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As a child I loved the line from the book Rikki-Tikki-Tavi (by Rudyard Kipling), when the character of the same name was quoted as saying “a full mongoose is a dead mongoose.”  The point being, that to stay alert, focused, healthy and alive (aka it’s not prudent to over eat).  In most developed countries today food and food choices abound and it’s easy to keepyour personal food-o-meter on “full” all of the time.  Thus, one simple but healthy decision you can make is to “choose to be a bit hungry” as a general state of being vs. “full.”  Clearly, this is easier said than done and it does take discipline.  However, here are a few practical tips that may help you keep the hunger, without over-feeding it.

1.     Reduce Portion Size – When you are in control of your plate size, make it reasonable, and when you’re not (e.g. when eating out) you don’t have to finish your plate (take some home, leav it, etc.).

2.     Healthy Snacks Through They Day – Eat some healthy snacks through the day, so that you’re not starving at lunch or dinner time (e.g. Trail-Mix, fruit, veggies, etc.).  This helps regulate blood-sugar, hunger, and mitigates your potential to stuff yourself at mealtime.  Also, if you struggle with discipline keep unhealthy snacking options out of sight and out of reach.

3.     Practice “The Pistachio Principle” – Professor James Painter from Eastern Illinois University developed this principle.  In the most simple terms, if a group of people were to sit down with a bag of pre-shelled pistachio nuts and another group were to sit down with a bag of pistachios with shells, the group eating the pistachios with shells would eat ~50% less.  The reason, it takes longer to shell and eat the pistachios, which gives your brain time to realize you’re full, before you’ve eaten more (or the entire bag).  Interpretation, eat slowly and select high engagement foods vs. easy-to-consume foods, and this can actually help you consume less (e.g. shelled nuts, crab/shell fish, etc.).

It’s important to note that you being “a little hungry” is different than (a) starving yourself – so that your metabolism goes into survival mode and slows to a crawl, (b) failing to eat regularly, so that you binge and are more likely to scarf down a boatload of crap when you get the chance.  It just about getting used to the feeling of not being “full” all the time, which too many Americans feel is normal.  If you ate two hours ago, don’t feel full anymore and your first inclination is “I could eat.”  I suggest a bottle of water, gum, or better yet get active so that food isn’t your number 1 priority. Again, it’s easier said than done, but being a bit hungry vs. a bit full is a healthy choice you can start today.

Small steps add up!