There's a tendency to look towards external rules to tell us how much we should really portion control.

There’s a tendency to look towards external rules to tell us how much we should really eat. Try reconnecting with your body and listen to what it’s telling you.


Many people believe they struggle with the idea of “portion control”. Often times, however, they are relying on external cues— their eyes and the scale—to try to determine if they had served themselves enough food.

Instead of letting our stomach and other internal cues tell us when we are full, we look outwards and eat until our plate is clean, until we reach the last crumbs at the bottom of the bag, or until other people around us stop eating.

What if portion control really comes down to simply listening to your stomach?

That, of course, means relying on your internal cues to determine your hunger and fullness, and in turn, the right portion sizes for you. This does, however, take time and practice; here are some tips to help you get there.

1. Slow down.

Your stomach needs about 15-20 minutes to signal to your brain that it’s full, so the first step is to slow down. Some people find that to practice this, it helps to put their fork down between bites, or make suretheir mouth is completely empty before taking the next bite.

2. Know where your hunger and fullness is at.

Many people spend most of their lives relying on external cues for hunger and fullness to the point where they’ve lost touch with their internal cues. They may not know what it feels like to be hungry without starving, or full without being uncomfortable, or they may just feel that they don’t have any signals at all.

I invite you to rethink hunger and fullness on a scale from 0 to 10, rather than as a dichotomy. Most people find that they are ready to eat at a 3 or 4. They’re hungry, but not starving, ravenous or hangry. At 0 or 1, we’re so hungry that we’re looking for the quickest thing to stuff into our face and fill us up. We’re not concerned about eating “healthy”, let alone slowing down!

Most people like to stop at a 7 or 8; you want to be full, but not uncomfortably so. At 9 or 10, this is usually what we feel like after a holiday dinner or an all-you-can-eat buffet – carrying a food baby and moaning about how we’re never going to eat again!

3. Practice using the hunger and fullness scale.

The hunger and fullness scale is merely a tool, not a hard-and-fast rule for eating. It allows you to gauge where you’re at under any eating circumstance you’re in. For example, you may have served yourself too small of an initial portion and you end up having seconds – that’s OK. There may be other times you think you’re still a little hungry in the middle of a meal, but you notice you feel stuffed shortly after eating a bit more. You may find yourself eating the same amount as you did just a day ago, and you don’t feel the same level of fullness, let alone how you might compare with another person. All of this is OK.

The point is to tune in and be aware of how you’re feeling, and use that to guide you each time you decide what and how much to eat.

4. Eat what satisfies you.

There’s so much more than fullness that makes a meal satisfying. Sometimes, we can get so caught up on eating “right” or eating “healthy” that we forget to listen and ask ourselves what we really want. A green salad probably won’t feel as satisfying as a steaming cup of soup on a cold day. A plate of fries might not feel as satisfying without ketchup, mayo or gravy.

Don’t limit yourself if there’s something you really want that will satisfy your craving. After all, you’re less likely to binge if you allow yourself permission to fully savor that cookie or brownie! Remember, food is meant to nourish both your body and soul.

Listen to what your body wants, and reconnect with what once was lost.

Adapted from the original article.

Vincci Tsui, RD is a former bariatric dietitian turned certified Intuitive Eating counselor and Health At Every Size(r) advocate. Based in Calgary, Canada, Vincci specializes in helping people untangle their messy relationships with food and their body, and works with individuals in-person and virtually through her private practice. Read more from Vincci at www.vinccitsui.com.

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