Bonus: It builds mindfulness and improves digestion, too.
When it comes to losing weight, it's not just about the food we eat and the movement we add to our day. If you want to get big results, WHAT you eat is only part of the big picture. We also have to look at HOW you eat. In other words, who are you being when you eat? Do you eat when you’re not actually hungry because it’s noon and you’re mentally programmed that at noon it’s time to eat? Do you eat too little or too much for your body’s energy needs? By the end of today’s session, you’ll have a deeper understanding of this. So, the place we'll start is what I call honouring hunger…
How do we Honour Hunger?
Honouring hunger is about recognizing what happens internally before you get hungry. Instead of waiting until you’re so hungry you could eat a horse, you tune in to the internal signal that the body needs nourishment. It’s kind of like the gas tank on your car. There’s a buffer zone when you get in the red. When the gas light first appears, depending on your car you may have 50-60 kms to go before you actually run out of gas and come to a halt.
We don’t want to wait until we run out of gas to eat. Why? Because that’s when the crazy unleashes. Notice what happens when you are super hungry. Do your eyes glaze over and you slump in your chair unable to do anything? Do you become an unreasonable bitch? Who do you take it out on? Do you end up eating things that you wouldn’t normally choose to eat simply because it’s within reach and you feel desperate?
If you let yourself get too hungry, it’s almost impossible to think clearly or make good decisions for ourselves. The need to feel physically full becomes so irresistible you’ll eat almost anything—five pieces of toast, a candy bar, a whole pint of ice cream, cocoa powder with a spoon, tomato sauce and breadsticks.
And even after you eat all that, you may still feel unsatisfied because it wasn’t a real meal. The body’s appetite mechanism is still searching for the meal, and it won’t shut down until you’ve had what feels like a meal.
What helps you chill out, feel more satisfied at meals, and sustainably lose fat?
The practice of eating to about 80 percent full.
Eating to 80 percent full means you stop eating when you’re just satisfied. Not still hungry, but not stuffed or even completely full like you need to unbutton your pants. It’s about feeling content, with a little room left over.
The reason I love this practice so much for weight loss?
You still get to be satisfied at meals, but over time, you’ll likely end up in a calorie deficit and offers a ton of additional benefits:
It leads to gradual and sustainable weight loss
It improves appetite regulation due to slower, mindful eating
Minimizes dependence on external "rules" like calorie targets and diet plans
Increases body awareness, helping you better regulate stress and emotions
Connects you to your true nutrition needs, which are naturally customized to your body and activity level
Encourages good digestion
Can help you to get more enjoyment out of food and eating
Builds your tolerance for slight discomfort
Sounds great, right?
Thing is, sometimes putting a number to fullness level freaks people out. They want to get it right. They’re afraid they’ll overshoot.
“But how do I know when I’m 80 percent full?! I don’t have a stomach gauge!”
Well, a couple of things:
First, learning to pay attention to how your body feels—so you can assess your fullness level—takes some practice
Second, the exact number doesn’t matter so much
What’s most important about this habit is the act of slowing down, paying attention to your appetite cues, and eating a little less than you’re used to.
8 Steps to Eating to 80% Full
1. Start with a slightly smaller portion
You likely have a sense for how much you normally eat. So, try plating 80% of that. Also, plating your meal on a smaller plate helps you to better moderate your portions. Prioritize veggies and protein, which helps you feel satisfied and curb hunger. If you're eating out, try ordering a smaller size than normal.
2. Tune into how your body feels
Learning what 80% full feels like will require paying close attention to your body throughout the meal. So before you take your first bite, make note of your baseline:
Take a deep breath
Scan your attention over the length of your body, toes to head
Now focus on your abdomen, notice how it feels
3. Eat slowly
It takes time for your gastrointestinal tract to signal to your brain that you've eaten enough. Aim to take 20 minutes to eat your meal. This is the length of time it takes for your body to signal to your brain that you are satiated and slowing down helps ensure that you don't miss this most up-to-date information from your body on when it's feeling at 80% full.
4. Check in through the meal
Take a bite. Chew and swallow. Stop. Take a breath. How do you feel? Pause and notice. Have you gotten the edge of your hunger taken off? Are you feeling less hungry but not ready to leave the table and your meal? Are you feeling energizes, like you could go for a walk and have room for gelato, but that you also don't need more? Tip, this is 80% fullness! Or does your abdomen feel tight and heavy or bloated?
5. When you feel like you're about 80% full, stop eating
Getting to exactly 80% isn't important. Just estimate it. And when you've reached that point:
Put away any leftover food, so you don't keep picking
Place a napkin over your plate to signal that you're done
Just sit and breathe, and notice any feelings that come up
6. Do something physical
Following your meal with gentle activity helps you sense how the portion you ate is sitting with you. You can bend down and reach your toes, do some light housework, take a brisk walk, breathe deeply from your belly or play with your pet. Do you feel light or heavy? If you feel heavy, you've eaten past 80% fullness.
7. Journal what you ate and what it felt like
If you overdid it, no sweat. Now you have some data. Same goes for under doing it: the worst thing that can happen is that you get hungry a little earlier than usual before your next meal.
8. Repeat these steps at as many meals as possible for two weeks
Over time, you'll gather useful information about your body and how foods make you feel. Notice any patterns that show up. Ask yourself: "How's that working?" For example:
Does your body look or feel any different?
Are you getting more or less comfortable with different sensations in your body?
Are your eating habits more aligned with your goals?
Is your mood or energy better, worse, or the same?
Do particular foods help you feel satisfied? Do some foods seem to make you "lose control"?
Any changes to your digestion?
Do you derive more or less pleasure from food?
If you're getting the results you want, keep going. If not, scale back portions a little more or a little less, depending on your goals and comfort level.