It takes about two cups of food for your stomach to feel full.
Most portion sizes today are at least two or three times that size, which can easily lead to weight gain. In this excerpt from her book, YogaLean, Beth Shaw shares her strategies for reducing portion sizes, without sacrificing the feeling of being comfortably full.
Your body will start to get used to less and less food if you are conscious of when it is full. Tap into your stomach’s internal compass, and try these 10 tips for feeding it what it needs without overwhelming it.
1. Eat breakfast
Starting your day off with breakfast will give your body the fuel it needs to get going. Studies have shown that if you eat breakfast, you will also snack less throughout the day. Adding protein to your meal will give you added energy.
2. Drink water
The first thing you should do every morning is drink a tall glass of water. This awakens our internal organs and hydrates us after eight hours of dehydration—if you’re getting enough sleep, that is. Throughout the day, drink constantly and make sure you get at least eight 8-ounce glasses in; water helps you feel full. To help save the environment from excess plastic bottles, get a water-filtering pitcher. That way, you can save money and the earth at the same time.
3. Fiber and whole grains
Incorporating fiber and whole grains into meals will keep you fuller longer. Try an apple with almonds—my favorite high-fiber and energetic snack in between meals.
4. Recognize the feeling of hunger
“Just because you can does not mean you have to.” If you’re not hungry, don’t eat. Eat only when you’re hungry, not when you’re bored, sad, stressed or socializing. Listen to your body and begin to know when you need to eat rather than when you want to.
5. Reduce your plate size and your fork size
We eat with our eyes; when our plate is full, our eyes will want to eat everything on the plate. A great fix to this is serving your meals on smaller plates and eating with a smaller fork or with chopsticks. Seeing a huge plate that’s only partially filled will make you feel like you’re missing something, so fill your (smaller) plate and feast (with your eyes, too).
6. Portion control
My friend, before eating, splits her meal in half and stores the rest for leftovers. I want you to do the same. It’s like that classic fashion tip—before going out, look in the mirror and remove two accessories. This applies to your meals as well—look at the massive plate you are used to eating, then divide it in half or in thirds and practice eating smaller, more frequent meals. Try ordering appetizers or sides instead of the main course.
Enjoy your food and the time you spend eating it. Eat slowly, and give your body proper time to digest. It takes our body 20 to 30 minutes to recognize when we’re full. If we eat like we’re in a race, our body doesn’t register how much we’ve eaten until it’s too late. Slowing down allows you to notice and feel when you are full.
8. Feel satisfied, not full
Practice leaving the table slightly hungry—remember that it takes 20 to 30 minutes for the stomach to send the signal to the brain that it’s full. Avoid leaving the table completely and utterly full. In fact, leave your stomach a little breathing room so you don’t feel bogged down.
9. Get rid of snacks and junk food
You will not eat food that is not there to begin with, so don’t have bad food in your house or in your desk at work. If you keep food elsewhere, you will have to work to get it, which will allow you time to think before mindlessly doing it.
10. Portion out food before eating
Don’t eat straight out of the package. Measure out cereal, brown rice, berries and other foods before eating, then put the rest away. Doing this will give you an exact visual of how much you should be eating, and this will help you avoid overeating. Use a scale if necessary.
Beth Shaw, founder and president of YogaFit Training Systems Worldwide, is a yoga, fitness and nutrition expert; is featured on over a dozen DVDs; and authored the bestselling book, YogaFit. Her latest book, YogaLean: Poses and Recipes to Promote Weight Loss and Vitality—for Life!, was released in September 2014.