This article is for you if you are sick and tired of counting calories and want to know how to activate your body’s INTRINSIC power to eat moderately and balanced.
And before I even get into this question, I want to tell you now that it’s your body’s instinct to eat the RIGHT amount of food without you doing any counting.
How can you know for sure? Simple. Babies and toddlers stop eating as soon as they are full. And when they are full, you can try your hardest to encourage them to eat more, but they would rather play with their food than eat it. As a result, many parents are worried about their children being ‘bad eaters’ because they don’t clean their plates. However, it’s just their natural mechanism at work in most cases–their bodies naturally regulate how much food they want to take in.
At one point in your life, you stopped eating when you were full–until one or a combination of the following occurred:
- Your parents or other family members encouraged you to eat more and more and even finish everything on your plate. That’s early childhood programming.
- You started dieting and counting calories, and you restricted and suppressed your instincts for gauging hunger and satisfaction. Over time, these instincts weakened until you forgot them altogether.
The bottom line is that overeating is an acquired habit. And since naturally balanced eating is a (dormant) instinct, the chance for you to re-activate it is very high.
Why am I telling you all about this instinct before touching on the question you’ve asked — how much food should I eat in a day?
Because the short answer to that question is: it depends on how much food will satisfy you.
How Much Food Should I Eat In A Day
How much food will satisfy you depends on how well the satisfaction instinct is at work. For instance, can you still feel hungry and satisfied? And how do you know you aren’t feeling satisfaction too late — long after your body has already received all that it needs?
To somebody whose tendency it is to overeat, that’s always true.
Suppose you try to limit yourself to only eating half of the plate because intellectually, you think that’s how much your body wants. In that case, you will still feel hungry due to the sense of satisfaction lagging—then limiting yourself while being hungry means self-deprivation, which further skews your sense of satisfaction and hunger even more.
So making sure you are eating the right amount without feeling dissatisfied and deprived is the key.
How? On the grand scale, there are three determining factors:
First, eating the right foods.
Satisfaction — the trigger that makes you stop eating precisely at the right time and with the right amount of food — is experienced differently when eating junk food vs whole food. Sugary food makes you want to eat more sugar, which delays satisfaction. Conversely, research shows that a meal with diverse flavors and textures will likely promote more satisfaction. That means if you are just eating mono-textured, refined food, the chance to feel satisfied is lower than when you are eating whole foods that include various textures. For this reason, when you are eating junk food a lot, you don’t even get a solid base to gauge satisfaction.
Meanwhile, the deliciousness of the food you eat also plays a vital role here psychologically and neurologically.
The more delicious the food is, the easier it is to get satisfied. Many people ask why they don’t feel like stopping when eating ice cream, which they really like and are sometimes addicted to. This is because ice cream isn’t delicious. It’s just sweet, and sweetness triggers your brain’s reward system by releasing the pleasure hormone, which results in you wanting more of it. This intense pursuit of pleasure is the source of food addiction.
Truly delicious food makes you feel content, and with contentment comes peace, ease, and calmness–not addiction. Eat more or not eat more? It no longer matters.
The main difference between normal people and chronic overeaters is their intuitive drive behind the act of eating. To the former, it’s rarely pleasure or psychological neediness, but instead, contentment. That slight adjustment makes a difference. Do you see the nuance here?
The emotions we feel at any given moment come from the chemistry that’s happening within our brain. Different emotions are stirred by differing chemical reactions, which release different hormones. These hormones then generate impacts both psychologically and physiologically.
Therefore, re-anchoring eating to the right emotional drive is like painting the right background color on your canvas. Often, one small degree of a variant shade in the background color can cause dramatic differences in the picture. All of that will require a systematic refining and calibration process for permanent changes.
Second, your body’s natural instincts.
I touched on this one a little in the earlier part of this article, and I’d like to clarify it further:
When I say your body’s ‘natural instincts,’ I’m specifically talking about the following —
Is your body feeling satisfaction (and hunger) as it should? And most importantly, are you receiving the feeling of satisfaction to the extent that it’s so apparent that the only way to feel better is to stop eating?
Remember, there’s not a thought process involved in this because all you do is what your body and brain tell you to do. It’s just like when you are walking; you don’t need to think how fast you need to walk, how wide every step needs to be, and whether you should stop on your left foot or right foot. You just do it because your autonomic nervous system is driving it.
Eating is the same–it’s an instinct. With your autonomic nervous system conditioned to work correctly, the whole experience should feel like driving a self-driving car. The question is: is what’s supposed to be working, actually working?
Probably not. Most people with weight or eating problems have already got big problems with this. Many don’t even feel satisfaction anymore because they habitually starve or over-stuff themselves. So the feelings they think of regarding food are either “bloated” or “starving,” or even worse, “out of control.”
The middle point is satisfaction, and that’s the goal here. How do I get satisfied when I’ve eaten the right amount of food? This requires consistent, focused training to revitalize the involved physical senses and reconnect with them on the visceral level.
It’s an essential skill for basic living. So, the question is not really how much food should I eat in a day? Instead, it’s: What do you think allows healthy, lean people to eat liberally while naturally stopping when they should?
They aren’t counting calories. Many aren’t even reading labels. It’s the ability to accurately gauge the level of fullness and associate it to the proper action without being conscious of it. That is a visceral, intuitive process, not an intellectual, analytical one. If you can nail that again, the overeating problem will not exist anymore.
Third, your taste buds and how they are programmed to respond.
I’d be remiss to end the discussion without talking about one critical issue here — your taste buds and programming behind them.
For instance, what kind of food are you currently conditioned to feel satisfied with? I know this is a rare question — most people are making the statement that “healthy foods aren’t as satisfying as a big chunky, cheesy burger,” but rarely do people think about why other than to say, “it’s just how it has been for me.”
Instead of asking how much food should I eat in a day, try asking yourself why your body loves junk food primarily. Why do your taste buds respond positively, mainly to junk food? What is the setup and programming in place that MAKES you desire these foods more than healthy, clean, and nutrient-rich food, which is what your skinny peers are ‘programmed’ to favor?
“But we are different people, you know.” You might say. The truth is: people are mostly the same, and it’s different physical and neurological programming that leads to completely different experiences with food.
Throughout the years, you’ve formed a chemical, psychological, neurological pattern that drives the food experience you are having now. This is what I mean by “programming.”
Want to know the GREATEST thing about programs? They can be re-written and tweaked. If you are a programmer who writes algorithms, you’d know that often, all you need to do is to change only a few critical variables for the algorithm to return entirely different results in exactly the same dataset. Well, to your surprise, resetting your satisfaction and taste bud patterns isn’t difficult either if it is smartly done. Once it’s done, your entire experience with food shifts. Wouldn’t it be nice if your body automatically wanted delicious, healthy foods more and prompted you to push away the greasy junk? In my experience, this is also a big sign of wellness — now it’s your body doing the work that it’s meant to do, not you.
Check out the typical experience my clients get in this area:
I wanted to offer valuable insight I have on this topic based on years of successful coaching. However, even a 2000-word article can’t cover everything, and the truth is that actual results come from transformation vs information.
What are the biggest takeaways I hope you get from this article?
First, understand the importance of programming.
Programming is made apparent in two ways: 1. Your body’s ability to recognize fullness and satisfaction; 2. Whether your body is conditioned to naturally prefer mainly the right foods so that you get to feel and gauge satisfaction accurately.
I want to repeat this one more time: it’s NOT that we are born to be different people — fat vs skinny, junk food addicts or healthy food lovers etc. We are different due to programming and acquired patterns that run our psychological, emotional, and behavioral triggers, as well as choices that lead us to different outcomes.
IT’S THE PROGRAMMING, NOT YOU.
Programming can be changed as long as you take the right actions. That’s what an experienced coach can do with you — by making the monumental shifts on the finely selected essential ‘variables’ that you’ve got in your programming, your entire experience with food is shifted and positive outcomes naturally unfold. Just as Google automatically pre-populates the remaining sentence as soon as you’ve typed in the first one or two words, your body and brain follow your lead.
Typically, it takes my clients about four to six weeks to see permanent changes in their ability to naturally avoid overeating and eat the right amount of food intuitively. To be specific, I’m talking about being able to stop eating when it’s time to — not because they’ve reached their calorie budget, but rather because their brain has received a clear signal of fullness and sent them a strong impulse to stop. So they stop without realizing it. There’s no stress because this is not an analytical process. There’s no deprivation because there’s no eating less than needed to feel satisfied. Basically, their level of satisfaction is reset, and their food intake is naturally adjusted to match that new level of satisfaction. It’s a strong appreciation of unbridled freedom, ease, and contentment that follows.
Eating the right amount of food without overthinking about food is the key component of holistic, sustainable, real weight loss. It’s not just about what you eat–it’s at least equally about how your body receives and experiences what you eat.
Yes, there are tips offered on the internet such as “drink enough water,” “watch your portion size,” “work out to raise your metabolism so that you can eat more without gaining weight.” But without fixing the basics — how you eat and how your body works, none of the bandaids can give you real, long-lasting results. That’s why in this article, I talked heavily about what’s happening on the root level, and hopefully, a lot of other problems in the weight and food areas start to make sense to you when you’ve understood the fundamentals.
If you want to learn more about the topic of holistic, intuitive, stress-free eating, you can check out these articles I’ve written:
Or, if you are ready to see an immediate turnaround of both the eating anxiety and weight problems, book a free Clarity call with me. We’ll do a deep dive into your most significant challenges and develop a working roadmap to your dream body, relationship with food, and life.