Six Tricks to Help You Eat Less

I’ll play it straight: I am a Paleo geek. (This, by the way, is the part where you act surprised).

I devour scientific blogs as a daily past time, digging deep into the nitty-gritty behind those few questions that the world over is trying to answer: why do we gain weight? How can we live happily and healthily? What can we do right now to ensure strong, vibrant health for every year we have on this planet?

If we’ve learned anything, though, it’s that the answer to every single one of those questions isn’t quite as clear-cut as we’d like to believe. If we’ve learned anything, it’s this: the body is an incredibly complex piece of work, meaning a one-size fits all approach is arguably the last thing we need.

So where does this leave us?

It brings us back to the basics.

It asks us to remember, now, that there’s value in simplicity — in eating less and moving more and reaping all the benefits when you do. Like everything else in life, the former isn’t nearly as simple as you might think, but there’s a silver lining worth keeping in mind: eating less is very doable, and it’s doable in a way that won’t make you feel deprived.

Don’t believe me? Keep reading!

1. Skip breakfast!

You don’t have to forgo your morning meal every day, as I do, but there’s no reason you can’t skip breakfast two or three times a week. If you’re at least a few months into a Paleo lifestyle, too, you’ll be well-equipped to handle a little hunger, as your body will have long since adapted to burning its go-to energy source whenever food isn’t available: fat.

That’s every bit as excellent as it sounds. If you want to experiment with daily intermittent fasting further, why not try and skip breakfast for an entire week? You’ll need an adaptation period (as discussed in my latest eBook, Roots), but once adjusted you’ll find that something as simple as skipping breakfast can help you eat less overall.

2. Drink your coffee black!

Sitting in Starbucks, I noticed something interesting: huge plastic cups of coffee clouded white with cream and every kind of foam and syrup imaginable. I noticed about a dozen of them, in fact, over the course of an hour, as a variety of people — all overweight — came in to grab one before heading back out.

Drink your coffee black. Even a sizable cup of black coffee has a negligible amount of calories, meaning you get all the perks of caffeine without the sinking realization that you just drank an entire meal’s worth of calories in a single cup.

Click that link above if you’d like to check the calorie count on your favorite beverage. The nutrition menu is pretty sparse, unsurprisingly, but you might benefit still by checking the whipped cream option and seeing how high those numbers can climb.

3. Don’t clean your plate.

This is rooted firmly in “well, duh” status, but I think it’s a point worth mentioning: you don’t have to eat everything on your plate.

If you were raised to clean your plate, as I was, then you can already see the challenge in this. It often feels wrong to leave food behind, even when the option to take home leftovers is available. There’s the simple pleasure of eating, too, and the problems it brings whenever you sit down at a restaurant and see gleaming (also massive) portions all around.

Pay attention to what happens the next time you take a seat at a Mexican restaurant. Despite the endless baskets of chips — and subsequent moaning of “Oh, I’m already so full” you’ll hear — it’s common to see people go on and demolish the huge plates of enchiladas, quesadillas, etc. that they order.

Here’s a different idea: take some food home. Or, if you’re feeling reckless, why not just stop eating when you’re full?

4. Brush your teeth!

There’s logic to this, I promise.

Call it an engrained habit, but a funny thing happens once I brush my teeth: I don’t want to eat. Any hunger I might have completely disappears, and I’m far more likely to pass on any food that comes my direction when I know that I’ll have to go brush one more time.

I suspect I’m not the only one. If the same thing happens to you, why not use this to your advantage? After your last meal for the day, immediately brush your teeth. This’ll mainly come in handy if you’re the type to enjoy a late-night snack, but the core idea is sound: if you can turn off the part of your brain that enjoys eating for the hell of it, you’ll be far better off overall.

5. Ease up on the nuts.

Nuts occupy a funny place on the health spectrum: the go-to snack for healthy eaters, and yet one of the first things you’re told to cut in the interest of leaning out. Why? They’re fairly high-calorie, for one, but there’s a bigger problem to keep an eye on: they’re pretty damn delicious.

They’re very easy to eat, in other words, and in quantities that don’t do you any favors. A simple suggestion, then, to help you eat less: go easy on the nuts. Enjoy them, if you like them, but be mindful that a large handful — and then two, and then maybe a few nuts more — can quickly elevate a small snack into big-league status.

6. Nix the soft drinks!

Diet or otherwise, they’re a destructive force to your health — something worth giving up completely as you move into a healthier, far less chemically-enhanced existence. As a former Dr. Pepper addict, I can vouch for how easy they are to drink, and likewise I can remember pretty well how effortless it is to down two or three huge cups whenever you sit down at a restaurant.

Cut the soda. This is easily done if you’ve embraced Paleo in full, but it’s advice worth heeding for anyone toeing the line, too, towards healthier eating.

***

You’ll notice a common trend here: mindfulness. Mindfulness of what you eat, for one, but also how much you eat of it, especially when eating less overall is one of the few proven ways to lose weight.

To be honest, I don’t like calories. I don’t think it’s necessary to count them, and nor do I usually advocate that anyone stress about how many they’re getting, but they serve one purpose: emphasizing how important it is to keep your brain turned on whenever you sit down to eat.

That might be the best trick of all, in fact. Start thinking about what you eat. Don’t completely stress over how many calories you’re ingesting, but do be mindful that the modern world has made it easier than ever to eat far more food than we actually need. Awareness of this fact can make all the difference in the world the next time you’re staring down at a big basket of chips, a gargantuan cup of coffee and cream, or any number of modern amenities better treated as an occasional indulgence.

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22 Comments

  1. Meaghann says:

    Thanks for the tips! Its very nice to have these nice reminders to keep me going on my paleo/primal journey. I like the look of the new blog site as well!

  2. Ron Thielen says:

    I never thought I could skip breakfast ” the most important meal of the day”But believe me you can. I do it 4-5 times a week,have lost 25 pounds and kept it off. It can be done.

  3. Primal Toad says:

    I don’t follow the first 3 but I am a huge fan of the last 3! I brush my teeth after finishing every meal. When I do this I don’t want to touch anymore food since my food feel so damn clean!

    I ditched soft drinks years ago and about a month ago I started to use nuts as condiments – for the most part…

    • Matt Madeiro says:

      Haha! Yeah, nuts are always an appealing snack, but they make for pretty fantastic (and crunchy!) condiments too. Mm, Pistachio-crusted tilapia..

  4. Raeanne says:

    Love this. :-)

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  6. andrea says:

    I love this post…
    Once starting an IF lifestyle I was always so conflicted with skipping breakfast as it is my favorite meal of the day…so now I just enjoy breakfast foods for either lunch or dinner, problem solved!
    Soda? I can’t believe anyone still even drinks them, diet or regular! I haven’t had a coke (I’m from the south so this means any kind of soft drink to me) in OVER 15 years!!!!!
    Brushing and flossing is a MUST for me too after my last meal of the day…
    I used to LOVE Caramel Macchiatos…not since eliminating sugar from my diet…I do still enjoy my daily coffee with 2T of cream…but I only have one cup a day!
    I do still love to clean my plate but I have learned to just put smaller portions on it, I also use a small salad plate for most of my meals anyway…I don’t really eat out but if ever I do I usually will split a meal with my dining companion or box up the leftovers.
    And oh the nuts…like Toad above also started using as a condiment…I feel like these can be a paleo nightmare for those just starting out!
    Again…thanks for the post, such great tips!

    • Matt Madeiro says:

      My pleasure, Andrea! I can see you didn’t even need them, though, since you’re kicking all kinds of ass with your routine. :) Well done!

      (Southerners represent! I call all soft drinks “cokes” too, though I’ve had to try and be a little less region-specific in these posts, haha.)

  7. Ritika Sood says:

    Finally I have an agreement on Skipping the breakfast…i believed in it and till the time i followed it i was slim but the pressures of how important that meal is lead me to eat ‘healthy’ in the morn and leave my slim behind!…
    Wonderful article and so in tune with what i am following with yoga weight loss workshop right now:))

    • Matt Madeiro says:

      Fantastic, Ritika! Keep skipping breakfast if you don’t feel you need it — I can promise the body will be just fine. :)

  8. Lezly says:

    Good tips, however I notice when I skip out on my breakfast, I can hardly get through the day.

    Coffee really does help reduce my appetite and when I feel like snacking, instead of asking myself what I’m in the mood for, I ask myself what can I eat that will help me feel better about myself.

    • Matt Madeiro says:

      Good points, Lezly. :) So if you skip breakfast, you have a hard time surviving, or is it just until you then have lunch? Let me know!

  9. Ben says:

    Hey Matt – I’ve read your blog for a while but this is my first time commenting (long time listener, first time caller I guess). Loved this post and other then #3 I don’t tend to have a problem with any of them (what can I say – put a steak in front of me and chances are I’m finishing it).

    The reason I’m writing this is #1 however – I skip breakfast all the time without any issues of hunger or lack of energy. I also go to crossfit and when I do it’s at 6:00 am. So my question for you is what are you thoughts on fasted workouts? I’ve read some places (Marks Daily Apple among others) that once in a while is alright but I probably shouldn’t make a habit of it. That’s pretty much the only reason I don’t do it more often so I thought I’d see what you thought.

    Keep up the great blog

    • Matt Madeiro says:

      Hey Ben!

      Nice to meet you, man, and thanks for coming out to comment. :)

      I’m perfectly fine with fasted workouts. The reading I’ve done (at MDA, like you, but also at Leangains) suggests that it isn’t completely optimal to workout without ingesting some kind of BCAA (branched chain amino acids) first, but I’m not too bothered by that. The benefits of exercise on an empty stomach are plenty (happy to provide links if you’d like them!), to the point where shooting for 110% with the BCAAs doesn’t seem worth the fuss.

      With my current routine, I don’t stress about it much. If I feel like working out and haven’t eaten anything, well, that doesn’t stop me. If I know my workout is going to be more physically demanding than usual, I might eat something a bit before. Do whatever feels right for each individual workout, and don’t worry about it hurting you in the long run. If we’ve learned anything, it’s the fact that the body is more than capable of handling periods without food intake, so feel free to work out fasted and see if it improves things for you. :)

      Hope this helps!

  10. Nina Yau says:

    omg, dr. pepper! brings me back to good ‘ol [unhealthy] times …. times when i ate nothing but cool ranch doritos and coca cola + sprite + dr. pepper. geez.

    thanks for the lovely tips, mr. hollywood! blaze on!

    • Matt Madeiro says:

      Keep burning bright, Knives. :)

      How has your individual fitness been going?

      P.S. Remember those bags of chips after the train back from Portland? There’s a time and place for everything!

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  12. Lisa says:

    Hey there Matt. First time on your site, and just digging around, reading everything. I completely agree with tip number 4. I will sometimes brush my teeth early, after dinner to avoid wanting something sweet later. I have a crazy sweet tooth, so brushing my teeth will help me steer clear of them before bed.
    Some of these others seem to come easy to me to since I was never much of a breakfast eater, I’ve actually eaten breakfast more since my attempt to go Paleo. I can’t eat nuts, and I stopped drinking soda when I was a junior in high school. . . .9 years ago!
    I think the one that comes hardest to me is number three, I have a problem with “if there’s food in front of me, I want to eat it”.

    • Matt Madeiro says:

      I know what you mean, Lisa. It hit me just the other day that I’m still reluctant to leave food on my plate, so you can imagine the mental gymnastics I’m running in order to break this bad habit. :)

      Thanks for coming by the site! I hope it proves useful to you on your journey.