Monday, November 7, 2011

How do you know when to stop eating?

(photo courtesy of pleated-pants)
How many times have we heard that in order to prevent overeating that could lead to weight gain, we should stop eating before we feel full because it takes 20 minutes for your brain to recognize that your stomach is full.  And, if you keep eating until you physically feel full, it's probably too late and your stomach is already stretched out with too much food.  I think comedian Louis C.K. captured this conundrum best when he said, if I stub my toe, my brain knows immediately that it (expletive) hurts, so why does it take my stomach 20 minutes to let my brain know it's full?
According to Michael Pollan's Food Rules, there are many cultures that have this custom in place to avoid overeating.  The Japanese say to eat until you are 80% full,  the Ayurvedic Indian tradition says 75% full, and the Chinese say eat until you are 70% full.
This is great advice and if I had an internal monitor that could tell me how full I am getting while eating a meal, it wouldn't be so difficult, but I don't.  And if the food tastes really good, I don't want to stop eating especially if I come to the meal hungry. 
It's important to know that this custom, while paramount to our eating habits today, was developed years and years ago when people had to hunt, catch or grow their food themselves.  They learned out of necessity how to recognize when they've had enough to eat, so they didn't waste their food since they had to work really hard to get it.  But since we don't have to work as hard to get our food and we usually have more than enough, how can we learn to recognize when we've had enough to eat like our ancestors did years ago?
The most important and obvious advice is to eat slowly and chew your food well.  Not only does chewing your food well take time, it will help your body digest the food better.  Next, pay attention to the food you're eating when you're eating it.  And last, relax and enjoy your food. When you feel satisfied but not exactly full, stop eating and wait a few minutes. Honestly, I think this is the simplest and easiest way to listen to the internal cues that will prevent you from overeating. 
If anyone has any other ideas or words of advice on this - please let me know.

"The Greatest Wealth is Health" - Roman Poet Virgil

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