San José State University
Thayer Watkins
Silicon Valley,
Tornado Alley
& the Gateway
to the Rockies

My Experience with
Coffee and Weight Control

Recently I was having a conversation with two friends about weight control. I told them about my experience.

Although I now weigh about 170 pounds and have no weight problem a long time ago I weighed 220 pounds. My family and I were at an outdoor function of the university where I taught. For some reason at one point I was running. I do not remember why but when I got back to the place where my family was sitting my wife said, "The people next door to us were asking why that fat man is running."

I was shocked. After have been under weight most of my earlier life I was appalled at being perceived as a fat man. I concluded it had to do with the amount of coffee I habitually drank. My wife liked to cook up pot meals like stews that were supposed to last all week. I was tending to eat portion after portion. Although I did not articulate it at that time the problem was that no amount eating would satisfy my hunger. It wasn't the calories in the coffee and it wasn't that coffee made me hungry. It was that having caffeine in my system interfered with the process of satisfying hunger pangs.

Caffeine has its effect by stimulating the production of adrenaline from the adrenal glands. It is somewhat the same effect as exercise. So coffee does have some beneficial effects.

People think of coffee as providing energy but it is more like it borrows energy from two hours ahead.

Furthermore when coffee is drunk habitually the body adjusts its metabolism so its energy level with coffee is about the same as what its energy level is normally without coffee. Thus while there is a positive effect of coffee on energy initially the body adjusts its baseline so that ultimately the effect of coffee is just to bring the energy level to a zero effect level.

The effect of caffeine interfering with the satisfaction of hunger pangs ls something different and for me led to overeating. When I gave up coffee my weight dropped from 220 to 200 in a few months without any effort. Later when I joined a fitness program it dropped over time to 170 pounds.

In the conversation with the two friends one friend asserted that drinking a cup of coffee did not make him hungry but instead postponed his development of hunger. I now realize that the problem is subtlety different. Coffee doesn't causet hunger but if hunger does develop due to factors unrelated to drinking coffee caffeine interferes with the alleviation of that hunger.

Incidentally chocolate contains a stimulant having a similar effect to that of caffeine. It is called theobromine, which means gift of the gods

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