Calorie counting, macro tracking, the Keto diet, weighing your food, entering data into apps…
Why do these methods give mediocre results? Or, results that don't last?
They are unsustainable and inaccurate!
Here is an easier, more sustainable, life-long habit to help you lose weight and keep it off:
Eat Slowly to 80% Full.
Our bodies contain built-in systems to regulate calorie intake. The trouble is we often circumvent these systems by eating quickly and eating past satiety. We eat hyper-palatable and soft food which makes it easy to chew less and eat more. Ever eat a large salad? It takes forever! Because we have to chew a lot of food. And it's probably rare that you feel “stuffed” after eating a large salad. Part of it is you ate vegetables and part of it is your brain had enough time to utilize it's built in system of releasing hormones that tell you to stop eating.
It takes our brains a full 20 minutes to tell us that we are full. If you want to hack your system and either lose weight (or not gain weight) start practicing eating slower using these methods:
– Watch the clock.
– Take a sip of water or put your fork down between bites.
– Eliminate (or add) distractions (depending on what slows you down).
– Eat at a table (not your car or desk).
– Chew your food thoroughly and savor the taste.
– Try to be the last one done eating.
The last one I make a game of…. a very satisfying game where if I'm the last one eating my family starts cleaning up the table and I don't have to help! But, I'm also the one who cooked so that should be my privilege anyways!
Next, I'll talk about eating to 80% full. Why 80%? Why not 90% or 100%? And how would I even know???
Well, it's not like there's a fullness gauge on your abdomen that you can look at. And it isn't a perfect science. But with enough practice you can really tune into your body and get curious about how full you are getting. Feeling stuffed can be miserable and for some people cause heartburn and trouble sleeping. Eating to 100% full (like, I cannot possibly take another bite) habitually will certainly lead to weight gain. If you are a growing teenager that would be fine but as a fully grown adult we need better habits to help us stay at (or get to) our ideal body weight.
Taking time to mentally gauge your fullness is “mindful eating.” Have you ever sat down to eat a meal, then became distracted, and the next thing you know, your plate is empty? Were you aware of how much you ate? What did the food taste like? Who knows! I'm full and I can get back to what I was doing now and that's all I cared about. Yet, you may also be disappointed with your weight and it begs the question: How is that working for you?
If you don't believe that eating to 80% works, you'll have to try it to believe it. And a caveat: eating to 80% full does NOT mean eating 80% of the food on your plate. It means eating to a feeling of fullness that is 80%! To get started, try the following:
– Put less food on your plate (or use a smaller plate).
– Eat slowly (aim for 20 minutes) and give your brain time to signal you to stop.
– Wait 5 minutes before getting more food.
– Slow down even more as you start to feel satiated and approach the end of your meal.
– Tune into how you feel.
– If you're at a restaurant, ask for a box at the beginning of a meal. Put the extra food away immediately. Out of sight, out of mind as they say.
If you still aren't sure if you ate to 80%, guess what? That's normal. It takes practice over several weeks to learn your body.
After two years of practicing these habits, my most important habit is to very mindfully dish up my plate. I find it gratifying when I totally nail it and get to 80% with exactly what I dished up. I leave my meal feeling satisfied and I also didn't have to scrape a few bites into the trash (which is difficult to do). It is very tempting to overeat when there is too much food on our plate to begin with.
Spoiler alert: This habit with enough practice will become, well, habitual! Meaning, if you put in the upfront efforts, the payoff will continue for years to come with little continued effort.