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Keeping Appetite in Control While Losing Weight

Trying to lose weight and stay fit seems daunting at times. The proof of our universal difficulties is evident when you consider that most of us -two-thirds of the U.S. population - tip the scales with numbers higher than medical authorities say is healthful.

The origin of the frustrations we're facing today can be traced back 100,000 or more years. By then, our genetic code had been established during millions of years of evolution, and it hasn't changed much since. We evolved in an environment where food was scarce; and we faced regular famines. To overcome these obstacles, we developed a strong appetite for food which enabled us to survive. If you didn't have a strong appetite, you didn't survive through the regular famines. And we, my friends, are descended from the survivors! We have very strong appetites and love our food! Think about it: a loss of appetite is usually a sign of sickness, or even dying.

But in the relative affluence of modern life, our appetites may now cause us grief - and girth. So how do we lose weight, that is - take in fewer calories than we burn - and not feel hungry? A recent study looked at this question. It pitted increased exercise against a 25% calorie restriction to see which one would made us feel hungrier (that means calorie intake was 25% lower than the level of calories that would maintain weight).

Compared with exercise alone, a 25% calorie restriction "created a greater challenge to appetite," according to the study recently published in the Amerian Journal of Clinical Nutrition. It increased the hunger hormone, ghrelin, which upped appetite, made food more attractive, caused more snacking, and less successful weight loss.

But this study had a major downfall - the severe calorie restriction - 25% - in the calorie restricted group. I don't recommend a 25% calorie reduction as it's much too low to be sustainable. In fact, I've found if meals are balanced correctly with the right kinds of foods, including foods you enjoy, if the timing of meals is right, and there's at least a minimal amount of physical activity, you can lose weight while feeling satisfied. But, I also agree with the study: if there is no physical activity at all, then a stricter calorie reduction would probably be necessary - making your program impossible to have lasting results.

Interestingly, most diet studies which conclude that diets don't work, use very restrictive regimens (as this one did), that are almost guaranteed to fail. Just something to think about the next time you read another doomsday report about how weight loss doesn't last! As there is plenty of proof that many people lose weight and keep it off successfully.