. See, I can get kind of crazy about it when my appetite’s out of control. My last boyfriend started calling me a PB junkie after witnessing some of my peculiar behaviors: I keep a stash of no fewer than three containers in my cupboard—backups for when I finish the one in the fridge. (Psst…here’s why it’s a bad idea to compare your friends’ eating habits to your own.) I showed up for my first weekend at his apartment with Trader Joe’s Creamy and Salted in my overnight bag. And I stuck a jar in the glove compartment before we set off on our first road trip. “What gives?” he asked. I told him I’d have a meltdown if I ever ran out. “You’re addicted!” he retorted. I laughed; wasn’t that a little extreme? The next morning, I waited until he was in the shower before digging yet another container of PB out of my luggage and sneaking a few spoonfuls. (Related: Everything You Need to Know About Nut Butters)

My ex was onto something. Startling research has found that the way some people respond to food is very similar to the way substance abusers react to the drugs they’re hooked on. Additionally, a number of experts believe that the level of food addiction in the United States may be epidemic.

“Overeating and obesity kill at least 300,000 Americans every year due to diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer,” says Mark Gold, M.D., the author of Food and Addiction: A Comprehensive Handbook. “While no one knows exactly how many of those people might be food addicted, we estimate it’s half of the total.”

The Overeating Epidemic

Women may be at the greatest risk: 85 percent of those who join Overeaters Anonymous are female. “Many of our members will say they’re obsessed with food and that they think constantly about what they’ll have next,” says Naomi Lippel, the organization’s managing director. “They also talk about eating until they’re in a fog—until they’re essentially intoxicated.”

Startling research has found that the way some people respond to food is very similar to the way substance abusers react to the drugs they’re hooked on.

Take Angela Wichmann of Miami, who used to overeat until she couldn’t think straight. “I could eat almost anything compulsively,” says Angela, 42, a real-estate developer who weighed 180 pounds. “I’d buy junk food and eat it in the car or consume it at home in secrecy. My favorites were crunchy things like M&M’s or chips. Even crackers would do the trick.” She always felt shame and regret due to her appetite’s out of control power on her life.

“I was embarrassed that I couldn’t control myself. In most areas of my life I’ve been able to achieve anything I set my mind to—I have a Ph.D., and I’ve run a marathon. Kicking my eating problem was another story entirely,” she says.

This Is Your Brain on Food

Experts are just now beginning to understand that for people like Angela, the compulsion to overeat starts in the head, not in the stomach.

“We’ve discovered that they have abnormalities in certain brain circuits that are similar to those of substance abusers,” says Nora D. Volkow, M.D., director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse. For example, a study showed that morbidly obese people may, like drug addicts, have fewer receptors in their brains for dopamine, a chemical that produces feelings of well-being and satisfaction. As a result, food addicts may need more of a pleasurable experience—such as dessert—to feel good. They also have trouble resisting temptations. (Related: How to Get Over Cravings, According to a Weight-Loss Expert)

“Many talk about craving food; about overdoing it despite the fact that they know how bad it is for their health; about withdrawal symptoms like headaches if they stop eating certain things, like high-sugar sweets,” says Chris E. Stout, executive director of practice and outcomes at Timberline Knolls, a treatment center outside Chicago that helps women overcome eating disorders. And like an alcoholic, a food addict will do anything to get a fix. “We often hear about patients stashing cookies in their shoes, their cars, even in the rafters of their basement,” says Stout.

It turns out that the brain’s role in deciding what and how much we eat goes beyond what most scientists ever imagined. In a groundbreaking study at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory, principal investigator Gene-Jack Wang, M.D., and his team found that when an obese person is full, different areas of her brain, including a region called the hippocampus, react in a way that’s surprisingly similar to what happens when a substance abuser is shown pictures of drug paraphernalia.

In a groundbreaking study at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory, principal investigator Gene-Jack Wang, M.D., and his team found that when an obese person is full, different areas of her brain, including a region called the hippocampus, react in a way that’s surprisingly similar to what happens when a substance abuser is shown pictures of drug paraphernalia.

This is significant because the hippocampus is not only in charge of our emotional responses and memory but also plays a role in how much food we eat. According to Wang, this means that instead of telling us to eat only when we’re hungry, our brains do a more complex calculation: They take into account how stressed out or grumpy we are, the size of our last snack and how good it made us feel, and the comfort we’ve gotten in the past from eating certain foods. The next thing you know, a person prone to overeating is wolfing down a carton of ice cream and a bag of chips.

For Angela Wichmann, it was emotional upset that led to her binges: “I did it to numb myself when things got me down, like relationships, school, work, and the way I could never seem to keep my weight steady,” she says. (Check out the #1 myth about emotional eating.) Two years ago, Angela joined a self-help group for overeaters and lost nearly 30 pounds; she now weighs 146. Amy Jones, 23, of West Hollywood, California, says her urge to eat was motivated by boredom, tension, and obsessive thoughts. “I couldn’t stop thinking about the food I wanted until I ate it,” explains Amy, who considers herself addicted to cheese, pepperoni, and cheesecake—foods her mother strictly prohibited when she was an overweight teen.

How We Get Hooked on Eating

Experts say our frenzied, jam-packed lives can encourage food addiction. “Americans rarely eat because they’re hungry,” says Gold. “They eat for pleasure, because they want to boost their mood, or because they’re stressed out.” The problem is, food is so abundant (even at the office!) that overindulging becomes, well, a piece of cake. “Neanderthals had to hunt for their meals, and in the process they kept themselves in great shape,” Gold explains. “But today, ‘hunting’ means driving to the grocery store and pointing at something in the butcher case.”

The mental signals that urge us to consume are related to those ancient survival instincts: Our brains tell our bodies to store up more fuel, in case it will be a while before we find the next meal. That drive can be so powerful that for some people all it takes is seeing a favorite restaurant to set off a binge, Gold says. “Once that desire is set in motion, it’s very difficult to suppress it. The messages our brains receive that say, ‘I’ve had enough’ are much weaker than the ones that say, ‘Eat, eat, eat.'”

And let’s face it, food has become more tempting and better-tasting than ever, which makes us want more and more of it. Gold says he’s seen this illustrated in his lab. “If a rat is given a bowl full of something tasty and exotic, like Kobe beef, he’ll gorge himself on it until there’s none left—similar to what he’d do if he were given a dispenser full of cocaine. But serve him a bowl of plain old rat chow and he’ll eat only as much as he needs to keep running on his exercise wheel.”

Foods high in carbs and fat (think: french fries, cookies, and chocolate) are the ones most likely to be habit-forming, though researchers don’t yet know why. One theory is that these foods spur cravings because they cause rapid and dramatic spikes in blood sugar. In the same way that smoking cocaine is more addictive than sniffing it because it gets the drug to the brain faster and the effect is felt more intensely, some experts surmise that we may get hooked on foods that cause fast, potent changes in our bodies. (Next Up: How to Cut Back on Sugar In 30 Days—Without Going Crazy)

Right about now, if you’re not overweight, you might be thinking that you don’t have to worry about anything to do with an appetite out of control. Wrong. “Any one of us might become a compulsive eater,” Volkow says. “Even someone whose weight is under control could have a problem, though she might not realize it thanks to a high metabolism.”

So am I a peanut-butter addict—or in danger of becoming one? “You should be concerned if a good part of your day revolves around your food habit,” says Stout. “If food dominates your thoughts, then you have a problem.” Phew! According to those criteria, I’m okay; I think about PB only when I wake up. So who is at risk? “Anyone who lies about how much food she is eating—even little fibs—should watch out,” says Stout. “It’s also a problem if she hides food, if she frequently eats enough to feel uncomfortable, if she regularly stuffs herself to the point where it makes her sleep badly, or if she feels guilt or shame about eating.”

Finally, if you’re trying to overcome a food habit, take heart. “Once you’ve developed healthy habits, it feels just as good not to overeat as it used to feel to do it,” says Lisa Dorfman, R.D., a dietitian and the owner of The Running Nutritionist.

Hunger Out of Control? Try These Tips to Curb Appetite

If you don’t have a compulsive-eating problem, consider yourself lucky. Still, experts say it’s important to take steps to avoid developing one. “It’s harder to kick an addiction to food than to alcohol or drugs,” Dorfman says. “You can’t cut food out of your life; you need it to survive.”

Here, seven strategies for how to curb hunger and get your appetite back under control.

  1. Make a plan and stick to it. Consuming the same basic foods week to week will help prevent you from thinking of meals as rewards, says Dorfman. “Never use treats like ice cream as a gift to yourself after a hard day.” Try this 30-day shape-up-your-plate challenge to master healthy meal planning.
  2. Don’t munch on the run. Our brains feel gypped if we aren’t sitting down at a table with a fork in hand, says Stout. You should eat breakfast and dinner in your kitchen or dining room as often as possible, adds Dorfman. Otherwise, you may end up conditioning yourself to eat anytime, anyplace—like when you’re lying on the couch watching TV.
  3. Avoid noshing in the car. “Your waist will count it as a meal, but your brain won’t,” says Stout. Not only that, but you can quickly become trained, like one of Pavlov’s dogs, to eat whenever you’re behind the wheel. “The same way that people who smoke want a cigarette every time they have a drink, it’s easy to get used to having food every time you’re on the road,” he says.
  4. Eat a healthy snack 30 minutes before meals. It can take as long as half an hour for fullness signals to travel from the stomach to the brain. The sooner you start eating, Dorfman says, the sooner your belly will get the message to your brain that you’ve had enough food. Try an apple or a handful of carrots and couple tablespoons of hummus.
  5. Bust your eating triggers. “If you can’t control your noshing when you’re watching prime time, then don’t sit in front of the television with a bowl of snacks,” Dorfman says. (Related: Is Eating Before Bed Actually Unhealthy?)
  6. Downsize your dishes. “Unless our plates are full, we tend to feel cheated, like we haven’t eaten enough,” Gold says. Appetite out of control? Use a dessert dish for your entree.
  7. Exercise, exercise, exercise. It will help you maintain a healthy weight, and it can prevent compulsive eating because, like food, it produces stress relief and a feeling of well-being, Dorfman says. Gold explains, “Working out before meals can be especially beneficial. When your metabolism revs up, you may get the ‘I’m full’ signal faster, though we aren’t sure why.”
  • By Maura Kelly

Whether you’re trying to lose weight, maintain weight loss or just stay healthy, at some point, you’re going to get hungry. But simply eating whenever the urge strikes isn’t always the healthiest response — and that’s because hunger isn’t as straightforward as you may think.

A complex web of signals throughout the brain and body drives how and when we feel hungry. And even the question of why we feel hungry is not always simple to answer. The drive to eat comes not only from the body’s need for energy, but also a variety of cues in our environment and a pursuit of pleasure.

To help you better understand and control your hunger, Live Science talked to the researchers who have looked at hunger every which way, from the molecular signals that drive it to the psychology of cravings. Indeed, we dug into the studies that have poked and prodded hungry people to find out exactly what’s going on within their bodies. We found that fighting off that hungry feeling goes beyond eating filling foods (though those certainly help!). It also involves understanding your cravings and how to fight them, and how other lifestyle choices — such as sleep, exercise and stress — play a role in how the body experiences hunger.

Here is what we found about the science of hunger and how to fight it.

Jump to section:

  • What is hunger? Homeostatic vs. hedonic
  • Controlling hunger in the short term – cravings
  • Controlling hunger in the long term
  • What about “hunger blocking” supplements?

What is hunger? Homeostatic vs. hedonic

Before we begin, it’s important to understand exactly what hunger is — what’s going on inside your brain and body that makes you say, “I’m hungry”?

As it turns out, feeling hungry can mean at least two things, and they are pretty different, said Michael Lowe, a professor of psychology at Drexel University in Philadelphia.

Of course, there’s the traditional concept of hunger: when you haven’t eaten in several hours, your stomach is starting to grumble and you’re feeling those usual bodily sensations associated with hunger, Lowe said. This feeling of hunger stems from your body’s need for calories; the need for energy prompts the signal that it’s time to eat, he said.

Researchers refer to this type of hunger as “homeostatic hunger,” Lowe told Live Science.

Homeostatic hunger is driven by a complex series of signals throughout the body and brain that tell us we need food for fuel, said Dr. Amy Rothberg, director of the Weight Management Clinic and an assistant professor of internal medicine in the University of Michigan Health System’s Division of Metabolism, Endocrinology and Diabetes.

Hormones in the body signal when energy stores are running low. When this occurs, levels of ghrelin (sometimes referred to as the “hunger hormone”) start to rise, but then become suppressed as soon as a person starts eating, Rothberg said. In addition, as food travels through the body, a series of satiety responses (which signal fullness) are fired off, starting in the mouth and continuing down through the stomach and the small intestine, she said. These signals tell the brain, “Hey, we’re getting food down here!”

And up in the brain, another series of signals is at work, Rothberg said. These are the sets of opposing signals: the hunger-stimulating (“orexigenic”) peptides, and the hunger-suppressing (“anorexigenic”) peptides, she said. These peptides are hormones that are responsible for telling the brain that a person needs to eat or that a person feels full.

What filling foods should you choose? (Image credit: zstock .com )

Unsurprisingly, the best way to get rid of homeostatic hunger is to eat. And your best bet to maintain that full feeling for a healthy amount of time is to eat nutritious foods that, well, fill you up, Rothberg told Live Science.

A diet that contains fiber and lean protein is very filling, Rothberg said. And protein is the most filling of the macronutrients, she said. Indeed, a recent meta-analysis study in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics concluded that eating larger amounts of protein does increase feelings of fullness compared to eating smaller amounts of protein.

But it’s also important to be careful about certain foods. Zero-calorie sweeteners, for example, can confuse fullness signals and trick your brain into thinking you haven’t eaten much when you actually have, thus leading you to eat more, Rothberg said. (There is much debate among health experts about the effects of these sweeteners in the body. For example, although they may help people control their blood sugar levels, evidence is mixed on whether they help people lower their calorie intake or lose weight. In our interview with her, Rothberg was referring specifically to how zero-calorie sweeteners may impact feelings of hunger and fullness.)

Another food group to be careful about is ultraprocessed foods, which are loaded with fat and sugar. People don’t just eat for calories, they eat for pleasure, but foods like these can drive the brain to want more of them, essentially overpowering the normal fullness signals firing in the brain, Rothberg said.(Ultraprocessed foods are those that, in addition to sugar, salt, oils and fats, include additives like emulsifiers, flavors and colors — think potato chips or frozen pizza.)

It’s probably best to pass on these… (Image credit: Syda Productions .com)

Of course, if people only ate because their bodies needed calories, things would be simple. But that’s not the case.

People “don’t eat necessarily because of the signals that govern our energy stores,” Rothberg said. Rather, sometimes, you just want food.

This type of hunger is called “hedonic hunger.” But hedonic hunger — wanting to eat, dwelling on food or maybe craving something — isn’t nearly as well understood as homeostatic hunger, Lowe said. The term “hedonic hunger” was coined in 2007 in a review led by Lowe and published in the journal Physiology & Behavior.

The most widely accepted theory about hedonic hunger is that the human predisposition to highly palatable foods, which humans developed long ago, has run amok in the modern environment, with the wide availability of really delicious foods, Lowe said. People want to eat even when they don’t need to, he said. And the more often people eat highly palatable foods, the more their brains learn to expect and want them, he said. You can call that hunger, but the reason for that “hungry” feeling appears to have much more to do with seeking pleasure than with needing calories, he said.

But it’s important for people to realize that pleasure plays a role in all types of eating, Lowe said. Pleasure is relevant to both homeostatic and hedonic eating, whereas the need for calories only comes into play during homeostatic eating, he said. For example, when someone is homeostatically hungry, that person is motivated by both the calories and the pleasure that eating brings, he said. Someone who is hedonically hungry, on the other hand, is motivated only by pleasure, he said.

The two types of hunger are not completely distinct but rather represent two ends of a continuum, Lowe said. Certainly, there are cases of hunger that fall at each end of the spectrum: A person who hasn’t eaten in 12 or more hours is experiencing homeostatic hunger, whereas a person who wants dessert after finishing a filling meal is experiencing hedonic hunger. But there isn’t a specific point where someone could say their hunger has switched from being motivated by calories to being motivated purely by pleasure, he said.

Even if a person can recognize whether their hunger is more of a hedonic hunger than a homeostatic hunger, hedonic hunger can still be a little harder to fight.

The best practice for fighting hedonic hunger is to keep those highly palatable, tempting foods out of the house, Lowe said. But if you don’t want to clear your pantry, another tip is to try to curb the desire by eating something “less damaging” — for instance, a piece of fruit instead of a piece of candy — and then seeing if you still want something sweet, he said.

Finally, keeping treats in portion-controlled servings also may help, Lowe said. For example, instead of keeping a half gallon of ice cream in the freezer, buy chocolate ice pops or ice cream sandwiches, and eat just one, he said.

Controlling hunger in the short term – cravings

The “desire” to eat may sound similar to cravings, and there’s definitely overlap between the two. However, a craving is a desire for a specific food, whereas hedonic hunger is a desire for palatable foods in general, Lowe said.

How can you get this image out of your head? (Image credit: Africa Studio .com)

Jon May, a professor of psychology at Plymouth University in the United Kingdom, agreed that food cravings are a part of hunger.

But the way a person ultimately responds to feelings of hunger determines whether a craving develops, May told Live Science. One theory of how cravings develop is called the elaborated intrusion theory, which was first proposed by May and colleagues in a 2004 paper in the journal Memory.

To understand the elaborated intrusion theory and how it applies to food cravings, consider this: People aren’t always aware that they are hungry until the feelings become very strong, or until a person has nothing else to attend to, and thus an awareness of hunger comes to the forefront of their attention, May said. For example, when you’re working really hard to finish a project at work and it’s finally done, you realize you’re hungry. “This transition from unconscious to conscious makes the hunger seem very important, so we attend to it — and we call this an intrusive thought,” he said.

If a person then were to go and eat something, the thought would be handled, and there would be no need to crave or desire anything, May said. But if a person did not eat, they may dwell on that intrusive thought. Perhaps they would imagine the sight, smell and taste of the food, think about where they could get some of it, and so on, May said. Because thinking about foods is pleasant, we continue to do so, making our awareness that we’re hungry (and still not eating) worse and worse, he said. By elaborating on the initial intrusive thought, the person has developed a craving, he said.

Imagining foods in greater detail can lead to emotional responses that further fuel cravings, May said. In fact, research has shown that visualizing foods plays such a strong role in cravings that even asking people to picture a food can trigger a craving, he said.

So, to stop a craving, your best bet is to thwart the mental processes needed to imagine food, he said. And thinking about other visual imagery is a good place to start.

In a growing body of research, May has looked at fighting hunger by engaging the brain in other tasks. “We’ve used a variety of tasks, ranging from direct instructions, to imagining scenes that are not associated with food, to making shapes out of clay without looking at your hands, playing ‘Tetris,’ where you have to visualize the shapes rotating and fitting into gaps,” May told Live Science. “‘Tetris’ is great because it is so fast-paced that you have to visualize shape after shape,” he added.

Ultimately, “the more a task requires continual visual imagery, the more it will reduce a craving” because “the food images cannot sneak” into your mind, May said.

Of course, individual cravings are brief and can vary in intensity, May said. While a person can resist a craving by stopping the mental elaboration, it’s still possible that a new craving will pop up a few minutes later, he said.

But studies have shown that trying these specific tasks may reduce the intensity of people’s cravings as well as the amount they eat. For example, in a 2013 study published in the journal Appetite, researchers found that women who looked at a smartphone app that showed a rapidly changing visual display whenever they had a craving reported that the craving became less intense. What’s more, they also consumed fewer calories over a two-week period. In another, shorter study, researchers found that asking college students to vividly imagine engaging in a favorite activity when a craving struck reduced the intensity of those cravings over a four-day period.

“Just knowing how cravings start and stop can help you let them fade away without having to react to them,” May said. “Most cravings fade by themselves if you can resist them, but if you need help to bolster your willpower,” visualizing a familiar, pleasant scene can help, as can fiddling with something out of sight and concentrating on making shapes without looking at them, he said.

Since May first proposed the elaborated intrusion theory in 2004, a number of other researchers have explored the theory, and there’s a growing amount of evidence to support it. In 2015, May wrote a retrospective detailing how the theory caught on in the world of cravings and addiction research.

Controlling hunger in the long term

Beyond our in-the-moment thoughts about food, the mechanisms in our bodies that regulate hunger are complex. Indeed, many factors beyond the foods we tend to eat on a daily basis can influence these mechanisms. These factors include sleep, exercise and stress.

Sleep

Much research has shown that not getting enough sleep increases hunger, said Erin Hanlon, a research associate in endocrinology, diabetes and metabolism at the University of Chicago. For example, sleep restriction may lead to increases in ghrelin and decreases in leptin, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Shifts in leptin and ghrelin levels are thought to be involved more in homeostatic hunger, but there’s growing evidence that sleep deprivation also may increase hedonic hunger, she said.

Researchers know that when people’s sleep is restricted, they report higher levels of hunger and appetite, Hanlon said. But studies in laboratories have shown that sleep-deprived people seem to eat well beyond their caloric needs, suggesting that they’re eating for reward and pleasure, she said.

For example, Hanlon’s February 2016 study, published in the journal Sleep, looked at one measurable aspect of hedonic eating: levels of endocannabinoids in the blood. Endocannabinoids are compounds that activate the same receptors as the active ingredient in marijuana does, leading to increased feelings of pleasure. Endocannabinoid levels normally rise and fall throughout the day and are linked with eating. However, it’s unclear whether these compounds drive a person to eat or if, once a person starts eating, make it harder for him or her to stop, Hanlon said.

The researchers found that in a 24-hour period following sleep deprivation (in which people slept 4.5 hours rather than 8.5 hours), the levels of endocannabinoids peaked later in the day, and also stayed elevated for longer periods of time, than they did when people were not sleep deprived. Those peaks coincided with other measurements in the study, including when people reported being hungry and having increased desires to eat, and also when they reported eating more snacks, according to the study. Overall, the results of the study add further evidence to suggest that insufficient sleep plays an important role in eating and hunger, the researchers said.

But although there’s growing evidence to suggest that not getting enough sleep increases both types of hunger, there’s still the question of whether the reverse is true, too — namely, if people get more sleep, will they be less hungry?

Researchers have only just started looking into that question, Hanlon said. For example, some research has suggested that increasing sleep time may reduce cravings for certain foods, she said. But so far, most of these “sleep extension” studies have focused more on how sleep affects blood sugar levels than on which foods people choose and how much they eat, she said. Therefore, more research is needed to answer these questions.

Exercise

To anyone who’s ever felt ravenous after working out, the idea that exercise can suppress appetite may sound counterintuitive. But some research suggests that certain types of physical activity — namely, a short, intense workout — may suppress levels of the hormones known to drive appetite.

Based on the scientific literature, “it certainly seems that exercise would decrease the appetite-stimulating hormone ghrelin,” said Tom Hazell, an assistant professor of kinesiology and physical education at Wilfrid Laurier University in Canada. (However, not all studies on this topic have shown this effect, he added.) Exercise also appears to increase levels of other hormones, such as cholecystokinin and peptide YY, which play a role in inhibiting appetite, Hazell told Live Science. However, more research into precisely how exercise affects the suppression and release of these hormones is needed, he said. This is still a relatively new topic of research, he added.

But not all types of exercise appear to have the same effect. Most people actually feel hungrier after doing low- to moderate-intensity exercise, Hazell said, and this is the preferred type of workout for many people.

It seems logical that the body would try to replenish the energy it used during exercise, and when the intensity is low to moderate, it’s relatively easy to do so after exercise, Hazell said. In other words, to restore balance, the body wants to eat food to replace the calories it just burned. But, in contrast, when someone does a high-intensity workout, the body experiences many more changes in metabolism than just losing calories, he said. So although the body does want to replenish its energy stores, it prioritizes dealing with these other changes before doing so, he said.

All of this begs the question, if you’re feeling hungry, could exercise possibly squash the feeling?

“I think if the person were hungry and performed an exercise session of sufficient intensity, there would still be a benefit by reducing hunger,” Hazell said. Exercising around times when you know hunger tends to strike “could be an interesting preemptive option too,” he added, though this idea has not yet been looked at in a formal study.

Stress

When it comes to factors that influence eating, it’s hard to ignore good old stress eating. But different types of stress can have different effects on different people, said Dr. Michael Lutter, a psychiatrist at the University of Iowa.

Major stressors — such as war, famine and severe trauma — are associated with an increased risk of developing serious mental illnesses, such as major depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, both of which have been linked to changes in appetite, said Lutter, who has researched the neurological basis of feeding and disordered eating.

But the data on whether mild stressors — the kinds people experience on a day-to-day basis — can trigger hunger is less clear, Lutter said. In surveys, about 40 percent of people report that they eat in response to stress, but another 40 percent say they experience a decrease in their appetite in response to stress, he said. As for the remaining 20 percent? They report no effect, Lutter said.

It’s also unclear what’s going on in the body to drive stress-induced eating. “Historically, cortisol has been primarily linked to stress-induced eating,” Lutter said. But this link was based on research showing that high levels of cortisol — resulting from either medication or an illness — could affect metabolism, he said. Mild stress also causes cortisol levels to rise acutely; but these increases are much smaller and do not last as long, so it’s not entirely clear how much “stress-induced” changes in cortisol drive comfort eating, he said.

Rather, “ghrelin, and possibly leptin, also likely contribute to changes in food intake and body weight in response to chronic stress,” Lutter said. However, the strongest data for this is in mice, not in humans, he added.

For people who want to reduce “stress eating,” mindfulness-based approaches are probably the best studied. However, the evidence in this area isn’t overwhelming, Lutter said. (“Mindfulness” is when a person learns to be aware of what he or she is feeling physically and mentally from moment to moment.) But in addition to mindfulness, keeping a journal of what you eat is another approach that may help you monitor the way food intake relates to changes in emotions.

What about “hunger blocking” supplements?

A quick Internet search for “appetite suppressing supplements” yields plenty of results, but are any of these pills worth purchasing? The answer, in short, is no, said Melinda Manore, a professor of nutrition at Oregon State University.

(Image credit: monticello/)

Although there is some evidence that some of these supplements may suppress appetite, any effect seen may not be very pronounced, Manore noted. Compared to when a person takes a placebo, he or she may see 2 or 3 lbs. (0.9 to 1.4 kilograms) of weight loss while taking certain types of supplements, she said, noting that most people expect to see more drastic results.Many of the over-the-counter appetite suppressants, which aim to blunt appetite-stimulating hormones, are really just stimulants, Manore told Live Science. And although researchers have found that these supplements can suppress appetite a bit, they are dangerous because they’re not regulated, she said. In addition, supplement companies often “stack” stimulants — meaning they combine several ingredients into one supplement — and these types of supplements should be avoided entirely, Manore said.

For example, two popular supplements aimed at fighting hunger to aid in weight loss are soluble fiber, and an extract from a type of cactus called Hoodia gordonii. In a 2012 review of studies published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, Manore looked at all of the available evidence about these supplements. She found that although a high-fiber diet has been shown to aid in weight loss, the evidence for supplementing a diet with fiber is more equivocal, and may depend on the type and amount of fiber used, according to the review. Moreover, there was no evidence from human studies showing that Hoodia gordonii suppresses appetite, Manore wrote.

Ultimately, although some products show modest effects, many supplements have had either no or limited randomized, controlled trials to examine their effectiveness, Manore wrote. “Currently, there is no strong body of research evidence indicating that one specific supplement will produce significant weight loss,” especially in the long term, she wrote in her conclusion.

Follow Sara G. Miller on Twitter @SaraGMiller. Follow Live Science @livescience, Facebook& Google+. Originally published on Live Science.

Nov. 7, 2013— — intro: Throughout my 15+ year career, I’ve seen countless diet and weight loss tactics, from powders, pills and potions, to unorthodox treatments, like ice baths and ear clips.

When clients inquire, “Should I try this?” my first step is to check out the science, and often times, there isn’t any. While that doesn’t mean there’s no validity, it does mean there are many unanswered questions, like how much, how often, and what are the side effects?

In my research, I sometimes find that even products and approaches with studies behind them carry more risks than benefits. For these reasons, many experts maintain a skeptical eye. One University of Alabama professor made quite a few headlines earlier this year by calling most weight loss aids a waste of money, including some celebrities swear by.

But, I get it, because the primary mantra in health care is always: first, do no harm. That’s why my go-to bag of tricks is full of safe techniques grounded in research.

Here are nine that can either help curb your appetite or delay the return of hunger–and they won’t make you miserable.

quicklist: 1 category: Appetite Suppressants That Actually Work title: Eat more fat url: text: It may seem counterintuitive, but eating more fat is a smart weight-loss strategy–as long as it’s the right kind.

Researchers at UC Irvine discovered that oleic acid, a “good” fat, helps trigger the small intestine to produce oleoylethanolamide, a compound that finds its way to nerve endings and transmits a hunger-curbing message to the brain.

Great sources include nuts, avocado and extra virgin olive oil. Bonus: fat also delays stomach emptying, which keeps you fuller longer.

13 Comfort Foods that Burn Fat

quicklist: 2 category: Appetite Suppressants That Actually Work title: Cut your food into smaller pieces url: text: Arizona State University researchers found that cutting food into smaller pieces boosts satiety more than eating one larger piece of food with the same number of calories. College students given a whole bagel ate more of it and downed more calories at a subsequent meal than those who were served the same bagel sliced into four pieces.

Test this trick on yourself, or reach for “loose” foods, that naturally provide more, smaller pieces per serving, like grape tomatoes, berries, grapes, popcorn, nuts and seeds.

quicklist: 3 category: Appetite Suppressants That Actually Work title: Get an endorphin rush url: text: In one Brazilian study, researchers found that in addition to burning calories and revving up metabolism, exercise can restore the sensitivity of neurons involved in satiety, which in turn, naturally curbs food consumption.

Even a walk will do. Another study from the University of Exeter found that taking a 15-minute walk, rather than a 15 minute break, cut snacking at work by 50 percent.

quicklist: 4 category: Appetite Suppressants That Actually Work title: Use your senses url: text: Incorporating fragrant seasonings into each meal, like fresh grated ginger, fresh mint, cinnamon, rosemary and basil, is one of the core philosophies in my newest book S.A.S.S! Yourself Slim. In addition to adding flavor and antioxidants, aromatic foods may also help you eat less. In one study, when subjects had the ability to control their own dessert portions, they ate 5-10 percent less of stronger smelling selections.

quicklist: 5 category: Appetite Suppressants That Actually Work title: Reach for rye url: text: Whole grains are hot, but whole rye foods may cause you to nibble less than their whole wheat counterparts. Research shows that rye triggers a lower insulin response, boosts post-meal fullness, and results in naturally eating less at the following meal.

The easiest way to enjoy rye is in the form of crackers, but it’s also being incorporated into more foods, like rye pasta, and rye flakes, an oatmeal alternative.

10 Carbs that Burn Fat

quicklist: 6 category: Appetite Suppressants That Actually Work title: Rely on your memory url: text: Scientists from the University of Birmingham looked at how remembering the same day’s lunch influenced the amount of salty or sweet snacks eaten later in the day. Volunteers who were asked to recall their lunch, versus their commute, ate less of the treats they were allowed to nosh on in unlimited amounts.

quicklist: 7 category: Appetite Suppressants That Actually Work title: Start the day right url: text: You’ve been hearing it since you were in grade school, but breaking the fast, the origin of the word breakfast, is a rule to live by. In addition to jump-starting your metabolism, a morning meal has a ripple effect on your intake. Breakfast skippers eat 40 percent more sweets, 55 percent more soda, 45 percent fewer vegetables and 30 percent less fruit than those who eat breakfast. In addition, breakfast skippers are 4.5 times more likely to be overweight.

For the best balance, aim for a combo of fruit, whole grain, lean protein, and healthy fat, like this mango parfait.

The 20 Best Foods to Eat for Breakfast

quicklist: 8 category: Appetite Suppressants That Actually Work title: Slow down url: text: If you tend to eat on-the-go and gobble down your food, work on s-l-o-w-i-n-g it down. A study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism found that eating too quickly curtails the release of hormones that induce feelings of fullness, which can trigger mindless overeating. Another University of Rhode Island study found that slow eaters take in about four times fewer calories per minute, and experience a higher level of satiety, despite eating less food.

To get on board, put your utensil or food down between every bite, take a deep breath, and stop eating when you feel you’ve had just enough, even if you haven’t cleaned your plate.

quicklist: 9 category: Appetite Suppressants That Actually Work title: Set the mood url: text: Soft lighting and music aren’t just for romance. Cornell University researchers discovered that they also help rein in eating. Under these conditions, restaurant diners rated their meals as more enjoyable and consumed 18 percent less, enough to result in losing between 10 and 20 pounds over a year’s time.

There are so many more tried and true tactics, but I’d love to hear from you. What helps you feel less hungry and more full (that doesn’t come in a bottle)? Please tweet your thoughts to @CynthiaSass and @goodhealth

Cynthia Sass is a registered dietitian with master’s degrees in both nutrition science and public health. Frequently seen on national TV, she’s Health’s contributing nutrition editor, and privately counsels clients in New York, Los Angeles, and long distance. Her latest New York Times best seller is S.A.S.S! Yourself Slim: Conquer Cravings, Drop Pounds and Lose Inches. Connect with Cynthia on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

Maintaining a healthy weight is a simple equation of burning more calories than you’re taking in. But when your stomach is growling and you’re surrounded by unhealthy, fattening foods (Hello, donut shop on your way to work. Hey there, chocolate-chip cookies in the office kitchen. Hola, junk food vending machine inside the car rental place), it’s way too easy to make poor decisions that cause your “calories in” to skyrocket. The trick is to follow a few tips for managing food cravings.

1. Fill up on protein and fiber.

Both protein and fiber will make you feel full longer. There’s a reason a veggie omelet holds you off from eating until lunchtime better than that carb-loaded bagel. For maximum benefit, make protein 30 percent of your total calorie intake. And don’t forget about adding fiber-rich foods like beans, peas, chickpeas, and lentils to soups, salads, and sandwiches to keep you from mindlessly snacking.

2. Avoid skipping meals and or grazing throughout the day.

Often, we skip a meal like breakfast or lunch will with the false assumption that it will create a calorie deficit. But ironically, it almost certainly leads to overeating and excess weight gain. This is because skipping meals causes a dip in blood sugar, which leads to overeating the rest of the day. Conversely, grazing throughout the day can lead to overeating because we never feel satiated and lose track of our calorie intake. Therefore, the way to go is to eat three nutritious meals a day, plus one snack that’s a good mix of healthy proteins, fats, and carbs. And here’s a crucial point: never go more than four hours between meals. It’s the key to keeping your blood sugar and hunger hormone levels stable.

3. Hydrate with water.

I’m sure you’ve heard that often dehydration is mistaken for hunger. In large part this is because dehydration makes us weak tired and lethargic so it’s easily mistaken for low blood sugar. Plus, water creates a feeling of fullness. So, when hunger pangs strike, pour yourself a tall glass of H2O. And drinking water after your meal may prevent you from indulging in a second helping. If plain water’s not your thing, try soda water and flavor it with crushed mint leaves or slices of lemon or lime. Your body will thank you.

4. Be a mindful eater.

Too many people eat because they think they’re hungry—when in reality they’re distracted, bored, or letting their emotions get the best of them. If you’re following my four meals (including a snack) within four hours rule, and you’re still reaching for more food, chances are you’re not paying attention to your body’s cues. Next time you feel the need to eat between meals do a hunger check. How long ago did you eat? Are you physically feeling hunger pangs or are you just stressed or bored? If in fact you aren’t actually experiencing physical sensations of hunger try engaging in a positive distraction.

5. Find new ways to reduce stress.

On that note, if you do find you are emotional eating, the most important thing is to be aware of it—and to find ways to redirect your stress or anxiety that don’t involve food. Reconnect with a friend. Get a massage. Dive into an inspirational book. And, of course, go outside and do something active! Exercise will re-energize you and release endorphins that will help snap you out of a funk.

We’ve all heard the advice to close down the kitchen after a certain time, which makes sense: nighttime snacking can quickly get out of hand, and has the potential to seriously derail our weight-loss goals. So why is it so irresistible? Turns out, it’s not just a matter of boredom or weakened motivation. Your body might actually be pushing you towards the pantry or fridge.

A recent study published in the International Journal of Obesity found that participants who felt stressed saw their levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin rise in the evening. At the same time, their bodies produced less peptide YY, a hormone that contributes to feelings of fullness. So if you’re like many who often find themselves feeling overwhelmed and exhausted after a long day, your hormones may be to blame for overeating.

This kind of hormonal shift might have been beneficial back in our hunter-gatherer days. “During the daylight, it would have made more sense to prioritize going out to hunt or forage for food. When it was dark, it made more sense to stay close to home and eat,” says lead study author Susan Carnell, PhD, an assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. At the same time, feeling stressed probably meant that your survival was threatened. “So it makes sense to load up on calories while you can, to tide you over if your food source should suddenly disappear,” Carnell adds.

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None of this is so useful today, of course. Having ready access to a kitchen stocked with food means it’s easy to scarf down hundreds of calories that we really don’t need. And the threat of a looming work deadline or childcare conflict (the babysitter cancelled again!) doesn’t exactly justify gorging on a pint of chocolate ice cream.

It’s hard to find other behaviors that are as rewarding as food. You could say you’re going to take a nice bath, but the payoff isn’t as intense or immediate.

Not to mention that eating a salty, sugary or fatty snack activates the brain’s pleasure center in a big way. “It’s hard to find other behaviors that are as rewarding as food,” says Kelly Allison, PhD, Director of the Center for Weight and Eating Disorders at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine. “You could say you’re going to take a nice bath, but the payoff isn’t as intense or immediate.” Drawing the bath takes work — even just a few minutes’ worth — but reaching into a bag of chips is practically effortless.

The urge to snack at night may be even stronger for people who work hard to stick to healthier habits earlier in the day. “In part, people eat at night because of decision fatigue,” explains mindful eating expert Susan Albers, PsyD. Come nighttime, you’re worn out by the hundreds of choices you’ve had to make since waking up and your decision-making skills weaken. Rather than consciously opting for the carrots, you rely on autopilot or impulse and go with the cupcake, Albers says.

Your brain on a diet

March 16, 201802:32

It might be reassuring to think that our inability to say no to the popcorn bowl or cookie jar isn’t just a lack of willpower. Still, there are effective ways to keep the unhealthy habit in check. “It’s hard to overcome your biology,” Carnell says. “Rather than just relying on willpower or feeling guilty, there might be some structural changes you can make.” In other words? If you can’t control your brain, try to control the cues that feed it. A few easy ways to do that:

  • Don’t restrict yourself during the day. Avoid skipping meals or snacks because you’re busy — or because you want to try to “save up” your calories for later. “Depriving yourself often directly leads to overeating at night when you’re tired from a long day,” Albers says.
  • Form a new nighttime habit. Used to having a bag of pretzels whenever you watch TV? Try a different evening activity that you don’t associate with food like reading a book, taking a walk or listening to music, Albers says.
  • Portion out your snacks. You don’t have to swear off nighttime snacks completely, but it’s important to be mindful of your portions so you don’t end up overdoing it. Instead of munching directly from the box or bag, measure out a serving and eat it from a bowl or plate, Allison recommends. Instead of raiding the candy drawer, stick to a snack that has between 150 and 250 calories, and offers up a mix of good carbs, healthy fats and protein, says Jackie Newgent, RDN, culinary nutritionist and author of The All-Natural Diabetes Cookbook. This will help fill you up and prevent you from going back into the kitchen for more.
  • Keep tabs on how much TV you watch. For most of us, the screen is a powerful cue for nighttime snacking. Research shows that more time in front of the television often means more unhealthy eating. So if you still want to tune in, set a limit on the number of episodes (think: one or two, tops), Albers says, and be careful of mindlessly munching while you zone out in front of the tube.
  • Set a closing time for the kitchen. Shut the lights off and move your activities elsewhere. You can even put a “CLOSED” sign on the fridge, if it helps. It may feel a little silly, “but it can be a reminder when you don’t have the capacity to really think about those decisions,” Allison says.

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6 Appetite-Control Strategies that Helped Me Stop Overeating

It can be hard not to overeat. You eat a healthy meal at home, think you’re doing well, then you head out (to almost any destination) and are surrounded by junk food. You get hungry, and pretty soon you’re at the local burger joint, diet forgotten.

Or maybe you stick to the “right” foods, but they’re just so good that you can’t have just one portion. We’ve all been there. That used to be me.

The following six strategies have changed the game for me — now I’m healthier, enjoy my meals more and my appetite is low enough that, if anything, I have to make an effort to eat more.

1. ADD VINEGAR AND CINNAMON TO MEALS TO CONTROL BLOOD SUGAR

Looking to add some flavor to your food and noncaloric drinks? Forget the sugar; there are plenty of spices and flavors that will make your food both tastier and healthier. Vinegar, which has been shown to lower the glycemic index (which means you metabolize the food more slowly), adds acidic flavor to salad dressings, sauces and roasted veggies without a lot of calories.

For sweet-smelling warmth, add cinnamon to everything from coffee and smoothies to chili. Like vinegar, cinnamon slows the rate at which food transits from your stomach to your intestine — this keeps you full longer, and helps prevent the post-meal slump.

2. EAT WHEN YOU’RE NOT HUNGRY

When you get really hungry, you overeat. I know, groundbreaking stuff. When you overeat, you feel full, but then your insulin levels spike, causing you to feel tired, then hungry again … so you overeat again.

Instead of trying to resist hunger, beat it to the punch. If you eat when you’re either not hungry or only slightly hungry, you’ll eat less and tend to eat more slowly. Eating less throughout the day is great, but having more energy is certainly a nice bonus, too.

READ MORE > CLEANSES, WHOLE30 & MORE — DEBUNKING THE TRENDS

3. DRINK WATER, NOT LIQUID CALORIES

In addition to tiredness and brain fog, mild dehydration can cause a sensation that’s easily mistaken for hunger. On the other hand, liquid calories such as juices and sodas don’t fill you up, and their rapid digestion causes insulin spikes. So pass on the sweetened drinks and stick with sparkling or still water — you can flavor it with lemon, strawberries or cucumber if you want, but don’t pack your drinks full of calories.

Aim to drink at least three-quarters of a gallon of water a day. Also, be sure to drink a glass about 20 minutes before each meal to take the edge of your appetite.

4. EAT SLOWLY

When you swallow food, there’s a sizable delay before you feel any satiation from it. This delay is usually between 10–30 minutes. Because of this delay, we tend to eat more food than we really need. And the faster we eat, the more we tend to consume, particularly later on in a meal.

The solution: Chew each bite 10 times. Following this simple rule will cause you to eat more slowly, allowing your mind to catch up to your stomach. You’ll also enjoy your food more when you take the time to savor it.

WATCH NOW > ASK A TRAINER: ON LOSING WEIGHT

5. HAVE A SMALL, FLAVORLESS SNACK BETWEEN MEALS

This trick was discovered by the late Seth Roberts: What he did was consume a shot of olive oil or a glass of water with a tiny bit of sugar (an exception to the rule on sugared beverages above) between meals. I prefer a handful of unsalted almonds. Doing this once a day dramatically reduced my appetite — this can be particularly true if you have a lot of weight to lose.

This is one of the weirdest things I’ve ever tried, but it worked for me. The reason this works: It apparently regulates ghrelin, a hunger hormone, by weakening flavor-calorie associations. For this to work, the snack must be bland, and you should consume nothing else but water for at least an hour before and after the snack.

6. TRY THE “FRONT DOOR SNACK TECHNIQUE”

This is one of my favorite body hacks. Knowing that your willpower is reduced when you’re hungry, and there’s more tempting junk food outside the home than in it, you should fill up on healthy food before leaving home. Keep a healthy snack, such as jerky, almonds or kale chips, right next to your front door, and eat some before you leave home. This will cause healthy food to “crowd out” unhealthy food in your diet, and make it much easier to pass on the junk food.

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