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Volumetrics: Fill up to thin out

by Denis Faye - The Nutrition Nerd | March 28, 2014

unnamedI largely credit Volumetrics as the first step on my road to being the Slim Jim that I am today. 

Actually, no. The first step was the one where I got tired of being a fat bastard. But the second step certainly involved Volumetrics–although Dr. Barbara Roll had yet to write the book coining the term. I just figured that my life-long strategy of trying to deny my constant drive to cram chow down my gob just wasn’t working. So instead I started picking low-calorie, high-volume foods to gob-cram, mainly in the form of fresh veggies and fruit. Of course, I had yet to become a Nutrition Nerd, so it took several years, lingering colds, and unnecessary sports injuries for me to figure out that I needed to balance that massive produce intake with the proper amino acids and high quality fats. Luckily, you won’t have that problem because you have Dr. Roll’s excellent book; you have a number of nutrition plans I’ve designed influenced by both that book and my own experiences; and you have this wildly informative, mildly hilarious blog. 

Volumetrics is based on the reduction of food energy–the idea that diets don’t need to be about deprivation. You can eat plenty and still lose weight–it’s just a question of eating the right foods. Produce-piling isn’t the only tool in the food energy reduction utility knife. There’s also the adding-water-to-food trick as well as that moldy oldie from the 1970s, the low fat diet. (Fat is more calorically dense than protein and carbs, so replacing the first with the second two reduces your total calories.)

So which one works best? High volume produce is nutritious, but it can be a challenge economically and, at times gastrointestinally. (Read: excess broccoli can make you fart, perhaps even on a first date at an inopportune time–not that this ever happened to me.) Water, while awesome for you, is micronutrient-poor, so using it to replace food means you’re skipping all kinds of vitamins and minerals. And fats such as omega-3 fatty acids, while caloric, are super good for you, so you really shouldn’t skimp on them. 

Just for fun, science decided to stage a contest between them. A study in the July 2013 issue of the journal Appetite (which sounds like a dirty magazine you might find in a 1980s Circle K between Leg Show and Gent, but isn’t) compared these three methods to see which worked best. 

Cutting right to the chase, fat reduction won, with a daily caloric decrease of about 396 calories. Upping fruit and veggie intake was second with about 308 calories less per day. Water came in third with a reduction of 230 calories a day. 

I find these results annoying because, as I said, balanced fat intake is crucial to a healthy diet. However, I think the scientists probably agree with me, since they elected to invalidate their little study by summarizing it with “These findings indicate that a variety of diet compositions can be recommended to reduce overall dietary energy density in order to moderate energy intake.” 

In other words, maybe they don’t want to glorify low-fat diets, so they’re being vague and noncommittally, much like a woman might be when asked on a second date after you accidentally rip an eyebrow burner in the middle of the salad course–again, not that this ever happened to me. 

But I’m cool with that, because I agree. Not with the woman–she should have given me and my bowels another chance–but rather with the scientists. If you want to practice Volumetrics, the healthiest, most effective way to go is  balance of all three of these methods.

And stay away from Match.com. 

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