“Eat less.” “Control your portion size.” “Calories in. Calories out.” “Use a smaller plate.” “Eat more slowly.” “Chew each bite 100 time.” "Exercise to make up for it." "Cake on your birthday doesn't count."
The amount of “advice” I see about how to trick the human body into not gaining and holding fat makes me want to bang my head against my desk in frustration. Humans are DESIGNED to average out to eating exactly how much we need, no more, no less. But, there is a HUGE piece of the puzzle that has been removed from the game – we no longer eat the food we are designed to eat. Instead we are eating designed food that takes zero effort to obtain. That’s a problem and it rigs the game against us.
The good news is, once you understand how the human body works you don’t have to try to trick it. You can just eat until you’ve had enough. Here’s why portion control doesn’t work:
Your body can’t count calories. A calorie is the amount of energy required to raise the temperature of a gram of water one degree Celsius. Shockingly the human body has no way to figure that out. When your brain counts calories the rest of the human system laughs.
Your stretch receptors will not be denied. Your stomach feels “full” when the stretch receptors say you’ve put enough in there. It’s about volume (made up by fiber). The calorie density and how much you "think" you should eat doesn't matter to your stomach.
We are designed to eat food that needs to be chewed. One thing I’ve noticed since learning about whole-food plant-based eating is that it takes longer to eat – and that’s a GOOD thing! Plant foods have fiber that requires chewing. Chewing activates the saliva glands (the first step in healthy digestion) and gives the stretch receptors time to adjust to the food coming in. There is no reason to “wait 20 minutes and see if you’re still hungry” when you eat food that actually has to be chewed.
Cells need nutrition. Nothing else matters. There are A LOT of editable products out there that have zero nutritional value. You can eat all the junk you want and your body is going to say, “I’m still hungry.” When we talk about being plant-based people often ask, “Where do you get your protein?” That’s not even a concern, all plants have protein. The big concern if you aren’t eating plants is, “Where are you getting your nutrients?” (Hint: you're not.)
Most people “portion control” by not eating veggies and starch. It never ceases to amaze me how often people will eat an entire breast of chicken, hunk of steak or filet of fish and leave the broccoli and potato on their plate in the name of “portion control.” [Full disclosure – I used to do the same thing before I knew better.] That is exactly backwards. Eat the veggie and the starch. In fact, eat two servings. Then decide if you really NEED the fat and cholesterol in the animal product.
Most people have no idea what being hungry feels like. Hunger is mostly a thing of the past in the western world. We eat because it’s time to eat. We eat because food is available. We eat mindlessly. We eat socially. We eat emotionally. We eat junk. We eat fast. We eat unhealthily. And it’s killing us.
Forget portion control. Figure out what it feels like to be hungry, feed your body nutritious food it can actually use to build healthy cells and don’t give it junk food, animal fat and cholesterol it has to fight to process. Pick anything from some or all of these food groups and dig in! Legumes (i.e. beans and peas), leaves (i.e. lettuce and spinach), bulbs (i.e. onions and garlic), flowers (i.e. broccoli and cauliflower), whole grains (i.e. brown rice and oats), roots (i.e. beets and potatoes), stems (i.e. celery and asparagus), nuts/seeds (i.e. walnuts and pumpkin seeds), mushrooms and spices. Eat until you’ve had enough and then stop. Easy.
If you are ready to address how your food choices are negatively affecting your health, let’s set up a free get-to-know-you chat. Send me an email and let’s get you on track to taking control of your stress eating. Health@RnRJourney.com
Dr Robyn is a former competitive volleyball player turned psychologist with continuing education in nutrition. Russ is a former competitive bodybuilder and trainer on the Mr. Olympia Tour. They are the co-founders of Whole Food Muscle and the authors of How to Feed a Human The Whole Food Muscle Way. To work with them one on one to improve your health and fitness or to have them speak at your event or organization email them at Health@RnRJourney.com.