The key to sustainable weight loss and weight maintenance is not drastic calorie restriction, tons of cardio, skipping social events, and living in misery. For something to be sustainable, it needs to fit into your life every day, not just for a month or two, but forever.
This blog post is centered around feeling satiated (or satisfied) at the end of each meal and especially each day so you can not only reach your body composition or health goals, but stick to them. Unless your goal is to get temporarily shredded for a competition, vacation or photoshoot, going to bed hungry each night is not a good long term strategy. Eventually, you’re going to break, and it’s not your fault.
The body wants to be fed and not feel like it’s in a famine. What happens over time when you continue to eat less and less? Your metabolism slows down, you lose just as much (or more) muscle as fat, your body becomes stressed which leads to hormonal imbalances, and worst of all, you’re ravenously hungry 24/7.
Cutting calories can be tough, but fortunately there are several strategies that can be implemented to make it far less tough, and I’m going to share them with you in this post. Hopefully by implementing some or all of these strategies, you’ll soon be able to see the needle moving in the right direction AND having it stay where you want it once you’ve reached your goals.
First, we must define and briefly analyze what it means to be satiated. Satiation is defined as “fully satisfying a need or desire”. When you’re hungry, your desire to eat must be met. Satiation does not mean to over consume food to the point of feeling uncomfortably full.
A great way to think of it is this: If you can finish your meal and still have the ability to get up from the table and run for 3-5 minutes, you’re not overly full. Conversely, if you finish a healthy, high protein, whole food meal (and implement the strategies below) and still have the desire to eat more or the same food, you’re not satiated quite yet. If you want to eat more food but in the form of sweets or other processed food, you’re experiencing a psychological (not a physical) craving.
Satiation must be reached each meal (or at least at the end of each day) in order for you to sustain your way of eating, whatever it may be. Remember this next time you sit down to eat. The following tips will also help tremendously.
-Eat more protein-
Protein is not only required for building muscle, but it’s also the most satiating macronutrient. Additionally, it has the highest thermic effect of the 3 macros, meaning you’ll actually burn calories digesting it. If you’re trying to lose fat and maintain muscle, protein must be prioritized. Although you can make progress with less, aiming for 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight per day is a great target. More protein than this won’t lead to more gains, but it could lead to more satiety. If you eat protein with every meal, you’ll feel more satiated from fewer calories.
A key point to remember is that animal proteins have a complete amino acid profile while plant proteins do not. The amino acid leucine is specifically important for muscle protein synthesis (more potential muscle gains). Leucine is present in much higher amounts in animal protein, thus making it more effective than plant protein for muscle building. Meat, fish, eggs, and dairy based protein sources are great options. Although not ideal for strength, muscle, or body composition, plant sourced protein still should be prioritized if you’re against animal consumption, as its effects on satiation are similar to that of animal protein.
-Eat your Fruits and Veggies-
Anyone who tells you to avoid fruit should be immediately disregarded. Sadly, people think that the fructose found in fruit is going to make you release more insulin which will lead directly to weight gain. Weight gain is a result of consuming excess calories, not insulin. According to studies, fruit-rich diets actually aid in fighting obesity.
Fruit and vegetables are both high in fiber, which not only helps your digestion, but also makes you feel more full. Although some people are fine eating raw vegetables, I recommend cooking them the majority of the time to avoid digestive issues and bloat. A mix of several different vegetables is recommended, but if you can find 3 or 4 that you don’t hate and can realistically include with more meals, you’re doing great. And no, although botanically speaking potatoes are considered vegetables, they don’t count in this situation (but there’s nothing wrong with eating them!)
Fruits are not all created equal, but so long as you’re not binging on them (which is quite difficult given the fiber content), you can be quite liberal. The most nutrient dense and fiber rich fruits are berries. Tropical and citrus fruits are also great (oranges, lemons, limes, mangoes, papaya, pineapple etc.). Eating more fruits and vegetables will help you feel satiated (and just better in general) on fewer total calories.
-Eat Whole Foods-
Whole, minimally processed foods will keep you full longer. They tend to be high in protein, healthy fats, nutrients and/or fiber. Being satiated on a processed food-centric diet is nearly impossible. Shop the perimeter of the grocery store. Along from the items listed in the two paragraphs above, other whole foods include avocados, nuts and seeds, potatoes, yams/sweet potatoes, and arguably white rice. Oats are processed, but some people do well with them and they’re very high in fiber. Just be careful not to add a bunch of sugar and extra calories to your morning oatmeal.
If you want to avoid accidental overeating, it would behoove you to pay attention to your meal and your body’s signals. If you’re surfing IG, watching a show, driving, or on the run, the likelihood of you overeating increases. Even when you’re going out to dinner with friends, the social situation can be a distraction causing you to overeat. I’m not recommending avoiding social situations at all costs, just keep it in mind. Try to be totally present when you’re eating, chew your food slowly, and become in tune with how the food makes you feel. Not only will you enjoy your meal more, but you’ll also be more apt to notice when you begin to feel satiated.
-The 10 Minute Rule-
After consuming the proper portions of food on your plate, instead of going straight for seconds, follow the 10 minute rule. It’s pretty simple, you’re just going to wait 10 minutes to see if you still want seconds (not dessert, but more whole food). If you’re still hungry, go for it. If 10 minutes pass and you’re no longer interested, you’ve scratched the itch sufficiently. A great strategy here is to take a 10 minute walk after you’ve eaten. This will not only aid digestion and increase your step count, but it will also allow you to take a break from eating and occupy your mind on something else.
Consuming enough water throughout the day will ensure you’re not experiencing dips in energy and drastic mood swings. When you’re hydrated, you tend to feel better. When people feel good, they tend to have fewer cravings for food. You don’t need to go overboard with water, but most people are in a chronically dehydrated state. This being said, try to avoid drinking water while eating. Water or other drinks are often used to “wash it down”, but unless your goal is to eat more food, this can be detrimental to your success. When you rely on your own chewing and saliva to get a bit of food down, you’re going to give yourself more time to feel your body’s signals. Additionally, this can help improve digestion.
-Eat In the Right Order-
The order in which you eat can be a game changer when it comes to satiation. Assuming you’re following a balanced diet with portions of protein, vegetables/fruit, and starchy carbohydrates, eat them in that order. Your body needs the protein and nutrients from fruits and vegetables. It does not need starch. Give your body what it needs first, then eat the starch (rice, potatoes, oats, etc.) if you’re still hungry. If you decide to follow a low carb strategy (totally fine but not required), this becomes less important since they’re likely not on your plate to begin with.
-High Volume, Low Calorie-
Also known as low calorie-density foods. High volume, low calorie foods include (but are not limited to) green leafy vegetables, watermelons, strawberries (or a mix of berries), homemade protein ice cream, popcorn (without a ton of butter/sugar), oats (w/no sugar), lean meats, low fat cottage cheese, and greek yogurt. Essentially, you can eat a large portion of these foods without consuming a lot of calories. Some of these are more practical than others, meaning you’ll feel more full eating a chicken breast and some cottage cheese with berries than you will eating a bag of popcorn. But nevertheless, eating low calorie dense foods will leave you satiated on far fewer calories.
-Eat More for Meals, Skip the Snack-
Snacking, for most people, is not the best strategy. Snacking tends to be more of a tease than an actual way to cure feeling hungry. More often than not, people snack just for the sake of it, and not because they need food. Humans can live a minimum of 8 days without (much longer for most), so going 4-5 hours between meals is not going to hurt anybody. Some people are able to eat a small amount of food (or snack) and be totally fine with it. Others will begin snacking and not stop till they’ve grossly over consumed calories. To make it easier to avoid snacking, eat larger portions at meal times and ensure you’re following all of the other tips listed in this post. If snacking works for you, great! But if you’re not happy with your weight and you think snacking is helping, harsh (but likely) reality is, it’s not.
-Avoid Your Triggers-
This ties in with snacking. We all have our trigger foods (mine is peanut butter.) My suggestion is that until you’ve built the proper habits and discipline around controlling your portions and practicing moderation, keep trigger foods in the grocery store. Having access to your trigger foods will inevitably lead to a slip up over time. A lot of times, one slip up leads to 2, which turns into a weekend, which leads to guilt and the feeling that you messed everything up. This can cause some people to completely throw in the towel. You don’t need to completely avoid these foods, but by not having them in the house you’re putting a barrier between your desire for it and your ability to access it. If your kids or spouse want to have this food in the house, even just keeping it in the back of the cabinet or another place you can’t see regularly has been proven to be effective.
Be more satiated by not eating? Sounds made up! Fasting can be great for some people. Fasting allows you to eat much larger portions and feel more satiated after consuming the meals inside your eating window. You’ll feel less satiated most of the day, but the fact that you know you’ll be able to eat more later that day can be a great motivator. The fact is, most people have never experienced true hunger. We become attached to food and “eating times” and we don’t actually allow our body’s signals to tell us when to eat. Although the fat loss effects of fasting are no different than other methods of calorie restriction, some people find it easier and more sustainable. After a week or two, you body’s hormones become accustomed to fasting and you’ll actually not feel very hungry during your fast (so long as you eat enough during your eating window). If you have a history of binge eating or anorexia/bulimia, I do not recommend fasting. If you have a history of being attached to food, having anxiety when food isn’t accessible, and/or eating just for the sake of eating (a lot of people), fasting can be a great practice. For a whole post on fasting, click here.
-Accept Going off Plan Sometimes-
This is the most important rule. Sometimes you’ll follow absolutely none of these rules, and that’s ok. Your nutrition should be part of a healthy lifestyle, and not an additional stressor. Sometimes eating foods because they taste good is the only reason you need. One day of over consuming calories is not going to harm you in the long run. In fact, if you do it as part of a healthy social life, it can help you stay the course and make your nutrition more sustainable and less stressful. Your body’s metabolism does not reset on a 24 hour clock. What this means is that your overall calorie consumption over time is far more important than a single day. When you make the right choices most of the time, you’ll have more insurance and do less damage when you go off plan.
Losing weight is easy. Millions of Americans lose weight each year, yet we still have an obesity epidemic. Why? Because the way they approach their weight loss is not sustainable. It’s easy to do something for 30-90 days to reach a goal, even if you’re hungry most of the time. But to have the ability to do it forever, you need to find a way to not be hungry all the time while still being in a calorie deficit or at maintenance. That’s where these strategies come into play. Try them out, and find which ones work for you. Soon you’ll be moving the needle and going to bed satiated every night.
Thank you for reading! What are your strategies for feeling more satiated?