I’m so interested in how other people learn how to eat moderately. Mostly because it was a hard road for me.
It has taken me years of practicing to break the ‘restrict-then-overeat-cycle’.
Years to break the habit of mentally counting calories.
Years to break the habit of feeling guilty over eating food I deemed bad or unhealthy.
Years to break the habit of needing to eat salty then sweet, sweet then salty.
I still have moments when some overeating happens (e.g. I feel too full), but the restriction mindset or guilt doesn’t pop up on my radar at all anymore when that happens. It’s a non-issue for me mentally and emotionally.
I say this as someone who had many disordered eating patterns for YEARS. Lots of fear built in around food, getting fat, gaining weight, eating too many carbs, too much fat.
I asked my coaching clients in To Pregnancy & Beyond how they have taught themselves how to eat moderately.
Heads up! They are not ‘perfect eaters’. I’m not a perfect eater. And, I’m not trying to be.
To me, that’s not the point of moderation, though. That’s not the point of eating and that’s not the point of life. The biggest point I try to communicate with my clients is that it’s never about trying to be perfect with your nutrition (even if you’re trying to lose some body fat).
It’s about eating lots of nutrient dense food with some treat-like food sprinkled in. Your meals are typically put together with protein, produce, dairy, grains, etc (whatever works for you).
Then you do the sprinkling in of the treats. Maybe that means you enjoy a glass of wine a few/most nights a week. Perhaps you eat a few squares of chocolate or a cookie or 2 everyday. Or, once or twice a week you eat a great burger.
The manor in which you eat is basically the same most of the time, it makes you feel great, and you love it.
IT’S JUST FOOD.
That’s it. That’s moderation. Here’s how my clients make it work in their lives!
“I’ve gotten there by bringing good habits into my life. Before I got pregnant I was using the guidance from the Lean Habits book, by Georgie Fear, and am slowly working back to where I was now that I’m out of the newborn fog.
Repeating and practicing good habits (3-4 meals a day with no snacking, waiting until I’m actually hungry to eat, etc.) over and over again has given me the freedom to eat what I want and not go overboard.”
“I feel so passionately about a positive relationship with food because I remember distinctly when I was put off exercise for 10 weeks with pelvic organ prolapse and wrote Jessie a message that said, “I’m scared of food right now, I don’t know how to eat when I’m not running”. That time was when it all changed for me.
I couldn’t eat and then burn the calories away (not that I ever could, but that was my mentality). I had to learn the fine art of of listening to my body. I learned how to tune in to what my body needed. If I’m hungry, eat some food. If I’m not hungry, drink some water.
I feel better when I eat ‘good food’. I don’t feel good when I eat a bunch of crap. I learned what foods are triggers for me ( starchy carbs particularly) that make me more hungry rather than feeling satisfied.
– Jillian, Owner of Fitness Fits All
“My biggest one is to be super conscious of how I feel after I eat certain things. Then when I’m hungry and think about what to eat, I consider how the food will make me feel physically.
This sometimes only translates into something as simple as eating some protein and a couple of veggies before I go for the cookie I was craving. This way the sugar from the cookie doesn’t make me feel sick, and I am not starving when I eat it so I’m less likely to eat 6 cookies instead of one or two.”
“Focusing on taste and reallyyyyy paying attention to how food was making me feel was LIFE CHANGING for me.
I used to be the 2-hotdogs-&-1/2-a-bag-of-chips-for-every-meal queen.
It was 100% my go-to. But, when I actually started to think about how that meal really tasted 3 times a day (first bite of the first meal was great, but were the bites after really as stellar?) and started to clue in to the fact that I was having digestive issues way too often (TMI?), I knew there had to be a better, more manageable approach.
I still have hotdogs (quality ones!) and chips, and wine, and cookies, and pizza – but now, I have them with my “enjoy every bite and listen to your body” mantra in mind.”
– Nicki, Owner of Nourished Mind Nutrition
“I love food and think of each meal as an opportunity. I don’t want to waste those opportunities on something that doesn’t taste delicious or make me feel good. Thankfully I enjoy planning meals and preparing food so that adds to the anticipation and makes eating more rewarding.”
“A few other guidelines that have helped me and may be beneficial to others:
- I do eat cookies, chips, all the food stuff. But instead of eating out of the container or bag I put a few in a bowl. Most of the times this is enough to hit the craving without ending in a gorge, lol. That and I’m too lazy/distracted to go grab more!
- At restaurants I split my meal in half. It is a fact that today’s portions are out of control, and I’ve just become good at keeping that awareness with me when eating out. So I eat half of what is served and most of the times the other half comes home for lunch the next day (hey, two meals for the price of one! lol). Other times I’m genuinely still hungry and I keep on eating or even finish off my plate. And that’s okay, too 🙂
- I stand up and do a quick chore or something else before going for seconds. Usually this is enough time for satiety signals to catch up and I discover I no longer feel hungry after.”
“I make my own food — the easiest way to make sure it tastes good. As for portions: I split the amount right away so that I have leftovers for the next day. This way, I don’t overeat, plus I already make sure to have something homemade for the next day.
I do the same when eating out: I like to save myself time the next day by having a ready lunch.”
“This fantastic book called Lean Habits for Lifelong Weight Loss and basically everything Georgie Fear has ever written (askgeorgie.com) + the lovely ladies over at Happy Eaters (happyeaters.net) are all great resources for this!”
“I think for me this has been a combination of experimentation to find what feels good, giving myself permission to enjoy, and de-shaming. I guess those last two go hand-in-hand.
In the past I was definitely the type to give myself rules to follow, get obsessed with doing everything perfectly, and then get angry with myself for failing (this is of course not limited to food, but food was a great opportunity to express it ;)).
It’s been a lot of work to get myself to a place where I can (most of the time) accept myself as I am, rather than trying to shrink myself, but that was necessary for me, and has made it possible for me to have a better relationship with food.”
“1. The book Intuitive Eating. It was a game changer for me.
2. Surrounding myself with people that had the relationship with food that I envied. I call them my ‘food role models’. They don’t stress about what they are going to eat. There is a natural balance to their meals and snacks. They are active, enjoy food, and are all around inspiring people. I hang out with them as much as I can because their habits tend to rub off on me.
It’s been about 8 years since I “healed” my relationship with food. I feel very passionate about it and I’m so happy that you share your thoughts on food, Jessie, because you are definitely a food role model.”
“I think the #1 reason I can do this is my upbringing. I never remember either of my parents on a diet, in fact my Dad refused to buy low-fat anything! We definitely had treats, but there was an emphasis cooking real food at home.
I definitely have strayed from that path over the years as I tried to sort out chronic migraines. I got to that point of really fearing food – it was stressful and exhausting.
Being pregnant has actually helped me to relax about food a lot! I hope to be able to emulate the attitude my parents had and I have again as we become parents for the first time!”
“This is kind of crazy but I just eat. With no restrictions or rules. Some days I overdo it and others I’m totally on point. I pay attention to how food makes me feel and try to avoid those foods.
What I’m trying to work on now is stopping when I’m full, not when the food is gone. I have a compulsion to finish what’s on my plate, mainly because it tastes great, but I feel terrible when I’m stuffed!”
I hope you can find something in here that speaks to you. Remember, this is a practice. Start today. Focus on one thing and keep practicing that thing until it becomes really comfortable.
For more insight on eating easily and loving the way you eat, get exclusive nutrition coaching tips to your inbox by signing up here.