How to diet without always feeling really hungry

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Feeling constantly hungry while dieting is a very possible step towards weight loss failure. Hunger may not only slow your metabolism down, it could force you to make poor food choices in a desperate attempt to curb your appetite. 

But what if you could eat lower calorie foods, maintain appetite control, resist your urge to overeat and lose weight?

A new study, published in the Journal of Nutrition this month, has examined whether a diet rich in low calorie foods could help overweight or obese women to control their appetite and over-eating habits.

“The LED meals increased sensations of fullness and reduced hunger, desire to eat, and prospective consumption throughout the day.”

The study’s authors compared the effect of low energy dense (LED) meals and high energy dense (LED) meals on the appetite of over 90 dieters in the UK.

The results show that overweight or obese women could improve their appetite control and sustain weight loss if they maintained a diet full of LED meals. 

“The LED meals increased sensations of fullness and reduced hunger, desire to eat, and prospective consumption throughout the day,” the study reads.

“The current findings demonstrate the utility of LED meals for reducing subjective sensations of appetite and meal energy intake in overweight or obese women during active weight loss.”

According to the British Nutrition Foundation, energy density refers to the amount of energy – or calories – per gram of food. Low energy dense foods have fewer calories per gram while high energy dense foods contain a lot of calories per gram.

Low energy dense foods usually have a high water content – like soups, stews and various fruits and vegetables that contain a lot of water – and may also be rich in fibre. High energy dense foods may be high in fat and have a low water content, like potato chips, sweets, butter and cheese.

What did they eat?

Researchers recruited women, aged 18-65 who had a BMI of 28-45 from a popular UK weight loss group called Slimming World.

The participants were only allowed to eat meals that contained less than one kilocalorie (equal to one large Calorie or around 4.2 kilojoules) per gram of food.

The women ate 20 per cent of their entire energy requirement at breakfast, 30 per cent at lunch, around 30 per cent at dinner and 20 per cent when snacking.

“The LED and HED evening meals were a beef-based chilli with sides and a sweet dish,” the study reads. “The LED meal was lower in energy density, percentage of energy from fat, and grams of fibre, and was higher in percentage of energy from protein and from carbohydrates.”

Sweet and savoury snacks were provided in transparent containers at the lab for the women to eat at night. 

“LED snacks were lower in energy density, percentage of energy from fat, and grams of fibre, and were higher in percentage of energy from protein and from carbohydrates.”

For over three months, the women provided information about how hungry, full, motivated or deprived they felt during the trial. They did this before and after every meal, and at various morning and afternoon intervals.

“LED snacks were lower in energy density, percentage of energy from fat, and grams of fibre, and were higher in percentage of energy from protein and from carbohydrates.”

The study showed that the women’s hunger, desire to eat and the amount of food they consumed had reduced.

Their appetite had decreased almost at every point on the days where the participants ate LED (or low calorie) meals compared to the days they ate higher calorie meals (HED). The only exceptions were just before breakfast and after their evening meal. The participants also rated their fullness as being significantly higher at every point throughout the day except just before breakfast.

Research from the Obesity Society published in 2012 also examined the experience of food cravings during a low calorie diet and a supplement‐based very low calorie diet. Results showed that after 11 weeks of a low calorie diet, participants did not crave more food. The more restrictive supplement‐based diet actually resulted in significantly larger decreases in food cravings by week five. Study participants did not rebound when they went back to eating solid foods.



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