Note: this habit is most useful when trying to lose or maintain your weight. If you’re bulking, this is a good thing to keep in your back pocket for cutting season.
You don't need to count calories to lose weight.
Don’t get me wrong, we can be extremely precise with your nutrition. We can count macros and calories and bust out your ten-decimal scale to get to that 6-pack.
Or we could just do this thing and call it good, getting 95% of those labor-intensive methods' results.
The second nutrition habit we teach at CFGE is, again, simple but not easy. It’s this:
Stop eating when you’re 80% full.
Like I’ve said before in the first habit, meal satiety is more closely tied to the time you’ve spent eating than the amount of food you’ve eaten. The hormones that regulate your appetite and how satisfied you are with your food tend to placate you after about 15-20 minutes.
That being said, you can’t just eat a single bite, wait 20 minutes, and be full and satisfied until your next meal. What we’re looking for is 80% “fullness.”
This does a couple things.
First and most importantly, it makes you pay attention to what’s really happening in your body as you eat. Instead of looking for the amount of food to be perfect on your plate, you’re gauging how you want to feel after you’re done. Way less likely to regret your meal or have to loosen your belt.
Second, it can minimize the amount of calories you ingest so you get what you need to thrive. Fullness is not the goal, satisfaction is the goal. We’re trying to satisfy your body’s need for nourishment and fuel, not overflow that need. When you’re trying to lose weight, 80% is often enough to cause fat loss without being so underfed that you lose muscle as well.
So am I just saying, “eat whatever you want, just do it slowly and stop before you’re full?”
“Everything in moderation?”
Nope nope nope and nope.
For people trying to lose weight, the “fullness meter” feelings in the body can be pretty dysfunctional, so "listening to your body” could just lead to overeating without ever feeling 80% full.
We need to practice to let our bodies change slowly (pretty much the only way they change permanently).
For this, we play “the Hunger Game.”
You need to be able to distinguish between “want to eat” feelings and “need to eat” feelings; what true hunger feels like (don’t worry, I’m not recommending a huge fast or trendy cleanse).
Ask yourself if you're hungry or if you want food. These things overlap, but are not the same. You'll get better at it.
You can also ask yourself questions about the ritual of eating. For a lot of people, taking stock in where they are, who is with them, what they're thinking and feeling before and during their meals can provide other insights into their ability to regulate food quantity.
So as you’re eating your meals slowly, chewing completely, and enjoying your food, you can be assessing your fullness and satisfaction as you go. Eating mostly real, whole foods make tuning into the body’s signals way easier than eating processed or hyperpalatable foods, but it’s only after going over these first two “how to eat” habits can we get into the nuts and bolts of “what and how much exactly to eat.”
Oftentimes we can make a ton of progress towards long-term goals (read: never putting the weight back on) with just these first two habits.
Stay tuned for more on food and training from your friendly neighborhood coach.