It's the ultimate weight loss goal.
How to eat less calories but not feel so hungry.
Well, believe it or not, there are a few tricks you can try that are guaranteed to help you do that.
Our hunger levels and appetites are largely determined by communication between parts of our brain and our gut.
It can be called the gut-brain communication channel. Your stomach, intestines and brain are all in constant communication to with each other to tell you when to eat and when to stop.
According to Stephan Guyenet PhD, author of the Hungry Brain, the system of gut-brain communication that governs your feeling of fullness doesn't do a perfect job of transmitting the calorie value of a meal to the brain.
In other words, some foods make us feel more full than others, even if they have the same amount of calories.
Because of this, we can exploit the little quirks of the system to naturally reduce our calorie intake without the discomfort of feeling hungry most of the time.
How do we do this?
In 1995 research experts decided to feed participants 240 calorie portions of thirty eight common foods, such as bread, oatmeal, beef, peanuts, candy and grapes.
They then recorded the "satiety index" (feelings of fullness), for each food, representing how filling it is per calorie. They then analysed the whole data set to see which food properties are the most strongly related to satiety.
For example, white bread had a low satiety index relative to other foods, meaning it delivers little feelings of fullness per unit calorie. Whole grain bread, in contrast, had a significantly higher satiety index.
Calorie dense bakery products like cake, croissants and doughnuts had the lowest satiety index of all foods tested while fruit, meat and beans tend to have the highest satiety index.
As an Irishman my favourite finding was that potatoes were off the charts when it came to satiety. You can ignore the fact that they are carbs, they fill you up which means you will eat less overall.
Why are these foods so filling?
The research team found that there were a few simple properties that made each food quite filling and you can use these properties to design your own weight loss diet.
1. Calorie Density - in other words, the volume of food per calorie. The lower the calorie density of the item, the more satiety it produced per unit calorie. This makes sense because when the stomach is full and stretched it sends a signal to part of the brain to stop eating.
If your stomach contains more food volume, you'll feel more full, even if that food doesn't contain more calories.
2. Palatability - the more palatable a food is, the less filling it is. Palatability is all about how tasty you perceive a food to be. The brain intuitively likes tasty foods and is quite good at removing barriers to their consumption. Highly palatable foods (foods high in processed sugar and fats) can inhibit the very neurons that make us feel full.
That's right, foods can override your basic biological feedback mechanisms that tell you you are full.
Sticking with SIMPLE foods like potatoes, fruit, veg, meat, beans etc can help us restrain our calorie intake without feeling hungry.
3. Fat Content - the more fat a food contains, the less filling it was per calorie. We are talking about fullness per unit calorie. If you eat a stick of butter, you may feel full, but you will also have eaten over 800 calories, the equivalent of two and a half large baked potatoes.
Isolated fats and added fats like butter and oil are among the highest calorie dense substances in the human diet by far.
Isolated fats and sugars increase the palatability of your foods which means you can eat a lot more without feeling full.
This doesn't mean that you need to avoid fats, it just means that you can get your fats from non refined foods like dairy, nuts, avocados, meat, fish and eggs and this higher fat intake can be compatible with a naturally slimming diet.
4. Fibre - the more fibre that a food contains, the more filling it is. This can explain why wholegrain versions of foods are more filling than white versions despite having similar calories.
5. Protein - the protein content of your food is also a major contributor to how full you feel.
A large body of evidence supports the fact that protein is more filling than equivalent grams of carbs or fats.
This makes it a diet friendly food.
All these variables go a long way to explaining why we overeat without intending to in our daily lives.
Guyenet explains that the nonconscious parts of our brain that regulate our feelings of fullness respond to specific food properties such as food volume, protein, fibre and palatability.
Many of our modern processed foods have properties that do not stimulate the satiety circuits to the same degree as traditional whole foods.
These modern foods boost a combination of properties that make them less filling per calorie unit.
Since most of use use SATIETY or feeling of being full as a signal to stop eating, these foods allow us to blow past this point where we have had enough to satisfy our calorie needs and we don't even realise we are overeating because we don't feel any fuller at the end of the meal.
Therefore, in order to trick your brain and give yourself every advantage, the key is to go back to our more traditional diets with whole foods on a regular basis and to avoid most packaged, modern convenient foods.
Make the following foods the most important in your diet:
All the stuff you know to be good.
And before you say this is boring food, all you have to do is google a recipe with a combination of these foods, add some spices and herbs, and you will get a million ideas back in less than a second.
No excuse there.
So there you go, start tricking your brain (in a good way) and learn to manage your diet yourself without resorting to extreme restriction diets.
Hope this helps.