Are you sick of trying every diet under the sun?
Maybe you’ve tried diets that have way too many restrictive rules.
Maybe you’ve tried cutting out food groups (bye-bye gluten and dairy).
You might have tried a diet where counting calories is the number one priority. So instead of seeing food as a source of nourishment, it turns into just another number?
It’s the diet culture mentality.
Volume Eating Overview in this Article:
- Why volume eating?
- How volume eating helps weight loss
- 5 steps to volume eating
- How our body knows when we are actually full
- How to start volume eating today
Hunger usually goes hand in hand with a diet culture mentality. Not good if you’re a hungry human, like me.
This was me in my 20’s. I’m still a hungry human, but I’ve been able to completely let go of the #BS restrictive rules and obsessive counting. 🙂
I’ll show you how I got rid of this outlook through my studies of nutrition and dietetics. And found a practical approach to eating.
Over this time and shortly after my studies, volume eating kept turning up as the right approach for me as it aligned with the philosophy that I wanted to take in regards to eating.
What were the core principles of Volume Eating (also referred to as Volumetrics) that appealed to me and made it my go-to approach?
Let me explain.
Why Volume Eating?
Here are the main benefits of volume eating that makes it unique when compared to other approaches:
- It keeps you full for longer.
- This approach to eating is a system, NOT a strict meal plan full of restrictive rules.
- You learn to manage calories without having to count them (or macros).
- You can easily make changes to what you are already eating. This makes it sustainable which is super important.
- You can live your life rather than be tied to an all-consuming ‘diet’.
- Nothing is off the table, but you learn how to ‘dial up’ and ‘dial down’ foods to ensure you don’t go overboard on the calorie front (again, no counting required!).
- It doesn’t focus on a deficit mindset e.g. taking away foods as a starting point.
And it’s not a fad, it’s evidence-based and a proven system. In fact, it is consistently ranked as one of the top approaches to losing weight and keeping it off.
How does volume eating help with weight loss?
Volume eating helps with the most critical factor to success when it comes to losing weight and keeping it off…
…the calorie balance equation.
In other words, to lose weight you need to burn more calories than you consume.
Volume eating is one way that you can reduce the number of calories without obsessing over counting them. Whilst eating a lot of food.
Sounds too good to be true? I’ll explain where the magic lies in this approach in five simple steps.
1. Not all calories are created equal
Watch this quick video on why not all calories are created equal and the importance of calorie density:
The first step to understanding the volume eating approach starts with understanding that not all calories are created. Once we learn the differences we can stop worrying about counting calories.
This image is the perfect example of how not all calories are created equal.
Key takeaways from this image:
- Receptors on the side of the stomach respond to the volume of food we have in our stomach regardless of the amount of calories it contains.
- It takes about 400 calories of low calorie density vegetables to fill up the stomach.
- 400 calories worth of more calorie dense foods (chicken and oil for example), fills up a much smaller portion of the stomach. This means you’ll have to eat much more of them to trigger the ‘you’re full receptors’ on the stomach (which will mean a lot more calories).
This example doesn’t mean that you should get rid of olive oil because it doesn’t fill you up.
Healthy fats are important, especially for our heart and brain health. You also shouldn’t get rid of protein rich foods such as chicken. Protein is also super important.
Getting the portions right is key. By portioning our food based on the calorie density, we can get the range of nutrients we need, whilst achieving that feeling of fullness and not going overboard with calories.
This is the magic of volume eating.
Here’s another way to look at 400 calories:
Now we start to ask:
2. Why some foods fill us up more than others?
The next stage to understanding the beauty of the volume eating approach is by looking at the difference between high and low volume food.
This is important as we can start to see how to manage and manipulate portions correctly.
I’m sorry though…
..it’s time for a little bit of math and some theory. But stay with me. This was the eye-opener that unlocked so much for me personally.
High volume foods are foods that have a low-calorie density. The equation to find the calorie density of food works like this:
Paula Norris AKA Moving Dietitian
Hot Tip: If you’ve wondered about kilojoules Vs calories whilst reading this, then it’s as simple as this. Kilojoules are the metric measure of calories (like a kilogram to a pound). You can convert kilojoules into calories by dividing the total number of kilojoules by 4.186. For example, 1000 kilojoules equals approximately 239 calories.
Let’s look at a practical example of some low Vs high volume foods :
The great thing is you don’t need to know all foods and their calorie density. That would just be another form of calorie counting!
Instead, we learn where the most common foods you use in recipes lie on a scale of high volume to low volume. Once you learn this, you’ll start to see a pattern appear. It’s a small but important change in perspective.
And it takes away the need to count calories.
The scale I use in my course has four categories called:
- Dial Sensibly
- Dial Back
- Dial Down
3. The magic ingredient for high volume (dial-up) foods
The first and most important magic ingredient that makes food high in volume is water. This is because it contains no calories.
The second magic ingredient is Fibre. Fibre is a big focus when eating for volume as it contains fewer calories than the other carbohydrates, protein, fat or alcohol…
….fibre also helps you to feel satisfied.
Going back to our example before, you can now assume that broccoli is mainly water and fibre.
And you’d be right.
Where a food lands on the volume scale, depends on the amount of carbohydrates, fats, protein and alcohol present in the food or drink. Food and drink high in fats, added sugars and/or alcohol have the highest calorie density, and hence are low in volume.
Olive Oil which was our low volume example is mainly fats.
However, I really want to stress this point. In volume eating, we still eat these foods but we start to manage the portions. I refer to these as ‘dial back’ or ‘dial down’ foods on the volume scale.
This image shows the mindset of a volume eater when it comes to calories dense foods.
Nutrient Rich vs Nutrient Poor
- Nutrient-rich refers to foods that contain a significant amount of nutrients with health benefits such as vitamins, minerals and healthy fats.
- Nutrient poor refers to foods that contain very little nutrients with health benefits.
Are you starting to see the beauty of this approach?
Liquids play an important part in the volume eating approach.
4. How calorie density works for liquids
Liquids like soft drinks, juice, sports drinks and flavoured milk add little to no nutritional value to our intake.
They also add unnecessary calories and because they move quickly through the stomach, and therefore do not help us feel full.
In fact, calorie-filled liquids can even make you feel hungrier because of the fast absorption of the high carbohydrate load that they contain.
5. How does your body know when you’re actually full?
Satiety is the fancy name for feeling full. And our body has a great messaging service already built in to help detect your fullness.
How ghrelin reduces hunger
- Ghrelin is a hormone made in the stomach in response to how empty or full the stomach is.
- When the stomach is empty, Ghrelin is produced and lets the hypothalamus in the brain know to increase the activity of hunger causing nerve cells. These nerve cells tell us that we are hungry.
- As soon as the stomach is filled, this hormone decreases and the nerve activity in the brain also decreases. As a result, hunger is reduced or disappears.
Our stomach has the same volume of space regardless of the food that we eat. Ghrelin production is influenced by the amount of food that we eat, not the calories that the food contains.
Simple steps to start your volume eating journey today
Diet Culture can make us feel like we’re trapped in a cage of rules and restrictions.
Maybe it’s time to block a lot of it out.
This article was written to show you not only what to block out but also what to put back in.
The beauty of volume eating is it’s very practical and easy to manage for people with busy lifestyles.
Like trying anything new though, take small steps when implementing this approach.
Here are a couple of things you could start to do to apply the volume eating approach:
- Snacks are often an area where low volume foods sneak in, so think about how you could apply the Volume eating approach to one snack per day.
- Simply start to include MORE of the high volume and nutrient-rich foods in one main meal.
Did you choose one?
Now write the ingredients needed. Make a note of when you will try that dinner or new snack.
And keep moving forward.