“I don’t overeat, the problem is that I have a slow metabolism.”
There. I said it. One of the biggest myths that I have believed for years. All my life, I jumped from one extreme diet to another. Always hoping that the next fad diet will do the magic. Alas, none did. And eventually I, sort of, started believing the slow metabolism BS in my head. But things changed when I started listening to my body cues. Not only did it help me form a better relationship with food but also lose weight. This involved listening to my hunger and fullness cues. So, if you too are looking to understand more about your satiety and fullness cues to achieve long term weight loss, then read on…
What is Satiety (fullness) and why is it important?
Satiety is the feeling of fullness we experience after consuming food. This feeling can last a few hours, depending on what and how much food was consumed in the last meal. With all the temptation around us, it’s very important to be in touch with our fullness cues. This can be our defence to overeating or binge eating, which is one of the most common causes of weight gain. Thus, satiety plays a critical role in what and how we eat. If we are satiated after a meal, our hunger will be suppressed for longer and we will be able to control our appetite better. And if we aren’t, then the cravings won’t stop coming. While trying to lose weight, every calorie we ingest counts. May it be from lettuce or a brownie. Thus, managing hunger and satiety can be a very effective strategy to lose weight.
How does the body know I am full? Here’s the science behind Satiety
Many different physiological activities take place in our body when we consume food. And these give a sign to our brain that it’s full. The volume, the energy density and the macronutrient composition of the food are some of the key triggers. Let’s take the volume for example. An average adult stomach can hold from 2 to 4 litres of volume. Once we consume enough volume in our meals, the stretch / volume receptors in our stomach are activated. These send a signal to the brain saying it’s full and so we stop eating. There are many hormones (primarily Leptin) that have a similar function and convey the fullness message to the brain. This fullness message or feeling of satiety that we experience can stop us from overeating. I could go on rambling about the science of satiety, but really, this 4-minute video does a great job explaining it.
How will I know if I have eaten just enough? The signs of fullness.
As explained above, our body has its way of communicating. The problem is that we often fail to listen to these signs. And thanks to all the extreme fad diets, we’re probably out of touch with the satiety or fullness cues. But it’s not all doom and gloom as it’s possible to bring back the ability to listen to these cues.
For instance, try this simple experiment and you’ll know what I am saying:
Have 2 glasses of water when you are feeling hungry. The empty feeling in your stomach will fade away and will be replaced with slight pressure in the stomach. This pressure is the feeling of fullness. The next time you are having a meal, look out for this pressure. Once you feel it, take that cue and stop eating. Actively follow this for a few days and soon after you will know exactly when you are full.
What are the ways I can feel fuller? Here are some more actionable tips
While trying to lose weight, it can be helpful if there were ways to feel fuller for longer. Below are some ideas that can be helpful.
1. Eat mindfully
Eating mindfully means eating when you are hungry and stopping when you are full. Pay attention to the signs that your body is giving. I know it isn’t practical to sit in a corner and just focus on these signs. But what we can do is avoid mindless eating. This can happen while watching Netflix or scrolling on Instagram. Hunger fullness scale can be a useful tool that can come in handy when you are trying to eat mindfully.
2. Eat for 20 mins
The brain takes about 20 mins to recognise that the stomach is full. So, try to spread your meal across this time. If you have consumed a decent helping of food but are still hungry, it could mean that the Leptin hasn’t communicated with the brain yet. Try distracting yourself for a few minutes. If you continue to feel hungry even after this, go ahead with the second helping.
3. Drink a glass of water 10 mins before a meal
Drinking a glass of water 10 mins before a meal could help initiate the 20 min process sooner. Allowing your brain to acknowledge the fullness faster.
4. Have a cup of coffee to avoid the temptation
Have a sweet craving after a meal? I know I do. Just about every day! You can fight this craving by fixing yourself a cup of unsweetened tea or coffee.
5. Serve your plate once
Serve the exact amount of food you intend to eat for a meal instead of taking numerous small helpings. This helps you track how much you are eating. And overeating can be avoided.
If you are eating out, be careful of the portions. Most restaurants tend to have very big serving sizes, and this can make you gain weight faster than you know.
6. Eat low energy dense food
The number of calories present per gram of food defines its energy density. In general, low energy dense food is high in water and fibre, whereas high energy dense food is high in fat content. It’s easy for two people to have the same amount of food but a completely different number of calories. This is why we have to be judicious about our food choices.
Let me example this with an example:
Do you think you can eat 5 apples at once? Chances are, you might say no. Now, think if you can finish a bag of M&M at once? The answer is probably yes. Here’s the kicker. Both the food items mentioned above have approximately the same number of calories. But the volume is different. And that’s why eating 2 or 3 apples might make you full, but the entire bag of M&M will only make you feel guilty (not full!).
So, include low energy dense food in your diet. These can include boiled potato, oatmeal, fruits and vegetables, etc. You can choose just about anything that you know has a high-water and fibre content.
7. Eat more Fibre
As discussed earlier, our stomach has volume sensors. And eating more fibre helps expand the stomach, making it feel full. Fibre also helps in the digestion process. So, try to choose food with higher fibre content. Example of fibre rich food: all fruits, vegetables (try to keep the skin on as much as possible), whole grains, oatmeal, beans etc One thing I have been following quite religiously is to not juice my fruits. Juicing takes away all the fibre content and makes it far more calorie dense.
8. Eat more protein
The satiety feeling from protein rich food lasts much longer than the ones rich in carbohydrates and fats. This is because proteins take more time to digest, keeping you full for longer. So, ensure that you include protein in some form or another in your meals. Examples of protein rich food: beans, lentils, milk, cheese, soya, tofu, vegetables like broccoli and spinach etc.
9. Drink water
I have said this a few times before, and I will say it again. Water needs far more credit than we give it. There are times when we confuse hunger with thirst. So, make sure that you hydrate well.
10. Get enough sleep
With the busy lives we lead, sleep is often put on the back burner. This is a very big mistake. Not only is the lack of sleep bad for the internal functioning and recovery of our body, but also tends to make us eat more calories than we need during the day. So make sure you get enough sleep.
11. Avoid alcohol
How much ever we love alcohol, it isn’t the best thing to have while trying to lose weight. Other than being very high on calories, it also makes you hungry. And sometimes it even makes you forget about your fitness goals. So, while you are trying to lose weight, try and limit the alcohol as much as possible.
Understanding your satiety cues is important if you want to avoid overeating. And if you’re reading this article, you probably know how detrimental overeating is for your weight loss goals. But understanding satiety is one side of the coin, the other side is listening to your hunger cues.