Wooden bowl of mixed saladIf you can’t follow through with permanent, positive changes to your eating habits, you won’t see the results you’re looking for, no matter how hard you work out at the fitness center. The reason so many ‘starvation’ diets fail is that they neglect one of the most powerful diet ‘weapons’ of all (and no, it’s not a new weight-loss drug or herbal supplement). It’s called satiety.

Satiety is that feeling you get when your stomach is full (but not over-full), and you have *satisfied* your hunger. This sense of contentment felt after consuming food can either make or break your weight loss success, for the following reasons:

  1. Maintaining satiety helps you resist unhealthy food choices.
  2. Consistent satiety makes it easier to eat smaller portions.
  3. Feeling satiated can help you avoid snacking between meals.

What Sabotages Satiety?

Following a diet that restricts calories too severely or skipping meals can leave you ravenous and susceptible to the temptation to consume larger-than-normal portions of very bad foods. Not consuming enough water can also decrease satiety – what you sometimes perceive as hunger in between meals may be satisfied with a glass of water. Besides ensuring consistent meals and maintaining sufficient calories for your body’s needs, satiety also varies largely depending on the types of foods you eat.

Not All Foods Are Equal

Dr. Susanna Holt formulated a ‘satiety index’ that grades the same caloric-quantity of various foods based on how full they make your body feel. In comparison with white bread, set at a value of 100, doughnuts rank 68 and oatmeal ranks 209. Satiety even varies for the same food, based on how it is cooked. For instance, boiled potatoes are much more satisfying than the same caloric quantity of French fries! There are a few reasons for these differences:

  1. Water content. In general, the higher a food’s water content, the lower its calories (fruits and vegetables have the highest amounts of water). The greater volume of these foods takes up more room in your stomach and makes you feel full faster.
  2. Fiber content. Whole grains, legumes, vegetables, and fruit are also high in fiber, which expands in your stomach and takes longer for your body to digest, leaving you feeling full not only faster, but for longer between meals.
  3. Natural vs. processed. Unprocessed grains, vegetables, and fruits also contain more complex carbohydrates versus the simple sugars in say, a doughnut. These also take longer for the body to process and leave you feeling more satiated.
  4. Protein in foods will also leave you feeling fuller longer as it is slowly broken down into its amino acid building blocks.

 Flavor and Volume Control/ Mindful Eating

 Various dietitians weigh in on what most promotes better satiety for weight loss. David Katz, author of The Flavor Point Diet: The Delicious, Breakthrough Plan to Turn Off Your Hunger and Lose the Weight for Good, is among those who believes that eating too many flavors in one meal sabotages satiety. Each basic flavor is tied to its own appetite center, so triggering triggering them all at once requires reaching numerous ‘flavor points,’ before reaching satiety, which usually involves overeating. Instead, Katz and others devise eating plans that focus on one ‘flavor theme’ each meal, or even day. Another perspective on satiety stems from the satiety index of foods, proposing that eating higher volume (i.e., higher water-content) foods leads to satiety at the expense of fewer calories. A diet that utilizes this theory might encourage eating a bowl of low-calorie broth or a salad before a meal.

One practice that nearly all nutritionists agree with is eating more slowly and mindfully.  Inhaling calorically-dense food is bad for satiety because it takes roughly 20 minutes for our brains to receive the ‘full’ signal from stomach muscles and hormones. Eating slower is even more effective if you focus on what you’re eating. Taking the time to enjoy the smell, texture, and flavor of the foods will lead to greater enjoyment and faster satiety.

Just as a good health club is a powerful ally for your fitness goals, satiety is a valuable weapon in a sound weight-loss strategy, enabling you to not only lose weight safely, but permanently change your eating habits.