People will do a lot to lose weight – restrict their food to only cabbage, pay to stand on a vibrating surface, and even give themselves a tapeworm. But we, the research team behind the SWIFT study, wanted to know if people would be willing to stab themselves to lose weight. Yes, STAB themselves. On their fingertips. Before every meal.


The idea was that people eat for a variety of reasons – because they are bored, happy, lonely, or just because there is food in front of them. Learning to eat mostly when you’re hungry rather than for other reasons is a key component of weight management. However, recognising hunger can be difficult for some people – sometimes people can’t remember the last time that they felt hungry!


We stumbled on this idea of “hunger training” from a paper published back in 2006, and were intrigued by this idea of gauging hunger from blood glucose testing, via a fingerprick sample (e.g. stabbing their finger). In hunger training, the idea is that you measure your blood glucose before every eating occasion, and can only eat if the result is under a certain “magic” number. We were sceptical, however, whether people would indeed stab themselves before every meal and wait until their blood glucose was under their magic number to eat.


Our results, published last week in Nutrition & Metabolism (the PDF is prettier to read), show that people will indeed hunger train (for 2 weeks in this case), but are more compliant when their magic glucose cut-off is individualised. And overweight people in our study lost on average 1.5 kg in only 2 weeks, which is a terrific weight loss results.


Whether the adherence to hunger training and resulting weight loss will continue long term is unknown based on this study. However, hunger training is one arm of the ongoing SWIFT study, so we will see if hunger training does in fact help people to lose and keep it off long term.


Photo by Kenny Louie, Flickr