Brown rice, baked chicken and broccoli, eat, then repeat. Or, maybe you went really crazy and made yourself a massive salad: lettuce, tomatoes, onion, cucumber, and pretty much any other low-calorie vegetable you can find. These foods taste good, don’t get me wrong, however like anything else, when done repeatedly, they get old, very old. But the more weight you lose, the hungrier you become, and typically, the lower your calories go. So now what? You’re hungry, have less calories to work with than before, and are tired of these traditional “dieting” foods, what do you do?
Many of us (myself included), take the approach of increasing the amount of low-calorie foods in our diet, more of the same old same old. More plain oats, more brown rice, more lettuce and other vegetables, making an even bigger salad than before. And while there is nothing inherently wrong with this if you are still enjoying the food and it is keeping you satiated between meals, you will eventually hit a point where these foods just aren’t satisfying anymore, and you’re attempting to reach a level of fullness and satisfaction through the sheer volume of food you’re eating alone.
You stop focusing on the taste and quality of the food you’re eating, and only on the quantity.
We’ve all been here before…What happens? Does this work? Not usually. Most of the time, we end up eating the most ridiculously sized portion of food (For example, a salad the size of an Olive Garden appetizer for 4), and still feel hungry and unsatisfied. In fact, not only do we still feel hungry and unsatisfied, but we also feel uncomfortably full and bloated all day. But what else can we do? What other options do we have?
The above scenario is something I’m guilty of more than anyone, however over the last few months, I’ve been playing around with a different strategy, and have found it to work very well, so I wanted to share it with you.
(Note: this article is not for everyone, and this approach will not work for everyone. It is a different way of doing things, and worth mentioning because it will work for some. If for example you are a starving bodybuilding, please take this article with a heed of caution.)
A New Perspective
Next time you go to the grocery store, or sit down to eat, instead of trying to reach a level of fullness and satisfaction through volume and portion size alone, take into account the food choices you really want to eat, and that sound good to you.
What I mean by this, is instead of sitting down to eat a massive salad and huge pile of sweet potatoes like normal, take a second and think about the types of foods you’d really like to eat, not just the ones that give you the biggest portion size for the lowest amount of calories.
Let me give you an example…
To stick with our above scenario, let’s say for dinner you usually have a large serving of plain sweet potatoes (maybe with a little salt and cinnamon if you’re feeling creative), baked chicken, and a large salad. Like I mentioned before, you chose these foods because you get to have a relatively large sized portion of each, due to the amount of calories they contain. And this works for a while, it does fill you up, and you do enjoy the food. However there comes a point when eating this food, regardless of the portion size, where it does not leave you feeling satisfied once you’re finished, regardless of how physically full you feel. It just isn’t satisfying, and you still want more. You can eat a week’s worth of salad and still be hungry, now what? What can you do?
What I’m proposing, is instead of sitting down to eat the same old meal, sit down, and have what you’re really wanting to eat (within reason). So for example, instead of having the potatoes, chicken and salad like normal, maybe you’re really craving a turkey sandwich and some chips. Even though the physical size of the meal won’t be as big as you’re used to, because these foods are the foods you’re actually craving, the portion size/amount of each food needed to “mentally” fill you up, and satisfy you, won’t need to be.
I’ve found that when doing this, when eating the foods I’m really wanting to eat, versus just consuming the ones which give me the most “bang for my calorie” (Biggest portion size for lowest amount of calories), I actually reach a level of fullness and satisfaction eating less calories than the amount of calories I would’ve needed to eat from my regular foods to get the same feeling (And most times still not be as satisfied, just full and bloated).
I’ve found this strategy works well for those who don’t track, as they tend to eat less calories than they otherwise would have if they’d consumed their same usual foods, as long as they are mindful about their food selection and portion size. And I’ve also found it works well for those who do track, by giving them a greater level of satisfaction after finishing the meal, compared to their usual food choice selection, even though the overall physical size of the meal wasn’t as big.
As with anything, the goal is balance.
If you’re somebody who diets on a very low amount of calories, it probably isn’t the best idea to consume 70% of those through a hot fudge Sunday at Sonic Drive-In, even though it’s what you are really wanting to eat (I mean hey, who doesn’t want that?). So, remember to keep this in mind, as well as your current goals when selecting food choices. Ideally, you want to select foods which combine a bit of all of the traits listed above. Not only should they be foods which sound good to you, and ones you really want to eat, but they should also be foods which do a good job of filling you up, keep you full for a long length of time after you finish eating them, and contain a variety of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients that your body needs to stay healthy and function optimally.
Another benefit of this strategy, is that it helps to prevent over-eating during the times you do allow yourself to eat the foods you really want to eat, unlike some traditional approaches where you consume a bunch of foods you don’t really like a majority of the time, and then every once in a while (typically one day or one meal a week), you get to actually have what you want, which can cause some people to go crazy, and to way over-eat. With this approach, you are constantly having foods you enjoy, so you don’t feel limited or restricted, and have better control when you do find yourself in these different social situations where food is present.
Give this strategy a try and see what you think. Next time you sit down to eat, or decide to meal-prep for the week, instead of just making the same foods you usually do, think about what you really want to eat, while at the same time, will also be conducive to helping you reach your goals (Keep you full, provide you with essential nutrients, etc.). As with anything though, the danger is in the dose, and “blowing” a large portion of your calories for the day on a hot fudge sundae on occasion isn’t going to kill you :)
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