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Healthy Living > Medication Causing Increased Appetite
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By Nora Saul, MS, RD, LDN, CDE

Manager, Nutrition Services
Joslin Diabetes Center
Boston, MA

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Q: Weight gain is one of the side effects of the medication I take for a chronic condition. The extra 15 pounds I've packed on has really affected my life. I want to lose weight but have trouble controlling my appetite. What can I do to limit this constant desire for food that accompanies use of the medication?

Constant hunger can make it very difficult to limit your food intake. There are basically two lifestyle approaches to this problem, which work best if used together. For both approaches you must follow a sensible plan for weight loss and not starve yourself by either skipping meals or by reducing your calories so you are unable to meet your body's basic needs.

With this in mind, when hunger hits you, the first approach is to wait it out. Hunger generally comes in cycles. If you can focus your mind on another activity for 15 or 20 minutes when hunger strikes initially, the craving will pass. In other words, you need an activity, such as going for a walk or talking to a friend on the phone, to provide a distraction and take your mind off food. You might also ask yourself if you're truly hungry, or if you're eating for other reasons, such as stress, anxiety or boredom, for example.

The second approach is to eat foods that are nutrient dense without being high in calories. Foods high in fiber, especially fresh vegetables, fit into this category. Recent research also shows that meals that contain some protein and a small amount of healthful fat can reduce hunger. Both protein and fat take longer to digest than carbohydrates. Adding lean protein (fish, skinless poultry, loin cuts of red meat and vegetarian sources of protein such as soy and dried beans) and small quantities of healthful fats, such as nuts, to your meals can help you stay full longer. In addition, some studies show that drinking hot beverages, such as a cup of tea or a cup of vegetable broth, can fill you up and take the edge off your hunger.

There are also some prescription medications that reduce appetite. Ask your health care provider if these are options for you. Finally, don't forget about regular physical activity. Physical activity can help you burn calories, curb your appetite and improve your overall health.