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"How Much Am I Supposed to Eat?"

The ultimate, million dollar question for dietitians.

By Emily the Period RDPublished about a year ago 3 min read
"How Much Am I Supposed to Eat?"
Photo by Asnim Ansari on Unsplash

For the number of times I’ve been asked this question, I should be a millionaire – that’s the phrase, right? “If I had a penny for every time…”

When I introduce clients to intuitive eating skills, one of the very first concerns they have is how much they are supposed to be eating. It makes sense to want to know the answer to this question! We live in a society that places wellness on a pedestal, and encourages folks to disconnect from their internal cues and follow set rules, programs and restrictions to change their bodies. This structure can feel safe, especially if lots of other things feel out of control or if it’s challenging to tune into your own needs. Diets and “lifestyle changes” provide an out.

Learning to “hear” your own cues can feel overwhelming and sometimes scary. It can be helpful to consider a few scenarios when deciding what to eat, and to know that this can take lots of practice – it’s okay if it doesn’t go “perfectly” the first few times.

Let’s also take a second to appreciate that there are very few “shoulds” or “supposed to’s” in nutrition – when it comes to food amounts at meals, we can honour that each experience is unique and approach them with a non-judgemental lens. You don’t have to do anything at a meal or snack that you don’t want to – you get bodily autonomy!

If you are going through eating disorder treatment or recovery, and have been given a set amount to eat in a daily meal plan, this can be a powerful place to start. While hunger and fullness cues are re-developing, having an individual meal plan designed to restore health status and promote regularity and adequacy of eating can be supportive to take the thinking out of food. These meal plans are typically created with your unique needs in mind, whereas other meal plans might not. These meal plans also typically change based on how you are progressing through recovery and they can build a foundation for your own meal planning and portion selection.

[It’s important to know that some eating disorder treatment centres are still very fatphobic, and there may be restrictions on meal plans to prevent “excess” weight gain – this doesn’t foster an inclusive recovery for anyone. Working with an eating disorder dietitian who is trained in non-diet and Health at Every Size care is critical to meet your needs and remove weight stigma – I happen to be one of them!]

If you are not going through eating disorder or disordered eating recovery, the amount you CAN eat is the amount that is filling. This is typically where we learn to feel what is comfortable to us – it can change from day to day and even from meal to meal. Some meals may be more filling than others. We can decide if this level of fullness will get us to the next eating opportunity with plenty of energy to function and feel well, or if we need more fullness to do so. We might eat beyond comfortable fullness, and this is okay. We eat many, many times in our lifetime and missing the mark in our comfort level is not a life-altering mistake!

We can also choose to eat the amount that is satisfying – this is different than fullness! We may have meals and snacks that are satisfying and enjoyable without leaving us full – for example, I absolutely love having a muffin or cookie with a latte while I’m working. Having a singular muffin or cookie isn’t enough to make me feel physically full, but I’m happy with the amount at that time! I could probably have more muffins or more cookies to feel physically full but that’s not the amount I would enjoy, nor would it be a food I find filling for long enough to do my day. You might also need more food than what is filling to be satisfying – think about foods you only eat once or twice per year! We might choose to have a little extra at that time, even if we’re full.

Another appropriate amount is the amount you have available – this may or may not line up with when you are full or satisfied. Grocery prices are wicked high right now, and it can be hard for some families to have access to food. Having a second serving or meals that are totally filling might not be an option, and in these situations, using the amount of food that is available for consumption is an appropriate amount to choose.

It’s not as simple as “eat what you’re supposed to” – the amount you’re “supposed to” eat is relative!

Not sure where to get started? Let’s chat – you can find me at sayyestonourish.com.

wellnessweight lossself caresciencelongevity magazinelifestylehealthdietbodyadvice

About the Creator

Emily the Period RD

I help people with periods navigate menstrual health education & wellness with a healthy serving of sass (and not an ounce of nutrition pseudoscience).

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    Emily the Period RDWritten by Emily the Period RD

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