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Determining When Enough is Enough: 10 Strategies for Successful Eating

February 11, 2013

bld169707How do we know when to stop eating?

The simple answer is: when our stomachs tell us. They do so when the stomach wall stretches to the point where nerve receptors send a message to the brain. The process usually takes about 20 minutes after we start eating. (How Does Your Stomach Tell Your Brain That You’re Full?)


The problem, however, is that many of us override the message for a variety of reasons: we’re taught not to waste food; we’re at a restaurant or party and can’t pass up the opportunity to eat a particularly tasty dish we don’t normally get; we’re having fun and not paying attention; eating provides us comfort during stressful times; and on and on.

Fortunately, there are a variety of technological and behavioral tools that can help us 1) realize we’re full, and then 2) stop eating.

Below is a list compiled from the many very smart people I know:


1. Consider using a free app like LoseIt or MyFitnessPal that can help you calculate the number of calories to eat per day based on your activity level and height/gender. The apps also have a food journal component that help you figure out how many calories you have left to eat, which will help you mentally plan for the proper size of your next meal, as well as what you should eat. Often, just the act of having to log what you eat will deter you from eating more than you should.

2. People have also been recommending fitness bracelets like the Nike FuelBand, fitbit and UP by Jawbone (which also allows you to track your sleep, meals and moods), all of which help you measure your movement during the day to help you keep track of how many calories you expend, which in turn helps you understand how to eat appropriately by choosing food and quantities that either help you maintain or reduce your weight, based on your goal.


3. Drink a full glass of water just before a meal and one during the meal, which will aid in stretching the stomach wall to increase your feeling of fullness. The best part is that drinking water will help you stay appropriately hydrated and will aid in digestion.

4. If you order a meal at a restaurant, purposely request substitutions or subtractions that reduce the size or calorie count of the meal, i.e., instead of the rice pilaf, ask for a second helping of steamed vegetables. If choosing fish, ask for the broiled fish rather than seafood that’s breaded and fried.

5. When you order food, request a take-home container. When your meal comes, place half the meal in the container. Besides halving your possible calorie intake, the option 1) removes food from your eyesight and 2) creates a great meal for another time.

6. Along the same lines, if you finish what you believe is the appropriate amount, have the waiter remove your plate.

7. If you’re a fast eater, try doing what one woman did by making herself eat with her non-dominant hand. This option has the added advantage of helping you become ambidextrous.

8. If you make more food than you need, serve yourself what you’ll eat and package the rest for future meals.

9. If you’re in a smorgasbord setting, allow yourself to fix one plate of food that represents a normal portion, rather than a heaping plate. Enjoy your food, then set your plate down, knowing seconds are not an option.

10. In situations where appetizers are all that are offered, rather than snack all night, fix a plate of food that will be adequate and satisfying as a meal. Just seeing the food on the plate will help you figure out reasonable quantities while also reminding you about a balanced diet, i.e., that if you see cocktail weenies, cheese and crackers, you’ll be more likely to also choose fruit and vegetables from those appetizer trays.

Lastly, realize that satiety — feeling satisfied — is very important for our brains. Rather than expunge our favorite foods from our diet, cut down the quantity of what’s highly caloric and kick into eating a lot of whatever is great for you, especially fruits and vegetables.

Happy eating and working out!

From → Archive

  1. cluculzwriter permalink

    I’ve been using MyFitnessPal for a year now, and I’m here to say it works! It makes me stop and think about what I “really” want to eat, and whether I really “need” to eat it.

    Great post, Martha. Passing this along.

    • Excellent feedback, Joylene! While it’s easy to post various ideas, it’s so much more convincing when people say what works for them. It sounds like you’re meeting your fitness goals, which is awesome, considering how busy you are.

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