|Every now and again, a question drops in to my twitter feed that is right up my street and this was one of them. I’ve just written an entire book (“How to Retrain Your Appetite: Lose weight permanently eating all your favourite foods) addressing this very subject. Here’s the tweet:
“Can somebody remind me how to eat less? And don’t do all that ‘there’s no need’ ‘food is great’ stuff. There is need, and I’m too fat, with zero willpower.” Flic, on twitter
Flic lobbed into the twittersphere a question that so many people ask, and so few people answer. There are plenty of people who tell you that you should be eating less, but like so much advice, if it’s what you already know, what use is it? What you need is practical, work-able techniques and strategies, which is what Appetite Retraining provides.
Be specific about what to change, so you don’t overload your inner resources
Coming back to Flic’s tweet – how to eat less? It’s a more complicated thing than it may first appear, because what you need to do will depend on HOW you are eating too much. Perhaps your portion sizes are too big, or you eat stuff that is just lying around, or eat to deal with tricky emotions. You may recognize several unhelpful habits from my Unhelpful Eating Habits (UEH) checklist and knowing which specific things you are doing regularly is an essential first step in cutting down your intake for good. Conventional dieting is like a scatter-gun: you’re firing at multiple targets (eating habits) without even realizing it. Whereas Appetite Retraining identifies the target, so you can take aim precisely, at one habit at a time. This matters, because habit-change is hard work, and you need to focus what energy you have available on something that is achievable.
All items on the UEH checklist are to do with eating more than your body needs, one way or another. When you’ve checked which ones apply to you, you may be drawn to working on a particular habit first. If not, I’d suggest starting with any of your Unhelpful Eating Habits that fall under the heading “Eating too much”, because they are about learning to tune in to your fullness signals. Only by learning to stop when you’ve had just enough rather than too much, can you hope to get definitely hungry (which indicates fat-burning) by your next meal.
The Appetite PendulumTM
I designed my Appetite Pendulum to help you learn to tune in to what is happening in your gut at any point. Right now, focus on your body and look at the words next to the Pendulum and see which is the best description of how you feel right now, and notice the number next to it. If you’re hungry you’ll be somewhere between -1 and -5 whereas if you’re not you’ll be somewhere between +1 and +5. And you may be neither, which is zero – “neutral”.
How to use the Appetite Pendulum
So the first stage Flic, and everyone else wanting the answer, is to learn to listen to your gut whenever you are eating, and tune in to how hungry or full you are. Between meals, if you think of eating, check in with your gut. If you’re -3 on the Appetite Pendulum, then it’s time to eat, otherwise it’s not. There’s a whole chapter in my book on how to wait to eat until you’re definitely hungry by dealing with the various forms of non-hungry eating.
The second stage is for when you are eating a meal, which is to use the simple rule of stopping eating each meal at +3 (just full). To do this you’ll need to understand a bit more about the two types of fullness signals our brain receives from our stomach and gut, which is outlined in this recent blog article.
Stopping when you’re just full is of course easier said than done, so check out the articles at the bottom of this page, which tell you more about how to do this successfully and as painlessly as possible… and the book has a whole chapter on how to stop eating when you’re just full.
Flic ends her twitter-plea with the words, “I’m too fat, with zero willpower”. So what can help here? First is to understand what willpower is (it’s like a form of energy as I explain in the “How can I increase my willpower?” blog below). Second is to do everything you can to reduce the need for it, so that when your willpower-energy is flagging, you’ve got a plan-you-made-earlier ready to go. This means planning your eating in advance, and crucially, what you’ll do when you intend to stop eating. There’s a whole section of “How to Retrain Your Appetite” on problems with willpower, along with the other common saboteurs that kick in around trying to lose weight.
We all used to know how to eat less
We all ate in tune with our bodies when we were very young… and while some of us never got out of the habit, most of us did. What you do when you change your eating habits one at a time, so that you are eating in tune with your body, is re-learning to eat as you did as an infant.
Let me know if you have a question you want help with via my blog. You can post it on:
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