Lesson 1, Topic 1
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Lesson & Week 4 Goal

Week 4: Strategies for Fullness and Avoiding Unnecessary Calories

Goal: Replace your caloric drinks with water

If you are looking to be your healthiest self, lose some weight, or reduce binge eating episodes, it is important to know about appetite control. Your appetite can work for, or against you, depending on your eating habits.

Knowing strategies to help keep your appetite in check can be a great tool for winning a weight loss battle, or improving your diet by reducing less desirable food choices. We will discuss a few hot topics such as calorie counting, fullness cues, and ways to “hack” your body’s satiety so you aren’t overconsuming food.

First and foremost, healthy does not mean “low calorie.” In fact, solely counting calories is a weight-loss strategy that is not only inaccurate, painstakingly time-consuming but also, unhelpful for teaching correct habits. 

Calories are important when talking about energy deficit and making sure you are burning more of them than you are ingesting. They are not, however, an effective way to regulate appetite. Just because your meal happened to be 400 calories doesn’t mean your body will recognize it like a good meal and turn off your hunger signals. A recent (October 2016) literature review proves this fact; your body doesn’t recognize calories as a way to feel full (1).

For instance, if you chose a 400 calorie cookie, your body doesn’t know that this is the same amount of calories you could have had from 2 cups of steamed veggies, a cup of black beans, salsa, and a whole wheat tortilla. Which meal do you think is going to keep you full for longer? First, you must learn how your body recognizes fullness.

There are many cues your body uses to signal to the brain that you are full and should stop eating. Since there are multiple pathways to feeling full and satisfied, the more you understand them, the more you can use in conjunction with each other.

Nutrient Completeness Cue: Your body has certain receptors that are triggered by certain nutrients. For instance, there is a receptor that is activated by the presence of fat in your meal. It sends a signal to your brain telling you that you’ve had fat, therefore the chances of you having a nutritionally complete meal are high. Your brain interoperates this cue and tells you that you’ve had a nutritionally adequate meal and so you should feel full.

Your body wasn’t meant to run on one food alone and instead needs a good balance of protein, fats, carbs, vitamins, minerals, and water to function properly. Hack: Eat well-balanced meals that include many food groups.

Avoid meals that are too heavy in one nutrient such as pasta with a sweet tomato sauce or toast with jam. This is just carbohydrate and carbohydrate, you’ll feel more satisfied with pasta and rich pine nut pesto or whole wheat toast with nut butter instead.

Stretch cue: The most commonly known fullness cue is found in the stomach. There are stretch receptors that sense when the tissues of the stomach are being stretched from being full of food. If you are constantly snacking on high-calorie foods (think processed foods like chips, ice cream, brownies) your stomach isn’t ever stretching to help your brain know that your meal was adequate.

Instead, you can snack all day and never feel satiated even though you ate thousands of calories. Hack: Eat fiber and drink water with your meals to bulk up your volume without bulking up in calories. Whole foods in their most unprocessed form have a high water and fiber content naturally. 

Think vegetables and fruits, whole grains, beans, big bulky salads, these foods all take up space in the stomach (big volume) without being very high in calories! The other thing that these whole foods have in common, is that your mouth must do a lot more work to break them down, which leads us to the next cue.

Chewing cue: Your body actually knows it must chew for a certain amount of time in order to count the meal as sufficient. The longer you chew, the more full you feel. This is why whole grains, fibrous vegetables, tubers, and legumes, all help you feel satisfied after eating. This is also why processed foods (where much of the work of chewing is done for us) can be bad for our appetite.

Many junk foods don’t require much chewing at all, think of milkshakes, macaroni and cheese, or pudding versus chowing down on a huge bowl of greens, quinoa, and edamame. Hack: Include more foods that require a lot of chewing at your meals. Don’t eat peanut butter or hummus without some crunchy veggie sticks, or chewy whole grains like brown rice or wheat berries. Each time you sit down to eat, make sure you chew your food thoroughly. Hurriedly “scarfing down” a meal is also bad for your appetite, which leads us to the next cue of timing.

Time cue: If you remember nothing else this week, remember 20 minutes. That is the amount of time it takes most of these cues to actually get their message to the brain. The process is quite slow, you may be full at noon, but the message doesn’t quite make sense to your brain until 12:20. This lag leaves a window open for overeating if you aren’t aware of it.

Hack: Slow down and enjoy your meals. Taste each bite, put your fork down and pause regularly if you have a hard time slowing down. If you have finished a meal but still don’t feel full and satisfied, drink some water and wait 20 minutes. If you are still hungry, eat another high volume food such as veggie sticks or a piece of fruit and see if that helps. More often than not, the 20 minutes will pass and you will forget all about eating because your fullness cues have kicked in.

Visual cue: This is one of the trickiest things our minds do to us, but luckily once you are aware of it, your vision can work for you not against you. Our eyes play a big role in what we think a filling portion of food should be. They trick us into thinking we didn’t eat enough.

if we see too much empty space on our plates or in our cups. If you put the same amount of food that was on a large plate onto a smaller one, the food looks much bigger. Want to know more about this? Check out the smallplatemovement.org where they have studies about everything from larger popcorn buckets to larger spoons. Hack: Use smaller dinner plates, cups, and bowls and fill them up!  Your brain will see a more satisfying meal and you are likely to feel full much easier.

These are just a handful of ways your body feels full, but they are all helpful in helping you regulate your own appetite and listen to your body’s cues. When you are eating mindfully and listening to your body you are much more likely to keep to your goals, reduce binging, and feel satisfied with your healthy changes. Before we talk about filling recipes, we need to say a word about beverages: This week our goal is to avoid beverages other than water.

Liquids other than water are calorie dense and they don’t help your appetite. Your morning coffee, your glass of milk at lunchtime, or your glass of wine at dinner…they are all calories. In order to help you see that you don’t need extra calories in your day from these sources, try going a week just drinking water.

Afterward, you can decide which beverages are worth it for you to be drinking and which you really didn’t miss. Beverages work against appetite cues because of they rarely nutritionally complete, don’t need to be chewed, don’t stretch the stomach by themselves, they empty in and out of your body before the 20-minute cue AND since they are liquid, it’s very easy to underestimate serving size. Water is the best choice because it is hydrating and calorie free, here are some reasons why other beverages might want to be avoided.

Milk: It only makes sense that the thing that fattens babies should be something we use sparingly as adults. Milk is high in calories, but also sugar, a sugar that most adults don’t tolerate well. The lactose (milk sugar) found in dairy products requires an enzyme to be broken down by our bodies.

Whether you realize it or not, your body slowly makes less of this enzyme once you are weaned from your mother’s breastmilk. Many adults become intolerant to this sugar without realizing it. Cutting it out this week might make your gastrointestinal tract feel better, pay attention to how your body feels.

Coffee: Even if you don’t add loads of sugar or cream to your morning, Joe, coffee is high in caffeine. Caffeine is a stimulant and is addictive. If your goal is to feel great and live a full, natural life, it is important to be free of addiction. Any substance that makes you dependent on it to feel normal should be avoided whether its sugar, drugs, or energy drinks. Be kind to your nervous system, hormones, and heart and limit your caffeine intake.

Fruit juice: This is just another name for liquid sugar. Even if the juice is made from 100% fruit. There is SO much fruit in each glass of juice, you would never eat that many whole fruits in one sitting. Juice one orange and see how much juice comes out, then look at a standard glass of orange juice. You’re better off eating the whole fruit which requires more time and chewing to consume.

Alcohol: Most people aren’t aware that in terms of calories, alcohol more closely resembles a fat than a carb. Fat is 9 calories per gram, alcohol is 7 calories per gram, and carbohydrate is only 4. Think of this next time you fill up your glass, would you be drinking that if it were straight oil or butter? A weekend drink binge is a good way to undo all of the hard work that was spent the week before.

Soda: I shouldn’t even have to go here, if you haven’t heard of the negative effects of soda, even diet varieties, you are truly in denial. I will say, briefly, nothing has ruined the health of Americans more than the introduction of sugar-sweetened beverages, specifically soda.

They are full of processed sugar, artificial ingredients, and no nutrition. They don’t benefit the body at all, they spike your blood sugar harmfully high, and they are addictive. If they aren’t already gone from your diet, make this week your first official week that starts you on the “no soda” bandwagon forever. Your body will thank you!

Sports Drinks: One of the most unnecessary things we do as active people is drinking sports drinks. Most gym goers, recreational athletes, and active individuals just need water.

The amount of “electrolytes” your body needs are easily supplied by foods, don’t waste your money or calories on these drinks. Gatorade, Powerade, and the like are overconsumed by people thinking they are necessary to “replenish” their bodies after working out.

Unless you are running a marathon, exercising intensely for an extended amount of time, your body does not need them. Rely on the water to rehydrate, and food to replenish, skip the artificial ingredients, colors, and sugar found in these beverages. 

  1. Holt GM, Owen LJ, Till S, Cheng Y, Grant VA, Harden CJ, Corfe BM. Systematic Literature Review Shows That Appetite Rating Does Not Predict Energy IntakeCrit. Rev. Food Sci. Nutr. October 2016.