Stop grazing!

Grazing - the10principles

  • I lost weight when I stopped grazing
  • What I do now instead of grazing
  • When I stopped grazing I stopped thinking about food all the time

This post explains why putting a balanced meal on a plate helps you lose weight.

When I understood why grazing works against you reaching and maintaining a healthy weight, it was easier to start eating balanced meals.

Kelly Clark

When I look back at the 10 years I was overweight, the more complicated I made eating, the harder it was to lose weight. But when I finally threw my arms up in the air, said to hell with it (!) and went back to the basics, I lost weight.

One of the first things I did was stop grazing all day. And it made a world of difference. I wanted to write this post to explain what I did instead.

Why I started grazing

When I was overweight, I thought I should eat less.

Following all my diet rules, tips and tricks meant making big changes to what I normally ate and avoiding many types of food. My meals became smaller and in hindsight, unbalanced.

I thought I was doing everything right.

Because I wasn’t meeting my body’s needs–though I didn’t know this–I felt hungry all the time. Which made me think about eating all the time. I thought I was addicted to food.

Eventually I’d get so hungry, I’d break down and eat something I thought I shouldn’t. Then feel incredibly guilty. And ashamed. I thought I lacked discipline. (I didn’t know that weight loss is about building healthy habits, not willpower.) All of this left me not trusting myself, which made me feel anxious.

The only way to get rid of that panicky feeling was having a plan to correct it. So I’d decide to eat an even smaller amount at my next meal—it was a chance to get back on track and prove I could stick to my diet.

But this plan was self-defeating.

The more often I cut back my meals to make up for snacking, the hungrier I became between meals and the more I’d snack. Pretty soon I was just eating small amounts here and there throughout the day. And I continued to gain weight.

Grazing became my normal

People would say “Oh, she just likes grazing.” So I began thinking, “I just like grazing.” Soon grazing became an acceptable thing in my head. I was just somebody who preferred to eat little bits here and there, but never a full meal.

Grazing - Morning has broken - the10principles

My partner and I made this mosaic out of broken plates. He calls it “Morning Has Broken.” I’m going to call it “Grazing.”

Without realizing, I’d become scared to eat an actual meal. I thought: If I can gain weight by eating small amounts most of the time, how much more weight will I gain if I eat a complete breakfast, lunch and dinner? I became afraid of feeling full.

I continued grazing because I didn’t understand how the body works. For instance, if you don’t eat enough regularly, your body goes into survival mode and slows down your metabolism. I also didn’t know that balanced meals made of whole foods (big enough to make you feel satisfied) help you lose weight.

Grazing - orange whole foods - the10principlesWhole foods are foods found in their most natural state. They’re full of vitamins, minerals and fiber that meet your body’s needs. When you eat a balanced meal or snack made of whole foods you naturally reach a point of feeling “full”. Then you know to stop eating. An orange is a whole food. It’s hard to eat more than 1 or 2 oranges at one sitting.

Processed foods are full or sugar, salt, preservatives, artificial flavours and colouring that confuse your body. Then it’s hard to know when you’re full.

Orange juice is a processed food. It’s easy to drink 1 or 2 glasses of orange juice. But each glass is equal to about 3 oranges (minus all the good stuff like fiber)!

By then I’d only eat fruit, diet pop (which confuses your body) and low-fat processed foods, like pretzels and rice cakes—always careful not to eat enough to feel full. And I continued to be overweight.

My life went on this way until everything got so bad I asked for help.

Grazing makes eating complicated & set me up to fail

Slow metabolism binge purge cycle - the-10-principles

One bad choice often leads to another

  • I always had low energy because I never met my body’s needs with a variety of natural foods.
  • I started thinking I had a slow metabolism. All my friends who were a healthy weight ate breakfast, lunch and dinner.
  • I got into the habit of always eating or drinking something.
  • I felt awkward eating with other people because I was only comfortable eating small amounts. So I was always making excuses to avoid eating socially.
  • Soon after I ate I’d be hungry again. Meanwhile everyone else was busy getting on with their day.
  • I was always looking for a washroom because I needed to brush my teeth each time I ate.
  • I never really knew how much I ate. And worried all the time. So I’d try to under-eat to be safe, which always lead to overeating.
Grazing is preoccupying. It can lead to overeating and weight gain.

I lost weight when I stopped grazing

I hit rock bottom a few times during my recovery. Each time I found myself deep down a pit, with no idea how to climb out, I asked for help. And each time I discovered an important piece of the weight-loss (aka healthy habit) puzzle. Remember, healthy habits help you reach and maintain a healthy weight. Diets are short term solutions.

We are all in the gutter. But some of us are looking at the stars.
Oscar Wilde, playwright

You don’t have to wait for things to get bad before you ask for help.
Asking for help is simply saying: Hey, I want to get better! Life is a collaboration. We need to bring people into our lives to support us in reaching goals. Everyone who is successful has a team of people around them—whether they’re an Olympian or a child learning to paint. We all have people who fill in the gaps by providing resources and guidance. It’s a strength to ask for help.

In my second year of university I asked for help. Help suggested I sign up for the school meal plan. Then I could get back into the habit of eating 3 balanced meals each day, rather than grazing.

Here’s what happened and more information on how to transition from grazing to eating 3 meals a day.

I lost weight when I focused on being healthy

I didn’t put it into words at the time, but it had become more important to me to be healthy than to be thin. So many opportunities were passing me by. I was willing to try something I’d been frightened to do. To my surprise healthy habits translated into a healthy weight!

Grazing Plate - the10principles.com

A glass of milk or cheese could be added to this meal to make it more balanced.

When I stopped grazing and started eating 3 balanced meals, made mostly of whole foods, I met my body’s needs. The result?

  • I stopped thinking about food
  • I reached and maintained a healthy weight
  • I started thinking about my future

I became present. It sounds strange, but the world felt new again. Instead of being preoccupied by hunger, guilt and shame, I could concentrate on everything going on around me. I became grateful for the smallest things. It feels great to eat and get on with your life!

Until then I didn’t understand that our bodies function best when they’re in a routine. Think about how you feel when you’ve stayed up later than usual. Our bodies like eating patterns as much as they like sleeping patterns.

The great thing is the world already works around meals. Schools and offices break at meal times. Families and friends get together for meals. And restaurants serve meals on a plate. These times set aside for meals make it easier to stop grazing.

Having breakfast, lunch and dinner gives your day structure. And feeling satisfied after a meal allows you to focus on your interests between each meal.

Eating three balanced meals made mostly of whole foods helps you reach all your goals.

How I stopped grazing

Grazing put your food on a plate - the10principlesWhen I started putting my food on a plate before I began eating, I stopped grazing. This approach also simplified the process of reaching and maintaining a healthy weight. Why? Building your meal before you begin, gives you a good picture of what you’re eating. Then you can:

  • see if you have a balanced meal (so you can meet your body’s needs)
  • see where you can improve your meal with more whole foods
  • know how much you’re going to eat (grazing can go on forever and you can end up eating more than you need)
  • discover (through trial and error) the approximate size your balanced meal needs to be in order to sustain you until your next meal
  • brush your teeth after you’re done eating
  • concentrate on your next task

Getting into the routine of eating 3 meals each day makes it easier to be aware of what you’re eating so you can adapt your choices and make progress toward your goals.

When you stop grazing and get into the habit of preparing a healthy meal before you begin, eating becomes a nonissue. Then you can accomplish incredible things between meals.

Tweet: Put your food on a plate before you start eating. It will help you #loseweight via @the10principles

Here’s a printable Eatwell Guide. Put it on your fridge. When you place food on your plate, or pack a lunch, try to match the food group proportions found on the Eatwell Guide. Then sit down and enjoy your meal.

What if you’re hungry between meals? Eat a balanced snack. But only after you’ve put it on a plate!

Stop grazing! Put your food on a plate, sit down and enjoy your meal. Then carry on with your next activity.

Here’s a link to some balanced lunches I’ve been eating regularly over the past 18 years that I’ve been a healthy weight.

Build healthy eating and exercise habits. A healthy weight will follow.

Next Steps: Whether your experience is more or less extreme, aim to eat 3 balanced meals each day. Figure out what you’re meal will look like before you begin. Having a strategy for change also helps you turn unhealthy habits into healthy habits. Sign up (below) to receive the best strategy I learned.

I Wanna Get Better by Bleachers
“I didn’t know I was broken till I wanted to change…”

Here’s a link to an article that explains the science behind why grazing sets you up to fail.

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Are you used to eating a bit here and there while you cook? Do you ever eat standing in front of the fridge? When else do you find yourself grazing? Identifying behaviours you’d like to improve is the first step toward change.

By | 2018-09-29T13:22:28+00:00 March 29th, 2016|Build Healthy Habits|8 Comments

About the Author:

Hi! I'm Kelly. I lost weight when I stopped dieting. And I got my life back. Here's more about my turning point and why I'm passionate about sharing what I learned.

8 Comments

  1. Marianne March 29, 2016 at 10:51 am - Reply

    Excellent advice and a great read. Well done Kelly, keep it coming.

  2. kate August 3, 2016 at 2:49 am - Reply

    Great post, can relate to this so much!

    • Kelly Clark August 4, 2016 at 12:10 am - Reply

      Thanks Kate! Eating 3 balanced meals a day was a huge turning point for me.

  3. Susan Morris March 23, 2018 at 8:31 am - Reply

    Thank you for writing about your experience. I am considering taking on this lifestyle. While I was in Italy last summer, I noticed that my Aunt and Italian cousins ate hearty meals and never snacked. In fact, if you offered them something between meals, they would decline and say, no thank you, I’ve already eaten. I thought for sure I would gain weight as I was sitting and eating more than I do at home, more times than I normally would. I was in Italy 6 weeks and never gained an ounce. Returned home the same weight. I have heard my friends say the same thing. “Went to France and didn’t gain any weight.” I eat a Paleo diet for a couple years now, but I often snack. I only lose weight when I am very strict with what I eat, protein and veggies only. However, it is strict and I find myself over doing the snacks and binging. Frustrated and am going to start your way. The Mediterranean way. The right way. Thanks again!

    • Kelly Clark March 25, 2018 at 10:41 pm - Reply

      Hi Susan!
      So lucky you got to be in Italy for 6 weeks and spend time with your family!
      It’s interesting, when our routines change we often learn important things. When my family visits for a few weeks at a time (from England) we get on a healthy sleeping schedule and I have experienced so many positive outcomes from regular sleep! (I know this sounds obvious but it was a revelation to me.) Ok … I love your comment and insight. Recently I wrote a blog post about snacking. I’ll link to it at the end of this comment. But just want to clarify my approach to eating:

      I eat roughly balanced meals made mostly of whole foods and roughly balanced snacks (when I’m hungry) made mostly of whole foods. My approach is that it’s important to eat 3 square meals a day (balanced meals) and then if I’m hungry it’s ok to snack. Why?

      1. If you eat something then decide to skip a meal and then get hungry and decide to snack … you can become preoccupied by hunger, eating, guilt, etc. and your body is not in a routine – which our bodies crave (including a sleep routine!) Eating 3 meals a day keeps eating simple. Snacking when you’re hungry stops you from being preoccupied by hunger between meals.

      2. If your meals are roughly balanced and made mostly of whole foods, then you’re giving your body everything it needs to do all the incredible things your body does… balanced meals cover all the nutrients your body requires to function properly. Whole foods are food in their most natural state and therefore take time to break down in your body – your body does the processing – so you stay full longer. I’m guessing your family in Italy (and your friends who visited France) ate meals that are full of natural and fresh food (rather than heavily processed food and heavily processed “diet” food.) So when I eat 3 roughly balanced meals made mostly of whole foods and feel hungry between meals, I know I’m genuinely hungry; I know my body genuinely needs more energy and nutrients. So I’ll make a balanced snack to tide me over until my next balanced meal.

      Here’s a link that explains this approach to snacking: https://www.the10principles.com/can-you-snack-and-lose-weight/

      This approach has made eating a non-issue for me for the last 18 years. It’s kept me healthy and happy.

      Thanks for sharing your experience Susan. And thank you for your thoughtful comment! xo

  4. ak May 18, 2018 at 3:54 pm - Reply

    Male here. I also had great results eating 3 paleo meals and no calories meals. Not even a bite! I felt happier, energetic, stronger and looked muscular/toned (gained 5 lbs). And lower part of belly bulge was becoming smaller. However, when I ate small snacks between meals, all paleo, my weight actually decreased and body composition had the skinny-fat look. Weird.

    • Kelly Clark May 19, 2018 at 10:18 pm - Reply

      Hey Ak,
      What is a no calorie meal? There are so many “diet” terms and expressions but I’m not familiar with that one.
      Thanks for your message,
      🙂 Kelly

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