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The 80% Full Strategy

Losing Weight

Are you struggling to lose weight, but not sure where to start? Do you want to make a change to your current way of eating that is sustainable long term, that doesn’t require special food, and doesn’t cost anything? Try eating until you are 80% full.

What does eating until you are 80% full actually look like? This strategy means that you eat until you just start to feel satisfied, not full or completely stuffed. There are many benefits to this way of eating, but probably the biggest benefit is that you get to feel satisfied from eating but are still able to lose weight because of the calorie deficit you ultimately end up with.

What is the science behind eating until you are 80% full? The entire time you are eating, your stomach is releasing hormones that communicate with your brain on how full your stomach is. There is a bit of a delay between when your stomach is actually full, and when your brain gets this important memo and triggers you to stop munching on that piece of pizza – thus the importance of stopping eating just when you’re starting to feel full.

There are other benefits to eating until you are 80% full too. It will lead to a gradual and sustainable weight loss, meaning that when you lose 30 lbs., you are going to be able to keep that off much easier! It also improves digestion and appetite awareness to your hunger and satiety (feeling full) cues. Slowing down your eating also helps you appreciate and enjoy food better!

3 steps to eating until you are 80% full:

  • Slow down your eating. Take breaths between bites. Pause to savor the food and enjoy it.
  • Pay attention to appetite cues. Take note of how hungry you are before you take your first bite and monitor your hunger level throughout the meal.
  • Eat a bit less than you’re used to. Try a smaller plate size and focus on protein and veggie portions, as these will help you feel more full. If you’re at a restaurant, order smaller portions or box up a portion of your meal for leftovers before you start eating.

80% full should leave you feeling satisfied, energized, and able to do light exercise, like a walk. This is the moment you stop eating. Try moving your body for 20-30 minutes after your meal. Go for a walk, stretch, do some housework, or walk your dog. Chances are that when you’re done with this light activity, you will feel completely full. Give yourself some feedback on how it goes. If you overeat and feel stuffed, no worries! Now you have some knowledge base of how you felt after a particular meal and can adjust accordingly next time. If you undereat, worst case scenario is that you are hungry a little early for your next meal. Try a healthy snack like an apple or Greek yogurt until it’s time for your next meal.

Try this out for about 2 weeks. Nutrition is a long-term game and it takes about this long for your body to adjust to changes to any nutrition plan. If it’s working, keep it up! If not, try scaling back your portions a little more.

Katie Vanhooser, PA-C

Katie Vanhooser, PA-C
In 2021, Katie earned her nutrition coaching certification and is excited to bring this knowledge to TOA patients. Nutrition coaching empowers you to achieve a healthier lifestyle through developing a manageable plan that prioritizes small realistic goals, over sweeping lifestyle changes. If you're interested in nutrition coaching with Katie call 1.855.NEED.TOA. Coaching sessions are twice a month and are covered by insurance.

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