Have you ever seen those diet ads that say ‘get a flat belly with this one weird trick!’ ?
I’m going to give you a weird trick.
You can eat whatever you want as long you apply this one weird trick.
Don’t eat unless you are truly hungry.
Except a lot of us really suck at that.
Some cultures have definitely figured it out:
In Okinawa, Japan they have a custom of saying Hara hachi bun me before every meal – which means ‘eat until the belly is 80% full’. (Their low BMI is thought to be one of the reasons why Okinawa is a pocket of exceptional longevity.)
The Ayervedic tradition recommends eating until 75% full.
And in France they don’t say “I’m full” after a meal. They say “I’m no longer hungry”
This is where we want to get: No longer hungry. Not riding the standard North American cycle of stuffed and starving.
Here’s how to do it:
1. Eat Real Food
When you eat processed food, it messes with your natural hunger and satiety cues.
Those foods are engineered to release feel good hormones and block your sense of being full. That’s what’s happening physically.
Now add all the mental noise you might experience around that food if you are trying to eat healthy and it’s a forbidden food.
Thoughts like: ‘I screwed up. I suck. I might as well finish the bag of chips. That way it won’t be here tomorrow and I can start fresh’.
This mental and physical shitstorm is almost always going to trigger overeating.
You can make it much easier on yourself by just eating real food. Food that wasn’t made in a factory. Food that your grandmother ate.
When you eat whole, unprocessed food, your body’s satiety cues will kick in because you are delivering the nutrients it needs.
It’s really pretty much impossible to binge on vegetables. You couldn’t if you TRIED.
And here’s the deal:
If you aren’t hungry enough for vegetables, you aren’t really hungry.
Which brings me to my next point:
2. Know the difference between hunger and a craving:
- Cravings will go away if you distract yourself or wait it out. Hunger will return no matter what.
- Cravings will usually be for a specific kind of food. If you are hungry, broccoli looks good.
- Cravings are usually emotionally or situationally driven. Hunger is physical. You feel it in your stomach or sometimes it feels like a headache or lightheadedness.
(For more on cravings, check out my video on Should You Listen To What Your Body is Craving?)
The thing is that most of us give into our cravings so much that we don’t even know what hunger feels like, so:
3. Experience hunger
There’s a good chance that you rarely experience hunger. Kids these days are basically on an IV drip of Goldfish crackers
and even health-minded adults will graze all day under the pretence of keeping their metabolisms revved.
Allow yourself to get hungry ….and then DON’T PANIC.
Hunger isn’t an emergency. Diarrhea is an emergency.
Tell yourself you can have food anytime you want, but you just want to experience being hungry for a few minutes.
Once you get to know real hunger, you will start to become better acquainted with how it feels in your body vs. a craving.
BONUS: Allowing genuine hunger before your meals will also make your food taste crazy delicious. Check out the euphoria people experience while doing my 28 Day Transformation.)
4. Design your environment for success.
Here’s the plan:
1. Chuck the all the shit in your house that you would be likely to overeat.
Do a reverse Marie Kondo. Hold the ice cream in your arms and if it brings you joy, chuck it.
Just kidding but seriously – you know which foods are the highway to the Danger Zone.
2. Do food prep so you have healthy, real food on hand THAT YOU LIKE.
I’m not talking about punishment diet food.
I’m talking about something that makes you feel satisfied (not stuffed) when you eat it. So that when you are actually hungry, it’s there for you. No feelings of scarcity and deprivation.
3. Pre-portion your meals.
Fill half of every plate with veggies and then add a palm sized amount of protein and a fist sized amount of carbs and a thumb sized amount of fat.
You can even cheat by using pre-portioned containers like this:
4. Eat slowly and be mindful.
Try chewing. Pay attention. Enjoy.
A general meditation practice will help in all things weight loss (more about that here) but if you have trouble with being mindful with your food, try these apps.
5. Stop before you are full.
If you followed my portion guidelines, there is a really good chance that you will still feel like eating after your portion is gone.
It’s ok. You won’t die and it will pass.
Drink some water, maybe brush your teeth and walk away. Wait 1 hour.
If you are still genuinely hungry, have more! No big whoop. Eat it slowly, appreciate it and stop before you are stuffed.
And then dab your cute little face, re-apply your lipstick and get on with your life.
Like this post? See the expanded version in Oonagh’s new book, Healthy As F*ck.
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