Weight Loss Habit of the Month – Satiety Journaling
Do you just LOVE calorie counting?
Yeah, I didn’t think so…
Sometimes calorie counting is a great way to become more aware of eating patterns and portion sizes, but other times it’s simply not appropriate. For those of you with a disordered or just “obsessive” history, calorie counting may be a treacherous landscape. And let’s face it – nobody wants to count calories forever. That doesn’t mean it never has value, but rather that at the very least it’s good to do other things TOO.
For other people, calorie counting seems to reinforce false narratives like “I’ve been eating 1,200 calories but have been stuck at 200 lbs for the past 6 months”. As the basal metabolic rate for a 90 lb female would be in the 1,100 – 1,200 range, it’s far more likely that if you get out of bed and weigh a healthy weight or higher that your calorie intake estimation is off rather than the rules of thermodynamics being dramatically altered for you. There’s no shame in this. It’s tough to measure all these little things called “calories” and how they add up (they add up by the thousands, in fact)!
This is why I refer to calorie counting as a quasi-objective form of data tracking. A calorie is a very concrete measurement, but unless you live in a laboratory there’s always going to be some margin of error in your counting. The only question is how much.
This is why I like Satiety Journaling as a habit for “tracking” one’s diet. Rather than a quasi-objective form of data, you’re going straight for the subjective “data”. Rather than needing to get more precise with weighing and measuring, you’re refining your awareness of your hunger and fullness levels. And along the way, you’re collecting reports of how you’re eating in relation to your satiety and appetite.
So what IS satiety journaling? Satiety journaling is journaling your appetite/hunger levels as well as your satiety/fullness levels in relation to your meals. With my clients, the two most popular ways to do this so far appear to be using a 1-5 scale (with 5 being “stuffed”) and using simple 1-2 word descriptions like “kinda full”, “satisfied”, “Full”, etc.
You could probably get benefits just from monitoring your hunger and satiety levels. That awareness is HUGE – it can help you identify patterns such as letting yourself get to “super hungry” and as a result then overeating to the point of “stuffed”. But to take this habit to the next level, we build it upon a structure of food journaling.
How satisfied do you feel when you eat rice and chicken compared to beef and potatoes? What happens when you add one egg to your breakfast in the morning? How long does fruit help keep you satisfied? These types of questions (and perhaps an infinite amount more) get answered when you monitor your appetite and satiety in relation to your meals.
So far I’ve talked about satiety journaling as a means of practicing awareness of your satiety signals (the biggest benefit) and learning what types of dietary tweaks you can make to maximize what I call “satisfaction per calorie”. But there’s another way to use it if you really want to maximize its use as a form of “subjective data tracking” for fat loss…
Rather than journaling your (estimated) calorie intake and making observations based on average (estimated) intake, you can look at your journal notes to inform you of where to make changes. For example, if you eat until “stuffed” at 80 percent of your meals, how do you think that is going to affect your waist line compared to eating until “satisfied” at 80 percent of your meals? Likewise, how many times are you letting yourself go all the way to “OMG I’m so hungry I’m gonna kill somebody” that it drives you to binging?
“But how can you lose weight if you don’t exactly know how many calories you’re eating?”
That’s the thing. Unless your meals are being served to you from a team of scientists, you’re never going to know what your calorie intake is exactly. The only question is how close you are with your estimate. I’d much rather have someone become more aware of their appetite and satiety signals – and have written self-reports of those levels throughout the week – than have them chronically underestimating calories by 1,000.
Quasi-objective data is cool. But there’s a lot more LONG term benefits to becoming more aware of your body’s signals.
Here’s what some members of my coaching programs have said about the satiety journaling habit and what they learned from the process:
“I found I need the protein/carb combo to stay more satisfied. As a result, I needed to change my breakfast which helped a lot. I also learned by checking in with satiety, I can target when to have my fruit/veggie snack before I get too hungry. When I’m really hungry, I don’t make the best food choices. You don’t want to see me hungry.” – Lori Reinke
“The main thing I learned was that I often don’t need as much food as I think, in order to be satisfied for several hours. I also learned that I REALLY need to carry some healthy snacks with me when I’ll be away from home for several hours, especially between breakfast and lunch. I tend to let myself get to the “starving” point between those meals, and then overeat at lunch.” – Kelli King Baker
“I learned if I don’t include carbs in after workout meals, I get hangry pretty quick. I also learned that I don’t get hungry as often as I thought. Plus checking in with satiety throughout the day just happens now without having to think about it too much.” – Darcy Lind Christ
“I realized when I CTFO and listen to my body, it not only tells me what type of food it really needs, but how much. And when I really tune into my satiety levels prior to eating & after, I honor those needs much better. I maintain longer periods of satiety with more carbs at each meal than I’ve been eating, and I rarely “crave” that so working on balancing that better. Overall, this has been the 2nd most impactful habit for me & one I will continue. Really helped me tune into my body’s needs while letting go of some of the head junk still messing with me around food.” – Amy Cox
“I found that I need a good balance of macros to feel satisfied with a meal. Also, trying out some minor tweaks to things like my morning smoothie helped me stay satisfied longer.” – JoJo Pierce
In my programs, I walk you through my system for customizing each habit. Here are a couple examples of how you could approach this habit:
1) Journaling a basic description of each meal and appetite/satiety levels on a scale of 1-5, immediately before and immediately after each meal.
2) Journaling a detailed description of each meal (estimated portion sizes) and appetite/satiety levels using the appropriate word from the following menu: “starving”, “hungry”, “kinda hungry/ not satisfied”, “satisfied”, “full”, and “stuffed” immediately after each meal and then every 3 hours.
This is personally one of my favorite habits because of the wide range of benefits from it, and our members report big realizations. Satiety awareness – and the other lessons/applications from this habit – are so important for making weight loss as easy as possible.