Your Hunger Is Superior For Lasting Weight Loss Than Apps or Tracking
As funny as that Louis C.K. quote is, he’s revealing a deeper truth. We don’t know how much to eat, not to nourish ourselves or satisfy our hunger.
It’s not surprising and not a personal failing. We are overfed at every turn. Some of us start with our parents, at gatherings, certainly at restaurants, parties, our partners, you name it. We have grown accustomed to outsize portions to the point where we are no longer in touch with our sense of hunger and fullness.
To make matters worse, 70% of the American diet comes from ultra-processed calories in the form of simple carbohydrates. The very foods that compel over-consumption.
We weren’t designed as human beings to have constant suggestions to eat. We evolved as animals, scavenging and hunting. Food was scarce, and needed to be consumed quickly and plentifully. Now, food is abundant, and we still eat this way. You probably know this, but it’s worth repeating. We live in a world unsuited to our evolutionary purpose.
In experiments done on overconsumption, larger plates, and servings were accurate determinants of people’s eating. Meaning the more we are offered, the more we eat. Our sense of fullness plays much less of a role than we think.
Eat To Eliminate Hunger, Not To Feel Full
That’s where this principle comes in. It's a defense to the endless cues to eat and overeat. We can’t always change the world. We can develop strategies to cope with our consumption.
‘Eating to eliminate hunger’ was the starting point in my weight loss journey, and I use it every time I eat out, eat calorie-dense food, or am served food by another person. It’s an ideal technique for coping with situations where I am not in charge of my serving size.
I had an inkling of my innate hunger and how much to eat to satiate that hunger were broken after years of outsized portions, and I was right. This principle is the reset button on your automatic consumption. I encourage you to use it at every meal for as long as it takes to get reacquainted with proper portion sizes and actual hunger.
The question am I still hungry (?) is a powerful tool to reset your sense of fullness naturally and to create awareness of your current consumption before it gets out of hand.
Here’s how I use it: I make a note of my hunger before I order or make my food.
- Am I ravenous (then I grab a handful of walnuts to tamp down the hunger) or just a little hungry?
- I prepare or order accordingly.
- A third to halfway through consumption, I ask myself the same question again. Take a drink of water, put down your fork, and pause.
If the answer is no, box up the rest as soon as possible. If the answer is yes, eat until the hunger is gone.
Why not eat to fullness? It’s not as accurate a measurement as a lack of hunger. Full is often, “I ate too much,” the idea is to interrupt that process repeatedly and automatically.
I permit myself to eat whenever I feel hungry (not peckish, hungry), and you should, too. It’s both a way of feeling fine about stopping eating even though there is food left on your plate and a reasonable way to tune into your natural hunger.
I also like this principle because it diminishes the endless, complicated dialog about ‘good’ and ‘bad’ foods. If you should so happen to order a big bowl of ramen or a cheeseburger (I’m not suggesting these are weight loss foods; I am suggesting these things happen from time to time), this is a great way to enjoy it without over-consuming.
If you cannot eat these foods without finishing every bite, they must come off your menu for good. Chances are they're designed to overwhelm your natural hunger.
In the meantime, focus on this one idea at every meal: am I still hungry?
Make sure it’s an exploration of the self and not another judgment. It’s OK to be both hungry and not hungry. The idea is to understand yourself better, not find a new avenue for criticism.
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