I want to lose weight and get into better shape, but every diet I’ve tried has left me feeling incredibly restricted and tired of tracking everything. Is there any way to feel ‘normal’ and still lose weight without the restriction and tracking?"
Great question and you're absolutely right. Diets can leave us feeling deprived of our favorite foods or pulling our hair out trying to map out every minuscule macronutrient.
For most people, serious restrictive diets and tracking programs aren’t necessary.
The answer to this question is simple, but it’s not easy - at least at first.
You see, all we’re trying to accomplish with a diet is calorie restriction. We need to eat less calories throughout the day than we burn with our activity. Every diet attempts to do this in one way or another. Some through restriction in food types, others through pre-planning or tracking meals to restrict total calorie amounts.
As long as the amount of calories you’re consuming is less than the amount that you’re burning through activity each day, you’ll lose weight. Simple, but not easy.
So, how do you do that without restricting food or tracking every minute detail?
You see, hunger is naturally tied into our metabolic rate. In times when we need to put on weight, our hunger goes up tremendously. The need to put nutrients in our body becomes a priority and our hunger guides us. Our senses become sharper, we smell food we wouldn't have noticed before and crave it more than ever.
Food even tastes better, so we eat more of it.
On the other hand, it is rare in our society that we are ever in need of food to that extreme. That ‘true’ hunger has probably been felt by a very small percentage of Americans in their lifetime.
Most of our hunger is an urge, a reminder that it’s time to fill our bellies with food and feel good. We are creatures of habit after all, and our hunger hormone is also trained to be released at specific times of day letting us know it's time to eat.
The trick to controlling your bodyweight without restricting food sources or tracking everything is learning to feel that true hunger and differentiate it from our desire for taste or a fuller belly.
Once you start to recognize the feeling of hunger differentiated from the desire to keep eating, or a craving for tasty food, then you can start to base your eating off of hunger without the feeling of restriction or tracking every food item.
How to do this is simple, but it’s not easy - as I said before.
Our goal is to maintain a slight hunger throughout the day.
Remember, the key word is slight. I’m not telling you to starve yourself, or to feel like you’re going to faint from lack of food. The goal is not starvation, nor is it to lose weight as quickly as possible.
When we base our food intake on true hunger and our need for food rather than our enjoyment of food or our urge to feel ‘full’ in our bellies, weight loss happens naturally at a slow and steady pace.
Here are a few tips:
1. Stop eating before you feel 'full'. Leave food on your plate and push it away and find something else to do. You'll find after 10-20 minutes you are no longer 'hungry' or craving food.
2. Don't allow yourself to get TOO hungry before eating. We make bad choices when our stomach does the thinking, and that leads to a lot of calories being consumed very quickly.
3. Use common sense. Just because we are not restricting foods or tracking calories does not mean your entire meal should be made up of junk food. Your goal is health without the restriction. Focus on the healthy things and allow yourself to have a small amount of the things you crave throughout the day.
4. NEVER binge or stuff yourself. We are creatures of habit and when we stuff ourselves we are creating a habit each time we eat to do the same. This is why the binge & starve cycles are so detrimental to our metabolic health.
5. Don't give up - you're gonna mess it up, we all do. At time I'm the pinnacle of self-control, and at other times I'm emptying the bottom of an ice cream tub. Consistency trumps perfection.
You may say to yourself "Maintain hunger throughout the day? How insightful."
You're right, it's nothing new - but that doesn't mean it doesn't work.
Comment your thoughts below and let me know what you think!