Sometimes, when I’m really starving (or eating at The Atlantic, my favorite Mediterranean restaurant), I go straight from 0% to 110% full without even realizing it. There’s no pause, no warning, no hint to stop forking up every last bite— and suddenly I can’t move.
While this is an extreme case, and I know you aren’t as much of a pig as I am, the line between full and too-full is tricky to gauge for many people. Even when we’re trying to watch what we eat, overeating seems to crop up on us a lot.
Harley Pasternak has this tip for helping us hit our satiety target: don’t eat until you’re 100% full, eat until you’re 80% full. Pasternak, creator of the 5-Factor Diet, is one of many nutrition experts preaching this Japanese eating tenet.
So why stop just short of the finish line?
There’s a lag time between your body and your brain.
That means by the time the “I’m full” memo gets from your stomach to your brain, you’re probably beyond full.
Maybe our notion of the amount of food we need to be full is wrong.
Will you waste away if you don’t reach that 100% mark? Nope. Ducking just short of your caloric need can be a beneficial short-term way to lose weight (read more about calorie restriction). In fact, your notion of how much food you need may be skewed. Many Americans consume way more calories than they need (calculate your need here).
Good news: the steps are simple (and they don’t involve any math!) Gina Gamby Ratcliff, who is a Licensed Am I Hungry?® Facilitator, says all you have to do is listen.
“People have really disconnected from their own bodies and eat mindlessly,” Gina remarks, “they don’t really listen to their bodily cues of satiety.”
“The perfect question to ask yourself before you eat is, ‘am I hungry?’ If not,” she says, “then consider the reasons you want to eat. Is it an emotional, environmental, or physical trigger?”
That’s why they call it “mindful eating”: it requires not just tuning into your body, but also your mind.
Creating a “Speed Bump.”
Next time you sit down to eat, try Gina’s strategy to avoid going overboard: create a “speed bump” for yourself.
“Divide the amount of food on your plate in half,” she explains. “Eat half and then ask yourself, ‘am I hungry?’ You will usually find that you are satisfied. If not, eat the half of what is left and tune in again.”
Gina believes in the mantra, “Eat Mindfully and Live Vibrantly!” To me, that means that our body knows how to be at its best; we just need to listen to its cues. When you start eating until you’re 80% full instead of 100% full, you’re going to have more energy and feel lighter, or vibrant, instead of being weighed down by too much food and feeling sleepy while your body works double-time to process it.
Healthier countries eat their meals in multiple small courses rather than one big pile. Breaking your entrée up in phases (or into separate portions on your plate, like Gina advises) will make it easier to pace yourself, savor each food item individually, and tune in to what your body and mind really want.