Volume Eating

Volume eating has been popularised by the calorie deficit crowd in the nutrition space. This group largely focus on ensuring a calorie deficit for weight reduction is present and are constantly trying to find new ways to eat less calories, ideally, without noticing. 

The problem with this – we need calories to survive. Sure, there is nothing wrong with eating in a calorie deficit if it is safe to do so, and if you’re doing it for a short period of time, however most people eat far too little, or become obsessive about having the lowest calorie version of everything, to the point where their health is impacted.

So, what is volume eating?

Volume eating essentially refers to trying to get in as much physical volume of food for as few calories as possible. For example you might compare 100 calories of chocolate with 100 calories of watermelon and you’d see volume wise, the watermelon provides much more volume giving 300g of watermelon compared to 50g of chocolate. 

The argument here is that the larger the volume of food, the more full or satiated you will feel. Which is in part true, but in part also untrue.

Satiation

The state produced by having had a specific need fulfilled, such as hunger or thirst.

To understand we need to understand what being full or satiated actually means. There are 3 components to satiety.

  • Taste satisfaction
  • Volume satisfaction 
  • Energy satisfaction 

Taste satisfaction

refers to flavour, as well as texture and cravings or desired foods. Have you ever felt like chocolate but decided you’d go for something else ‘healthier’ only to eat 4 dates, ½ a tub of peanut butter and a yoghurt only to come back and have the chocolate anyway?
I think we’ve all been there, the reality is nothing was actually making us satisfied until we had the thing we truly wanted. This is taste satisfaction. 

Volume satisfaction

refers to the volume of food and ultimately the stretch in the stomach and digestive tract. It’s true, we do feel more satiated when our stomach and the stretch nerve receptors in our digestive system are activated. This is one of the reasons why high fibre foods keep us more full, they usually provide more ‘bulk’ and allow us to activate those stretch receptors which send a signal to the brain telling us we are full.

If we only considered volume satisfaction as our primary indication of satisfaction, we technically should be full or satisfied eating only big iceberg lettuces for every meal, but that’s not how humans work, we also need energy (calories) to survive and we also are emotional beings with cravings and desires, that’s what separates us from many other animals. 

Energy satisfaction

comes down to the caloric content. Our bodies do understand the caloric value of food. If we eat only lettuce but large volumes, our body knows it hasn’t got the calories it needs, it knows it needs more and regardless of how much volume of lettuce or cauliflower you eat, you will still feel hungry even if your stomach is stretched to the limits with cauliflower. 

What does this mean for volume eating? 

&&It only works to an extent. Bulking up every meal with cauliflower, spinach, or any low calorie foods will only satisfy you either for a short period of time while those stretch receptors are triggered or only if you are also eating enough calories. 

So yes, add volume to your meals to make you feel satisfied, but also don’t try to make your meals as low calorie as possible by skimping on sustenance we actually need (calories).