What makes weight loss so hard? One word: hunger.
As the first few pounds start to melt away, you’ll come face to face with a growling contender that threatens to throw you out of the weight-loss ring. Hunger is your body fighting hard to keep you at a weight it’s used to. Slashing portions, choosing healthier foods, and increasing exercise can kick cravings into overdrive.
So, how do you stay satisfied on fewer calories so you can keep losing weight? Let’s see if we can use “volumetrics” to manage hunger.
What Is “Volumetrics” and Can It Help You Lose Weight?
Eating more while still losing weight may sound like a desirable superpower, especially if you’ve struggled with weight loss most of your life. Nutrition scientist and author, Dr. Barbara Rolls, promises just that in three of her bestselling books, which all promote the “volumetrics” eating plan. At first glance, it may sound like a new-fangled technique, but it’s quite simple. The eating plan helps you feel satisfied on fewer calories by encouraging foods with low calorie density.
Foods with low calorie density have less calories for any given volume, so less calories per bite. Would you rather eat three apples or one slice of apple pie? Better question: Given that each scenario is roughly 300 calories, which one would make you feel fuller? In this case, go with the apples! Low calorie density foods such as apples are higher in fiber and water, so you’re able to eat more in volume for a similar amount of calories (compared to a lower calorie density food).
Volumetrics is a fancy way to convince you that you should eat more fruits, veggies, and whole grains (as if you needed another reason!).
On the flipside, the volumetrics eating plan encourages cutting back on foods with a high caloric density. Naturally, these foods are high in fat, sugar, or both. They include refined carbohydrates (bread, candies, cookies), cheese, higher-fat meats (salami, bacon), nuts, full-fat dairy, and oils (but don’t out fat entirely; see #7 below).
The Beachbody Portion Fix Eating Plan helps you prioritize consumption of foods with low calorie density, as the sum of the number of green (vegetables) and purple (fruits) containers each calorie range gets per day is higher than any other type of recommended food. Everyone gets fewer amounts of higher-calorie foods, such as carbohydrates, seeds, and healthy fats.
Does Science Support Volumetrics?
The short answer is “yes,” there are studies that confirm when people eat foods low in energy density, their total daily calories are significantly less than when they eat foods high in energy density. As mentioned before, foods low in energy density are high in fiber and water. There’s evidence to say that fiber helps you feel fuller faster, and keeps you satiated long after you eat.
With water, the jury is still out. A small study did find that water incorporated into food (as in the case of soup) did help subjects eat less, but not if that same amount of water was served in a glass on the side. Strange, but not surprising since hunger and satiety are complex states influenced by more than just physiology. If your hunger circuits have ever been tripped at the sight of a mouthwatering donut even though you’re full, you know what I’m talking about!
Overall, volumetrics is built on sound science to help you deal with physiological hunger during weight loss. And, you don’t have to understand rocket science to apply it.
8 Tricks to Eat to Feel Satisfied on Fewer Calories
Volumetrics is one strategy to help you visualize healthy eating. In the tricks below, we married volumetrics with more satiety science to help you manage hunger successfully and keep those pounds off.
1. Order low-calorie appetizers.
Before the hearty main dish arrives, start filling up on an appetizer that’s low in calories, such as a side salad (choose a light vinaigrette and use sparingly) or lettuce cups. This will help you curb hunger, so that you can enjoy the main dish at a slower, more mindful pace. Eating slowly and taking more bites gives your body time to process the food so you’re able to eat less but enjoy the meal more.
2. Sneak vegetables into meals.
You know the drill: Add broccoli to your mac and cheese, slip greens in wraps, and bake zucchini into fries. A sneakier way to do this: Puree vegetables and add them to soups, casseroles, and meat dishes. Add pureed squash to pasta sauce, bulk up meatloaf with shredded zucchini, use pureed carrots to thicken chili. The possibilities are endless!
3. Prioritize fruit consumption in this order: whole fruit, smoothies, juice.
Whole fruit is the best pick to capitalize on volumetrics. Not only is the fiber intact, but you’re also getting plenty of calorie-free water when you feast on the fresh stuff. To enjoy fruit in beverage form, smoothies trump juices because they preserve valuable fiber.
5. Start your morning with a high-fiber breakfast.
Swap out sugary breakfast cereals for whole-grain versions that contain more fiber. Flip to the back of the box and look for a cereal that contains more than 5 grams of fiber and less than 5 grams of sugar per serving. Not a cereal fan? Enjoy whole grains such as oats and amaranth, or sneak in whole-wheat toast or English muffins.
6. Practice low-fat cooking techniques.
The volumetrics eating plan encourages you to eat less fat since it’s high in caloric density. After all, there are 9 calories in 1 gram of fat, compared to 4 calories in 1 gram of carbohydrate or protein. Low-fat cooking techniques such as grilling, roasting, baking, poaching, sauteing, and steaming helps you slash fat from cooking.
7. Enjoy healthy fats here and there.
Fat is satiating in its own right even if it doesn’t help with the volumetrics of food. Fat can make a food more appetizing, but the key is not to overeat them. Instead, indulge moderately in healthy fats from avocado, salmon, nuts, seeds, and plant-based oils.
8. Eat lean protein at each meal.
Lean protein from either animal or plant-based sources can help you get closer to your weight-loss goals. Protein is a triple-threat macronutrient for weight watchers: 1) It’s may increase satiety more than carbs or fat. 2) You use up more energy to process protein than carbs or fat. 3) Protein helps you maintain lean muscle mass, which can be a metabolic boon. Bonus points for cooking up lean protein with a low-fat cooking technique!
Can volumetrics help you feel more satisfied while eating fewer calories overall — and thereby help you lose weight? Yes. Stick to foods with low calorie density, such as vegetables, fruits, lean protein, and whole grains in the right portions. Beachbody’s Portion Fix Eating Plan can help you visualize what the ideal-for-weight-loss portions of whole grains, as well as protein, fats, and other foods, should be, and recommends how many portions of these you should eat each day.