Obesity rates are at an all-time high, with numbers tripling in just one generation.
And it can’t all be attributed to a lack of willpower (as some suggest)… People often overeat because they genuinely feel hungry! Or, more accurately, they tend to overeat because they don’t feel full.
So, what’s driving this insatiable hunger, and why do followers of the standard Western diet seem to struggle with it the most?
Nobody explains this better than Dr. Andreas Eenfeldt (or Dr. E as he goes by on Twitter), who recently came on the podcast to share his novel approach to fighting the obesity crisis—one that focuses on satiety.
Today we’re talking about what satiety is, why it’s desirable for warding off weight gain, and the foods that promote it.
But first, let’s get a little bit of history as to why we’re in this metabolic health mess in the first place and why Dr. E believes satiety is our way out of it.
If you’re looking to stock up on clean ingredients, high-quality snacks, or supplements for the back-to-school season, I’ve got you covered with Paleovalley.
Paleovalley offers a variety of delicious and affordable items all in one convenient place. Their Grass-Fed Beef Sticks are a high-protein, satiating snack, and Superfood Bars are an amazing way to pack some quality nutrition on the go. I love their Organic Supergreens and Essential C Complex, made from the finest superfoods, for a little extra immune support.
Paleovalley is celebrating its ten-year anniversary with a special offer: 20% off subscriptions for life + 15% off any one-time purchase — that’s 35% off your entire order. Plus, you’ll get a free gift! Act fast because this deal is only available for the next 72 hours.
Our Food Environment Has Radically Shifted
Our industrialized food environment is the leading cause of obesity. Ultra-processed foods make up 60 percent of the average person’s diet, and in addition to being widely accessible, they’re also super cheap and made from low-quality ingredients that are easy to overeat (carbs, fat, and salt) and virtually devoid of protein.
Dr. E refers to the mouth pleasure we get from sugary, salty, crunchy, and fatty foods as “hedonic factors.” And it’s not just junk food that has these, either. “Healthy” processed foods (e.g., keto snacks, ice cream, cereal, chips, and roasted nuts) are guilty of this, too, and formulated to be highly addicting.
We are in a hyper-palatable, calorie-dense, ultra-processed food environment that leaves us unsatisfied and wanting to eat more and more. As the chart below suggests, we’re eating, on average, 500 percent more calories than we were 100 years ago! That’s crazy! And yet, we wonder why we’re in this big fat metabolic mess. The writing is on the wall!
Why Eating Less and Exercising More (i.e., Calories in = Calories out) Doesn’t Work for the Masses
Government guidelines have attempted to sidestep the issue of our ultra-processed food environment by giving the general guidance of eating less and exercising more. But the stats don’t lie—clearly, there’s more to the story.
When we reduce calories but still continue to eat ultra-processed foods as the bulk of our diet, it leaves us craving more because we’re not getting enough protein and micronutrients, making cravings difficult to override (especially when our food environment is flooded with temptation). This is why counting calories is a losing battle and a shoddy long-term solution.
Sidebar: Counting calories in the short term does have its advantages. For my Summer Weight Loss series I’ve talked with many experts who agree that temporarily auditing portion sizes by tracking calories for a couple of weeks is a good way to get an idea of how much you’re eating.
Now back to Dr. E…
This dilemma, the “just eat less” approach, is essentially what inspired Dr. E’s work in satiety. As a family medicine specialist, he saw time and time again that no matter how much he tried to educate his obese patients on healthy eating, their busy lives, jobs, and lifestyles often won out. This led him to take a new approach focused on satiety instead of completely uprooting their lives.
Dr. E’s Approach: Focus on Satiety
All right, so I know we’ve already dropped the word “satiety” a lot, but what exactly does it mean? Satiety is the opposite of hunger, i.e., it is the feeling we get when our bodies are satisfied after a meal and no longer have the urge to eat.
Dr. E proposes that we focus on satiety instead of calories or specific diets. He argues that this will help us break free from constant hunger and from getting wrapped up in the nuances of diet culture. (Watch Dr. E’s Low Carb Denver talk to learn more). It’s a universal solution because it overrules our own biases.
The hope for this new approach is to liberate individuals by helping them focus less on diet and more on foods that promote fullness, are low in hedonic factors, and are thus difficult to overeat.
So, What Foods Promote Satiety?
Whole Foods—Particularly Those High in Protein and Fiber.
According to Dr. E, choosing foods rich in protein and fiber offers the most nourishment per calorie and makes us feel satiated and less inclined to overeat. Over time, this can help shift body composition the right way and help prevent and reverse obesity and chronic metabolic disease.
- Focus on getting adequate protein at every meal. Protein has been a hot topic that it seems everyone is talking about due to its crucial role in longevity, muscle synthesis, metabolic health, and weight loss. Dr. Gabrielle Lyon, Max Lugavere, JJ Virgin, and Sal Di Stefano agree to aim to eat one gram of protein per pound of your ideal body weight per day. A less daunting way to look at it is to eat 30 grams of protein per meal, especially breakfast, which will make it easier to combat cravings for the rest of the day.
- Eat more fiber. High-fiber foods fill us up and are an amazing source of vitamins and minerals. But one can’t thrive on these foods alone because they’re too low in protein and calories. If high-fiber plant foods make up the bulk of your diet, you might find yourself hungry and craving things like fat and sugar from ultra-processed foods. Focus on protein first, then add in fiber-rich foods for added satiety.
- Be mindful of hedonic factors (salt, sugar, fat, crunch) in ultra-processed foods. As I said earlier, hedonic factors are what drive the mouth pleasure and dopamine hit that makes us want to keep eating. (Think pretzels, pizza, ice cream, and cookies.)
Want to guess the absolute worst food according to Dr. E’s food ranking scale?
Drum roll, please….
These are the most highly addicting and least satiating foods on the planet. They’re high-fat, high-carb, crunchy, and salty. It kind of reminds me of that old Pringles ad… Once you pop, you can’t stop!
Calories from hyper-palatable junk food add up fast. It’s not that you can’t ever enjoy these foods; it’s just important to be aware that they’re designed to be addicting AF.
One hack that’s worked for me is to eat a meal with quality protein and fiber first. Then, if I’m craving a little junk food (say, Siete chips, a hedonic health food that I could easily overeat) then I’ll measure out one serving size and have it after my meal. I do this because I know they’re super addictive, but by having my protein and fiber first, I’m less likely to eat the whole bag.
I am a big fan of Dr. E’s satiety approach and super excited about the work he’s doing, AND YES, he has gotten his fair share of pushback on his approach.
What I like about Dr. E is that he’s open to feedback and his approach to satiety is constantly evolving. And I think his core principles are things we can all agree on: prioritizing protein and fiber and minimizing hedonic foods, especially when they are ultra-processed.
Regardless, I’m glad we have so many people thinking about new ways to tackle the obesity crisis because God knows we’ve tried and failed many times in the past.
As part of Dr. E’s mission to promote satiety and improve metabolic health, he’s launching an app called Hava, which is designed to make identifying and choosing satiating foods easy for the average person. Join the waitlist to stay updated on its launch!
Here’s to your health,