You're trying to transform your body, weight, and overall health. But is your bathroom scale telling you everything you need to know? What else should you be measuring or tracking to make this process more effective and easier to stick to?
Think about it. The human body is so complex and intricate. Transforming health entails various types of changes, not just a number on the scale. Are you learning new skills? Are you changing specific habits? Finding ways to measure these things can help ensure more sustainable, longer-lasting results. Plus, having the ability to see smaller signs of progress before you even see a change on the scale can give you the motivation you need to stick to your plan.
#1 Track Satiation After Meals!
Satiety is the feeling of fullness you get after eating that stops you from eating any further. It is most often accompanied by a feeling of satisfaction. It can be tracked using a hunger/fullness scale - a subjective scale of 1-10 used to rate how you feel, from 1 being the most extreme hunger to 10 being stuffed beyond capacity.
When it comes to the hunger/fullness scale, 5 is the point where you feel energized and neutral, neither hungry nor full. The 6 is a point where you feel fully and comfortably satisfied but 7 is where you are alrady several bites past that point and eating a couple more bites simply for pleasure. The 8 mark is where fullness starts to feel uncomfortable and you might say you're "stuffed". This is just bites away from mark 9, uncomfortably bloated and lethargic. The extreme end of this scale, mark 10 is technically beyond full and can create an aversion to food and a sick feeling.
So, if you're trying to lose weight, then why would tracking this be more important than tracking your weight on the scale? If overeating or oversnacking has ever been an issue for someone, it may have been a long time since that person has actually felt a level 6 or even a level 7 fullness, felt content and calm with it, and made a conscientious decision to stop at that point.
Our bodies have very complex mechanisms for satiation in the stomach, the intestines, and the brain. These mechansms create signals for us to help us control our food intake. Unfortunately, many individuals override these signals and the beautiful feeling of satiation is lost and forgotten.
What Satiation Looks Like
Picture eating a nutritionally balanced meal, with satiating food groups like quality protein, healthy fat, and fiber-rich whole grains and vegetables. The satiating nutrients in these foods eventually signal your brain and gut that you are well-nourished now, that you can stop now. Then, in that moment, you feel full, comfortably full. You're not stuffed, you simply feel full and content with how much you ate. This contentment gives you the power to stop. And you're okay with stopping because you have successfully nourished your body and have had enough to eat.
If this were to happen after most, if not all, meals, wouldn't this help with weight control? Wouldn't this help with avoiding excess calorie intake? In fact, seeing this type of progress might happen sooner than weight loss and it can be a huge motivator to keep going and sticking to your plan!
Foods and drinks are not all equally satiating. Some are consistently more satiating than others. Incorporating more satiating foods can assist you with achieving your goal of a normal satiating feeling while still consuming healthy foods in healthy amounts.
Protein is a super satiator (if that is even a word!). Many studies have shown that at adequate levels, protein has a stronger effect on satiety than an equivalent amount of calories coming from carbs or fat. Even high protein drinks show a powerful satiating effect, greater than an equievalent amount of energy coming from a drink with carbs or fat in it.
Fat can also contribute to satiety by slowing down the emptying of the stomach. This stimulates the release of satiating gut hormones that suppress hunger.
Tune Into Your Cues
As mentioned before, a hunger/fullness scale can help you get into the habit of noticing how physically full (and hungry) you are. Keep one like this one handy on your phone or fridge!
Nutrition Bulletin, 34, 126–173 Satiation, satiety and their effects oneating behaviourBritish Nutrition Foundation, London, UK