Okay, I admit it. I don’t like rules. Especially unnecessary ones, which to me describes most rules.
When my kids were young, they loved a book by Patricia MacLachlan called Seven Kisses in a Row. In it, the eight-year-old protagonist says that in her house, “We only have three rules. That’s enough . . . Number one: Be kind. Number two: no kicking or biting. Number three: any rule can be changed.”
I like that. “Be kind” is one of those rules that really makes almost any other rule unnecessary.
Except when it comes to food.
I know some people whose list of food rules is almost as long as the Internal Revenue Code. No sugar. No carbs. No refined flour. Never skip breakfast. Skip breakfast and eat between noon and 8 p.m. Only eat fruit before noon. Never eat fruit with anything else. No fried foods. No dairy. No gluten. No lectins. Fast two days a week.
You get the idea.
Yet following these rules won’t help you permanently lose weight if you don't eat in tune with your body's signals.
You can overeat healthy food. I know. I did it for decades.
So forget all of these rules that tell you what to eat and what not to eat.
Throw them all away.
If you want to lose weight and keep it off, follow these four guidelines:
1. Eat only when your body is hungry. Notice that I said body. Our brains often tell us to eat food when our bodies aren’t hungry. That’s because we’ve developed a habit of eating to distract ourselves from negative emotions. So start tuning into your body. Your body is always in the present moment. Notice where you are feeling hunger. If your stomach doesn’t feel empty and grumbling, it probably isn’t your body that wants you to eat. It's head hunger.
2. Feed your body what it wants. Again, the word body is key here. Our brains frequently give us different advice about what to eat than our bodies do. Your brain might be yelling things like, “Wow, cake! I want that!” or “I’m in the mood for French fries” because you can smell them while walking by a fast food restaurant. Most of the time, you’ll find that such commands come from a place of emotional need, or even just habits, rather than your body’s fuel requirements.
So listen to your body and give it what it wants. At first, you might think that means all you’ll eat is sugar, but your body will feel like crap if you do that. Dump the idea of forbidden foods. Trust your body’s wisdom, quietly listen to it and feed it what it wants.
3. Don’t multi-task while eating. When you eat, eat. Eat slowly without distractions. Sit at the table and savor every bite without texting, watching TV, reading a magazine or doing anything else. You will enjoy your food a lot more and be satisfied with less.
4. Stop eating when your body feels lightly full. To notice this, you’ll have to follow guideline #3 above. When you eat slowly and pay attention to your food, you will notice that your body has had enough before you are overly full. You may notice that you reach that nice lightly full place when you’ve eaten about half the amount of food you normally eat. Maybe a little more than half. Stop eating and enjoy that light, energetic feeling of not overeating.
Then watch the pounds slowly melt off without diets and deprivation. It isn’t a quick fix, but making these guidelines your habit will allow you to eat what you love, and avoid the creeping weight gain so many of us experience as we get older.
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