Head's up, there might be affiliate links ahead!
My last post talked about eating when you’re hungry rather than eating to a schedule and letting your body dictate your meals rather than when you just think you should eat. The premise of this idea is based in mindfulness – a practice of actually being aware of how your body is feeling from one minute to the next, rather than responding to arbitrary environmental cues like dinner time.
Now, before I go on, I get that there is a value to eating on a schedule. It’s not always convenient to be popping hard boiled eggs during sales meetings or eating your dinner during your kid’s soccer practice, but I do think there’s some value to checking in with yourself at meal times and seeing how hungry you really are. If you’re not really hungry, but you know you won’t have a chance to eat again for a few hours, try your best to eat a smaller amount and save some for later.
The practice of mindful eating centers around satiety – eating to the point of satisfaction and just enough that you are able to sustain that feeling until your next meal. There’s an art to finding out where that sweet-spot is for you, and only you can know (which is why I think ridged meal plans are a dangerous waste of time). This is one of the reasons I created ProCakes. I found that the macro balance of proteins, fats and just a little carbs, worked beautifully to keep me satiated until my next meal. It suspended my hunger (and no, this is not a crazy diet/weight loss claim). I use this example because the same result can be achieved with any healthy meal, as long as the right balance of proteins, fats and carbs are achieved. As a guiding principle, most people do well with more fats and proteins in their diet and lots of non-starchy veggies while staying away from traditionally starchy foods like bread, pasta etc.
Listen to your body
Listening to your body to truly understand how hungry you are, and how much food you need until your next meal is the art satisfaction mastery. It’s not based on the volume of food (ie, how much of anything I need to eat to stay full), but rather understanding what foods keep you fuller and more satisfied longer than others. As I mentioned, fats and proteins are typically more satisfying than grains or sugar-based foods. I will say, if you can master this process for yourself, you’re giving yourself the knowledge and power to get and stay effortlessly lean for life (barring any hormonal issues of course).
So here’s what to do:
At each meal, take a moment to get really conscious of what’s happening. take a close look at how much food is on your plate and really consider the energy content and quality of the food. Is it highly processed? Is it made up of mostly fats, carbs or protein? Do you think it will keep you full until your next meal time in 4 or 5 hours?
Now eat your food. Enjoy it. Go slowly. Chew. Not in a crazy slow-motion way, but stay aware of your eating (it’s easier to do when you’re not around others). Here’s the key – the minute you feel like you’re not hungry anymore (this is different than feeling full), stop eating. Ignore the impulse to clear your plate and just stop eating. Pack up the rest of your meal and put it in the fridge immediately. Don’t let it linger in front of you.
This may seem like a really unnatural habit and a behavior that’s not conducive to dining out with friends, but it’s not something you have to do every time you eat. The key is to build a practice of being aware of the moment you’re satisfied to the point where no further food is needed, which is a barometer we rarely pay attention to. If you’re dining out, ask the waiter for a to-go container and pack the rest of your food the minute you feel satiety hit.
Remember – the only way to do this successfully is to eat slowly and mindfully, so start there and stay aware.
I’d love to know how this works for you! Keep me posted if you give it a try!
Caren is a certified yoga teacher, fitness instructor and author of The Fit Habit. Here she shares simple, healthy recipes, home workout ideas and practical ways to foster mind + body wellness.