Think, Eat, Be Healthy

“The Appetite Solution” – A Review

The Appetite Solution

“The Appetite Solution” by Joe Colella, M.D. presents a permanent solution to reaching and maintaining a healthy weight based on this medical doctor and diet researcher’s decades of success helping patients lose excess weight and keep it off.

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.

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5 thoughts on ““The Appetite Solution” – A Review

  1. Kathy Yucevicius

    I have spent so much money on diet books and have been disappointed, does this really work? Do you know anyone who got real results?

    1. John Rivard Post author

      What I do know is that people eating whole food diets are healthier and live longer than people eating large amounts of refined “foods”. The whole food diet is naturally high in fiber and low in simple carbohydrates(free sugars and starches). Whether fat is deposited into body cells or burned as fuel depends almost entirely on the amount of insulin in the bloodstream and the amount of systemic inflammation. More free sugars and starches in the diet promote higher peak insulin levels, higher average insulin levels and higher levels of cortisol(which makes us try to retain the fat we have). Increasing the percentage of protein makes it easier for the body to switch to fat burning instead of using carbs for fuel.

      This “Appetite Solution” is very similar to Atkins, with less severe restriction of complex carbohydrates(because they don’t spike insulin levels). I have never met anyone that tried the Atkins diet that did not lose a lot of weight and keep on losing it. I am sure this diet will do the same thing in as healthier way. The protein and fiber promote feeling “full” after eating; the lack of simple carbs lets you go much longer before feeling hungry again. When you do feel hungry it is not a sudden and overpowering rush of “gotta eat something right now!”

      Please “Google” the Mediterranean, DASH, Okinowan and Atkins diets. These are all basically whole food diets. They have almost no sugar or simple starch. It does not matter so much the exact foods eaten, what matters is the “type” of food eaten. Fruit is good even though it contains a lot of sugar because the fiber and antioxidants slow down absorption and mitigate the insulin response. Fats are alright in moderation because many bodily functions require fats and many vitamins and minerals are fat-soluble and cannot be absorbed by the body without fat. The important things to stay away from are added sugars and artificial sweeteners and simple starches like white bread and other baked goods. Very few people can maintain excess weight when eating a whole food diet of any kind.

  2. Michael Dahl


    First, I was especially impressed with this snippet in your blog post: “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.”

    Did you write that? Or is it an excerpt from the book? In any case it’s a perfect description for why nearly all diets don’t work.

    On another note, what frustrates me about most diet advice is that they require people to think unnaturally about food. I feel like the Atkins Diet — at least how it starts (immediate results and buy this special candy bar and breakfast drink to help you out) — fails on this count. As a vegetarian trying to lose weight, the Atkins advice was completely unsustainable.

    Luckily, I found other natural ways to lose weight over a seven year period — 50 pounds off and counting. It’s been mainly through whole foods and regular exercise (for the first 5 years). And then when I plateaued at 25 pounds off but still over weight, I combined with a less stringent version of intermittent fasting. (I’ve never read any of the books or advice on intermittent fasting; I just eat less on two spaced-out days each week. That’s been my sustainable model for the last year and a half.)

    Curious what you think of intermittent fasting if it follows a whole foods approach.

    I now look and feel good; and soon I will be trim. I’m scheduled to do the intermittent fast one day a week as a maintenance practice very soon.


    1. John Rivard Post author

      Michael, I am absolutely in agreement with your approach to losing excess weight and maintaining a healthy weight. The high fiber, antioxidants, natural vitamins and minerals and protein of a whole food diet gives the body everything it needs to stay as healthy as possible while softening feelings of hunger to normal and manageable levels. Eliminating highly processed foods, especially the added sugars and simple starches prevalent in the “normal” diet also lowers and stabilizes blood glucose/insulin levels which in turn stops fat deposition. It is a slower process than many “starvation” diets but is much easier to stick with. Body weight and health are a lifestyle more than a diet.

      The line you quote is my paraphrase of what appears, in various forms, in many newer weight-loss books based on whole food diets. The key is to look at episodes of “falling off the wagon” as learning experiences rather than failures. Will power is in limited supply and has nothing to do with good intentions. We just need to get right back on the path we have chosen and continue on the journey towards our goal rather than wallowing in failure.

      I am not a fan of the Atkins diet but know that it works for weight loss. It works for the same reasons any other whole food diet works: adequate protein to prevent muscle loss and few simple carbohydrates to drive the body to use fat for fuel instead of carbs for fuel. This in entirely feasible on a vegetarian/vegan diet as most vegetables have a lot more protein than most people realize and we don’t really need that much.

      I have nothing against a fairly high amount of fats in the diet. Fats are absolutely essential for proper nutrition. but they have to be the right kinds of fats. Saturated fats from meat and dairy raised on a natural diet(grass-fed and pasture-raised) have healthy omega-3/omega-6 ratios and much higher levels of vitamins than saturated fats from the same sources raised on a diet of mostly GMO grains.

      I don’t like most vegetable oils(polyunsaturated) because most of them are mostly omega-6 fatty acids which we already get way too much of. In particular, I think corn, soy and canola oils have no place in a healthy diet. These three oils are made from mostly GMO seeds. Polyunsaturated oils in general are prone to produce trans-fats when heated to normal cooking temperatures.

      Extra virgin olive oil, grass-fed butter and extra virgin coconut oil, preferably organic, are my staples for cooking. I also like walnut oil, avocado oil and grapeseed oil for cold dressings. I can occasionally get pasture-raised pork belly, bacon and salt pork and use those as cooking fats. I will also save the rendered fat from roasted or poached pasture-raised chicken for cooking/flavoring purposes.

      Exercise of some sort, on a regular schedule, is just as important for health as diet. I walk 1/2-1 mile almost every morning carrying 10-15 pounds of camera gear. I swim 1/2-1 mile 3-5 times every week. I try to do a body-weight routine of deep squats, burpees, push-ups, pull-ups and assorted planks 3-5 times per week. This exercise time also doubles as my outside/sunshine on the skin/nature exposure time. And I think daily meditation, even 10-15 minutes, keeps me sane and above the clamor/mental noisiness of modern life.

      My opinion: you are doing everything as well as can be and in a sustainable way. Once these things become habits it all gets much easier. Stay with it. I admire you for finding this path on your own and realizing that you really needed a long-term solution to the problem, not a short-term loss of weight.