Team Jillian

December 3, 2012

How to Deal With a Huge Appetite

Q: I have a huge appetite. It's not emotional or mental hunger. I've tried every gimmick out there (including the grapefruit diet!), but nothing has helped. If you have any insights into appetite control, please share them!

A: Stop trying to do something "magical," like eating only grapefruit — that stuff never works. It is possible that you aren't eating the right combination of foods for your metabolic type, which could leave you feeling less satiated. For example, if you are a fast oxidizer but you are eating fruit for breakfast and salad for lunch, you will be constantly starving. Try eating scrambled eggs and two pieces of nitrate-free turkey bacon for breakfast — you should feel a difference in your mornings.

Beyond that, here are a few tricks that will help you feel fuller:

Eat lower-calorie foods that are high in fiber to help fill you up. Fiber-rich foods are high in volume, so high-fiber foods can make you feel fuller longer without adding too many extra calories. Fill up on high-fiber foods such as whole-grain cereals, berries, and black beans and you can lose weight without feeling deprived and hungry.

Drink lots of water and include water-rich foods. When you feel as if you are starving, pound a quart of water and see if that helps kill the urge to eat. You can also eat foods that have a high water content, which will help you feel full — these include soup, fruit, and vegetables. For example, sometimes I use two bags of lettuce to make my salads. Or I have three veggie sides at dinner — steamed spaghetti squash, grilled eggplant, AND mashed cauliflower.

Get some sleep! While doctors have long known that many hormones are affected by sleep, it wasn't until fairly recently that appetite entered the picture. Research has shown that leptin and ghrelin, two hormones that regulate appetite, are both directly affected by how much sleep we get. Have you ever experienced a sleepless night followed by a day when, no matter what you ate, you never felt full or satisfied? That's because of leptin and ghrelin; together, these hormones work in a kind of "checks and balances" system to control feelings of hunger and fullness. Ghrelin stimulates appetite, while leptin sends a signal to the brain when you are full. When sleep is restricted, leptin levels go down and ghrelin levels go up. Lack of sleep can also trigger the release of cortisol, a nasty stress hormone that is responsible for storing abdominal fat. So it becomes apparent that anyway you look at it, lack of sleep can set the stage for overeating and weight gain.

Don't panic. You can and will lose weight. Even if you are eating more than your daily calorie allowance, you can still lose — it just might take a little longer. Exercise is key: Working out harder and more often will help burn the extra calories you might take in if you have a bad day. I know that when I indulge one day, I work out extra hard the next.