Posted by: Shannon @ A Dash of Sparkle | August 22, 2011

Finding Your “Happy Full”

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My birthday weekend of indulgences (and over-indulgences) really reminded me about the importance of portion control. I forget sometimes how hard it is to not eat with your eyes.

Over the years, I’ve learned to listen to my stomach and follow the 50% rule from French Women Don’t Get Fat (which is an even more ironic book title these days since they recently reported that French women are in fact getting fat!) to some degree.

Don’t know that rule? Basically it slows your eating pace down.

I did NOT follow this rule during my birthday weekend. I saw amazingly delicious food, said “heck, it’s my birthday” and reached for more. And boy oh boy, was I a hurtin’ puppy last week.

The years of learning that I, and by “I” I mean “my stomach”, am really happiest when eating smaller portions, were tossed out the window so that I ate to discomfort.

You know what I mean by discomfort… when you have to unbutton your pants button to breath, feel like you could be sick, can barely move, think you may have accidentally swallowed an elephant, please just let me make it to the couch, I’m so sorry belly, uncomfortable.

Finding your “Happy Full” is not as hard as you may think, but it does involve you being very conscious of what you’re doing and how you’re feeling. It involves you exercising a bit of portion control.

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Americans are some of the worst offenders of abusing portion sizes due to our “Bigger is Better” mentality. Many consider a portion what is given to them on a plate. However, what restaurants have trained us to expect on a plate is FAR more than one portion. In fact, it’s more like two to five portions!

So how do you retrain your brain and start listening to your stomach? Well, after my over-eating-filled weekend, I am following my learned lessons to get back on track…

How To: Find Your “Happy Full”:

  1. Slow Down – It’s easy to get caught up and inhale food at the speed of light, especially when you’re super hungry (one of my biggest downfalls), rushed for time, or when there’s a huge spread and you feel like you have to get through it all. Just. Slow. Down. Eat with intent and enjoy each bite. This will give you more of a chance to enjoy what you’re eating and help prevent you from over-eating.
  2. Avoid Distractions – At least until you learn what your “Happy Full” is, try to avoid distractions while eating like watching TV, reading a book or magazine, working on your computer, or even talking on the phone. These distractions contribute to “mindless eating” and it prevents you from paying attention to what and how much you’re actually putting in your mouth. You’ll just clear your plate and then be complaining how full you are.
  3. Put Your Fork Down – This doesn’t mean you are being forced to eat with your hands instead, but every just put your fork down every two minutes. Just holding your fork will keep you in the mindset of eating more, so put it down to give your stomach and brain a rest.
  4. Use the 50% Rule – Eat 50% of what’s on your plate and stop. Are you full? Give it a couple minutes and if you’re not honestly full yet, eat 50% of what’s left on your plate again. If you follow the logic of the 50% rule, it actually prevents you from ever completely cleaning your plate.
  5. Use Smaller Plates – One of my favorite tips is to use smaller plates, like dessert or salad plates for meals. You may clean your plate, but you’ll be eating much less than if you were cleaning a regular sized dinner plate!
  6. Listen to Your Stomach – The basic and most important is to simply pay attention and listen to your stomach. They say it takes anywhere from 15-20 minutes for your stomach to register that it is full, so if you follow all the above and still get to the point where you’re starting to feel full, you can cut yourself off before you reach critical levels.

Now almost a week into getting back to my “happy full” mode, I am feeling energized, comfortable and healthy again. No doubt my body would probably appreciate a full on cleanse, but my schedule is a bit too full at the moment to do that. Maybe next month.

Have you found your “happy full”? How do you maintain it?

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