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Why Eat Less, Move More Doesn’t Work All the Time

Written by: Gianluca Tognon, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


Health is an essential factor in measuring the quality of life of any human being. If you are not in a healthy state, you may find it hard to function in your everyday routine. That is why health is regarded as wealth, and we cannot deny its importance.

A woman reading on her smart phone and enjoying her breakfast at home.

I have dealt with several people throughout my career and tried my best to help them feel their best selves. In most cases, their focus was mostly on losing weight, and as a direct response to it, most of them had tried the strategy of reducing calorie intake, considering it the only way to solve their problems.

I get really upset whenever I hear someone saying that losing weight is easy because it is purely a matter of eating less and moving more. In my opinion, this oversimplification contributes to the stigma toward overweight and obese people who are unfairly perceived as ravenous and lazy.

Calorie reduction might induce compensatory mechanisms that ultimately make your body save energy. However, this is not the main reason justifying my skepticism. When adopting the latter strategy, people often return to their initial calorie intake after a while. Additionally, if the lowered calorie intake is accompanied by physical exercise, you might feel hungrier than when you do not exercise.

Common sense suggests that taking in fewer calories and burning some calories will help you lose some weight. The latter, though, does not warrant that this is the ultimate solution to losing weight.

A missing piece in this puzzle is satiety, a crucial factor that everyone planning a healthy meal plan should consider.

Why is Satiety so important?

Reaching satiety after a meal is critical in maintaining a healthy body weight and reaching your health goals. Satiation is the process that causes us to stop eating, whereas satiety is the feeling of fullness that prevails after eating.

In simpler words, if you consume a high-satiety meal, you will not feel hungry right after it. On the other hand, if your meal has a low ability to induce satiety, you may feel like eating again as soon as you finish your meal.

What are the Factors that Control Satiety?

Those who do not know about nutrition may find it complicated. But numerous internal and external factors can control satiety, appetite, and calorie intake.

A few external factors include a person’s age, body weight, gender, behavior, lifestyle as well as the influence of other people on their appetite if they have an external locus of control. Even food composition and its taste, texture, and smell can hugely impact one’s satiety.

The internal factors which impact satiety would primarily be hormones, like Ghrelin which promotes hunger, and Leptin which boosts satiety. Similarly, CCK is the hormone responsible for satiation. This is not all. Even the volume of the food influences satiety as it relates to the stretching of the stomach. If the meal has more volume and stretches the stomach to a greater degree, then the signals of satiety and satiation will be activated.

I always stress the importance of eating food that switches hunger off while keeping the number of calories consumed in check. Such options are likely to reduce the portion size and help control snacking between meals.

10 Strategies to Increase Satiety

1. Incorporating fruits and vegetables into your Diet

This is one of the best strategies you can implement in your lifestyle. As we know, fruit and vegetables are not only healthy but also rich in fiber, which is excellent in promoting satiety hence reducing energy intake. You can eat fresh fruit or vegetables before your meal or even after it as a dessert.

I always encourage fresh fruit and vegetables instead of processed juices, as the latter has a lower fiber content, which is essential for inducing satiety.

2. Drink water before, during, and in between meals

Sometimes you may feel hungry, but as soon as you sip a glass of water, your hunger disappears. Quite weird, isn’t it? The latter curious phenomenon happens because you were not hungry but just thirsty. Therefore, whenever you feel an urge to eat, sipping some water may help you control your food intake. Also, drinking water at the beginning and during a meal can accelerate satiety, while drinking in between meals will delay the reappearance of hunger.

3. Consume a protein-rich diet

Proteins are known for contributing to a higher sense of satiety compared to carbohydrates and fats. Therefore, consuming protein-rich meals (starting from breakfast) will keep your hunger at bay for longer. Fish, eggs, cheese and yogurt, quinoa, and all dishes combining grains and legumes (e.g., rice and lentils) are all examples of high-protein healthy foods that you should consider adding to your meal plan.

4. Use nuts as snacks

We are all guilty of munching on unhealthy processed snacks that satisfy our cravings. However, most highly processed snacks add little to no nutrients to our diet. Try replacing highly processed snacks with nuts.

Nuts are rich in protein, fiber, and unsaturated fats, which are beneficial for your body. They also contribute to delaying hunger when consumed between meals and help you reach your fitness goals more easily.

5. Recognize emotional eating

Human beings are sensitive to different types of emotions. Those who do not know how to control their emotions often end up in distress. These people tend to hide their feelings and channel their energies in the wrong direction. Negative emotions such as anger, heartbreak, anxiety, sadness, and fear can trigger emotional eating or impulsive eating.

Recognizing and avoiding the sources of negative emotions (e.g., stress or conflicts) can help you prevent emotional hunger. On the other hand, when negative emotions cannot be avoided, it is useful to soothe yourself without using food. Some examples of this include listening to your favorite music, chatting with a friend or a colleague, or going for a walk.

6. Have a small amount of milk before going to bed

Many people experience a sudden increase in hunger right before going to bed. Drinking water often is not enough to calm this feeling, and, on the other hand, it is challenging to fall asleep when you feel hungry. A solution to this problem is to drink a small amount of milk before going to bed. You don’t need a whole glass; even one-third of it will be enough. Milk is a high-protein drink, and protein will soothe your hunger for the time necessary to fall asleep.

7. Portion control with tastier food

There is no doubt that it is difficult to stop eating delicious food when you have it in front of you on the table. Tasty food tends to stimulate appetite and contribute to an increased meal duration, which ultimately leads to a greater calorie intake.

You obviously cannot cook flavorless food every day, but you can control your portions by limiting the amount of salt, sugar, and fat you use while cooking. This is because the latter can enhance the taste of any dish they are added to and can contribute to overeating. Glutamate, which is contained in stock cubes, has a similar effect. You can also control your portions by using smaller plates.

8. Reduce the variety of foods on the table (except for vegetables)

People tend to eat more when provided with several foods on the table. We can call this the “all you can eat” effect that you experience every time you are presented with a large buffet, and you end up eating more than necessary. The scientific term to explain this would be “Sensory Specific Satiety,” often abbreviated as “SSS.” Sensory Specific Satiety explains that a variety of food the person has not previously tried stimulates higher satiety and vice versa. The desire to taste the already consumed food decreases, hence increasing the satiety.

However, the latter mechanism can be exploited to your advantage by increasing the variety of options for vegetables that you put on the table. In addition to your main dish, you can put on the table a salad, sautéed vegetables, and maybe a small soup. You will end your meal with the sensation of eating a lot, despite successfully controlling the number of calories you have ingested.

9. Chew your food well

One behavior that is common among individuals who have a weight problem is that they eat fast, take bigger spoonfuls, and do not chew their food well. Since satiety requires a certain amount of time to appear, decreasing the rate you ingest food will help you reach satiety with less food.

I would highly recommend taking your time while consuming your meals and chewing your food well.

10. Maintain a healthy sleep cycle

Without an adequate amount of high-quality sleep, your brain and body cannot function properly. The importance of sleep can never be stressed enough. People who have poor quality sleep are usually the ones who then feel tired and hungry throughout their day. The latter phenomenon happens because a short sleep increases the levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin in your body.

It is beyond the scope of this article to discuss healthy sleep patterns, but you can find some tips for better sleep here.

To Sum Up

Through this article, I have tried to convey that filling foods not only have many health benefits but also promote satiety and, consequently, help reach and maintain a healthy body weight.

I hope the strategies I have discussed above will help you reach your wellness goals. If not, feel free to contact me for more tailored advice.

Follow me on Facebook, LinkedIn, and visit my website for more info!


Gianluca Tognon, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Gianluca Tognon is an associate professor in public health at the University of Skövde (Sweden) and the founder of the consulting company “The Food Scientist.” He is an expert in public health, nutrition, and food science. As a trained biologist with a Ph.D. in nutrition, Gianluca spent more than 15 years researching public health and nutritional epidemiology to understand the problems connected to unhealthy diets. He has also worked with the Choices Programme, which has set criteria for reformulating food products to better impact consumers’ health. He is now primarily focused on helping companies in the food and health industry improve their products, brand, and presence. Gianluca has consulted private companies, schools, organizations, and hundreds of private individuals who needed help with diet and health. He has presented at several conferences and events in Europe and the USA. More information about Gianluca is available on his website.



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