Undoubtedly the hardest thing for most people to do is maintain a healthy bodyweight.
Why is this?
Because most people have either spent time dieting to lose weight or eating without conscious thought and gaining weight.
This has left little time in the ‘grey zone’, maintaining a healthy bodyweight whilst dealing with life stress, social norms and paying attention to hunger signals whilst the environment around us constantly screams “EAT”.
So how can we help learn this skill.
1 : REJECT THE IDEA THERE IS A BEST WAY
Despite what you may have been told previously, there is no best way of managing your food intake that is going to work the same for everyone, with some self-awareness YOU will be in the best position to decide when you have eaten enough and if you are eating enough.
2 : EAT MINDFULLY
I know it’s cliche but simply by eating slower, resting between bites and not eating in front of screens you will be in a much better position to gauge whether you are full or eating just because you were conditioned to “finish what is on your plate”.
Possibly one of the best things my grandad taught me to do was teach me to “rest in-between bites”. This literally meant putting down our knife and fork, sitting back in the chair and waiting until our food had gone down before continuing.
It was a pain in the arse, as an 8 year old kid I just wanted to cram down my roast so I could get back to the TV. Undoubtedly though it is a tried and trusted technique that has stood the test of time.
3 : KEEP A FOOD JOURNAL
No not MyFitnessPal.
The aim of this journal should be to summarise your thoughts and feelings before and after the meal that you have just eaten.
This means figuring out:
Whether you were actually hungry before you ate
Whether you were actually full when you finished
What emotions you were feeling immediately before and after eating
This will put you in a better position to understand what prompted the meal. Was it hunger? Was it something environmental such as a box of doughnuts being left in the office? Was it due to boredom or stress which could have been managed without food?
4 : EXERCISE AND STAY ACTIVE
Research supports that leaner, active individuals are much better at gauging hunger and satiety at meals. This means they are in a much better position to control calorie intake whilst eating without conscious thought.
Alongside this by exercising and staying active you should prioritise appropriate fuelling of your Training sessions. This will undoubtedly mean a focus on Protein intake, Fruits and Vegetables and Wholegrains. All the stuff that ALL science supports is pretty damn good for you.
5: REMEMBER THAT THIS IS A SKILL YOU WILL NEVER MASTER
Now if you’re a golfer like me you will know one sure thing, you will never master it, you’ll just become a little less shit at it as time passes.
This is what maintenance is like.
As environments change, life circumstances change and your physiology changes you will affect your ability to control energy intake intuitively.
Stay curious long-term about why you are eating, what you are eating and how it is changing.
Remember it is certainly not wrong to gain or lose, or want to. However it isn’t great to feel like it’s a constant life-long battle between the two.