Nature provides human beings with an exquisite ability to know when to eat. We call that ability hunger. And for most of human history, there was an easy way to know when to stop eating. When food was scarce and took a huge amount of effort to gather, people knew it was time to stop eating when they simply ran out of food.
Today, the situation is completely different. Many of us, who routinely face more food than we can possibly eat at one sitting, have a very, very difficult time distinguishing when it’s time to stop eating. There are a few techniques that people use to assist them with this task of figuring out when to stop eating.
Clean Plate Club – Many of us grew up in a world where our parents expected us to eat everything that was on our plate. We were taught to feel guilty about people in distant lands who didn’t have enough to eat and we were rewarded for presenting our parents with an empty plate at the end of each meal. Many of us unconsciously still eat this way, so we don’t stop eating until the plate is clean, regardless of how our bodies feel.
The Weighed and Measured Meal – Some people weigh and measure their meals, eating according to an external measuring tool of how much food is enough. A cup of this. A palm-size serving of that. While this system is designed to prevent people from overeating, it also requires that we stop eating regardless of how our body feels. We stop eating when we’ve eaten everything we pre-weighed and measured.
The Not One More Bite System – Another common system is what I call the “not one more bite” system. In this case, people eat until they literally cannot take one more bite. While this system actually does rely on signals from the body to know when to stop eating, its limitations as a weight loss strategy are obvious.
How then can we know when to stop eating in a way that honors our bodies’ needs and helps us not overeat? In the diet and nutrition worlds, the state we seek is called satiety (pronounced sa-TIE-a-tee). Satiety is the sensation of feeling full. We don’t really need to be taught to recognize hunger, but satiety is more subtle, and people with a tendency to overeat can benefit from learning how to recognize when they reach the point of satiety.
One popular technique is to rate your hunger before you begin to eat. Here’s how it works. Before eating, close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. Then rate your level of hunger on a scale of 1-10 where 1 is “I’m so hungry I’m going to pass out if I don’t eat something very soon” and 10 is “I’m sick from eating so much.” Experts agree that it’s best to begin eating when you’re at a level 3 or 4, before you’re so famished you’ll eat too rapidly and are at risk for making poor choices.
Satiety kicks in around level 6, where you feel pleasantly full. But you have to learn to pay attention before you exceed that level and keep eating your way into 7, 8 or 9 where there is discomfort in your body from having eaten too much. It’s a subtle cue your body will send you. You have to listen for it, but if you eat slowly and take time to check in, your body will definitely let you know when it’s time to stop eating. It’s a skill you can develop, learning when to stop eating based on how your body feels, not on external cues like running out of food.
The Spatz3 gastric balloon decreases appetite by occupying approximately a third of the stomach volume. With a gastric balloon in place, using a system like rating your hunger and recognizing your body’s satiety cues is a crucial tool to helping you achieve the weight loss you’re looking for.
Rebeca Espinoza writes about health, fitness and weight loss for Spatz Medical, makers of the Spatz3 Adjustable Gastric Balloon. You can find her on Google+ or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Like the Spatz3 Adjustable Gastric Balloon page on Facebook or follow us on Pinterest for healthy eating tips, inspiring quotes, videos and photos and more.