If you're wondering how to lose weight without dieting or eating less food, we have some good news for you: Recent research from the University of Leeds and the weight-loss organization Slimming World has shown that a better way to slim down is to actually eat more food. We know this finding might go against what we've heard all our lives about cutting calories and portion control, but there's actually a pretty fascinating explanation behind it. Jacquie Lavin, PhD, head nutritionist at Slimming World, tells WomansWorld.com why the method of eating more to lose weight works like a charm — as long as you eat the right kinds of food.
"We know at Slimming World, it's really important to help people feel full and satisfied while they're trying to lose weight, because if they're trying to be too restrictive, they're going to be hungry, they're not going to feel very satisfied, and they're going to give up their weight-loss plan," Dr. Lavin said. "So we thought it was really important to look into this in a lot more detail and challenge the current perception that if you want to lose weight, you have to have smaller portions and you have to restrict what you're eating."
The May 2018 study published in the Journal of Nutrition found that people who followed Slimming World's Food Optimizing eating plan — centered around low energy-dense foods — lost nearly twice as much weight as those using a traditional calorie-counting method (5.9 percent body weight, compared to 3.5 percent) over a time period of 14 weeks. Additionally, participants following the low energy-dense eating plan also reported feeling less hungry and fuller despite consuming fewer calories than they were before. On top of that, folks focusing on low energy-dense foods also reported feeling more in control of their food choices and more motivated to continue losing weight. Considering these impressive findings, it's no wonder many people out there are curious about low energy-dense foods, and all the benefits they have to offer.
All About Low Energy-Dense Foods
To understand what a low energy-dense food is, we have to first learn what energy density means in the context of food. As Lavin explains it, energy density means looking at the amount of calories in the volume or weight of the food.
If you choose foods that have fewer calories per gram than other foods, then you can eat more of them without taking in as much calories as you would if you chose another option. That's what makes those types of food fit into the low energy-dense category. With high energy-dense foods — aka foods with more calories per gram — it's a totally different story.
"If you look at squares of chocolate, there’s a lot of calories packed in a really, really small volume there," Lavin said. "So you eat it, you don’t feel like you’ve eaten anything, but you could’ve taken in 100 calories or something."
That's why it's important to fill your daily food intake with as many low energy-dense foods as you can. Consider an apple, for example.
"If you look at an apple, there aren't many calories in there, but it's a lot bigger volume, so you feel it in your stomach more," Lavin said. "You know you've chewed something. You know you’ve eaten. You could have quite a lot of apples, have the same amount of calories as you would in chocolate, but you feel a lot fuller."
We all know the beloved saying about an apple a day keeping the doctor away, so it's good to know that the fruit might help keep unwanted pounds away as well. But of course, apples aren't the only low energy-dense food out there.
Lavin explains that the easiest way to find low energy-dense foods are to look for foods with higher water content and higher amounts of fiber, such as fruits and vegetables. She also suggested lean cuts of meat, poultry, and fish. Even certain types of pasta and rice made with complex carbohydrates can also be included in this type of eating plan. To add more flavor to these healthy meals, she suggests using a variety of herbs and spices.
But overall, she wants the takeaway message to be this: Don't go hungry.
"Don’t worry about the volume of food if you’re having the right types of food," she said. "And then, it’s not about never having your chocolate or your cookies or your cakes. It's about having those in smaller amounts."
She added: "When you want to snack or you want some chocolate or some candy, do enjoy that, but a really good approach there is to be aware of the portion size. That’s the only bit that you really have to start measuring and counting. Be mindful when you’re eating that."
Next, learn the tastiest superfoods that can help you live longer in the video below: