Do you struggle with weight management? Do you want a simple way to achieve your goal, whether it’s to maintain, lose or gain weight? Check this out.

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Step 1: Slow and Mindful Eating

Awhile back I wrote an article on mindful eating. The basic premise is this:

Eating slowly and mindfully is the simplest and most effective way to improve your diet and manage your weight.

This is important, because your success with what I’m about to tell you hinges on your ability to master slow, mindful eating.

To recap: We often eat while rushed, or not paying attention. When we eat like this, it is all too easy to ignore the signals from our body that tell us we are full. Possible consequences? Poor digestion, decreased satisfaction with meals, and weight gain.

In contrast, when we eat slowly and pay attention to our meals we actually eat less. Slow, mindful eating leads to increased satisfaction with meals, more effortless weight maintenance or loss, increased sense of control over our eating, and better digestion.

So: pay attention to your eating. Put down your phone. Turn off the tv. Close your book. Simply eat. Focus on each bite. Pay attention to the sensations.

Step 2: Pay Attention to Fullness Level

Once you have mastered this task, you are ready to move on to the second most important step:

Eat until you achieve a particular fullness level that is appropriate for your goals.

Let me break that down for you:

If your goal is to lose weight or lose fat, stop eating when you are 80% full.

If your goal is to maintain your weight, stop eating when you are 90-100% full.

If you goal is to gain mass, stop eating when you are 110-120% full.

What this feels like:

  • 80% full: barely satisfied, or still slightly hungry
  • 90-100% full: satisfied, but not stuffed
  • 110-120% full: slightly uncomfortably full

You can keep track of this using a food journal. (For printable journals, check out the Recommended Resources at the end of this article.) Make note of two things:

  1. How hungry you are when you start the meal
  2. How full you are when you finish

Use a scale of 1-10, where 1 is not at all hungry, and 10 is ravenous. Aim to start eating at about 7 or higher. Look for hunger signs such as a growling stomach, a sensation of stomach emptiness, lightheadedness, headache, grumpiness, or shakiness. While you’re eating, pay attention to how full you’re feeling. If you want to eat until 80% full, aim to stop when you reach a 2 or a 3 out of 10.

The hungrier you are when you start, of course, the more quickly you will eat, and the more difficult it will be to stop when you reach that desired satiety level, and thus the more food you are likely to consume. That’s where eating slowly and mindfully comes in. Mindfulness will make it more likely that you will start eating before you are too hungry—ideally at around a 7—and will help you notice when you reach an appropriate level of fullness—a 3 or a 2. That self-awareness also helps prevent eating when you’re not actually hungry (levels 4-6 on the scale).

To Summarize:

  • slow down
  • pay attention while eating
  • start eating at about a 7 or more out of 10 on the hunger scale
  • stop eating at about a 3 or lower, depending on your goals
  • aim for 80% full for weight loss
  • 90-100% full for weight maintenance
  • 110-120% full for mass gain

And that’s it! No calorie counting required.

If your lifestyle makes it difficult for you to eat in this manner for every meal, consider breaking it down into smaller steps. Start with one meal or snack, for instance. Practise this for one to two weeks to make it a habit, then consider adding a second meal. Then a third. Etc. Try it today!

Recommended Resources

Here are some printables* to help you get started. Both of these use 80% as a fullness goal, but you can certainly change this to meet your needs.

*(This content is used under license from Precision Nutrition Inc. and may not be reproduced, transmitted, or otherwise used or reused in any way without the express written permission of the owner. Copyright © 2020 Precision Nutrition Inc. For more information about Precision Nutrition, visit www.precisionnutrition.com.)