Research reveals that a ‘low satiety response’ makes it harder to lose weight – and shows how to beat it
Mum-of-one Stacey Gascoyne, 29, from Wakefield, West Yorkshire regularly went to ‘all you can eat’ buffets and never felt full. Now she’s lost 14st 8lbs and hasn’t changed her plate size once!
“I tried to lose weight all my life but traditional diets always left me hungry. With Slimming World, I lost over 14st and turned my life around!”
Stacey’s story backs up research from the University of Leeds which explains why some people find it harder to maintain a healthy weight than others.
Research shows some of us struggle to lose weight because we have a ‘low satiety response’ – meaning that we find it harder to satisfy our appetite. We have difficulty in recognising appetite signals, are more likely to reach for snacks and take longer to feel full after eating – and therefore end up consuming more calories. Those people who have weaker satiety signals find it especially difficult to follow a restrictive or calorie-counted diet plan, and so find it harder to lose weight on that kind of programme.
However, there is some good news. The research[i] shows that choosing certain types of food – foods lower in energy density (or calories per gram) – can help people with a low satiety response feel more in control of their appetite – and protect them from the risk of over-consuming calories, making it easier to lose weight.
“In April 2019 I joined Slimming World weighing 25st 2lbs. I was severely asthmatic and couldn’t move an inch without needing my inhaler. I’d avoided the scales for so long and was mortified when I saw how much I weighed. I had problems sleeping and found I couldn’t run or play with my daughter and I even struggled to walk her to school and back. All of my life I was always the bigger girl but when I saw a picture of myself with my partner Jordan, I was mortified at how big I’d become. I’d tried multiple diets and quick fixes before, but I always gave up because they left me hungry. I even went down the route of looking at having a gastric band. I knew I had to change and when my mum said she was joining Slimming World, I jumped at the chance to go with her. That was the best decision I’ve ever made.” says Stacey.
“From the very first time I went to my Slimming World group, I was bowled over hearing everyone else sharing their stories. I realised I wasn’t the only one struggling and it seemed there was a way to lose weight without hunger. Rather than prepare meals I’d constantly snack on biscuits, crisps and family size bars of chocolate without a single thought of the damage it was doing. Slimming World’s eating plan has helped me eat to satisfy my appetite because it's based on foods that are really healthy - filling and low in calories, so you can enjoy big portions and you never feel hungry. Now I plan all my week’s meals in advance, it’s helped me to save money too as when I go shopping, I only buy exactly what I need and I’m not thinking ‘What will we have for tea?’ when I’m in the supermarket aisle. I feel more in control and I’ve stopped going to the fridge when I’m bored. I love that I can have a treat too and I don’t have to cut everything out. My partner Jordan enjoys the food I’ve been cooking – our favourite Slimming World meal is easy chilli con carne. Before joining Slimming World we used to go to our local ‘all you can eat’ buffet and I’d have plate after plate of food that was often cooked in oil or covered in batter and I never really felt full. My friends and family couldn’t believe I was losing weight as I continued to eat the same size meals although I knew what was on the plate was different and more healthy. My daughter loves eating the meals I cook too. She’s so proud of me and wants to support me and both my mum and dad are in awe of how well I’ve done.
“Losing almost 15st has saved my life! I don’t need my inhaler and I’ve discovered a new love of walking. I walk and run for miles and I feel I’ve been given the freedom to enjoy my life with my family again. I’m able to get out of bed in the morning and look in a mirror, something I wouldn’t have dreamt of doing before. I’ve gone from being a size 32 and far too self-conscious to go clothes shopping to a size 10 and finding a new love for clothes and fashion. Now I get up and take an extra 20 mins to pick an outfit and check what I look like in a mirror! It brings me such joy! I feel I’m now living the life I was always meant to live – I’m able to do activities with my family I never thought I'd be able to do and my confidence has grown massively. I no longer avoid the mirror or the camera and I’m happy for anyone to take my picture now! I’m not hiding any more, I make my own spotlight.”
Stacey’s story backs up the findings of a study, led by Dr Nicola Buckland and a team of researchers at Leeds University, which examined the role of satiety response in relation to weight loss as part of a major project[ii] exploring the links between energy density, satiety and the psychology of weight control. Researchers compared two groups of female slimmers, one following a typical calorie-counting diet, the others following Slimming World’s Food Optimising plan based on healthy, low energy dense foods, eaten freely. (These low energy dense foods are everyday staples such as fresh fruit and veg, lean meat and poultry, eggs, pasta, rice and fat free dairy products.)
The two groups contained people with both low and high satiety responses. The aim was to investigate the impact of these low energy dense foods on appetite satisfaction, and the role that feeling satisfied plays in feelings of self control and sticking with a weight loss programme.
Further analysis by researchers found that when people with a low satiety response ate meals based on low energy dense foods (which tend to be lower in fats and sugar, and higher in protein, complex carbohydrates and fibre) they were more in control of their appetite and their food choices than when they were given high energy dense meals. They also found that slimmers were able to eat a greater volume of food, while naturally limiting their calorie intake.
Overall, in the study, slimmers who were following Slimming World’s eating plan based on eating low energy dense foods freely, felt more in control of their food intake and lost significantly more weight than the group following a calorie-controlled diet.
Professor James Stubbs from the Leeds research team says: “People who have a low satiety response feel less satisfied after eating. They’re more likely to crave high fat foods, to snack between meals and generally are less able to stick to their plans around food choices – therefore they’re more likely to consume more calories than people with a high satiety response and find it harder to manage their weight.
“What this research looked at for the first time is how, for those people who have a low satiety response, choosing foods low in energy density (those foods naturally low in calories per gram) could help them feel fuller, limit their calorie intake and so help their weight loss,” adds Professor Stubbs.
The findings suggest that encouraging slimmers like Stacey to base their meals on generous amounts of low energy dense foods is likely to have a protective effect, helping them manage their appetite better, and thereby protecting them from consuming excess calories.
Dr Jacquie Lavin, Head of Research and Scientific Affairs at Slimming World who contributed to the study, says: “Slimming World’s Food Optimising plan has always been based on an understanding of how the macronutrient content and energy density of foods affect satiation and satiety and we’ve been actively involved in research in this area for nearly 30 years. We’ve been building on evidence that filling up on low energy dense foods naturally limits energy intake, reduces hunger and results in better weight loss, and weight maintenance. In our eating plan, those foods lowest in energy density are designated as Free Foods, and we encourage our members to eat them freely to satisfy their appetite – however big their appetite is,” says Dr Lavin.
“It’s important to recognise that any dietary approach to weight management has limited effects in isolation. However, when it’s achieved hand in hand with a multi-component group-based support programme like Slimming World’s which empowers slimmers to make deep-seated shifts in their mindset, and their behaviour around food and activity, they’re more likely to achieve and maintain their weight loss goals in the long term,” she adds.
Group: Stacey attends the Wakefield City Centre Slimming World group in West Yorkshire which is run by Consultant Nicky Cartwright. For more information or to find your nearest group, visit slimmingworld.co.uk.
Starting weight: 25st 2lbs
Weight lost: 14st 8lbs
Current weight: 10st 8lb
Breakfast: Danish pastry or big bowl of chocolate cereal
Lunch: Shop bought sandwiches, chocolate and crisps
Dinner: Takeaway such as pizza or a kebab
Snacks: multi-packs of biscuits, crisps and share bars of chocolate
Breakfast: overnight weetabix cheesecake is my go-to at the moment or I’d have smoked salmon & eggs, low-fat yoghurt, strawberries and blueberries
Lunch: lean chicken with lots of salad such as tomatoes, cucumber, lettuce and red peppers
Dinner: Slimming World chicken tikka masala with rice and peas
Snacks: high fibre bar or a babybel light or fruit
Slimming World was founded by Margaret Miles-Bramwell OBE in Derbyshire in 1969 and has become the UK and Ireland’s leading weight loss organisation with more people choosing to attend a Slimming World group each week than any other weight loss programme. We support hundreds of thousands of people, both in our groups and online, to lose weight and to adopt new habits to stay slim for life.
Over the years our founding principles haven’t changed:
Our unique programme is based on a powerfully motivating support system called IMAGE (Individual Motivation and Group Experience) Therapy. Underpinned by a deep understanding of the psychology of overweight people, and incorporating the most effective sustainable behaviour change techniques, IMAGE Therapy is designed to inspire and motivate slimmers to make positive changes and to develop new, healthier habits around food and activity.
Food Optimising is our healthy eating plan, based on the liberating concept of Free Food. We encourage our members to fill up on those foods that are naturally lower in energy density (calories per gram) and also highly satisfying while limiting foods that are highest in fat and sugar and are less satisfying, so they lose weight without ever feeling hungry or deprived and without having to weigh, measure or count everything they eat.
Our activity programme, Body Magic helps members to overcome any barriers around activity. Members choose when to start and they set the pace, finding activities they genuinely enjoy, until regular physical activity becomes an intrinsic part of their daily routine.
At the heart of everything we do lies our passion for treating every member with genuine care, empathy and respect.
We’re proud to work with the NHS, the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities (OHID), The Royal College of Midwives and others to help shape the future of weight management in the UK and Ireland.