Volumetrics: More is less


Every year thousands of people make the same New Year’s resolutions, to lose weight and eat healthier.  It typically works for a few weeks or months but most find themselves missing some of their favorite foods, getting bored, feeling unsatisfied, or just tired of being hungry.  Dieting is stressful. It’s stressful just deciding which diet to follow to get you to your goal.

There are hundreds of diet books and meal plans on the market.  Every year a different book becomes popular and claims success.  The fact is, most of these diet plans derive from the same basic principles.   All diets are restrictive of a food type and/or of calories.  South Beach and Atkins are low carbohydrate, DASH is low fat, and Ornish is low fat and low protein.

The simple way to lose weight and to keep it off isn’t by sticking to some popular diet; it’s by changing your lifestyle permanently.   Eating low calorie foods, along with adequate water and daily exercise is the only proven way to get to, and stay at a healthy weight.  These principals are in a couple of books, one example is The Volumetrics Eating Plan by Barbra Rolls PhD, a nutritionist.

Volumetrics emphasizes changing your eating habits permanently by cutting down on high calories foods with low nutrients and instead, eating low calorie healthy foods that satiate the appetite.

Rolls has been studying obesity and satiety for over 20 years and asserts that people become full due to the volume of their meals, not the percentage of protein, fat or carbohydrates.  Rolls has concluded that people will typically eat the same volume of food no matter what the caloric value, therefore, Volumetrics is based on the principal of substituting low nutrient, high calorie items for high nutrient, lower calories items.

For lunch, you could eat one slice of pepperoni pizza which is about 350 calories, or in contrast you can have 1 cup of a broth based soup, 4 whole wheat crackers, 1 ounce of cheese and an apple for the same calorie intake.

The healthier meal also contains more fiber plus a host of other nutrients while being lower in fat and sodium than the pizza. This is the key to the Volumetrics plan. You will feel more satisfied by eating the soup, crackers, cheese and apple than you would by eating one slice of pizza because it’s a larger volume of food for the same caloric intake.

On the Volumetrics plan you’ll eat mostly non-starchy vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, and moderate amounts of healthy fats.   Vegetables and whole grains have a very high fiber and water content giving them low energy density.  Water has zero calories and fiber is very filling, not to mention a key factor for cutting your risks for cardiovascular disease and diabetes.   The most common example of this is raisins compared to grapes.  You can eat about 2 cups of grapes for the same caloric intake of ¼ cup of raisins.  The grapes will be more filling due to their high-water content.

Foods that have high number of calories per volume like fats and refined flour products (cheese, pizza, salad dressing, cookies, cake etc) are not forbidden, but are recommended only in small amounts per week.

Volumetrics is similar to what any nutritionist would recommend; I’ve been unknowingly following and giving this advice for years.  The nice thing about the Volumetrics books though, is that they come with great recipes.   Remember, like every diet, you also need adequate drinking water (half of your body weight in ounces per day minimum) and daily exercise for at least 30 minutes.

Happy Eating!