I have built in plenty of flexibility to help you tailor this program to your needs. Not everyone enjoys three meals a day, so you will find ideas for breaking up your calorie load to create mini meals and snacks scattered throughout the day.
If my daily meal plan feels like too much food for you, then you shouldn’t feel pressured to eat more than you need. Conversely if you don’t feel like you’re eating enough food, I will show you how to make needed adjustments. You should not have to count calories and grams or measure foods on a kitchen scale. I want you to become so attuned to your body’s needs, including its level of hunger and sense of fullness, that you can decide for yourself the proper portions for you. Not only is everyone’s body different, but everyone’s level of activity is different. One day you may be high on the activity scale, and the next you may be mostly sitting in front of a computer and not moving much. Because activity levels change constantly, there is no magic calorie total that will meet your individual and perpetually evolving needs. Calorie consumption should be viewed more broadly. One day you may be hungrier and actually need more calories than the next. Don’t be afraid to respond to that true hunger and take in an extra 100 to 200 calories.
You are training your body to feel satisfied with the right amount of calories for you . My hope is that you can do away with “rules” once you finish my program so you can successfully adopt this way of eating as a lifetime practice. I understand that the learning curve for shifting your way of eating can feel restrictive. It is human nature to resist change. But with the right attitude toward all that awaits you once you become a healthier person, the benefits outweigh the frustrations.
Increase Proteins and Vegetables/Fruits First:
Every meal starts with a protein and a healthy serving of high-volume produce. Then you can add a grain and dairy twice a day. As you sense the need to give your calorie consumption a boost to meet your activity level, start by increasing protein and vegetable/fruit portions, then add more grains and dairy if you still don’t feel like you are eating enough fuel to satisfy your energy needs. It is much easier to reach your satiety level through protein and fibrous vegetables/fruits than through dairy and grains that have simple sugars that easily rush into the bloodstream.
Track Hunger with Your Journal:
The key to knowing where and when to increase foods is to listen to your hunger. If you undereat eventually you will overeat. Use your journal to track hunger and level of satiety after each meal. As you lose body fat and increase muscle mass, you are retraining how many calories your body needs to run efficiently. You are maximizing your immune system and cardiovascular capacity in the meantime.
But I’m Still Hungry!
If you find yourself still hungry after a meal, and you thought you chose the right portions using my guidelines, here are some explanations:
Your body hasn’t registered that it is full. It takes your stomach about 20 minutes to feel satiated, so wait at least that long before eating seconds. If you wait and still want more, have a few more ounces of lean protein or high-fiber vegetables.
You ate too quickly. Try chewing your food slowly and deliberately, putting your knife and fork down after every bite. This way you will enjoy your meals more and need less to be satisfied. Have a conversation or read a book to slow yourself down.
You are dehydrated. Many people mistake thirst for hunger, so before a meal or snack, drink an 8-ounce glass of water, wait 10 minutes, and see if your hunger abates
You are shortchanging one of your food groups. Usually it is protein, so try increasing the amount you eat by a few ounces to see if that helps. You also can consume more raw or steamed vegetables to make you feel satisfied longer.
You are premenstrual—craving fat and sugar. Hormone levels affect hunger, so during that time be particularly conscious of your eating habits and portion sizes. Take extra care to select healthy treats that will level off your cravings.
You are skipping meals. Remember to follow the three- to four-hour guideline