Yes, you read that correctly. Do not stop eating when you’re full. Why? Because you should stop before then, that’s why.
In Tip #5 on Cheat on Your Diet, I wrote the following:
When you’re eating, it takes the brain 20 minutes to send a signal to your stomach that it’s had enough. So, if you eat fast, you’re likely going to eat more than you need to be satisfied.
Let’s imagine for a minute that your body is a car. It’s up to you what kind of car you want it to be, but just go with me on this… you’ll see that it’s actually a pretty good analogy. Cars don’t last forever and neither will your body. But the better you take care of your car, the longer it will last. Get regular oil changes, the occasional tune-up, rotate your tires, and give it good fuel, and it will run for hundreds of thousands of miles. However, ignore those oil changes, forgo regular maintenance, put the wrong type of fuel in, and your car will struggle its way to an early death. Same goes with the body. You with me?
Now, let’s say you’re driving your car down a route that you drive every day. The speed limit is 35 mph, but there’s a stop sign up ahead about 200 feet. When are you going to start applying the brakes? Are you going to wait until you’re at the stop sign before you put on the brakes? Of course not! It would be too late. You’d start slowing down well before the stop sign, maybe even starting at the 200 feet mark.
The same goes with eating. When we feel full, we’ve likely already passed the stop sign. If you feel REALLY full, then the stop sign is a small blurp in your rearview mirror (if it’s on there at all). Remember the 20 minute window I mentioned? When you’re coming up on the 15 minute mark (more or less), it’s probably time to start applying the brakes. If you’re still shoveling food at 20 minutes, you’re gonna eat far more than you need.
Now there’s a different extreme we can take too. Rather eating for too long, you’re eating too fast. If you eat your meal in 5 minutes, there’s a good chance you’ll still feel hungry because there’s no stop sign anywhere in the distance… in other words, you’re nowhere near the 20-minute mark. You may have eaten the right amount of food, but that food should last the entire 15-20 minutes. But your brain hasn’t sent the message to your stomach yet, and it thinks it’s still hungry. So the temptation is to keep eating because you legitimately feel hungry. But do that and you’ll likely overfill your tank at the gas pump.
By the way, if you don’t like the car analogy, how about a running analogy: should eating be a marathon or a sprint? Answer: neither. We’re looking for a pace-friendly 5k.
Now back to the car. So how do you not eat too fast and still be sure to stop before the stop sign? Let’s revisit another quote from the Cheat on Your Diet post:
So put the fork down after each bite. Or better yet, do what we did and buy chopsticks (assuming you’re not good with them… which our family is not). Not only will your eating speed come down to a more reasonable pace, your kids will learn a skill, and you’ll look totally boss the next time you’re at PF Changs, enjoying that 10% meal.
So start applying the brakes sooner, and you’ll coast into satiation. This will require you to be intentional though. Think about what you’re doing, what you’re eating, why you’re eating it, how much you’re eating and how fast you’re eating it. Mindless eating will get you pulled over by the glutton police every time.