Any tips on how to eat less?
December 21, 2013 4:02 AM   Subscribe

I would like to start eating less.

I don't really do New Year's resolutions, but I do sometimes make life changes that happen to coincide with the start of a new year... Anyway, last year one of my "life changes" was to eat less. I completely failed at doing that. I'm reaching the end of my twenties, and am dreading the metabolism slow down that happens in your thirties, and I never had a fast metabolism to begin with.

I've been through major weight loss before- once completely intentional with low calories and high-intensity exercise, and once because of a major depression meaning I had no appetite, and when I did try to eat, I would end up getting sick most of the time. Since then I've pretty much maintained the same healthy weight, but I would still like to eat less... I'm aiming for 12-1500 calories a day. I had the My Fitness Pal app on my iPhone which helped a lot, but my phone is not cooperating lately, and I know that I'm far too lazy to log onto My Fitness Pal on a computer and manually input my calories. I just won't do it.

Aside from the obvious- being conscious about portion control and pay attention to what you're eating, what are some other ways that you eat less?
posted by Enchanting Grasshopper to Food & Drink (22 answers total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
I make sure to eat more protein and fat and fewer carbs whenever possible. Carbs just end up making me want to eat (usually more carbs), but protein and fat typically help keep you satiated longer. I don't do anything as full-out as keto, but it works for me. Also, getting 8(ish) cups of water a day really helps me fight cravings, too.

I've lost 100+ with MFP (and I'm 29, so I hear you on that front), so it's a real bummer that it's not working for you. That app was a lifesaver for me.
posted by miratime at 4:08 AM on December 21, 2013 [5 favorites]

I found that I had to eat at almost fast like quantities for a week or do to get my stomach back to a normal size. (I basically ate dryroasted broccoli with parmesan and balsamic vinegar over it and not a lot else for a week. Don't do that!)

After re-setting what fullness meant, which was surprising little, I did really well at eating much smaller portions. I'm stretching my portions bigger again while staying with my mother in law but I will definitely go back to recalibrating my fullness when I get back home.

For me, it was the only way to eat less. And I was anxious in the beginning. But I reminded myself, that the rule with small kids is the same with's ok not to eat much at a meal because another meal is only ever a few hours away (checking my privilege.)

Luck. Email for any support or advice or e-hugs you may want. Xx
posted by taff at 4:45 AM on December 21, 2013 [3 favorites]

Switching to a smaller plate might help.
posted by backwards guitar at 4:59 AM on December 21, 2013

When you say "eat less" do you just mean fewer calories? Or do you also have a concern about the size of your meals or your total volume of food? (For example, if you often stuff yourself to where you are uncomfortable, and you want to stop.)

I ask because one way to eat fewer calories is to start eating foods with more volume that fill you up with less calories.

If you start your dinner with a cup of soup, a big salad and end with fruit for dessert, it would be difficult to overeat the main dish, whatever it is.

If you are trying to stop eating past the point of fullness, there is a trick that I read about years ago called the sigh. When you reach the point of satisfaction during a meal, you will sigh, and if you watch for the sigh and use it as your signal to stop eating, it will keep you from eating too much.

This doesn't actually work for me, because for me the sigh comes at a point where I've already eaten too much. But other people swear by it. Certainly can't hurt to try it.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 5:06 AM on December 21, 2013 [2 favorites]

Eat more slowly. Your appetite takes twenty minutes to catch up with what you've actually eaten, so if you take twenty minutes to eat what you used to eat in ten, your body will realise that it's full before you've had the chance to overeat.

backwards guitar's point about a smaller plate is also a good one (& eating from blue plates is also supposed to reduce hunger). Also, drink a ton of water; a lot of the time when you feel hungry, it's partly from thirst.
posted by littlegreen at 5:30 AM on December 21, 2013 [2 favorites]

In restaurants, order a to-go box when your food arrives. Halve (or third!) your entree and sides, box the extra and set it aside to take with you. You can make a yummy meal last a lot longer and save money while you're at it.

For what it's worth, servers don't mind this at all. They look sideways at two diners sharing a plate because lower bill == lower tip, but it's no problem for them if you want to take home leftovers.
posted by workerant at 5:50 AM on December 21, 2013 [3 favorites]

The psychological part of changing my diet was hard for me - I'd inherited/learned a lot of bad attitudes about food and guilt that made things more difficult than they had to be.

One thing that helps me is to serve myself a smallish-but-probably-sufficient portion and say to myself, "Eat this, then do something else for ten minutes. If you're still actually hungry after that, of course you can eat a little more food! But give it a chance to settle, first."

This helps me calm down a little -- I don't get into that headspace of "I have to starve and deny myself to be virtuous" and I don't feel trapped into spending the next few hours being hungry and upset.

The vast majority of the time, I don't end up wanting to eat anything else, and I never end up with that gross, over-full feeling.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 6:18 AM on December 21, 2013 [3 favorites]

To eat less overall, I:

1. Eat more calorically satiating food - fats and proteins, rather than carbs. If eating carbs, make 'em complex.
2. Drink a lot of liquids.
3. Eat spicy or otherwise interestingly-spiced food.
4. Eat off smaller plates. (This actually works for me.)
posted by rachaelfaith at 7:06 AM on December 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

For me it's all about minimizing carbs, avoiding low-fiber carbs like the plague, and making a point to fill up on protein. I could eat an entire box of pasta and still be hungry, but I can only eat a sensible amount of meat, tofu, eggs, yogurt etc. before I feel full. Low-carb vegetables have no effect on my satiety, so I just eat however much or little of them I feel like.

Learning how to prepare these things the way I liked them was a major help, as this kind of diet is much harder to maintain when eating out, which I now do far less frequently.
posted by STFUDonnie at 7:11 AM on December 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

I found that my appetite calibrates to my largest meal of the day. Basically, even if I eat the same amount of food over a day, if my largest meal is smaller, and consistently that new smaller size, the size of my stomach adjusts within a few weeks to be full with less food in it. At that point, eating less over the day becomes easier and more natural; revert the snacks to their normal amounts, but keep the smaller-yet-still-filing meals.
posted by anonymisc at 7:17 AM on December 21, 2013

Read up on the concept of food reward, and try to minimize it in your diet. This entails pretty much making your food blander instead of tastier. This goes against every single culinary tradition in the world, but it works amazingly well.

Certain flavors, flavor "enhancers" (like salt), textures (like crunchiness), and novelty make food aesthetically enjoyable apart from its nutritional value. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it can result in the development of two separate drives which lead a person to eat: the need for nutrition, and the desire for the pleasurable sensation of eating. If the latter becomes stronger, you eat more than you need.

If you want the nutrition-based drive to get back in charge, you have to reduce the reward-based drive. Most diets have people cut out "processed" or "junk" foods, and that's a reward reduction. But if you're already home-cooking all your food, here are some further steps:

- don't salt your food
- don't combine foods, eat foods separately. If you have meat and potatoes, eat the meat by itself, then when you're satisfied by it, eat the potatoes by themselves, without going back and forth between the two. Breaking up the flavor monotony by switching back and forth allows you to eat beyond hunger because you don't get the same sensory satiation as quickly.
- cook foods using bland/gentle methods like steaming, boiling or braising in a mild broth.

Whereas the art of cooking is all about flavoring, enhancing, cooking and combining foods to maximize their deliciousness, a low-reward diet is the exact opposite of everything a good cook would do. If you do these things, you will eat based on hunger alone, and not care very much about food beyond meeting your nutritional needs.
posted by overeducated_alligator at 7:52 AM on December 21, 2013 [3 favorites]

In restaurants, order a to-go box when your food arrives.

Or bring your own to-go boxes, so you can think about how much to save. Some to-go boxes are rather large, or can be too small. And then you can also reuse your to-go containers, or be sure that they'll reheat well.

Along with eating slower, stop eating when you are still hungry. I find it easier if I'm going to go running or exercise soon after eating, because I know if I eat more, I won't really feel like running as much or as far, even if the food is delicious.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:23 AM on December 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

I agree with littlegreen and rachaelfaith about drinking. This works particularly well if your problem is snacking. Every time you feel like a chocolate biscuit (or whatever), drink a pint of water (or a large cup of tea, or ...)! This trick really helps me.
posted by HoraceH at 9:26 AM on December 21, 2013

Become a food snob. (a) good food is more expensive, so it costs a lot to eat a lot of it and (b) you'll feel sated faster. A piece of really nice chocolate is enough to cure your chocolate craving; really good cheeses (like $30/lb cheese) stand on their own as a meal/course; meat from locally raised heritage breeds is sooooooo amazing and a little bit goes a long way; in-season fruits and veggies from the farmers market; homemade stock; european butter; homemade pasta; leaf lard pie crusts; etc. It also makes it easier to eat less when you're out -- why order some bland processed chicken breast microwaved thing and waste your money/calories on not-real-not-delicious food? Eating locally also helps support your local economy and once you buy from a shop regularly they get to know you and that has benefits.

Basically the food version of drinking one really nice craft beer with high ABV that costs $15/pint instead of 4 bud lights for the same cost.
posted by melissasaurus at 9:48 AM on December 21, 2013 [2 favorites]

Mostly I try to pay attention to how I'm feeling. If there's a lot of food available at like a restaurant or party or gathering, after I have a serving I ask myself, am I still hungry? Usually not, so I don't eat any more. I don't enjoy feeling too full, it makes me nauseous and grouchy, which makes it easy to stop before I get to that point. And if there's an impulse to keep munching on stuff as a way to deal with an awkward social situation (hello office holiday party) I munch on veggies if possible. A lot of times when I get home from work I feel starving so I graze a bit while cooking dinner on healthy stuff like carrot sticks, pickles, almonds, raw veggies, apples, bananas.. otherwise I will make too much food and scarf it all down really fast. and if I go overboard when I go out (or visit family) and end up having a rich meal and wine and dessert and everything I don't worry about it and go right back to eating lots of veggies and such the next day. I'm in my 30s and haven't experienced any metabolism slowdown issues, I don't think, but I also started exercising once I hit my 30s so that might compensate for it. The exercise really helps in general, it's not hard to avoid overeating or indulging in lots of junk food because it makes me feel sluggish/tired/awful and I don't like that feeling - especially too much sugar, which makes me feel kind of sad and makes it hard to sleep, so it's not worth it. In the late evening sometimes I get food cravings for stuff like a giant bowl of steamed broccoli or cauliflower or brussel sprouts with sea salt (SALT. I love salt, I don't care) and olive oil and then I make that and eat it all and there's no problem.

Anyway, if you are at a healthy weight is there a need to cut calories? What about simply eating healthy foods especially lots of vegetables - and being mindful not to have too much? I've never had any luck with counting calories or tracking what I eat, I just gradually picked up healthy eating habits, bit by bit, so I mostly look on it as eating foods I like that make me feel good. And being okay with looking at stuff like delicious baked goods at the supermarket and telling myself, nope, sorry, can't have it.
posted by citron at 10:52 AM on December 21, 2013

Overly simplified description: When you eat sugars (carbs) the sugars enter your bloodstream. Your body releases insulin to lower your blood sugar level by storing it (glucose) in fat cells. You get fat.

You can eat 5,000 calories of protein and fats and lose weight doing it.
If you eat 5,000 calories of carbs (candy, soda, pasta, potatoes, bread, etc.) you will gain weight.
Calories don't matter.

Like many others here have suggested, it is about what you eat and not eating less.

Good luck!
posted by Leenie at 12:10 PM on December 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

One thing that worked for me was eating a small portion while telling myself I could have seconds -- in twenty minutes. Sometimes I'd have seconds, but most of the time I didn't want more after waiting.
posted by kmennie at 12:56 PM on December 21, 2013 [2 favorites]

Me too. I also don't drink enough water. I'm hoping to kill two birds with one stone and start drinking a full glass of water (or tea, or seltzer) before meals. It seems easy enough and has a lot of heath benefits besides.
posted by domo at 2:38 PM on December 21, 2013

When I was in the lowest-carb era of my low-carbing, I had trouble sometimes getting *up* to 1000 calories, because the protein and fat and greens I was eating instead of simple carbs made me feel too full to eat more. I'm not that low-carb anymore, but if you experiment with tracking carbs instead of calories I think you'll find you'll take in fewer calories as a by-product. And you won't be hungry all the time either. Different bodies being different, YMMV.
posted by rtha at 2:49 PM on December 21, 2013

I've noticed that as my exercise routine gets back to normal; and as my stomach begins to resume its normal constitution; the state of being more compressed seems to not have me doing the continual chomp chomp chomp chomp at the desk nor bloating the bejesus out of myself while actually dining.

I guess keeping my body a little more tighter has resulted in me eating less.
posted by buzzman at 2:50 PM on December 21, 2013

Better understand the psychology of it. Pick up the book by Brian Wansink.

Have preprepared set meals that you don't deviate from. Start with only a few choices and build up from there.

Look at the book volumetrics diet. Pack your plate. With those.
posted by chinabound at 4:27 PM on December 21, 2013

Thanks for all the answers. I generally try to eat healthfully, although I am not in the greatest financial situation right now and it's far cheaper to buy some cup noodles than a stalk of broccoli (for example).

I've always been a big water drinker to the point of people always asking me why I drink so much water (because you're supposed to...?) but in the past year for some reason I've been finding it really difficult to do so, and I don't really understand why. I'll redouble my efforts on consuming a lot of water.

Overeducated_alligator and melissasauras pretty much have opposing answers and I've marked them both as best answers because I think they're both excellent ideas- I'm not sure I want to give up the enjoyment/social aspect of meals and think of food purely as fuel, but it seems like an effective way to cut down on calories (along with the other great suggestions listed).
posted by Enchanting Grasshopper at 2:38 AM on December 22, 2013

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