How much you eat is as important as what you eat. You must become more aware of just how much you eat – even ‘healthy’ calories will make you fat if you eat too many of them.

You must use your own common sense and intelligence here. After all, you’ll be kidding yourself if you think you can carry on eating as much as you are now and lose weight. It’s also important to note that the speed at which you eat influences how much you eat.

Studies have shown that people who chew their food more, and who put their cutlery down in between each mouthful, eat less overall (estimates show this can be up to 200 calories less per meal!). Other studies have shown that if you eat in the dark (blindfold) then you have to pay more attention to the signals from your stomach to your brain and you stop eating much earlier. Using your eyes can literally by-pass this natural but subtle process. Here is a great exercise to increase communication between your stomach and your brain to increase awareness of how full you are:

The Ten-Minute Rule:

Before you start your meal take a good look at the amount of food on your plate. Your stomach can comfortably distend to twice the size of your fist, so make a fist and put it next to your plate to give you a reference. Bear in mind once inside your stomach it will have been chewed up. When over half way through a meal, close your eyes, go inside and connect with your stomach, visualise it and practice paying attention to how full it is. In between each mouthful put your knife and fork down until you have chewed and swallowed. Every 10 mouthfuls close your eyes and go inside and notice how your stomach feels. Stop as soon as you notice a sense of comfortable satisfaction. Wait ten minutes and then go inside and notice if you feel even more satisfied (you almost certainly will as it can take several minutes to distend the stomach after each mouthful).

Be aware that a portion size isn’t designed to make you ‘full up’ – it’s designed to satisfy and nourish you. There’s a big difference between being satisfied, i.e. eating enough, and being full up. When you are full up, the uncomfortable sensation you get is your stomach telling you it is over-distended (stretched). Unfortunately, people get used to this sensation and programme themselves, or anchor it, to be the feeling they think they should get after every meal, and they don’t stop eating until they get it. Next time you feel uncomfortable after eating, think about how much you’ve had and make a mental note to go inside listen to your body and feel the signals. If you overeat for ten minutes, you can consume an awful lot of calories you didn’t need.

You can do this by understanding how the ‘feedback’ system between your stomach and your brain works. Your stomach has sensors all around it that send messages to the brain depending on how much it is distending. When you are tuned in to this sensation, your brain uses this signal to turn off hunger. Unfortunately, the sensation can be quite subtle and it’s easy to ignore, especially if you eat quickly. By the time you process the signal you’ve already overeaten and it’s too late. Imagine your stomach as an empty balloon, but with a thick elastic band around it. As you blow the balloon up, the elastic band becomes tighter and you can see the amount of air that you can comfortably put into the balloon before the elastic band snaps. If your stomach snapped like the elastic band when you over-filled it, you’d be in trouble! Unlike the balloon though, your stomach can be severely overstretched before you physically have to stop eating.

Try this visual reminder to stop yourself from overeating:

Wear a brightly coloured elastic band every time you eat to remind yourself that your stomach can carry on stretching long after you have had enough to eat. I’ve often given new clients a band and asked them not to take it off for two weeks (except to sleep). It’s a simple technique but it has worked for many people – why not try it and see if it works for you.