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How to feel full without gaining weight

Published October 05. 2009 02:55PM

Saying "no." Saving money. Weeding a yard.

I wrote these three things immediately after scribbling "Simple But Not Easy" at the top of scratch paper. Strangely enough, I drew a blank after that.

A brainstorming activity like this is supposed to unleash creativity not extinguish it.

Stranger still is that I don't have any difficulty doing any of the three as long as you let me wear gloves to do the last one. (I detest dirt under my fingernails.)

I guess I created my list by thinking in general about people. Maybe that's why I got stuck. I was thinking too generally.

For if I think specifically about dieters, a fourth quickly comes to mind: feeling full without without gaining weight.

Like the other three listed, I have no difficulty doing this either, and neither should you.

The key is in how you construct meals.

Notice the word choice here. Not "make," which suggests time-consuming cooking from scratch, but "construct," which means building them based on a plan.

The plan suggested today has withstood the test of time and is steeped in science and math.

Before the advent of fast food, people still made meals, and the poorer ones in particular also constructed them masterfully. Dieters can learn a good deal from them for their goal back then and your goal now are the same.

Only they did it because of what they didn't have, namely money, and you doing it because of what you do have.

Namely excess weight.

Years ago, soup frequently started a poor family's supper for a simple reason: it was cheap and filling. While they didn't know why soup filled them up, Jack Challoner, a Brit who has written more than two dozen books on science and technology, does and explains it in an article posted at the BBC News' Internet site, "How soup helps you lose weight."

In it, Challoner compares eating soup to eating a lunch where the same ingredients in the soup are eaten separately. If you eat chicken and vegetables and drink a glass of water, he notes, the water bypasses the stomach, goes straight to the intestines, and does nothing to fill the stomach.

But if all of these ingredients are combined in a soup, the water can not bypass the stomach, filling it up and making you feel fuller longer. Evidence of this is in an experiment that Challoner cites where participants who consumed soup reported feeling full for up to 90 minutes longer than those who ate a solid meal.

Before the advent of fast food, meat was far more expensive than vegetables, which meant soups contained a lot of the former and a little of the latter, making them high in fiber and filling for another reason: fiber absorbs water and expands while in the stomach.

That's also why poor people before the advent of fast food typically ate bread with their soup. But bread was much different then.

They weren't eating something light and airy and nutritionally void because it was primarily culled endosperm taken from whole wheat flour. They were consuming the whole grainthe germ, endosperm, and bran, creating a bread which was heavy and time consuming for the body to digest.

In other words, whole grain bread doesn't digest into simple sugar quickly, so blood sugar levels remained steady. But only the endosperm, better known as processed white flour, does, flooding the blood with sugar and causing the release of too much insulin. Too much insulin winds up removing too much blood sugar, making you feel hungry and as if you need to eat again.

That's why Andrew Weil, M.D., holistic healer and author of Eating Well for Optimum Health, calls processed white flour "one of the unhealthiest creations of food technology."

But not all the ways to feel full without gaining weight lambaste fast food.

"Snack Yourself Thinner," an article written by Shelley Levitt and posted on, cites a study performed by Barbara Rolls, Ph.D., and author of The Volumetrics Eating Plan, that found people consumed 20 percent fewer calories eating puffy cheese snacks as opposed to crunchy cheese snacks even though they ate 75 percent more by volume. A snack filled with air looks bigger and takes longer to eat, both of which Rolls believes leads you to consume fewer calories even though you feel as if you're eating more because, by volume, you really are.

This discrepancy may be better explained by a comparison of cereals. Just about every night, for instance, I snack on four cups of Kashi 7 Whole Grain Puffs, a cereal that's similar to popcorn because the grains and seeds are steamed at nearly 1000°F for only 15 seconds, allowing the grains retain more of their nutrients and fiber and puffing them somewhat.

The puffing creates a visually bigger snack, one that takes me about 20 minutes to eat. Eating for that amount of time while consuming only 280 calories is dietary bargain, considering four cups of a crunchy and healthy cereal, Nature Valley Granola, contains 1512 calories.

Another variation on this can be to take an already airy food, popcorn, and reduce its calories by reducing its fat content. By microwaving Pop Secret's 94% Fat-Free Popcorn instead of the Pop Secret version that liberally uses oil and butter, you save 120 calories per bag.

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