One of the biggest challenges many American women face is knowing when to end a meal. Pop quiz.
When you eat, how do you know when to stop?
a) when your plate is clean
b) after everyone has finished eating
c) when the food is all gone
d) when you're full
If you answered, d) when you're full, you're right. You probably have a healthy weight and you're maintaining it effortlessly because you are able to eat until your physical hunger is satisfied. But many people who struggle with their weight don't have a strong connection to their bodies, so they're not able to stop eating until they get to the point of being stuffed. Here are some tips to help you to know when to stop eating.
Internal vs. External Cues
Last year Cornell University researchers studied groups of people from the U.S and France to understand how they knew when to stop eating. They discovered that those who relied on external cues (outside signals such as a clean plate, an empty box or carton or the end of a television program were heavier because they ate more food.
Sometimes it's heartbreaking to have to put your fork down. Isn't it?
Can you relate? If you get where I'm coming from, then you know what it's like to be so disconnected from your body that you just don't feel satisfied after the meal is over. Perhaps you feel compelled to eat more than your tummy can comfortably hold, which in reality is not very much. It's a well known fact that your stomach is just about the size of your closed fist, somewhere around a 2 cup capacity.
Despite what you may have been told, eating beyond that point doesn't mean that you're a pig or have no self control and you're most definitely not alone. Here's a story of mine that shares a discovery that I made that can help you to stop mourning after your meals.
Feeling the Pain of Ending a Meal
Before I made the decision to stop dieting, it was nearly impossible for me to resign myself to ending a meal. It felt like every meal would be my last and I was always worried about not having enough food, so I just kept eating. It didn't matter what I ate, just as long as I was chewing. I justified the reason as being that I was still hungry, but now I know that it wasn't physical hunger that drove my appetite. It was my frayed emotions, my level of exhaustion, an overcommitted schedule, and my inability to say, "No" to people, that kept me eating to fill what I used to call, "my bottomless pit." If you can relate to eating just because food is present... then I'd like to share this insight with you.
Eating to Fill A Corner
One morning as I was sitting down to breakfast at about 7:30 a.m., ready to enjoy 1/2 of a cinnamon raisin bagel with margarine along with a nice, hot, steamy mug of peppermint tea with sugar and lemon, I thought of something that I learned many years ago.
Back in the day when I lived in one of the apartment buildings that I managed, I used to be neighbors with a french woman named, "Princess D'Or." Princess and I would often spend time together. One day she invited me over to enjoy a lovely roast duck dinner with wild rice stuffing, roasted potatoes and apricot glaze. She used to put the potatoes beneath the duck so that they absorbed all the fat and juices as the duck roasted.
At the time, I was a huge fan of duck and I served myself a monstrous portion. She put a small amount on her plate. As we were eating and talking, I watched her curiously as she picked at her food and ate small bits. It seemed to me that she was concentrating intently on what she was eating. Curious and wanting to know more, I asked her what she was doing.
She told me that since she often makes this meal, she only wanted to eat enough to fill a small corner of her tummy. When we got up from the meal, I could tell from the sensations in my body that I had really overdone it, and as my Nana used to say, "I was eating with my eyes and ignoring my stomach." I was groggy and feeling pretty awful. I knew that I had to excuse myself to go home next door to take a nap in my apartment. She on the other hand was excited and filled with energy and couldn't wait to finish a piece of art work that she was painting. After thanking her for the lovely meal, we bid our goodbyes and went our separate ways.
As those memories twirled 'round in my head, I looked down at the bagel in my hand, I noticed that there was one lonely little raisin in what was supposed to be a cinnamon raisin bagel, which had absolutely no flavor of cinnamon whatsoever. I cut about 1/3 of the bagel out of the 1/2 and I proceeded to spread it with margarine. I took a bite and noticed that it had nearly no flavor. Then I took another bite and noticed that my observation was the same, Yuck! no flavor. So I left the rest of the bagel 1/2 on the counter and I made a mental note to toss it to the birds later. I decided to take my peppermint tea upstairs and share my observations with you.
Today I really understand what Princess meant by eating to fill a corner. Just those couple of bites of tasting that nasty 'raisin' bagel were enough to take the edge off of my hunger, which was strong enough that it prevented me from focusing on what I was writing. So I knew I was hungry, but unlike that night where I became one with Princess' duck, I didn't want to feel that sensation of being overstuffed and unproductive. Next when I get hungry, whenever that is, I'll probably make myself a couple of lightly scrambled eggs, because I know that I don't have to limit myself to 3 squares a day. I can eat anything and anytime I want.
How about you? Are you eating to fill a corner or a cavern? Do you know beforehand how much you want to eat, and if you do, what helps you to decide?
It's so important to learn how to pay attention to how your body feels and what you need/want. By doing that, you'll feel so good and be able to eat whatever you want.
Even on weekend mornings, when most dieters plan to overeat, I don't tend to eat a big breakfast. If on the rare occasion I do, then I won't eat until dinner time. It's not a question of depriving myself. It's just that my stomach isn't comfortable anymore feeling so stuffed and when I do feel too full, I'll wait until I'm good and ready to eat. It may be the next meal or not.
Maybe you're not aware of the feeling in your stomach. You're not alone. Here are some tips to help you know when to stop eating:
Maximum Satisfaction: Living in the land of butter, cream, cheese, bread and wine, the French are no strangers to the idea of getting maximum satisfaction from their food. There dieting is considered a dirty word, because they don't fear fat and richer foods. Because their heavier meals are more satisfying and calorie dense, it is easier for their stomachs to register satisfaction because fat is more satisfying and stays longer in the body. The French are accustomed to tuning into the sensation in their bodies to know when to end their meals, eating only until they feel satisfied and no more.
Savor each bite: The romantic French have a similar attitude toward eating as they do toward lovemaking. Savor the moment. When you eat your next meal, pay close attention to the flavors, richness, aroma and texture of your food.
Hari Hachi Bunme: The Japanese also rely on internal cues to guide them to know when to stop eating. They have a saying that recommends "Hara hachi bunme", which means "Eat until you are 80 percent full." Like the French, the Japanese also eat slowly, enjoy their food for it's flavor, eating much smaller portions than Americans.
But you may still be having trouble knowing when to stop. Here's a bit more help:
Most of the time we're just not aware of how our body feels unless we're directed to pay attention. So for example you may not have noticed the sensation in your knee until something reminds you to think about your knees.
Find a quiet spot where you can sit alone for a few moments. Put your hand over your stomach and close your eyes, tilting your eyes down toward your stomach. Just to remind you--Your stomach is in the upper portion of your belly beneath your rib cage. Notice how it feels now.
Have you just eaten? Is your last meal sloshing around in there? Does your tummy feel peaceful or does it hurt? If your body could talk, what would it say?
Each time you sit down to eat, let your body tell you what's right for you. What's your plan today? Will you eat to fill a corner or a cavern? And if you're eating to fill a cavern, what part of you is feeling empty?
If you'd like more help to reconnect with your body or to discuss other types of emotional eating challenges you may be facing, I'd like to invite you to join my Juicy Woman Yahoo Group. On that discussion board, you'll learn tips and strategies all geared to help you make peace with food and friends with your body.
For more tips, tools and inspiration designed to support you on the road to non diet weight control, so that you can reclaim your power over food, love your body and yummy up your life read Andrea's Juicy Woman blog at http://www.thejuicywoman.blogs.com
And to get a free excerpt of her new book, "Lovin' the Skin You're In: The Juicy Woman's Guide to Making Peace with Food and Friends with Your Body," go to http://www.thejuicywoman.com