How To Adjust Your Meal Composition To Solve 3 Common Problems

Apr 23, 2018

Using your body's cues to guide your eating is reliable and more effective for losing fat than counting calories or avoiding carbohydrates. But it is not easy. "Eat when you're hungry and stop when you're satisfied" is one piece of weight loss advice that is, while technically true, more irritating than it is helpful. That's because it's a gross oversimplification.

If you were seeking instruction on how to change your car's oil and someone said "take out the old oil, and put in clean oil", you probably (and justifiably) wouldn't feel very... helped.

To successfully change the oil in your car, you'd need specific action steps laid out clearly and explained. Managing to eat well is arguably more complex than changing the oil in your car, which is why we actually teach our clients how to do each skill.

In this article, I'll share some information on how you can adjust your meals in terms of composition to achieve greater satiation and satiety. These terms actually are two different things, satiation meaning you feel full enough to put down the fork and conclude your meal, and satiety being the length of time between meals, or in other words, how long hunger stays out of your way for.

Before we get into that though, it's important to establish some background info. This advice to optimize macronutrients assumes you are already eating 3-4 meals without snacking and also that you are eating mostly whole foods. If you are grazing throughout the day, check out that lesson (in our library) before worrying about macronutrients. If you currently are eating mostly convenience foods like frozen meals and fast food, you also can get more returns on your efforts from starting elsewhere, so begin with the skill of choosing mostly whole foods.

Problem Presentation 1:

I am full when I stop eating, but in 30-60 minutes I feel like I didn't eat enough. What should I change?

Most often this happens when people are loading up on veggies and not enough other stuff, like protein, fat, and starch. Is your plate more than half veggies? If so, and you feel like the description above, you are probably setting off your rapid satiation signals from stretch receptors in your stomach, which triggers immediate fullness, but that feeling won't last long if it's not followed up by signals that you've eaten enough carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. Rather than try to pack in more grains and chicken and oil on top of a full belly of vegetables, ease off on the veggie portions a bit so you have room for the other stuff too. Bottom line: increase calorie density so you get lasting satiety without busting your stomach.

Problem Presentation 2:

I eat until satisfied, and feel satisfied for a few hours but keep getting hungry too early to make it four or six hours until my next meal. What should I change?

You don't have to eat until you're overfull, you're doing a great thing practicing stopping at satisfied. If you aren't feeling satisfied for long enough, step one is to check if your meals are solid or liquid. Liquids empty from the stomach faster than solids, so if you're drinking smoothies or soups for your meal, try adding a solid component (like a piece of toast with cheese) instead of something you were blending into the smoothie.

If you are eating solid food, step two is to check up on how much fat is in your meal. If it's typically under ten grams, then you definitely could benefit from more. If it's around 15 or 20 grams, you still might find it helpful to experiment with adding some more fat to see if it helps you get an extra hour or two before hunger shows up. Check out our free course on how to optimize your intake of fat.

Problem Presentation 3:

I feel insatiable (thanks to PMS or increased workouts or activity). Like I can't get full?! What can I do?

It can be scary to feel like a bottomless pit if you are weight conscious; on one hand, you don't want to inhale 1500 calories in a single sitting, but on the other, it feels impossible to stop eating when you are not satisfied. Relax, take a deep breath, you will get full. You don’t want to speed eat or you’ll end up with a bellyache and likely get overfull.

First, the king and queen of immediate satisfaction are volume and protein. So you'll want to play those cards big-time when your appetite feels out of control. For volume, go big with your servings of veggies. Have a plate of green beans or mashed cauliflower if you like them. Liquids help too, so fizzy water, tea, coffee or soup can all help trigger impulses along the nerve from your stomach stretch receptors to your brain, saying 'Heyo, we're full!'

Protein also helps, so find some chicken, Greek yogurt, lunch meat, or eggs and put them in your pie hole asap. Especially if you're choosing lean protein, don't worry if you want to increase your usual portion. Extra protein is highly satiating calorie for calorie, so load up on that. Eat an extra chicken breast, it's ok. (For more on how eating protein will help boost your weight loss, check out the Protein course.)

What to avoid is equally worth mentioning in this case. Steer clear of going first to fat-rich foods when you are extra ravenous, because fat is the slowest macronutrient to trigger satisfaction feelings. Nuts are wonderful foods, but some of the worst choices to grab when you want to be satisfied as soon as possible! They are small in volume, so put little pressure on the stomach walls, and in the 20-30 minutes it takes to start to break down the fat and transmit the chemical signals up to your brain... Well, we can eat a lot of nuts, easily 600-800 calories! Save the nuts and peanut butter for garnishing or topping, not for eating by the handful/spoonful in a ravenous moment.

3 Take Home Points:

  1. If you feel full but then realize soon after you’re not satisfied enough, ease off of the veggies and add some more calorie density with fat, protein or starch.
  2. If you need more satiation (to help put down the fork), up your high volume foods (veggies and fruit) and protein.
  3. If you need more lasting satiety, add some more fat to your meals.

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