Mini-Pledge Week 8: Stop eating when you feel full

Next week’s “real food” mini-pledge is not about what we are eating, but about how much we are eating. Now some of you may think you already stop eating when you feel full, but unless you are French – think again. Based on research, Michael Pollan says instead of using our internal cues to know when to stop eating most of us “allow external, and usually visual, cues to determine how much we [should] eat.” Think back to your last meal…did you stop eating when your gut told you you’d had enough or when your plate was clean, the package was empty, or the T.V. show was over?

Mini-Pledge Week 8: Listen to your internal cues and stop eating when you feel full.

According to Pollan:

Supposedly it takes twenty minutes before the brain gets the word that the belly is full; unfortunately most of us take considerably less than twenty minutes to finish a meal, with the result that the sensation of feeling full exerts little if any influence on how much we eat. What this suggests is that eating more slowly, and then consulting our sense of satiety, might help us to eat less. The French are better at this than we are, as Brian Wansink discovered when he asked a group of French people how they knew when to stop eating. ‘When I feel full,’ they replied. (What a novel idea! The Americans said things like ‘When my plate is clean’ or ‘When I run out.’) Perhaps it is their long, leisurely meals that give the French the opportunity to realize when they are full.

I don’t know about you, but as long as I can remember I’ve been told to “clean my plate.” I am finding that it helps to start off with less food, because it can sometimes be difficult to stop eating an exceptionally good meal when there are only one or two or even three bites left. It wouldn’t be enough food to save or pack up at a restaurant, and I know we’ve all been taught how awful it is to “waste” food. And speaking of eating at restaurants my husband and I have been making an effort to split an entrée as well as a small appetizer since their portions tend to be over-sized here in America.

The key is when you start with less food you can always add more. You may be surprised at how often you don’t feel the need to pile on more…especially if you rest for a few minutes before going back. This is something I’ve honestly struggled with myself ever since I first read Pollan’s book, but I continue to try as hard as I can to not be won over by a delicious meal and instead stay in check by listening to my gut. As Pollan says “Better to go to waste than to waist,” which will “help you eat less in the short term and develop self-control in the long.”

Not to mention “Americans are on average eating 200 more calories a day than they were in the 1970s.” We think this concept of controlling our portions goes hand-in-hand with eating real food because we have personally found that real food is incredibly filling. You truly don’t need to eat as much to get to that “full” feeling as you would with the empty calories that make up highly processed food. But following through on this concept can sometimes be easier said than done, which is why we are devoting an entire mini-pledge week to the “way we eat.”

Some other similar concepts from the “How should I eat?” section of Pollan’s book Food Rules:

  • Pay more, eat less.
  • Stop eating before you’re full.
  • Eat when you are hungry, not when you are bored.
  • Eat slowly.
  • Spend as much time enjoying the meal as it took to prepare it.
  • Buy smaller plates and glasses.
  • Serve a proper portion and don’t go back for seconds.
  • Do all your eating at a table. (A desk does not count!)
  • Try not to eat alone.
  • Leave something on your plate.

To take the pledge: Please leave a comment below with the number of people in your household that will participate in the pledge this week. Some older kids might be able to join in, but I know most younger kids already stop eating whenever they want to instead of when their plates are empty anyway, which is apparently not such a bad thing!

Good luck!

 

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  • Comments

    1. Yvonne |

      I am in this! I have a huge problem. My tummy says no-no-no but my mouth says yes-yes-yes! I call it running my yellow light. I love the taste and sometimes just can’t put the fork down. I have found splitting an entry and appetizer helps a lot with my boyfriend. We do this all the time when we go out. When I’m alone at home, though, is where the trouble begins. I love the taste of food. This article should help me stop indulging and start letting my body guide me instead of my taste buds!

    2. Marquelle |

      I will be trying this this week!

    3. VeryThorough |

      I hate waste, so I always struggled with the idea of letting food go to waste. Then I came to the realization that if the food is not giving me needed sustenance (because I’m already full), passing it through my body into the toilet is no less wasteful than passing it through the garbage disposal down the drain. It’s probably even more wasteful (in terms of water treatment impacts) than if the extra food is simply composted.

      Plus, eating more than I need adds excess weight, which requires more calories to maintain, resulting in more food wasted in providing energy to an inefficient metabolism.

      I try to avoid food waste, using and preserving produce before it spoils, saving even tiny leftovers to mix into other meals, etc. But when I’m full and faced with the dilemma of eating or dumping, I just remind myself, eating excess food just turns it into poop! ;)

      • Jennifer |

        That is the best rationale I have ever heard – I think I can now stop overeating (seriously). LIGHTBULB! (should have already though of this – my hubby is an environmental scientist.. and studied water treatment plants extensively!)

    4. |

      My husband and I are doing this with our 3 year old. She’ll take the lead on this one. Those kiddos sure do know when they’ve had enough!

    5. Sile |

      Food doesn’t have to go to waste! put what is left on the plate in a small container and it can be a component of a later meal or packed lunch!

      We were raised with the clean plates club as well, probably why everyone in our family is fat!

      I really like the idea of starting with smaller portions and then waiting in between to see if you really need seconds. I think I will try this with my husband and myself! We are just starting the mini challenges (we’re on week one right now) as a jumping pad for cutting out the process. It’s super exciting!

    6. Katherine |

      Husband and I joined this pledge this Tuesday!

    7. Krystal |

      I am late on this challenge. I love your blog and since reading it. I have started making my own Spices and Seasonings. I bake all my kids snacks. I also now make my own Hamburger Helpers. We use 100% Whole Wheat Bread and I use Oat Flour rather than White. Try as I might I am still working on getting my family to like brown rice. Thank you so much!

    8. Christa |

      This will be the hardest part of the mini-pledges for me. It tastes so good, I just want to keep eating to enjoy it. But i’m working on it.

      As for wasting food… if anyone is lucky enough to have chickens (or a pig), there is a perfectly good use for your last bite or two. And heck, two bites to you is a full meal to one chicken, I’d bet. Two meals for the price of one! :)

    9. Rebecca |

      Week 8, yeah! Last week we did real well on whole grains, and I even bought a bread maker!!

      This week will be my hardest pledge yet, and something that I feel that I have struggled with since I was a teenager. I have never been overweight, but when I eat something that I like it is very hard for me to stop when I am feeling full.

      My husband and I will be doing this pledge for the whole week. I would include my daughter too, but she is a toddler and we will be following her lead this week!

    10. Kristen |

      On to Week 8, this will be a challenge. I tend to be careful with the portions I give myself, but then I do clean my plate. Even with a smaller portion, it’s still a good habit to stop and ask myself if I’m satisfied yet! One adult for this week.

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