So if you’ve gone through the first part of the series, you’ll recall that we focused on understanding what your goals, motivations, and barriers are. We’re about to revisit that idea and put it in practice.
Despite the basic role of eating, people often eat for every reason except for nourishment and survival. In a poll of 1300 psychologists, health professionals identified gaining control over emotions as a top strategy to losing weight and keeping it off. So basically we’re not eating because we’re hungry. We’re eating because we’re sad. Or angry. Or stressed. A huge part of weight maintenance comes down to a very simple concept:
Eat until you’re satisfied
The figure below is what I call the Scale of Satisfaction
It’s pretty straightforward: on one end of the spectrum, you’re famished. On the other end you’re stuffed full of food.
Being famished means you basically haven’t had anything to eat in hours and you’re feigning for food – for me, I feel like this when I wake up in the morning, and sometimes happens during the day when I’m busy doing other things and don’t eat. The other end is how you feel after a big dinner – like a night at the steakhouse with lots of bread and dessert.
Notice the label of the very middle of this spectrum: Satisfied. At that point, you’re neither starving or very full. This is where you want to be.
Our bodies want to be satisfied
There’s a reason that it feels so uncomfortable being completely full. Your stomach doesn’t usually stretch that much and your body doesn’t normally work that hard to digest food. Similarly, being hungry sucks for all of the obvious reasons. Plus, when you think about it, we behave like primitive animals at both extremes – either hibernating bears or ravenous hyenas. When you stay somewhere in the middle, where both hunger and fullness are simple realities (not outright survival), your body is so much calmer.
You eat less this way
When you’re not starving, you’re more likely to be less emotional about the food you eat. When people talk about eating more to lose weight, it’s usually attributed to this theory. Basically, hungry people make bad decisions, so don’t trust your best judgment to be at work when you’re really hungry.
So what does it really mean to eat until satisfied?
Here are some indicators that you’re in that happy place on the Scale of Satisfaction:
- You’re stopping before you get to the point of being stuffed
- You have the discipline to put down the knife and fork when you feel like you’re getting full
- You get hungry sooner, so you have to eat more frequently
- You are not in a food coma after eating
- You start eating slower so you actually realize when you’re full
No worries if you find yourself going back and forth between extremes. I have some tips for you. Of course, these things just nudge you in the right direction – it all really comes down to your willpower.
Here are a few of my strategies:
- When you go out, immediately ask for a box for the second half of your food
- Eat slowly
- Actually tell yourself when you’re satisfied
- Limit foods where you tend to overeat (I do a horrible job of limiting myself when I have pizza so I try to stay away from it)
- Know when you’ll have your next meal
- Don’t get the point of starvation
Your action item
- Eating too much: Over the next week or so, start to notice when you’re satisfied. As a bonus, actually stop at that point. However, if you only get as far as noticing it, you have come a long way!
- Starving: Notice when you’re starving and think about where you went wrong. Could you have eaten earlier? Planned better? If it happens in the afternoon at work (a popular time for my stomach to go nuts), try to anticipate it the next day and have a snack beforehand.
- Eating for the wrong reasons: Take notice of any time that you eat for any reason other than being hungry. It may be at a restaurant when a bowl of bread is in front of you. It may be while you’re in the middle of something stressful at work. Why are you eating? And can you stop?
Hopefully you learn a thing or two about yourself and your habits this week, and also make some great changes. It’s another one of those simple things that if we can just think about it, we can make everything so much easier for ourselves.
Now head on over to part 4 of the series and get ready to move 🙂