Cravings for Junk Food Lessen with Discipline and Time

17 Feb

Did you know that cravings for foods like pizza, French fries, doughnuts, and ice cream are the most oft-cited reasons in controlled studies for people not sticking to a weight-management program? In fact, some people may not even attempt losing weight because they think they won’t be able to kick the “junk food” habit.

No one likes to set themselves up for failure. But is there hope of getting over the sweet tooth or a preference for fatty foods by sticking to a strict regimen? New research published in this month’s issue of Obesity suggests that, yes, there is, which could also explain why people who stay on an Isagenix program long-term see their cravings lessen over time.

The randomized trial, led by a collaborative effort from researchers at Temple University, Pennington Biomedical Research Center, University of Colorado and Washington University, studied the effects of following either a low-carb or low-fat diet. At the end of the two-and-a-half-year trial, the researchers found that both groups of dieters had decreased cravings and preferences for the foods their diet restricted.

The study participants, 270 obese adult men and women, attended regular group sessions where they were coached on how to stick with their diets. They filled out questionnaires rating how often they had food cravings, for what types of foods, what foods they naturally preferred to eat, and the size of their appetite. The low-carb group had significantly reduced cravings for carbs and starches, as well as a lesser amount of times that sweets or fast foods were craved. Also, their preference for high-carb and high-sugar foods decreased. Likewise, the low-fat group experienced reduced cravings for the high-fat and low-carbs foods that were restricted in their diet.

Since the low-fat group consumed fewer calories overall than the low-carb group, it’s not surprising that the low-carb group reported being less bothered by hunger. Or, it could also have something to do with the higher amount of protein the low-carb group was eating since protein is known to keep people feeling fuller longer—we know that high-protein IsaLean Shakes work on the same principle.

The authors conclude, “Promoting the restriction of certain types of foods while dieting results in decreased cravings and preferences for the foods that are targeted for restriction.”

This study showed that men had a bigger decrease in high-fat food cravings, in addition to larger decreases in overall hunger, times of being bothered by hunger, the desire to eat in response to the sight or smell of food, and thoughts about food. Interestingly, there was a gender difference when it came to food cravings and preferences. The authors note that this has been pointed out before: obese men tend to prefer foods such as pizza and French fries more, while obese women favor foods such as cake and doughnuts.

Something else to think about, although not noted in the study results, is that part of the study design and potential reason for participants’ success is that they attended regular group sessions where they discussed their progress and continued adherence to the diets. This may point to the benefit of being involved in a group where diet and health are discussed. People might hold themselves more accountable when it comes to their diet, while the support of the group may help people stay on track to reach weight-loss goals.

So, how to best stick to a program, consistently lose pounds and eventually get to that desired target weight? Stay disciplined—eventually your stomach may learn to no longer crave for those diet-busting, high-calorie foods that are rich in fat or carbohydrates. And a little help from a network of friends (like those on Facebook) to keep you on track can go a long way.

Reference: Martin CK, Rosenbaum D, Han H et al. Change in food cravings, food preferences, and appetite during a low-carbohydrate and low-fat diet. Obesity (Silver Spring) 2011;19:1963-70. doi:10.1038/oby.2011.62

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