Not Another Diet — Principle 1
Eat To Eliminate Hunger, Not To Get Full
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 terribly surprising and not a personal failing. We are overfed at every turn. Some of us starting 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 own 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 for food. Calories were scarce and it was imperative they be consumed quickly and plentifully. Now calories are 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.
That’s where these principles come in, they are 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 own consumption.
‘Eating to eliminate hunger’ was the starting point in my own weight loss journey and I use it every time I eat out, eat a calorie-dense food, or am served food by another person. It’s an ideal technique for coping with any situation where I am not in charge of my own serving size.
I had an inkling my own innate sense of 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 naturally reset your sense of fullness 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 a bit) or just a little hungry? I prepare or order accordingly and then about 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 to eat to fullness? It’s not as accurate a measurement as a lack of hunger. Full is often, “I ate too much” and the idea is to interrupt that process repeatedly and automatically.
I give myself permission 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 real 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 are not able to eat these foods without finishing every bite then they need to come off your menu for good. I’ll address that in another principle.
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 fine to be both hungry and not hungry. The idea is to better understand yourself, not find a new avenue for criticism.
If you are new to this series please go back and read the introduction. It’s important to understand the basics before simply adopting the principles.