By tuning into my hunger signals and trying the 'eat when you're hungry and stop when you are full' approach I have slowly realised that I have got the signals all mixed up.
Being hungry does not mean that your stomach is completely empty of food, there are strange grumbling noises and you feel slightly nauseous. That, my friends, is fall on the floor starving. It is not normal HUNGER.
Similarly, if you finish a meal and you say ... "that barely hit the sides, I could eat that all over again" and then stare off into the distance wondering how you are going to get through the next three hours before you get to eat again, then you are not FULL. You are not even close to being full.
Somehow along the way we have programmed our thinking to believe that (a) we need to be starving in between meals when we are in a calorie deficit and (b) having a completely full tummy is to be avoided because it means we've eaten 'too much'. Worryingly, we almost prefer that empty feeling because we are 'putting in the work' and doing what it takes to get lean.
First of all, I need to remind you that most medical sources claim that 2,000 calories is maintenance for an average female. Are you average? How much lean muscle mass do you have? How much do you train every day? How active are you during your daily routine?
Then consider the types of food that you eat. Are you eating foods with high calories and low volume (processed crap) or is your food primarily fruit, vegetables, whole grains/legumes, and lean protein.
I am willing to bet (because I've been experimenting) that if you ate a 500 calorie breakfast of oats, natural protein powder, banana, bran, peanut butter and greek yogurt you would be wonderfully full and contented when you finished it. By the time lunchtime came around you would be just starting to feel like you could maybe fit some more food in. If your lunch was 500 calories of chicken, wholegrain pasta or a potato and vegetables, I am thinking you wouldn't even think about food again until about 4pm. If you then ate a piece of fruit, I suspect you might make it through to dinner quite easily. After a 500 calorie brown rice, vegetable and tofu stirfry dinner, I think you might be so full that you couldn't even fit in dessert and you'd sleep soundly and peacefully that night.
Even without trying you have only eaten 1600 calories and you are never fall on the floor starving at all. If you've worked up at sweat at the gym that day you probably still have a few hundred calories left to play with and still be in a deficit. You could fit in that hot chocolate and a small scoop of real icecream and still lose fat.
If you like thinking about food all day and counting down the hours until your next feed from your 42 tupperware containers in your cooler bag then aiming for 1200-1400 calories in 5-6 small meals might suit you.
But if you want to eat like you did when you were a skinny kid, or the way that the naturally thin girls I know do (because I watch them and ask them) then have 3 decent, filling, delicious meals a day and snack wisely either to tide you over or to have a small treat. If you train like an athlete, and you carry a decent amount of muscle then you can eat much more than you think.
Hunger is not starvation and gluttony is not being full and satisfied. Once you give yourself permission to eat large healthy meals you realise that you can get lean and stay lean without ever wanting to chew off your arm. AND you feel fantastic and full of energy.
- So what do you prefer? small meals or large?
- How long has it been since you've been completely full and satisfied from healthy food (not a binge/overeating episode)?
- Do you think that you have to 'pay the price' of continuous hunger to be lean?