Thursday, 3 March 2011

Does being fuller for longer mean I'll eat less?

It's not just any diet ready meal, it's an M&S diet ready meal. Arggh! Even M&S  - the venerable purveyor of fine foods - is having a go at it nowadays. The new 'Simply Fuller Longer' range is just the latest addition to a long list of ready meals and processed snacks that have been specifically designed by nutritionists and weight loss 'experts' to stave off hunger. The idea is that thanks to the brilliant 'science' behind the meals you will stay full for longer (top marks to M&S for coming up with the bestest brand-name). And because you feel full - the reasoning goes - you will be less tempted to 'snack' and therefore eat less. And as a result of eating less, you will lose weight.

Surely I can't be the only to see the major flaw in this line of reasoning. Of course, if you eat less, you are likely to lose weight  (although ask any dieter who has hit the famous 'weight loss plateau' if this holds true and she may disagree). What the marketing men in grey suits in big office buildings and scientists in white coats in labs seem to have completely blanked from the equation is that most women don't 'snack' because they feel hungry - they snack for all sorts of reasons which have absolutely nothing to do with being peckish. They eat because they are bored, anxious, frustrated or because they've been offered a piece of carrot cake with cream cheese frosting and it's their favourite and they just can't say no,  however full they are feeling from eating their specially formulated meal.

I've been there. I know what it's like. I've done the detoxes with the disgusting gelatinous drinks which filled the hole in my belly but not the cracks in my broken heart and saw me running out to the petrol station in my nightie and wellies to stock up on Doritos. I've purchased boxes of protein shakes and bars which sat like bricks in my stomach and just added to the heavy boredom of another call centre evening shift - lightened only by bags and bags of chocolate buttons in between calls. I've done the whole 'grilled chicken breast and salad' at lunch only to end up scoffing half a pack of chocolate hobnobs with my mid afternoon cuppa. Not because I was hungry but because I just wanted to eat! When food is your companion, your salve, your distraction, your pick me up, hunger just doesn't come into the equation. You carry on eating and filling yourself up with anything and everything, feeling fuller and fuller and, after the initial relief, more miserable.

So sure, if you fancy the chicken casserole or the fish stew, go ahead and enjoy. But remember, if you are eating as a way to manage feelings and deal with tricky situations, no amount of protein or 'balanced carbs' is going to make the need to eat go away. Fuller for longer?


  1. You are so right. I once had a few sessions with the most awful personal trainer who told me to force myself to eat oatcakes mid morning so I'd eat less for lunch. I remember looking at her in amazement and asking - when did overeating have anything to do with hunger? Her approach was about as sophisticated as trying to cure a heroin addict by yelling "Stop!" at them. When she told me she had to keep digestives in her car so she wouldn't eat them at night I decided she wasn't much of a role model. I do think, though, that exercise has a miraculous effect on that urge to nibble though I'm not sure how or why.

  2. But it is definitely true that we tend to binge when we are absolutely starving - and that it's a bad idea to skip meals and let ourselves get starving. Hunger isn't the only trigger to binging but it is certainly one of them.

  3. The hilarious thing about these 'Fuller for Longer' meals is that a year or so ago they were exactly the same, but without the 'Fuller for Longer' brand name. I used to eat them and they were quite tasty. And then when I noticed that the Thai green curry I used to buy in M&S was no longer there, I realised that it had been turned it into a diet food! Very disappointing, although (from memory) I'm pretty sure they haven't made any changes to the composition of the meals, so they're just plain old ready meals with a silly name.

  4. You're absolutely right - no matter how full someone is, if they are an emotional eater, they will eat .... what annoys me about 'fuller for longer' type meals is that it takes longer for me to feel hungry again, and I enjoy eating!

  5. Karen, Sheffield.4 March 2011 at 15:50

    Overeating has almost nothing to do with hunger although letting yourself get too hungry can mean you'll not hear your 'satisfied' point. I'm fed up of other people telling me what, when and how to eat and charging me a small fortune for doing so, these meals at M&S 'aint cheap!

  6. Yup - if I only ate when I was genuinely hungry, I wouldn't be the weight I am. A huge portion of my eating is mostly out of boredom, sadness, or just sheer habit!


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