About the book
“The Appetite Solution”, written by Joe Colella, M.D., was published by HarperCollins in 2015. Subtitled “Lose Weight Effortlessly and Never Be Hungry Again”, this book is Doctor Colella’s solution to the growing problem of over-weight that is overwhelming our healthcare system. Joe Colella has decades of experience successfully helping patients lose excess weight and keep it off. Colella is also a surgeon specializing in bariatric and robotic surgery.
Doctor Colella starts the book by reviewing the many problems with almost all weight loss programs. Nearly every weight loss program is based on a special diet and nearly every one of those diets restricts the number of calories eaten(amount of food), leaving the person feeling hungry. Nobody has enough will power to fight hunger for weeks on end when they are surrounded by food. Nobody can stick to an exercise program when they are distracted by constant hunger pains. Nobody want to keep going after the first four to six weeks when the initial weight loss grinds to a halt and progress stops.
This is why most weight loss diets lead to the yo-yo effect. People start a diet. They lose weight for two or three weeks. They stop losing weight, and even eating less and exercising more doesn’t work. They give up on the diet and all of the weight back plus some. They get discouraged and start another different diet. The cycle is repeated again with more weight gain.
“The Appetite Soluiton”
Colella’s first step towards a solution is to increase the amount of protein in the diet. He claims his research shows that extra protein triggers the brain’s fullness response and mellows hunger. He further claims that the extra protein protects muscle mass later in the program when calories are reduced and exercise is added.
The second step is to greatly reduce sugar and other simple carbohydrates from the diet. This step is key because sugar and simple carbs trigger big spikes in blood glucose levels which in turn trigger big spikes in blood insulin levels. The large amounts of insulin then scavenge all the glucose from the blood(sugar crash), creating savage hunger pains and cravings for more simple carbs. This cycle is especially insidious because the large amounts of insulin also lead to large amounts of fat being deposited in the body and in and near the liver. The constant sugar-insulin roller coaster eventually leads to diabetes and other serious problems as well as excess weight. Getting rid of the simple carbs allows blood glucose and insulin levels to even out at reduced amounts, stopping the carb cravings and further mellowing hunger.
The third step of “The Appetite Solution” is adding some exercise and reducing total calories. Once insulin levels are reduced and more even throughout the day, hunger pains fade away and fat stops being deposited. The metabolism resets and starts fueling the body with fats instead of carbohydrates. This is the point where weight loss really begins. As long as simple carbs are kept at very low levels, complex carbs don’t dominate the diet and protein intake stays high enough, weight loss will continue if physical activity is kept high and total calories stay reduced. And there is no overpowering hunger or craving.
Colella includes a complete and detailed diet plan with specific meals for each stage of “The Appetite Solution.” He includes recipes and other available resources for support. There is a basic measurement guide for food portion amounts.
Why this diet and exercise plan works
I am not surprised that the diet recommended by Joe Colella in “The Appetite Solution” works for everyone to get rid of excess weight and to maintain normal weight for the long term. This is basically a healthy whole food diet like I often talk about here. Doctor Calella likes a little extra protein and a little less complex carbohydrates. “The Appetite Solution” works for exactly the same reason the Atkins diet works for weight loss. The key is to get simple carbs, sugars and starches, out of the diet to stabilize blood glucose and lower insulin levels and fluctuations. Enough protein is eaten to maintain muscle mass. And there is plenty of fiber, which also stabilizes insulin levels and activates the “fullness” response.
This type of diet is just an all-around healthier way to eat whether you want to lose weight or not. The lack of simple carbs promotes low, stable insulin levels. The low insulin levels mean that excess calories are much more likely to be burned as “body fuel” or be passed out of the body as waste than they are to be deposited as body fat. Keeping simple carbs and insulin low has the added benefit of switching the metabolism into fat-burning mode instead of using carbs for fuel. Maintaining muscle mass by eating enough protein increases the base metabolic rate to burn even more calories every day. This is much better than eating plenty of sugar and starch, having high average insulin levels, depositing excess calories as fat and suffering from debilitating hunger every time blood glucose levels crash.
What this book gets wrong
I have one serious complaint about “The Appetite Solution”: Doctor Colella’s seemingly cavalier attitude towards sugar-alcohols such as aspartame. I understand that he wants losing weight to be as painless as possible for his patients. I understand that modern diet has become very sweet and that is what people now think of as normal. But allowing unlimited amounts of “zero calorie” sweetened drinks and sodas is, in my opinion, just wrong.
There is ample evidence that diet soda, with zero calories and sweetened with sugar-alcohols, promotes weight gain through several metabolic mechanisms. Diet soda and other drinks sweetened with sugar-alcohols also increase the rates of diabetes. There are many other health problems linked to drinking diet soda and other sweet no-calorie drinks including kidney problems and heart disease. And these issues are not even considering the known side effects of eating this class of sweeteners.
Sugar alcohols have been around for quite a while and have been plagued by rumors and reports of nasty side effects the entire time. They are artificial molecules made in a lab and never found in nature, but they can be called “natural” because they are derived from plants, often birch bark or corn. The most common side effects reported are severe headache, nausea, diarrhea, bloating and abdominal cramps. At least one of these artificial sweeteners was pulled from the market by the FDA, then mysteriously allowed to be sold again a few years later with no real explanation. The body cannot digest these sugar-alcohols, but they do feed some of the less desirable bacteria in our digestive tracts leading to excess gas and rot in the intestines.
There are no replacements for sugars and simple carbohydrates in the diet except complex carbs. Or simple carbs that are part of a high-fiber whole food like fruit. Joe Colella’s goal of making sugar elimination painless is admirable but replacing the sugar with sugar-alcohols so patients don’t miss their daily dose of sweet does those patients a disservice. They might lose weight and become healthier than when they started, but artificial sweeteners have too many associated health problems of their own to be part of any long-term diet.