I recently became aware of a project by WiseGeek, photographing 200 calories of 71 different foods. I am reminded how powerful visual images can be, and wince at the misguided effort. Eating more produce is a laudable goal, but without context, this information is less than helpful. Our diet culture already acts as if calories are the only thing that counts.
Trying to fill up with bulky food has its limits. I have worked with hundreds of clients who struggled mightily with disordered eating while playing that game. One client carefully packed quarts of fresh cut up veggies and toted them to work each day. She tried to fill up on the bulk, only to binge on leftover cake at the office, crackers once she arrived home, or ice cream after dinner. Calories count, they just aren’t the only thing that counts. What most people yearn for is a sense of contentment after they eat. For many, calories alone aren’t enough.
VOLUME IS ONLY ONE FACTOR INFLUENCING SATIETY
Volume is only one factor that influences satiety. Notice which foods provide the most bulk for the 200 calories provided? Air and water play a strong role here.
Vegetables and fruit provide bulk because they are also a significant source of water (80-90% of weight). But so does refined cereal, bread, and other grain products. Most of these foods are carbohydrate rich foods. Carbohydrate–even with adequate fiber–is a quick burning fuel. Unless you plan on grazing all day (which can be counterproductive for many), dense calories from protein and fat may be exactly what you need.
Protein contributes to a sense of satiety–that feeling of “enough” after eating. Fat slows down digestion, and contributes to feeling satisfied over a longer range of time. A plain turkey sandwich may last 2-3 hours, but add a slice of cheese or a smear of mayonnaise and it will probably last longer.
THERE IS NO SINGLE RIGHT WAY TO EAT
I appreciate the fact that WiseGEEK is trying to help, but we have already been down this path. We spent the better part of the 70’s and 80’s eating a low fat diet. Meat, nuts, and avocado were considered fattening, while fat free everything filled shopping carts everywhere. The population became notably more obese and incidence of diabetes soared right alongside the number of people struggling with disordered eating.
We all need adequate energy to function well. Even so, it is not wise to pretend that all calories are equal. Most people benefit when they figure out what mix of carbohydrate, protein and fat works better for them. The core challenge remains: there is no one single right way to eat that works for everyone.
Ultimately everyone deserves to learn to work with their body to achieve a sense of “enough”. Weight management is the result of better metabolic health, not the cause. If weight management was merely a math problem, many wise people would have figured it out by now.