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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Shari – this is so good. I know all this. I forget to apply it. I am SO OVER food rules. Thanks for the great reminder!
Thanks, Cathy. It is so much easier to know things than actually do them, isn’t it? We have to make commitments to ourselves, then actually KEEP them! Not easy!
I listen to people talk about the “can’t haves” and am incredibly thankful to be here, in this group, eating MINDFULLY, and that it’s working. And really, just so damn SIMPLE! No pain. No suffering. No sacrifice. Just an ongoing honest conversation with yourself which 1. puts you in charge, and 2. allows you to really enjoy your food. I’m still working on slowing down (I watch my hounds scarfing their meals and think, “There, but for Shari!), but oh my goodness, do I feel better!
Thanks for your comments, Sam. They mean a lot. You get lots of credit for working to change your old habits, but that is so much easier than dieting!
This is great! Very good advice.
We really do have to locate our “pulse” on eating and how it makes us feel. It’s somewhere between following a ton of rules and feeling constantly deprived , and just eating with abandon because you’ll fix it later. How we eat and then notice its effects is a healthy way to communicate with our bodies. I like that.
Thanks, Shari. I’ve had low blood sugar since forever and so had to make up my own rules. It’s not easy. I love snacking at night–but know to be careful or the pounds will increase.
Great read! I have a problem with food. My problem is…..I love it! I do only eat when I’m hungry, however, am guilty of multitasking while eating (unless I’m eating with others). If something is really good, sometimes I’ll push that last little bit into my pie hole, even though I’m full. I really need to get a grip and sometimes do … mid spoon or fork to the mouth.
Thanks for your tips! They are spot on!
I love food too! That’s not the problem, right? You identified the problems. We can change those habits when we’re ready to make the commitment. Thanks for posting.