Losing weight with the Volumetrics diet

The principle of the Volumetrics diet is simple: achieve steady shrinkage without hunger. In other words, control calories while eating enough food to feel satisfied.

The approach maintains that feeling full isn’t dependent on the amount of calories, fat, carbohydrates or protein you eat. Satiety is based on volume, and we all tend to eat about the same weight (or volume) in foodstuffs day after day. (1)

Dr. Barbara Rolls, PhD, the nutritional scientist who created the Volumetrics diet, directs the Laboratory for the Study of Human Ingestive Behavior at Penn State University. The doctor claims her Ultimate Volumetrics Diet can help refocus your diet to allow more food with a better payoff, instead of squandering calories that won’t help you achieve personal goals.

Following this plan, you can lose weight while providing your body with high quality nutrients. (2)

A Different Approach

First of all, nothing is off limits, which increases your chances of being able to stick with the diet.

Feelings of deprivation, hunger and cravings all rate high among reasons why dieters abandon weight-loss programs in the early stages. (3)

Secondly, this is not a quick weight-loss diet. Volumetrics is a long-term plan designed for shedding extra pounds slowly through focusing on healthy food choices.

Doctors at the Mayo Clinic believe slow and steady weight loss works best for keeping pounds off over the long haul. (4)

As you look over the following breakdown of foods into four categories, keep in mind that the energy density of any given food is calculated by the number of calories in a serving. (5)

  • Non-starchy vegetables like broccoli, tomatoes, mushrooms, cabbage, and all leafy greens; fruits of all kinds; broth-based soups. These very low-density foods are considered “free,” and can be eaten with any meal in any quantity. Include generous amounts in your daily fare.
  • Lean protein, low-fat dairy products, starchy vegetables (yams and sweet potatoes, beets, carrots, etc.), legumes and whole grains like brown rice and whole wheat pasta. Eat these low-density foods in reasonable portion sizes, aiming to draw a good amount of the day’s food from this list.
  • Small servings of meats with higher fat content, baked fat-free snacks, breads, desserts, and cheese. Medium-density choices like these should represent a limited amount of what you’re taking in for the day.
  • Fried foods, candy, nuts, cookies, butter and oil in “spare” amounts. Choose only one or two high-density energy items daily.

Put together three meals and two snacks each day, and include dessert if you like. The bulk of your daily intake should come from foods in the first and second categories.

High water content foods in the first group will help you feel satisfied, so be as generous as possible with servings of fruits and non-starchy vegetables. If you finish a meal and you’re still hungry, try to top it off with more low-density foods.

Alcoholic drinks are allowed in moderation, but consider them classified with category 4 items.

As for water, drinking plenty is always a good idea, but remember it satisfies thirst, not hunger.

Getting comfortable with the classification system can take some practice. Over time, you’ll learn to identify foods that allow you more volume while delivering fewer calories and greater health benefits, like decreasing your risk of developing chronic diseases. (6)

As with most approaches to weight control, exercise plays an important role. For best results, Dr. Rolls recommends designating time in your day for 30 to 60 minutes of moderate exercise. Keeping a record of food intake and activity levels can also be a helpful strategy. (7)

What’s the Reward?

Limiting foods in the second two groups while consistently selecting the bulk of your intake from the first two groups is the key to ongoing, steady weight loss.

Penn State University conducted a year-long study with 97 overweight women randomly divided into two groups. Half the women ate a standard low fat diet and the other half ate a low fat diet allowing unlimited quantities of high water content foods, like fruits and vegetables.

Both groups lost weight: about 14 pounds average for the low fat group, and 17 pounds for women eating their fill of high water content foods. The women eating plenty of fruits and veggies ate more food by volume, but consumed fewer total calories. They never felt hungry. (8)

In a statement issued by the United States Department of Agriculture, researchers concluded long term weight control is more dependent on the dieter’s ability to follow a weight-loss and maintenance plan, rather than being determined by which plan is chosen. (9) Since no food groups are off limits, the Volumetrics plan is likely to yield higher success rates than more restrictive diets.

A report on behavioral approaches to weight control published by the National Institutes of Health refers to Dr. Rolls’ research indicating that people who ate salad or broth-based soup before a meal consumed fewer calories overall by the time they left the table. (10)

The case for plant strong diets continues to grow; with its emphasis on plant foods, the Volumetrics diet can fall into this category, especially if you go light on animal proteins.

According to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, potential health benefits of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables include preventing or managing chronic health issues like obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and even cancer. (11)

From an ecological standpoint, diets relying heavily on animal products require more land and water resources. About a third of the world population consumes a diet based primarily on meat; making choices that contribute to shifting this balance can steer our collective momentum toward more sustainable dietary habits. (12)

How you choose to apply the principles of the Volumetrics diet is completely up to you. Some people do better with a more structured approach to dieting; if you’re a compulsive eater or one who prefers following rules, the Volumetrics diet may not be the best choice for you. (13)

The Volumetrics plan can be a practical and effective approach for people who thrive on flexibility and are looking for a long term weight control solution.


  1. http://health.usnews.com/best-diet/volumetrics-diet
  2. http://www.webmd.com/diet/volumetrics-what-it-is
  3. http://news.health.com/2013/09/19/5-reasons-most-diets-fail-within-7-days/
  4. http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/weight-loss/expert-answers/fast-weight-loss/faq-20058289
  5. http://www.nutrientdataconf.org/PastConf/NDBC36/2-6_Vernarelli_NNDC2012.pdf
  6. http://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpa/nutrition/pdf/rtp_practitioner_10_07.pdf
  7. http://www.healthline.com/health/volumetrics-diet#2
  8. https://www.pritikin.com/your-health/health-benefits/healthy-weight-loss/819-calorie-density-key-to-losing-weight.html
  9. http://agresearchmag.ars.usda.gov/2006/mar/diet/
  10. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3887548/
  11. http://www.pcrm.org/health/diets/pplate/dietary-guidelines-usda-sustainable-power-plate
  12. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12936963
  13. http://fitnesswatch-md.com/best-diets/volumetrics-diet/



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