Volumetrics: The Art of Feeling Full on Fewer Calories

Volumetrics is a way of reducing the number of calories in a meal while still feeling full after eating it. It was developed in a weight loss research lab at Penn State when Barbara Rolls and her research team noticed that a big bowl of grapes made people feel more full than the same grapes shrunk down and turned into a small handful of raisins, even though both had the exact same number of calories. They noticed that different types and volumes of food have different effects on satiety and whether people still felt hungry after eating them. They realized that for weight loss efforts to succeed long term, that people had to feel full after meals, otherwise feelings of hunger and deprivation sabotaged any diet they devised (and made people miserable).

The researchers went to work developing meals that were lower in calories but that still stimulated satiety signals in the brain. They served these meals to research subjects in their Eating Lab day after day, until they found combinations that people said were just as tasty and filling – but they were eating 400-600 fewer calories per day!

Use these volumetric principles to help you feel full on fewer calories:

  1. Food that looks bigger will tend to be more filling. In other words, food that is less dense (fluffed up, like a fruit shake or a salad) is generally more filling for the same number of calories.
  2. Foods with a lot of water or fiber in them are more filling with fewer calories. You can take advantage of this by eating more soups and stews and by adding extra volume to your meals from ingredients with lots of water or fiber, like vegetables, fruits or whole grains.
  3. Fat-heavy and dry foods give the least satiety for the number of calories. Fat is the most dense type of food – it produces the least satiety for it’s size and calorie load so you’ll tend to eat much more of it before feeling full – sometimes about 10 times as much! You can also cut down on foods that don’t have much water in them, like crackers and pretzels.

Soup is an example of a great volumetrics food. If you compare a big bowl of vegetable soup with just about any side dish of the same size, the soup will generally have less calories – but because it’s big, it will still make you feel fairly full. This is because it’s essentially fluffed up with water.

If you add a handful of diced tomatoes or zucchini or mushrooms to a casserole or a bowl of pasta, you’re fluffing it up with water and fiber – that means you can eat more of it and still be eating fewer calories!

To make one of your typical meals into a volumetrics meal, try this:

  1. Start with the amounts you would normally put on your plate to feel full
  2. Add a few diced vegetables to any dishes that are appropriate
  3. Reduce the portion sizes of the dishes with the most fat (fat is the most energy dense food that give the least amount of satiety for it’s size)
  4. Fill up that extra space you just created with a side dish of soup, stew, vegetables, fruit or whole grains.

When you eat this volumetrics version of your meal, you’ll find that your brain still makes you feel full.. but you’ll know that there are fewer calories in what you ate.

There’s no need to take volumetrics to the extreme and try to cut out all fat and live off of nothing but vegetable soup! Use the volumetrics principles to take some calories out of each meal while still eating tasty food and feeling satisfied and full. Over time, you’ll be eating fewer calories each day and losing weight for the long term without suffering through any extra hunger.


More Info

There are two excellent books on volumetrics by Barbara Rolls. Read The Volumetrics Weight-Control Plan if you want to understand the science behind these techniques and learn about all the different types of food and factors that affect satiety. Skip straight to The Volumetrics Eating Plan if you want lots of recipes and guidance on putting together a volumetrics weight loss plan for yourself. Wherever you decide to start, go forth bravely, arm yourself with knowledge and don’t deprive yourself – You can lose weight and still feel full after meals!

Weight Loss Sabotage: How Your Friends Can Undermine Your Efforts to Lose Weight & How to Fight Back

After two years of effort and many weight loss achievements and setbacks, Susan painfully realized that most of her old friends weren’t really her friends anymore. She didn’t feel they were really there for her during the process, and if they couldn’t support something so important to her, then they must not care about her as much as she thought. A big weight loss effort can ruin a good friendship, and can even break up a marriage. But it doesn’t have to.

Why does weight loss create problems in relationships? Because it changes them. When you’ve been ballroom dancing with someone for a while and then you start changing your dance steps, it can be disconcerting for your partner. They have to change their steps too to prevent the two of you from taking a tumble. But their natural inclination is to maintain the status quo and unlike you, they may not have any reason to change. So they’ll resist your new steps, probably unconsciously and possibly vigorously, and their resistance will sabotage your weight loss.

For centuries, food has been a social glue that brings people together, and eating of some sort is so often involved in getting together. Just like dance partners, if you change your eating patterns, the people you socialize with will notice the difference – and it might not feel good to them. They might feel threatened that your friendship is changing. They might want the “normal” you back again, instead of this slightly unfamiliar you. They may react in some confusing and hurtful ways. And your reaction to their reaction will probably determine whether your friendship survives.

Protest Behavior From Your Friends and How to Address it

If you start taking walking breaks instead of coffee and cookie breaks, it’s a great step towards your weight loss goal but your old cookie break friends might misinterpret your absence and wonder why you’re upset with them. They may know consciously that you’re trying to lose weight but their unconscious brain will still feel hurt that you don’t hang out with them like you used to. When you don’t want to go out for frozen yogurt with them after a stressful day like you have so many times in the past or don’t come to happy hour anymore, they may feel like they’re losing a friend. They might miss you.

If your friend says something like “Oh, come on, one frozen yogurt isn’t going to kill you!”, it directly undermines your weight loss efforts. It’s hurtful. You may give in when you otherwise would have stayed strong. This is an act of sabotage. But it’s because they miss the friendship that’s changed and they’re protesting.

You may get tired after a barrage of comments like this, and start avoiding the friends who are making these sabotaging remarks. But avoidance is also a hurtful act and it’s easily misinterpreted as you not caring. If you can recognize and tolerate a little bit of protesting from them, that can often help them get past it. Reiterate that the friendship matters to you and try to find new ways for the two of you to engage in friendship.

To many people, food is love. By giving you chocolate to cheer you up when you’re feeling discouraged after blowing your diet for the weekend, they’re trying to show you that they care.. but you will probably feel that they’re not doing you any favors. And you’re right – this is an act of sabotage. Relatives that tell you to “Have another helping, you don’t need to lose weight” or “You’ve lost some already, you can have a little dessert” are likely trying to reassure you that they love you just the way you are. Unfortunately, their protests are undermining your efforts, leaving you feeling angry and unsupported. They may not understand this at all. You may have to help them support you by explaining it to them.

Some people, when they see someone else making healthy changes or making success look easy, can feel jealous. It’s probably not a proud moment for them but it’s a common emotion and not likely one they can easily control. They may very well feel conflicting feelings, both jealous and also happy for you at the same time, but the jealousy might win out in the moment. They may say something sarcastic or demeaning, like “I see you had to resort to wearing your ‘fat’ jeans today”. Not very nice! You could react in anger, snapping back at them “You’re just jealous – and you live in your fat jeans!” but this only deepens the rift between you. Your empathy for their feelings is the key to dissipating them and healing that rift. Instead, try reflecting back what you can read in between the lines and reiterating how you feel about your friendship. Try “I’m sorry I haven’t had a cookie break with you in the last few weeks… I miss our morning breaks together”.

The human brain was designed with an unconscious aversion to change – it actually experiences change as pain. This pain can make a friend protest, to say and do things designed to get you to act like you used to, before you were losing weight. Armed with a better understanding of how your friends might react when you change your own behavior, you can empower yourself to see sabotage efforts when they happen and know them for what they actually are – an attempt to hold on to your valued friendship just the way it was in the past. You can choose to respond with empathy, instead of anger or avoidance, and help your friendship evolve, as it must do to continue long term into the future.

How Cats & Dogs Can Help Regulate Your Eating Patterns

Emotional dysregulation is one of the root causes of overeating. People commonly eat for comfort when they experience strong emotions like anxiety, anger or sadness. Cats and dogs are amazing emotional regulators who can help you practice better emotional regulation just by spending quality time with them.

Ever reach for the carbs when you’re feeling particularly sad? Or how about when you’re so stressed you could scream but you find yourself eating instead? The act of eating seems to have the power to give comfort during times of high emotion, especially during anxious, angry or lonely feelings. It does nothing to address the cause of the feelings or to alleviate them in the long term, yet we still do it. With more and more streams, feeds and inboxes to keep track of and less downtime than ever before, we’re increasingly feeling overwhelmed, unable to effectively regulate our own emotions and more likely to turn to food for comfort or distraction.

Emotional regulation, the subconscious ways we experience our feelings and process emotional reactions to events in our daily lives, has been a topic of much research over the past few decades. There’s a clear link between people with eating disorders like anorexia or bulimia and problems regulating strong emotional responses, with a negative shift in mood often directly preceding an episode. But even without an eating disorder, everyone binges occasionally – and often when their emotions are high.

Learning to regulate your own emotions differently is no small feat, and teaching your subconscious new tricks can be a frustratingly non-linear process that can seem to defy logic. To create new brain pathways, you must practice the new behavior – the more you practice it, the more you reinforce it. If you fail and end up practicing the old behavior, which happens often, especially in the beginning, you’re reinforcing the exact behavior you’re trying to change. But since emotions are largely outside of your conscious control, how exactly do you get your twenty reps of improved emotional regulation in each day? One answer comes from cats and dogs.

Cats: An alternative to comfort food

Picture a warm, purring cat stretched out in your lap, happily snoozing the afternoon away while you work on your computer. This cat has her head on straight – she’s regulating her emotions very well. Here’s the magic: emotions are contagious, even between many species. Your cat’s perfectly calm and cozy state of mind can be yours, and she’ll freely share it with you. The next time you’re feeling stressed and reaching for a comfort cookie, try cuddling your cat instead. Let your emotions drop away while you absorb hers and pat yourself on the back for getting another emotional regulation workout in.

Dogs: The best trigger for taking a walk

Dogs are also good emotional regulators and they insistently remind us when it’s time to head out for a walk. A dog is perhaps the single best trigger for taking a walk there is, and also a very cute behavior trigger, making any interruption forgivable. If things start to feel overwhelming and you find yourself digging in the fridge trying to distract yourself from your emotions, grab the leash and take a quick walk with your dog. His excitement and zest for being outside is contagious and attuning yourself to him will help shift your state of mind, calming your emotions and bringing you back from the edge of overwhelm and the urge to eat. Try on his happy-go-lucky attitude and allow yourself to feel as carefree as he does. Another walk, another emotional regulation workout.

When you practice dealing with charged emotional states in new ways, you build new neural pathways in your brain that will make you more skilled at staying steady through life’s ups and downs. Deciding to practice with your cat or dog (or using other regulation techniques), can not only reinforce these new patterns but bring a new awareness to your emotional state, allowing you to be more conscious of your automatic emotional patterns in the moment and giving you time to override them. As you get better at managing your emotions, it will reduce your urges to eat during emotional times.