Weight loss is mostly portion control. Well, it’s about not eating junk but then after that it’s portion control. In fact, if you got the portions right there’s no reason you can’t lose weight eating fast food.
The problem is that portion control is tough. How much is the right amount to eat? I know how much I want to eat – but that’s going to be way too much. Don’t make me bring out the gram scales, and whatever you do don’t be stingy. I don’t want to be hungry.
Is there a way to choose the right amount to eat to lose weight and still not be hungry? Can I have my cake and eat it too?
There is a way and it’s probably known by only half the world – so that makes it a ‘secret’. I say that fully aware that anything marketed as a secret or a miracle is nonsense.
I’m telling you in this way because losing weight has been baffling and frustrating and you don’t need to get on another rollercoaster of self loathing. Instead let’s try another gateway emotion – curiosity. Maybe there might be some skills you could learn that could make the whole process easier and painless?
You might remember when you first started drinking alcohol that you wondered what the fuss was, and so had another glass, and so on until you fell over. You weren’t initially tuned into the subtle effects of the booze - the obvious and not so obvious ways it messes with your judgement and puts a slant on your emotions. It takes time to learn that well before your nose goes numb you should switch to water.
In the same way it took me many years of enthusiastic coffee drinking before I realised the insidious effect that caffeine has on me, particularly at the end of the day. Now I know that well before objects have a rainbow aura I should switch to decaf.
In the same way there are subtle clues to stopping eating. But first - why don’t we keep eating until we explode? Because there are both physical and chemical sensors in gut that control appetite. Simple mass in your stomach helps create a full sensation, and so do the nutrients in the food. But it takes a little time for the food that you eat to start getting broken down, so by the time you feel full there is already a lot coming down the pipeline.
There is a group of islands in Japan that has the world’s highest proportion of centenarians. One of the reasons for their longevity is the local custom of “Hara hachi bun me” – which translates roughly as ‘belly 80%’(or ‘Hara wants to boil me’ if you use Google translate). Which means stopping eating while you’re still hungry.
How much is 80% hungry? I’ve no idea. So I only use a small bowl and then eat only so much that I could easily eat what I’ve just eaten all over again. Easily. Or eat enough so that I could jump up and run 5k.
Try it tonight. Serve yourself a meal, your normal size. Now cut it in half. See how meagre it is? Now eat it. You will be disappointed and mortified about how little it is, how quickly it goes down. Enjoy every mouthful and when it’s done rate your appetite out of 10, with 10 being ravenous. Maybe you’ll be a 5 or 6. You’ll want to get up and have seconds. Absolutely you can, but first just wait 15 minutes. Watch some TV. Go and run that 5k.
Now rate your appetite. It’s about a 3 isn’t it?
You haven’t eaten anything and yet you’re feeling less hungry. You’ve got calories from the air – you’ve become a Breathinarian. It’s a miracle.
You will still feel full. Just not right away. Once you tune into it – it’s a genuine miracle. And you certainly won’t feel that icky belly-stretching, overfull, why-did-I-do-that-I-really-should-have-stopped-one-helping-ago feeling.
You can be good on your diet during the day because breakfast and lunch and snacks are pretty standard meals. It’s at night time that things go wrong, when the grazing can get out of control. Learning to go to bed slightly peckish is an essential skill for losing weight.
And because I’m feeling generous - here’s a bonus tip. It’s even more powerful but less glamorous as it involves fewer secrets and fewer Japanese centenarians.
Lose weight with someone else.
One of my coaching clients wanted to lose weight and so we decided we would do it together. We both agreed it wasn’t a competition. We weren’t doing a ‘biggest loser’, we were just going to lose weight at the same time.
So now there was another reason not to have a second helping at night time. So now there was someone to send a photo of a particularly wholesome meal to. Someone to compare notes with about what was working and what wasn’t.
This raising of the social stakes, being accountable to someone, was very powerful in getting me started. And once you’ve started and you’ve found a way to get results without much effort, then you are really unstoppable.