Most people don’t like counting calories. At the very least, they would like to be able to reach their goals without having to do it.
The good news is you don’t have to count calories to lose weight or have a great physique. All it takes is consistently following the eating process laid out below.
Slow. Mindful. 80% Full.
That is going to be your eating approach. You eat slowly, mindfully, and stop at 80% full.
Eating slowly triggers you to be mindful, and being mindful helps you notice your hunger and stop eating before you overeat.
This process helps us turn inward to validate our hunger instead of relying on external cues like the clock, calorie calculators, or an empty plate to tell us when to start or stop eating.
It’s time to turn inward and start trusting yourself around food again. You possess the ability to eat an optimum amount of food for a healthy body composition.
But you have to stop delegating your food control to external cues/tools. And a great way to help raise your mindfulness and get you back in touch with your hunger cues is the hunger scale…
The concept is simple – you start eating when you’re hungry but not starving, and you stop eating when you’re satisfied but not full.
That means you eat when you’re at a 3 or a 4, and you stop when you’re at a 5 or a 6. If you do that consistently you will naturally gravitate to a healthy weight.
And the best part is this skill can be taken anywhere with you. Whether you’re on vacation, at a birthday party, at your family’s house for a holiday, in a business meeting, or out with friends for the weekend, you are armed with the tool necessary to enjoy yourself and maintain a healthy body weight.
You don’t need to pack food. You don’t need to seek out calorie info on menus. You don’t need to log your food while sitting at the dinner table.
You trust yourself. You eat mindfully. You enjoy your food. And you live your life.
To help you practice this process I created a free mindful eating worksheet you can print out and use. Just click here to download it. It’s a real eye-opener when you mindfully track your hunger for a day. Give it a try and see what I mean.
How to Determine Correct Portion Sizes
If you’re not going to be tracking calories then you need a system for practicing portion control. While the hunger scale will naturally help you stop eating at the right time, putting an optimal amount of food on your plate from the start will help you manage your food portions better.
This process if very simple and the measuring tool we’re going to be using is something that’s always available to you – your hand.
Open your hand and look at your palm. You should be eating 1-2 palm-sized portions of protein at each meal. Sources include:
- greek yogurt
Make a fist. Try to eat one fist-sized portion of a fruit and veggie at each meal. Sources include:
Eat a fist-sized portion of starch 1-3 times per day. Sources include:
Put your thumbs together. Eat 1-2 thumb-sized portions of healthy fats a couple of times per day. Sources include:
- olive oil
If you base the majority of your meals around a lean protein, a fruit, and a veggie you’re going to do great, and the rest of your food will naturally fall into place when you’re also mindful of the hunger scale.
Follow the 80/20 Rule
Despite what you might have heard, you don’t have to be perfect with your diet to be healthy or lose weight. With my clients I follow a very basic approach to food selection:
- Make at least 80% of your diet come from whole food sources.
- Let the other 20% of your diet come from fun foods.
It doesn’t have to be in those perfect ratios. The point is to moderate your restriction and include some of the foods you enjoy on a frequent basis.
Doing so increases your satisfaction, lowers your cravings, improves your eating consistency, and keeps you adherent to your plan long enough to see the outcome (weight loss) influenced in your favor.
How to Reduce Calories and Make Adjustments
While most people who follow the process I laid out end up losing weight, there might be some who need to make further modifications to their overall food intake. Even if you do lose weight you might have to make an adjustment if weight loss slows or plateaus.
Since we aren’t counting calories, we need to influence our food quantity by implementing process-based behavioral strategies.
Here are some ideas to get you going…
Sit with your hunger longer & stop eating sooner
Instead of eating as soon as you’re hungry, try sitting with your hunger an extra 15-30 minutes to see if it makes a difference. The longer you go between meals the less time you’ll spend eating and the less food you’ll eat.
In addition, instead of stopping at 80% full, try 70% full and see if that negatively affects your satisfaction levels.
Add in more fruits and veggies
Fruits and veggies are nutrient dense and calorie sparse. That means when you add them into your diet you end up displacing more calorie dense foods.
I like this option as it helps you naturally eat less by adding in more food instead of trying to restrict by taking some away.
Sub in low fat options
There are a lot of neat food products out there that can help you lower your calorie intake without you feeling deprived. A couple of options are liquid egg whites and PB2 (powered peanut butter).
Essentially they strip out the fat content, which can save you hundreds of calories. However, food volume stays high so that your hunger isn’t impacted. You eat less and stay satisfied.
A few more ideas are…
- use a smaller plate to make your meal appear larger
- chew your food more and you’ll end up eating less 
- use spices instead of sauces
- add in more protein to increase thermogenesis and improve satiety
- measure your portions before eating (ie don’t eat straight from the bag/box)
- eat more meals at home
Be Patient – New Skills Take Practice
Mindful eating is a skill. Portion control is a skill.
Most of us were born eating this way but have slowly delegated this part of our life to external tools. This can be reversed. But it takes practice.
Too many people are quick to give up on it because they think they should get it right on the first try. They start eating and they don’t know what 80% feels like. They don’t know when to stop eating.
So they give up at the first signs of a struggle.
You will get better at mindful eating, but you have to practice it. It’s a skill. And like all skills, the more you practice them the better you get.
Eventually you’ll stop obsessing over food and calories. You’ll stop letting other people or electronic devices dictate your food choices. Food will stop controlling you.
So keep practicing. Eventually you’ll know the optimum amount of food to eat – an amount that makes you 100% satisfied, healthy, and energized in body and mind.