Although what you eat is important to losing fat, how you eat is equally, if not more, important. In The 5 Habits of Highly Effective Eating, the first habit is “eat slowly to 80% full”. If you apply these two “anchor” habits—regardless of where you’re eating, what you’re eating, or whomever you’re eating with—you can have fat-loss success. I cover eating slowly here. This article is focused on the latter of the two—eating to 80% full. (Note: until you’ve developed some level of mastery with eating slowly, 80% fullness will be difficult to gauge.)
You’re often tricked by our environment into thinking you’re hungry when you’re often not. You drive by a bakery, smell the fresh-baked goodness, and think you’re hungry. When watching television (but not while eating), a commercial comes on for your [not even remotely] favorite restaurant and you think you’re hungry. You look at our watch, see that it’s noon, and think you’re hungry.
Real hunger isn’t determined or characterized by a store, commercial, or timepiece. Real hunger is the actual physical need for food.
Signs of actual hunger are:
These signs will be different for each of us, but through slow, mindful (no distractions) eating, you’ll better be able to tune into what your body is saying and not your environment.
How do you know what 80% feels like? First, understand 80% full is more of a concept than a hard and fast rule. One person’s 80% may be another one’s 60% . . . or 100%.
Have you ever been completely stuffed? How about completely ravenous? Well, 80% falls somewhere between the two. When you’re 80% full, or perhaps no longer hungry, stop eating. Signs might include:
Here’s a game you can play. Let’s call it the Hunger Game. (No, Katniss, you won’t be required to participate in a compulsory deathmatch.)
For the next day or two, pay attention to how you feel the few hours following your meals. Ultimately, if you’ve eaten to 80% full you’ll be hungry every 2-4 hours.
Contrary to some of the messages out there, when you’re losing weight, you will be hungry. You should be hungry. If you’re feeling low-level hunger throughout the day, embrace it. You are in a great state for fat loss!
So why, despite eating wherever, whatever, with whomever, is eating to 80% full so important? Well, in a nutshell, you’ll consume fewer calories. Oh, and because Okinawans do. (Huh?!)
As of the earliest parts of the 21st century, the Okinawans of Japan were the only culture to have a self-imposed habit of energy restriction. They refer to it as hara hachi bu, which when translated into English from Japanese means “Eat until you are eight parts full”. This sounds like eat to 80% to me.
Okinawans eat an average of 1,800 to 1,900 calories per day which results in an average body mass index (BMI) of 18 to 22. Americans on the other hand consume, well, a lot more, resulting in a BMI of approximately 28 to 29. Okinawa also has the greatest proportion of centenarians. (This may also be because they walk everywhere and consume a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, legumes, seafood, and green tea instead of highly-processed foods. But I’ll just say it’s because they eat to eight parts full.)
Another great thing about this habit is you can start practicing it at your very next meal, regardless of what you’ve planned. So, at your next meal, eat until 80% full. Here are six things to DO today. Pick one or two of them.