How Much Should I Eat?

I frequently get asked the question “how much should I eat?”. Traditional nutrition advice is to calculate the number of calories that an individual burns based on how much they weigh, how old and how active they are.

The problem with this is that is goes on the assumption that “a calorie is a calorie”. We’ve all heard this but is it true? Is eating 500 calories of Twinkies the same as 500 calories of broccoli? No, of course not, our bodies process different foods differently.
For the most part, our bodies function pretty well at determining how much we should eat, just stop eating when you are no longer hungry.

There are three situations that this doesn’t work well:

1. You eat for other reasons than being hungry. Some people eat when they are bored or upset, these people have a hard time relying on being full to get them to stop overeating and may have to rely on counting calories.

2. You are eating a lot of highly processed foods. Since processing the foods breaks down a lot of what is in them, they become very easy to digest and really easy to overeat. Think about eating chicken nuggets versus eating a whole chicken breast. Two other issues with highly processed foods, they are mostly void of nutrients, so your body makes you want to eat more because you are not getting the nutrients that you need. Processed foods contain the right amount of fat, sugar and salt to make them highly palatable (this is researched extensively by food companies) which leads to overeating. Of course everyone is different when it comes to how much they are impacted by this, but it does impact everyone to a certain extent because genetically we are programmed to like foods that are high in fat and in sugar because they contain a lot of calories and primitive man didn’t know when the next calories would be available, so they would load up on these foods when they were available.

3. Calories from beverages. Our bodies don’t seem to register the liquid calories the way that they do calories from solid food, so it is really easy to consume way more calories than you need by drinking high calorie drinks.

So how much should you eat? Eat real unprocessed foods, don’t drink high calorie beverages and don’t eat for any other reason than being hungry. Then stop eating when you are no longer hungry.

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