Counting Calories and Satiety: Why there’s more to it than just calories in vs calories out

I tried to count calories to lose weight. It didn’t work for me. Why? Because without understanding the differences between good and bad calories and satiety, I would often still feel hungry after a meal. On its most basic level, nutrition is easy: eat fewer calories than you expend in a day to create a deficit which, in turn, will yield weight loss. Seems simple, right? Well, there’s more to it than that.

Satiety: the quality or state of being fed or gratified. This is a word many people don’t know, understand, or consider. It turns out that it’s one of the most important keys to losing weight effectively. If you eat 500 calories at a meal but don’t feel full, you’ll be miserable at best and unless you have really great willpower, you’ll succumb to the cravings and eat more. On the other hand, if you eat 500 calories that fill you up, you will be less inclined to snack or over-eat and will be able to make it to the next regular meal without any discomfort.

That’s a huge key for many people: comfort. Nobody wants to starve. It’s hard-wired into our brains to avoid starving. It’s uncomfortable at best, and downright horrible. I’ve had to go days without food before, and I can tell you, I never want to experience that again. As an overweight person, going for too long without food was very uncomfortable. Heck, I’d find myself hungry a few hours after a meal and would snack to make that bad feeling go away. Many overweight people who want to lose weight fail because they can’t deal with that hungry feeling. That’s because the food they eat are hyper-nutritious but low in satiety. These are foods like pizza, hamburgers, Taco Bell, etc. You have to eat a lot to feel full, but then you took in 2-3 days worth of calories.

The main factor in our success in being able to stick with Whole30 and Paleo has been satiety. Every meal we eat is very high in satiety which in turn not only fills us up but keeps us from getting hungry again too soon. It makes meals satisfying in a way that doesn’t make you feel bloated or stuffed. It energizes you instead of drags you down.

Some people succeed with counting calories. A good friend of mine lost a lot of weight this way, but it is not sustainable. They gained the weight back (and then some). I am not one of those people either; counting calories always ended in failure for me. Like an idiot, I tried time and time again and found short-term success only to have it return with an addition 10-15 lbs each time. It wasn’t until I addressed the reasons I ate too much coupled with learning to eat good foods high in satiety did I find success.

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