How to Eat Until 80% Full

August 11, 2021  
How to Eat Until 80% Full and Why it Matters for Weight Loss. 

If there’s one thing that’s a real ‘ninja move’ when it comes to supporting your weight loss goals, it’s understanding that you don’t have to eat until you are bursting at the seams. Instead, eat to about 80% full.

Eating to 80 percent full means you stop eating when you’re just satisfied; you’re not hungry, but you’re not stuffed either. It’s about feeling content, with a little room left over.

Some of the benefits of eating this way are:

  • Leads to gradual, sustainable fat loss.
  • Improves appetite regulation due to slower, mindful eating.
  • Minimises dependence on external “rules” like calorie targets or diet plans.
  • Increases body awareness, helping you better regulate stress and emotions.
  • Connects you to your true nutrition needs, which are naturally customised to your body and activity level.
  • Encourages good digestion.
  • Can help you enjoy food and eating even more.
  • Builds your tolerance for slight discomfort.

Here are 8 strategies you can apply to establish the habit of eating to 80% full.

Start With A slightly smaller portion
  • You probably have a sense of how much you normally eat. So, try plating 80% of that.
  • Plating your meal on a smaller dish makes it easier to moderate portions.
  • Prioritise veggies and protein, which help you feel satisfied and curb hunger.
  • If you’re eating out, try ordering a smaller size than normal.
Tune Into How Your Body Feels

Learning what 80% full feels like will require paying close attention to your body throughout the meal. So before you take your first bite, make note of your baseline (what 0% full feels like).

  • Take a deep breath.
  • Now, focus on your stomach.
  • Scan your attention over the length of your body, toes to head.
  • Notice how it feels.
Eat Slowly

It takes time for your gastrointestinal tract to signal to your brain that you’ve eaten enough. Slowing down helps ensure that you don’t miss the most up-to-date information from your body.

Check In With Yourself Throughout the Meal
  1. Take a bite.
  2. Chew and swallow.
  3. Stop.
  4. Take a breath.
  5. How do you feel?
  6. Pause to notice.
  • 0% - "Get. Me. Some. Food. NOW.”
  • 20% - “Taken the edge off my hunger, but only just.”
  • 40% - “I’m feeling better, but I’d be annoyed if I had to leave the table right now.”
  • 60% - “I’ve got a bit of fuel in the tank, but don’t feel super satisfied.”
  • 80% - “I’m feeling energised, like I could go for a walk and have room for a gelato (but I don’t need one).”
  • 90% - “Feeling very content, but would not want to move around a whole lot right now.”
  • 100% - “My stomach feels tight, and I think I feel I’d like to lie down.”
Stop Eating When You Feel Like You Are About 80% Full

Getting to exactly 80% isn’t important - just estimate. When you’ve reached 80% fullness, you can:

  • Put away any leftover food so you don’t keep picking.
  • Place your serviette over the plate to signal you’re done.
  • Just sit and breathe, and notice any feelings that come up.
Do Something Physical

Following your meal with gentle activity helps you sense how the portion you ate is sitting with you. Here are some ideas:

  • Bend down and touch your toes.
  • Do some light housework.
  • Take a brisk walk.
  • Breathe deeply from your belly.
  • Play with your kids or a pet.
Take Notes About What You Ate and What it Felt Like

If you overdid it, no sweat. Now you have some data (and data is king!). The goal is to feel a little hungry by the time you are due to eat.

What I ate

How I felt

Sweet potato, grilled tofu, broccoli sautéed in olive oil.

Pretty comfortable and satisfied. A little full.

Big bowl of past with cream sauce.

Hard to stop eating. Felt heavy, then kind of giddy and lethargic.

Greek salad with chicken and toasted almonds.

Energised, light, nourished.

Repeat These Steps at as Many Meals as Possible for 2 Weeks

Over time, you’ll gather useful information about your body and how foods make you feel (remember, data is king). Have you noticed any patterns?

  • Does your body look or feel any different? What about how your clothes fit?
  • Are you getting more or less comfortable with different sensations in your body?
  • Are your eating habits more aligned with your goals?
  • Is your mood or energy better, worse, or the same?
  • Do particular foods help you feel satisfied?
  • Do some foods seem to make you “lose control”?
  • Are there any changes to your digestion?
  • Do you derive more or less pleasure from food?

If you’re getting the results you want, keep going. If not, adjust your portions and meals based on your data and try again.

Putting a number to a fullness level can freak some people out. They want to get it right. They’re afraid they’ll overshoot. “But how do I know when I’m 80 percent full?! I don’t have a stomach gauge!”. The exact number doesn’t matter so much. What’s important is establishing the habit of slowing down, paying attention to your appetite cues, and eating a little less than you’re used to.

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