Q. What is Volumetrics?
A.Volumetrics is based on a basic fact: people like to eat. And if people are given the choice between eating more and eating less, they'll take more almost every time.
Unlike diets that are based on deprivation, the Volumetrics diet doesn't try to fight this natural preference. Its creator, nutritionist Barbara Rolls, PhD, argues that limiting your diet too severely won't work in the long run. You'll just wind up hungry and unhappy and go back to your old ways.
Rolls' approach is to help people find foods that they can eat lots of while still losing weight. The hook of Volumetrics is its focus on satiety, the feeling of fullness. Rolls says that people feel full because of the amount of food they eat -- not because of the number of calories or the grams of fat, protein, or carbs. So the trick is to fill up on foods that aren't full of calories. Rolls claims that in some cases, following Volumetrics will allow you to eat more -- not less -- than you do now, while still slimming down.
Rolls, with co-author Robert A. Barnett, made her case in 2000 with The Volumetrics Weight-Control Plan. In 2005, Rolls followed up with The Volumetrics Eating Plan, which restates the basics of the diet and provides further recipes.
Rolls has excellent credentials. She a professor of nutrition and director of the Laboratory for the Study of Human Ingestive Behavior at Penn State University. She is also the author of more than 200 research articles. Volumetrics is based, in large part, on the work done in her laboratory.
What You Can Eat
Rolls doesn't ban food types. She doesn't divide foods into the good and the bad. But she does urge people to evaluate foods based on their energy density. This concept is crucial to the whole diet.
Energy density is the number of calories in a specified amount of food. Some foods -- especially fats -- are very energy dense. They have a lot of calories packed into a small size. Water is the opposite, since it has an energy density of zero. If you eat foods with high energy density, you rack up calories quickly. If you go with less energy dense foods, you can eat more and get fewer calories.
Very low-density foods include:
- Non-starchy vegetables
- Nonfat milk
- Soup broths
Very high-density foods include:
Volumetrics relies heavily on foods with a high water content - such as many vegetables and fruits, which are 80% to 95% water -- since they will fill you up without adding a lot of calories. Just drinking water isn't enough, Rolls says. It will quench your thirst but not sate your hunger.
Rolls's books are also full of recipes, including many for foods with a lot of water -- like soups, casseroles, stews, and fruit-based desserts. The recipes also use a lot of tricks familiar to low-fat diet veterans: cutting the oil, butter, eggs, cream and using skim milk, egg whites, yogurt, and applesauce instead.
Rolls also suggests eating lots of foods with filling fiber, along with adequate portions of lean protein and some healthy fats from fish and other sources. Of course, energy-dense foods -- like sweets, fats, and alcohol -- are still allowed. You just have to eat them sparingly.
While the hook of Volumetrics is clever, it essentially boils down to the sensible diet that any nutritionist would recommend: lower-calories, lower-fat, with lots of vegetables and fruits.
How It Works
Volumetrics has modest goals. This isn't a diet that will help you lose 10 pounds in a week. Instead, Rolls says that you should aim for something reasonable and sustainable. She suggests a goal of losing 5% to 10% of your current body weight, shedding a pound or two a week.
Some of the key parts of the Volumetrics diet are:
- Eating foods with low energy density. Rolls says that, for most people, counting calories is pretty difficult. Instead, she suggests that you learn what kinds of foods are high and low in calories so you can make better choices. To help you out, she supplies plenty of recipes and meal suggestions for people who are trying to eat basic 1,600 or 2,000 calories per day diets. The more recent book, The Volumetrics Eating Plan, provides three weeks of complete eating plans for every meal and snack.
- Keeping records of the foods you eat and the amount of physical activity you get. Rolls says that doing this is important for your long-term success. You start by recording your food and exercise on an average week so you get a baseline. This will let you see where you need to make improvements. Also, Rolls suggests that you log your weight at least once a week -- and not more than once a day -- to follow your progress.
- Increasing your physical activity. You need to start slow, but Rolls suggests that eventually you should aim to exercise for about 30-60 minutes on most days. Any activity that you enjoy is fine. She suggests that walking is a great approach for many people, and recommends using a pedometer.
- Learning how to calculate energy density in foods so that you can eat -- and shop -- more wisely. The book also has loads of charts at the end, which give you the energy density and calories of various foods by weight.
What the Experts Say
To get some expert advice on Volumetrics, WebMD turned to three nutritionists who are all spokespeople for the American Dietetic Association (ADA). On the whole, they praised the diet's approach.
"It's a slam dunk," says Roberta Anding, MS, RD, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association. "I think it's the best diet out there. I've used the same principles in my clinical practice and they really work."
"Volumetrics makes a lot of sense," agrees Rachel Brandeis, MS, RD, an ADA spokesperson. "It's based on healthy eating and Rolls has done a lot of good studies to back up her book."
But Lona Sandon, MS, RD, also a spokeswoman for the ADA, does worry that the fullness you get with a Volumetrics-approved meal might be fleeting.
"I think it's true that foods with a lot of water in them can make you feel full just after you've eaten," Sandon tells WebMD. "But the feeling might not last long. Water can empty out of your stomach quickly. I know that I might feel full right after a broth-based soup for dinner, but I feel pretty hungry a few hours later."
Brandeis points out that Volumetrics might not be the right diet for everyone. "I'm not sure if people who have trouble overeating will be able to use this plan on their own," she tells WebMD. "The whole concept of satiety can be subjective, and some people learn how to keep eating after they already feel full."
Anding points out that hunger isn't the only reason people eat. Many eat for comfort or simply out of habit even when they're not hungry -- like when they're watching TV or working at their desks. Relying on a full stomach to stop you from eating might not be enough. You'll need to change some of your behaviors, too.
Sandon says that the diet's emphasis on homemade food and recipes might be a sticking point for some.
"I think that the recipes look fine and sensible," says Sandon. "But many of the people who come to see nutritionists like me don't have the time to cook special recipes. We have to be realistic. A lot of people want to know what healthy things they can buy from the grocery store that are basically ready-to-eat."
As Sandon points out, Volumetrics can sometimes seem a little out of touch with everyday lives. Sure, a full cup of the Volumetrics strawberry trifle with lemon cream might be more satisfying than its caloric equivalent, a couple of crummy, store-bought chocolate-chip cookies. But the problem is that you have to shop for the ingredients and make the trifle. The cookies are available at the corner store or the vending machine down the hall.
"If we all had personal chefs, these diets would be a lot easier," Sandon tells WebMD.
Food For Thought
On the covers and elsewhere in her books, Rolls uses side-by-side photos of foods -- with the same number of calories -- that have high and low energy densities. So for instance, a sixth of a cheeseburger is shown alongside its caloric equivalent, a big, brimming bowl of soup. The implication is obvious. The soup will fill you up, while the burger fraction will leave you hungry for the remaining 5/6 -- and maybe a side of fries.
Of course, the photos and premise might not convince everyone. Some might believe that a spoonful of real chocolate mousse would be worth barrels of fresh fruit and yogurt parfait. Some might gladly take a small plate of potato chips and dip over a massive platter of raw vegetables with hummus and salsa.
But in a way, that's Rolls's point. If you'd prefer the spoonful of real mousse, or a few chips, she says go ahead and eat them. She doesn't forbid anything. However, her focus on energy density lets you see just how many calories there are in some of your favorite foods. Rolls teaches you how to better evaluate your choices. Knowing this might help you stop after a few bites of energy dense foods, rather than eating the whole serving like you used to.
All in all, Volumetrics is a well-researched and sound approach to weight loss. It doesn't make any big promises and urges you to go slowly. Admittedly, following the meal plans -- which are all Volumetric recipes -- will require a fair amount of time in the kitchen. Some people may be turned off by having to calculate energy densities and keep daily records. But for people who dedicate themselves, Volumetrics could prove a sensible and satisfying way to lose weight.
Any personal health questions or problems mental or physical or before starting any diet or exercise program.Please consult your physician !
Wishing You Great Health!
Glen Edward Mitchell
Any questions? Ask Glen!