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Feel Full with Fewer Calories

Can you eat satisfying portions of food and still take in fewer calories? New research shows you can. Studies suggest that one person eats roughly the same weight of food most days. On average the weight of food an individual eats on a daily basis one week will be quite similar to the weight of food the same individual eats on a daily basis another week. Therefore, if you consume the same poundage or volume of food but with fewer calories than usual, you will lose weight without feeling hungry.

Below Marlene Lesson, nutrition director of Structure House weight loss facility in Durham, N.C., shares information from Structure House’s Volumetrics Workshop based on the teachings in the book, Volumetrics: How to Feel Full Eating Fewer Calories, by Barbara Rolls, PhD. The program consists of teaching how a healthy diet is naturally low in energy density, while the typical American diet is high in energy density.

If food intake is regulated more by the weight of the food than by the calories in the food, consider the consequences of choosing between one of these two foods: carrots (195 calories per pound) and fat-free potato chips (2431 calories per pound); or strawberries (139 calories per pound) versus Powerbar Performance (1600 calories per pound.)

Why does the weight or bulk of food you eat have more to do with satisfying hunger than the actual number of calories in the food?

Your body has many satiety systems that send signals to the brain when you have eaten enough. Eating an adequate volume of food is necessary to activate these satiety systems. Eating an adequate volume of food is necessary to activate these satiety systems.

Mind and eyes: Seeing an adequate portion of appetizing food on your plate increases your expectation that you will feel full at the end of a meal.

Nose and mouth: You derive sensory pleasure from the smell, feel and taste of the food. More time is required to eat a large volume of food so taste and other sensory satiety signals that are sent to the brain last longer.

Stomach: A large volume if food fills up your stomach, activating “stretch” receptors. These receptors send signals to the brain to indicate a satisfying amount of food has been eaten. Also, as your stomach fills, it contracts rhythmically to mechanically digest food. Your stomach contracts the same amount whether you eat a pound of high-calorie or a pound of low-calorie food.

Liver, pancreas, small intestine and large intestine: As food travels through the rest of the digestive tract, satiety signals are sent to the brain. For example, a large volume of food facilitates the release of cholecystokinin, “the satiety hormone,” in the small intestines.

Which elements of food have the greatest impact on the calorie density?

The calories density of the elements of food is as follows:

Fat: Nine calories per gram

Fat increases the calorie density of the food. Fat is the most calorie dense of the three nutrients, fats have more than twice as many calories per unit of weigh as carbohydrates or protein. Not only is fat the most calorie dense of the three nutrients, when we eat more than maintenance levels of calories, a calorie of fat is more fattening than a calories from carbohydrate.

Carbohydrates: Four calories per gram.

Carbohydrates vary widely in calorie density; fruits and vegetables are low in calorie density, while healthy starches are higher. Fat free and low fat snacks are even higher (pretzels, fat-free potato ships, energy bars and cookies.)

Protein: Four calories per gram

Protein foods are particularly satiating, however surveys associate high intake of protein with body fatness. Choose low energy density protein such as egg whites, fish and dried beans to control weight.

Alcohol: Seven calories per gram Alcohol is energy dense, more likely to be stored as fat and cause us to store, rather than burn more dietary fat. When we drink alcohol, we tend to eat more calories. Both aperitifs and nightcaps tend to promote overeating.

Water: Zero calories per gram.

The water content of a food affects calorie density even more than the fat content. Drinking water before a meal does not result in eating fewer calories at the meal. This is because our bodies perceive hunger and thirst though different mechanisms.

Water in foods is much more satiating than water consumed as a beverage.

Below is a listing of foods with water content:

Fruits and vegetables (80 – 95 percent water content), Hot cereal (85 percent), Eggs, boiled (75 percent), Pasta (65 percent), Fish and seafood (60 – 85 percent), Meats (45 – 55 percent), bread (35 – 40 percent), Cheese (35 percent), Nuts (two – five percent) and Oil (zero percent.)

The bottom line is to eat a greater proportion of the foods that are low-energy and a lower portion of foods that are high-energy density. Accomplish this by choosing foods high in water content, low in fat and high in fiber and plan you meals based on recommended dietary guideline.

Structure House, a residential weight loss facility in Durham, N.C., offers a unique, behavioral approach to weight loss and healthy lifestyle change. The facility integrates principles of nutrition and exercise with psychology in a treatment approach designed to transform the eating habits and lifestyles of overweight individuals. Founded in 1977 by clinical psychologist Dr. Gerard J. Musante, Structure House has helped more than 10,000 people from all 50 states, and 35 nations, battling overweight and obesity. The name Structure House underscores the critical role structure plays in achieving long-term weight loss.

For more information on the Structure House program, please visit or call (919) 351-8293.