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Remembering Kevin Moore

Hunger Control And Food Satisfaction Are Not The Same


Effective weight management isn’t just about not feeling hungry

I heard a radio advertisement for a new weight loss product the other day and it got my mind to thinking about the whole concept of hunger control and the role it allegedly plays for people wanting to lose weight. The commercial prominently promoted the ability of the product to “control your hunger, so you feel satisfied” in your diet. In essence, they were putting forth the theory that simply keeping the hungry bug from hitting you will make you satisfied and lead to weight loss.

But I disagree.

Whenever I hear this subject of hunger control come up in a weight loss marketing ad, it just makes me wanna scream. So, you take a pill or some gimmick food that makes you not wanna eat so you can get through your day without being hungry, but that leads to the million dollar question–WHEN DO YOU EAT?! And once you do eat, WHAT do you get to eat? Interestingly, these questions are hardly ever answered by the manufacturers of these weight loss products.

My contention is that hunger control should simply be a byproduct of healthy eating and that what you should really strive for in your weight management plan is satisfaction with the foods you consume. This is what makes the low-carb lifestyle so appealing to the millions of us who have tried it for ourselves to lose weight and get healthy. There is an intense satisfaction in our diet that hunger control by itself could never accomplish.

One of the major selling points the low-fat diet advocates play up about their particular way of eating is the hunger control that comes from consuming lots of fiber-rich foods. In fact, high-fiber foods are the latest trend in food marketing as you’ll see this prominently displayed on the front packaging of products like “low-fat” and “fat-free” used to be so heavily touted as if it meant something.

For example, Kellogg’s Pop-Tarts has a new Toaster Pastries product that brags about how it contains 20 percent of your RDA of fiber. Of course, it is sold in flavors like Brown Sugar Cinnamon and Frosted Chocolate Fudge and contain 16 grams of whole grains per serving. Well, yippy skippy for them! Is that fiber supposed to supersede the gobs of sugar they put in this “healthy” product? Puh-leez! Kellogg’s also has something called Fiber Plus Antioxidants Chewy Bars providing 35% of the RDA for fiber. Again, what about all the freakin’ carbohydrates they load into these bars?

Then we have Quaker Fiber & Omega-3 Chewy Oat Granola Bars coming in flavors such as Dark Chocolate Chunk and Peanut Butter Chocolate that contain both fiber and omega-3 essential fatty acids from the flax seeds they put in them. And Kraft’s South Beach Living brand has also gotten on the fiber bandwagon adding two new products–Fiber Fit Cookies and Fiber Fit Granola bars–to their line-up!

In fact, fiber is showing up in all sorts of products now. There’s a new whole grain-based Pepperidge Farm Light Style Wheat Bread that contains “extra” fiber to boast 16 percent more of the RDA of fiber than white breads. Snyder’s of Hanover’s has a new MultiGrain All Natural Tortilla Chips with a higher fiber content than regular tortilla chips. And with yogurt, Dannon has also added a With Fiber product to its Activia Low-Fat Yogurts as well.

We’ve gone completely fiber-zerk in the United States–but to what end?

There’s no denying you can control hunger with the use of fiber in your diet. That’s what the low-fat advocates want people to believe when they start on that diet plan. Eat enough high-fiber foods and you’ll not get so hungry that you actually think those low-fat or fat-free foods taste good. In the end, it’s the reduction in calories that actually leads to weight loss more than anything else.

But let’s switch gears and take a look at livin’ la vida low-carb. What does it provide you? Yes, you get plenty of hunger control through both the dietary fat that you consume as well as the protein in your diet which leads to weight loss. But I think eating a low-carb diet takes it one step further. Not only are you NOT hungry, you’re actually SATISFIED with the food selection you get to enjoy on this way of eating without obsessing over your calories which are naturally kept in check by your body.

Think about it–what other “diet” lets you enjoy such decadent foods like steak, full-fat cheeses, cream, butter, nuts, and all the other delicious choices at your disposal on the low-carb lifestyle? There isn’t another one like low-carb living. And these high-fat selections are indeed HEALTHY foods for you to consume when you are restricting your carbohydrate intake. When the low-fatties tell you to unnaturally remove all the fat from your diet, guess what they replace the fat with? That’s right, it’s carbs which drive you to be hungrier and hungrier because your insulin levels get all out of whack!

When I heard famous low-fat diet guru Dr. Dean Ornish tell me in my interview with him about his book The Spectrum last year that adding fiber to refined carbohydrates makes them healthier, I just about wanted to shake him into reality. How absurd is it to tell people that simply adding fiber to any high-carb food somehow makes it better? Why don’t we just encourage everyone to carry around a big bottle of Metamucil and sprinkle it on top of everything they eat regardless of the carb content? Does that make our food more likely to control hunger and keep us satisfied in the process? I think not.

In the end, food satisfaction plays a much bigger role in whether you are able to successfully remain on a permanent and healthy lifestyle change. That’s what everyone who wants to effectively manage their weight for good needs to do to any diet that they decide to go on. Find a plan that will give you that satisfaction with the way you eat so you can enjoy the foods that are making you healthy, follow that plan exactly as prescribed by the author, and then keep doing it forever. For me, that has been the amazingly healthy and delicious low-carb lifestyle and I’ll never be the same again because of it.

Fiber may fill you up, but it’s fat and protein that truly satisfies you more than anything else you could put into your mouth. Hunger control and food satisfaction are not the same–not even close!

  • Paula

    This is an often-overlooked point, and one that hit home for me recently. But…I think food satisfaction assumes different levels of importance for different people.

    For the “food as fuel” folks, not feeling hungry is the most important thing. The feeling of hunger is like the light that comes on in your car when the gas tank is low, and anything that makes that feeling go away works. For years, we were led to believe that we too could become a “food as fuel” person and naturally regulate our hunger and/or portion control if we only just learned to feel full at the right moment.

    For me, portion control is not the issue. I hate feeling stuffed, and take home or throw away a portion (often half or more) of most of my restaurant meals. Yet I’m still obese due to a sugar/junk carb addiction that if left unchecked, keeps me from eating any healthy food at all. Even on a low-carb plan, I’m still a “foodie,” and could never eat the same thing over and over every day, and hate being stuck with bland, flavorless foods.

    So for some people, their hunger mechanism is broken, and whatever makes them feel full sooner will help (witness the success many people have had with bariatric surgery). For others, in the grip of eating disorders or food addictions, both eliminating the trigger foods (usually carbs) and eating a high satiety diet is what works, and portion/calorie control doesn’t need to be so much of an issue.

    But what doesn’t happen so successfully (at least I don’t think it does, anyway) is jumping the fence…that a person addicted to high fat and high carb foods suddenly becomes content with fibrous low-fat cardboard. Given the sugar and carbs present in most of those low-fat items, the cravings and the hunger continue, and you remain part of a constant struggle to keep calories and hunger low enough (or exercise high enough) to lose or maintain weight.

  • Great post Jimmy. I’d like to add a couple of points.

    Added fiber might make you less hungry in the short term, but by definition cannot make up for the caloric deficit. If that were the case, you could eat twigs, never be hungry, and wind up starving to death. Clearly organisms must have evolved such that hunger is tied to many other biological signals beyond just fullness of stomach, such as amount of stored fat, energy available in the blood, etc. Otherwise they’d just eat the nearest thing that fit in their mouths with no regard for the biological value of the food.

    I have a suspicion that all of this added fiber might actually cause more problems than it solves. For instance, if the fiber is from wheat (another good way to incorporate what would otherwise be waste into our food), it drastically increases the amount of lectins in the food. WGA, for instance, is known to bind to both insulin and leptin receptors amongst other things. Probably not good for metabolic syndrome. Hunter-gatherers apparently stay away from high-fiber foods if possible.

    The key advantage of a low carb diet (at least for those with metabolic syndrome) is that it removes foods which screw up the energy regulation system. Lowering insulin frees stored body fat to be used for energy, which correspondingly lowers your appetite. We’ve repeatedly seen both anecdotally and in controlled studies that carbohydrate restriction results in a spontaneous reduction in consumed calories, with no conscious effort required.

  • Matt

    Another reason for the insertion of fiber in so many foods these days is the realization that chicory root extract and guar gum are high in dietary fiber yet contain no fibrous consistency. So the “food” manufacturers can add it at will to things like fiber one candy bars. And there is nothing to say that this type of fiber even acts the same way in our body that fiber such as psyllium husk. Scam! If it looks like a candy bar and tastes like a candy bar …. well …. hmm. Even diet blog bashed it so that’s saying something.

    http://www.diet-blog.com/archives/2007/02/05/fiber_one_oats_and_chocolate_bar_review.php

  • Hi Jimmy,
    There is a big difference in feeling full on fiber and feeling full on proteins and fats. Being home with my kids they are constantly eating and I have to prepare their food. On fiber, even though I am full I can still munch on their snacks. On proteins and fats, there is no desire to snack at all. I guess that is what you are talking about when talk about food satisfaction.

    I totally agree with you!

  • ValerieAnne

    I think taking a drug so you don’t feel hungry is useless. Overeaters have been trained to ignore their bodies already. When I was 16, I used Dexitrim to eat 1 can of tuna a day and lose 40 lbs. I still had hunger pangs.

    I just read a book called Mindless Eating. Last year I was very taken with the tv show called I Can Make You Thin. Becoming mindful when eating is very important when wanting to slim down. Many people overeat based on external cues and has nothing to do with hunger. I have used some of the strategies I learned from these resources to slow down and enjoy each bite more. There are many times I “go unconscious” around food and that usually has nothing to do with food. The more I work on it, the easier it gets.
    Awareness is everything.

    THANKS ValerieAnne! I love that book by Dr. Brian Wansink and I’m working on bringing him on my podcast show for an interview soon. Here’s a blog interview I did with him about his Mindless Eating book a couple of years back.

    –Jimmy

  • Dan (aka Renegadediabetic)

    Fiber is crock. It’s become another gimmick to sell processed food.

    In my low fat days, I ate plenty of fiber via whole grains. It didn’t help me feel full for any length of time. It didn’t curb my cravings. I could put down 1/4 box of whole grain cereal or crackers in no time. I ate whole grain cereal with skim milk and would be hungry within an hour or less.

    Lastly, contrarary to popular beleif, fiber did NOT help me avoid diabetes. Nor does it help me control my blood sugar now. Those high fiber, whole grain foods still jack up my blood sugar. The only time I’ve found fiber to be helpful is if it is at least 40% – 50% of the carb grams.

  • I have to wonder if satisfaction has to do with the nutrient density of food. Since I began replacing processed foods and processed carbs with whole foods (very few of them grain-based), I find I am much more satisfied after a smaller meal. A salad of greens, goat cheese, fresh fresh fresh veggies, maybe a little cold salmon thrown on top, homemade oil and vinegar dressing, and a small glass of raw milk – and I can go ALL DAY and not run out of steam. When I consistently eat the “Weston A Price” way, the pounds ease off on their own without my even noticing, and my food satisfaction levels and energy levels are way up. I can only attribute it to higher fat and nutrient density.

  • Randy

    I truly believe that one day the consensus will be that if you’re eating a carb restricted diet you don’t need to worry about too much saturated fat or too little fiber.

  • Jimmy, another great post !!

    One of the key things that I noticed in going low carb was the initial change in feeling of fullness. The high carb full really felt uncomfortable and “bloaty” .

    The low carb feeling of fullness was actually hard to get used to because it was so different and in the first few weeks, I thought that I was still hungry until I realized that it was just different.

    A low carb full is a feeling of having had enough to eat but without any discomfort and is not accompanied by a rush of exhaustion. Not to mention that one stays full and satisfied much longer.

    Of course this isn’t anything that you don’t already know :)

  • Sonya

    While I enjoy the satiety of the LC diet and it does so much to make it easier to stay on the healthy livin la vida low carb wagon, I can polish off a whole NY style cheesecake regardless of how hungry I am or not – no amount of fiber or appetite suppressing pill is going to stop that.

    Too many of us eat when we’re not hungry – healthy things or not – there has to be a whole body, mind, spirit approach to following a healthy diet, imo.

  • Sonya

    p.s. Thanks for the link to your interview with Dr. Brian Wansink! I’m still new to your blog and finding precious gems every day.

  • Bev

    It would be great to get more episodes on sample menus for low carb. Also, I can’t seem to sign in to the feedblitz and get the newsletters. Can you help me with that?
    When I eat steak for breakfast I have much more energy and a better day. I’m trying to get off the carb bandwagon. Thanks for all the great podcasts.

    I post every single menu I’ve eaten since December 2007 at my menus blog, Bev, but I’m not sure what you are referring to with the feedblitz and newsletter stuff. That’s not something I’m doing. THANK YOU for watching my videos, listening to my podcasts, and reading my blog.

    –Jimmy