5 Reasons to Ditch Appetite Suppressants
I’ll cut right to the chase – I have a limited list of supplements that I use with my clients. Fish oil, whey protein, and maltodextrin are a few. I’ll also recommend a vitamin or mineral in spite of a nutritional deficiency. However, to counter that list, I also have a big “no-no” list of pills that I strongly discourage my clients from using. These are the pills that you usually see piled in the magazines that crowd the grocery checkout; and probably my biggest gripe is against appetite suppressant pills.
Back in the 90’s these pills hit mainstream media and the public went crazy. The typical advertisement featured someone popping a pill to crush their appetite, avoiding a big juicy cheeseburger, and stepping into a whirlpool in a skimpy swimsuit. Cash registers around the country lit up as people starting spending money like it was Christmas.
The concept of an appetite suppressant is slightly dated, but I still get asked about them once in a while. So here are my five reasons to avoid appetite suppressants:
- Learn proper food selection: Eating good is not about starving yourself but giving the body what it needs to perform well. Some foods are better than this than others. High glycemic foods like white bread and boxed cereals can affect your focus, mental clarity, and even hunger levels. A research study had subjects select high glycemic foods and found that those foods increased hunger and even increased activity in the brain associated with rewards (hint: sweets and junk food) (1). Appetite suppressants mask what’s really going on in the body and what you eat can have really good, or very bad, outcomes.
- Understand psychological hunger: There are two types of hunger: psychological and physical. Physical is quite simple: you last ate six hours ago and your stomach is louder than rush hour traffic with all of its grumbling. Psychological hunger Is unique in that it occurs when you’re bored, stressed, or emotional. Distinguish between the two and you can ditch the pills.
- Base your meals on protein: In point #1 we talked about the blood sugar response to eating. Each meal should be based around a solid source of protein – a lean meat, eggs, or a combined source of carbs if your lifestyle choice is vegetarian. Protein is your number one weapon against hunger and blood sugar issues. When researchers compared a protein meal to a carbohydrate meal, protein did a 50% better job of cleaning up blood sugar than the carbohydrate meal by itself(2). Once again, if you can manage blood sugar, you can also help control your appetite.
- You’re supposed to have an appetite: Appetite isn’t necessarily a bad thing. If you crash in front of the TV for hours a day, you’ll probably end up bored and making some bad decisions of what you put in your body. But being active means that you need to nourish your body. My athletes may eat 4,000 calories and above (and this number includes female athletes) per day because of the demands on their physiques. You may not have to eat as much, but if you regularly workout, work a full time job, have an active hobby, and take care of a family, you need to eat plenty of good food.
- Take responsibility: Charles Poliquin once said that “no one gets mugged by a box of doughnuts.” While he’s trying to be funny, I can tell you that nearly all of my clients are amazed at the changes they make as the months go on. One of those changes is about their lifestyle: as they learn to eat more whole food they also find to have less and less cravings as they continue to improve. Take responsibility for what you put in your body, learn how to manage your stress so you make good food selections, and know when to go out and treat yourself to a not so perfect meal.
Think you still need those appetite suppressants after all?
1. Lennerz, B.S., Alsop, D.C., Holsen, L.M., Stern, E., Rojas, R., Ebbeling, C.B., Goldstein, J.M., Ludwig, D.S. “Effects of Dietary Glycemic Index on Brain Regions to Reward Craving in Men.”(2013) American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
2. Moghaddam, E., Vogt, J.A., Wolever, T.M. “The Effect of Fat and Protein on Glycemic Responses in Nondiabetic Humans Vary with Waist Circumference, Fasting Plasma Insulin, and Dietary Fiber.” (2006) Journal of Nutrition. 136.10: 2506 -2511