You’ve heard it said that we eat with our eyes. It’s so true.
We are served food that often looks extraordinary. Restaurants pile up the portions in the name of a good value, and we dig in without any indication of how much we really need. Plates, bowls, cups, and even silverware are bigger than they used to be, which means we automatically dish up more at home, filling our dishes, spoons, and forks.
Notice How Children Eat
Small children know when they have had enough. You can watch them shake their heads and stick out their lower lip in defiance when a well-meaning adult tries to force one more bite. They are full and that’s that.
But over time, forced-feeding and large portion sizes can disrupt these signals. Children are often coaxed to eat past the point of fullness.
Rather than trust their internal cues, children are expected to clean their plates. These innocent kids grow up to be adults who are completely out of touch with how much food it really takes to sustain a healthy diet.
The Biology of the Stomach
The stomach is like a sock. If we continually eat more than we need, over time, it expands. Now, if you have a small stomach, say the size of a baseball, you will naturally feel full with less food than if your stomach is the size of a soccer ball. People who are walking around with stretched out stomachs must eat quite a bit before they feel satisfied. If they eat to the point of fullness, this often means they consume more calories than their body needs.
If you think your stomach has expanded, don’t fret. You can gradually help your stomach shrink down again by eating to the point that you feel satisfied, but not full. In the same way that it is important to check in with your body, mind, and soul before you eat, checking in as you eat can help you to feed yourself just enough, but not too much.
Slowing Down When Eating
The goal is to stop eating when your hunger is gone. This is often easier said than done. Once people start eating, many have a hard time stopping. The food tastes good. They eat some of this, and some of that, and a little more of this. They don’t want to stop until they are full or stuffed.
If this is the case for you, then while eating, slow down and savor your food. Carry out the process of eating as long as possible. Plan to stop after one small plate of food or as soon as your hunger is gone. Be sure to tell yourself that you can have more food in twenty minutes if you really want it or are still hungry.
Notice what your mind tells you, especially if it says things like:
- This won’t be enough food for you.
- Forget about trying to lose weight, it will never work.
- This is too hard.
- Just give in and eat more.
Let your thoughts drift by without getting caught up in them. You don’t have to believe your thoughts. Just eat and enjoy.
Look Forward to the Next Activity
Eating fulfills a purpose. It need not be a daily activity—a focus around which our lives happen. We need not live to eat, but rather, we can learn to simply eat to live.
Make sure you plan activities after your meals. Some ideas are playing with your kids or grandkids, talking with a friend, taking a walk, reading something nourishing, playing a game, doing a craft or other hobby, giving yourself a facial, taking a bath, or anything that feeds you on the level of your soul. If after twenty minutes, you are still physically hungry, have something to eat. If not, then aim to wait until you are quietly hungry to eat again, knowing that you can fill yourself up with other meaningful activities.
Over time, you may notice that you need less and less food to feel satisfied. You are in charge of how much your body really needs, nourishing your mind, body, and spirit with healthy eating and acquiring the new habit of eating just enough.
Holly Alastra is a registered dietitian and licensed mental health counselor who has helped thousands of people lose weight over the past 20 years. She wishes you peace and joy with your body, the magnificent vessel of your spirit.