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The above post in the Lean Habits Community (my free Facebook group, have you joined yet?) got a really profound discussion going! Many people have heard the aphorism, “Eat until you are 80% full” included with healthy eating guidance, yet almost no one seems to be able to use that effectively to meet their weight loss goals. Occasionally I hear from someone who utilized it in a practical sense for a finite stretch of time, and it seems that the overwhelming majority of people who make an honest go at eating to 80% full end up with one of the following issues:

  1. “I was able to use willpower for a while to stop short of satisfied, but it got old fast.” After the shiny newness of flexing our willpower muscles wears off, we stop doing it. Because it’s draining. And after a while of not being satisfied meal and after meal, we gonna get FULL DAMNIT. So at best, people return to eating to their comfortable stopping point.
  2. “I keep trying to do 80% full…..” Unfortunately, one of the worst things that can be created is a pattern of reactive binge eating. It looks like this: Stop at 80% full for 12* meals in a row, then “lose it” and eat until I can’t move or breathe at the 10th. Disgust myself. Criticize myself. Vow to do it better. Recommit to sub-satisfying eating to 80% full, and do it all again.*Your mileage may vary, your x might be 2 meals or 25 meals but the pattern is the same.
  3. Get so caught up in analysis and trying to eat to EXACTLY 80% FULL that they stifle all meal enjoyment. Tasting the flavors of one’s meal and enjoying one’s company give way to thrilling inner dialogues such as:


Ok here I go! 80% full at this dinner, I’m gonna to it. Wait, if I’m not all that hungry am I starting from zero percent full, or is this like 25% full now because I had those baby carrots at 6 pm to take the edge off? Okay I ate a few bites, what percent full am I? Um, maybe 50%? But I drank water in there, did that screw it up? I mean if I drink more water now and feel really full, it might be 80% but I only ate to 50% on food, so that shouldn’t count… okay I’ll just not drink any more water til later and eat more…. Okay maybe I’m close now… but is this 75%, 80%, or 85%? I don’t want to mess it up and eat too little or too much. Gosh I am SO BAD AT THIS! [Buuuuuurp.] Wait, now it feels like that reduced me a few percent… do I eat another bite now? Or drink water? Or once I get to 80% once is it game over?….


I think some of the issue is defining 80% of what? I know the saying is “80% full“, but are we talking “full” as in the maximal amount I can hold in my stomach? Because goodness that is many TIMES more than I actually need to eat, if you have done anything close to binge eating you know! The human stomach is an almost-frighteningly-durable organ.

Clearly it’s not meant to be “80% of the maximal capacity of my stomach”…. so what is it? 80% satisfied? That means not satisfied, not as comfortable as I could be, and using some willpower. Which is possible, certainly, but it’s a conscious choice to stop short of feeling my best. How many times in a row will use my willpower to stop eating before I’m satisfied? Different people tend to do it for longer or more brief periods of time, which makes sense given the variability in willpower and delayed gratification between people.  I’ve got willpower aplenty, so I can stop eating well short of satisfied and if that’s the price of a flat stomach, well I pulled it off for years. But I wasn’t happy or relaxed in my eating. It was an effort I put in, every meal, (all 6 or 8 of them) every day, without exception. And I’m sad to admit that, to be honest. Because that mental capacity could have gone to such meaningful things, and I spent it selfishly and needlessly on stopping eating before I was physically comfortable.

There’s an easier way to do this, people! A way that will become automatic. As in, zero willpower or effort. I call it Eating Just Enough.

They both are ways to manage portions at meals and dissuade overeating, but Eating Just Enough I find easier to explain than eating to “80% full”.  First, we can answer the question “Enough for what?” with a REAL ANSWER.

You want to eat just enough to feel hunger for 30-60 minutes before your next meal, and just enough to feel your physical best, which is a range where you feel no perceptible discomfort from hunger or fullness. When you aren’t feeling better by eating more, you’re in the satisfied zone. You don’t feel better if you keep eating and eating. (Yes, there’s an enjoyment aspect, but that’s a separate discussion, you physically don’t get more comfortable, after a point it becomes incrementally less comfortable to have pressure build in the abdomen).

Eat Just Enough with Letters
Eating Just Enough includes the idea that it is a RANGE and not one magic bite, which will vary day to day with your activity level, previous day’s intake, and what’s in your meal. (If we’re eating something lower calorie density, we need to eat more volume of to get satisfied and stay sated til our next meal – Gigantic salad eaters unite!) Whereas when I have pizza (my favorite higher cal density meal) I know I don’t need to eat the same volume to get to “Just Enough” as I would on salad. It’s just a matter of slowing down and giving the signals time to kick in. You don’t eat the same thing for every meal, so there must be several ways to eat healthfully without stopping still hungry or eating until we hurt, right?

Yes. In the above graph, A, B, and C are all Eating Just Enough! You might find you move toward your goals by simply aiming to stop eating in the Green zone, or you might find you can dial it in to stopping earlier or later depending on the particular food you happen to be enjoying. As you practice, you’ll get pretty good at telling what you’re feeling, and knowing how long certain foods hold you.

If 80% is the only “right”, then it leaves a lot of fullness levels which are “wrong”. Is 79% wrong? Is 82% wrong? Just as wrong as 300%? Well then, since I already blew it…..

If I’m trying to eat to 80% full, do I eat to the same fullness level if I’m eating zucchini noodles as cheesy lasagna?

So…. that is why we carefully chose the wording we currently use for Eating Just Enough, and always try to accompany it with explanation and the graphic to include the flexibility and that it’s a RANGE.

Want even more tips and tricks on Eating Just Enough and the other habits in the Lean Habits System? Grab a copy of the book or ebook. Have a friend you’d like to set free from Dietville? Grab a copy for them too and do it together.

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“This year, Thanksgiving was effortless.”


This is the first Thanksgiving since the Lean Habits system was published in a book. So, in many ways, it’s was a mass market test. Would reading my book change people’s experiences? Would it ruin Christmas? Would it be hubris to think it might help even one reader have a happier, healthier holiday season? Could that spill into a diet-free New Year? These are the things I’ve been wondering. So this readers blog entry, (unsolicited and unedited) made me smile ear to ear when I found it on SparkPeople. She kindly granted me permission to share; thank you ALP1976!  – Georgie

5 Pounds Down, But That Isn’t the Real Celebration

So, 5 pounds really isn’t that big of a deal. In the grand scheme of things, it just isn’t. However, for me it kind of is. I quite literally have been at the same weight for over 2 years.

I weighed on Wednesday and saw a number I haven’t seen since before I found out I was pregnant. I won’t lie, it feels pretty good.

I have struggled a lot over the last few years trying to find my footing in a sustainable manner that would allow me to pursue fat loss without sinking back into food obsession, creating lists of “good” and “bad” foods or tracking calories endlessly (I wrote about it in GREAT length here if anyone is interested) because I worked so hard at making peace with ALL foods I felt very strongly about going back to any form of “dieting”.

I do feel like I have stumbled upon the best of both worlds with Lean Habits. I do. The funny thing, when I came to Lean Habits I was still tracking my foods using both My Fitness Pal and my beloved Fitbook. I made a choice when I decided to go back and rework habits 1-3 before moving on to the supporting habits that I was going to stop tracking ANYTHING minus my habits and the odd thing is that is when I started to see change in the scale. I made a very conscious choice not to buy another Fitbook. Not only am I down on the scale, but also on the tape measure. My waist, hips and thighs are down.

It feels so good to be sitting here in this place. I do feel like I have been pushed out of my comfort zone a bit (being comfortably un-comfortable) but so far all of my steps outside of my comfort zone have been baby steps, not huge undertakings, like in the past. It feels great to start to feel like I am gathering up steam and am really finding it.

I have used the scale loosely for the last two or so years and I still do. I see it as only one VERY small measure of success considering how fickle it really is. I don’t see the last three years that I have been maintaining as a failure, far from it. Maintaining weight in and of itself is a difficult undertaking and the fact that I have been able to effortlessly maintain my weight for the better part of two years gives me a lot of confidence that when I find myself at goal, it will be an effortless place to be. After all, weight loss is but just one small part of the equation, maintaining is truly the bigger undertaking — my goal is not to only lose but stay where I am at when I get there.

I don’t know where I want to be with my goal weight. I have a number in mind, but I am keeping that open. I plan on just rolling with Lean Habits and see how I feel when I get there.

It feels so effortless. There are quite a few things that have changed for me while doing Lean Habits, mostly mind shifts. Eating only 3 (4 if I REALLY need it) meals a day has been a HUGE shift in mentality since I have been so conditioned to need to eat every 2 hours with smaller meals. I love the science behind eating only 3 times a day I feel like I have been successful with resetting my hunger. Tapping into hunger and satiety are also HUGE for me. I love learning to tap into my internal triggers versus relying on external ones (aka calorie counting) because I think that there is a lot of wisdom that comes from focusing on signals.

This year, Thanksgiving was effortless. I ate three times yesterday, I had a little bit of everything, I had pie, I had a beer with a turkey sandwich last night. There was ZERO stress over food. I REFUSE to stress out over food. I don’t feel guilt over food. Damn, I worked hard on that dinner — why wouldn’t I enjoy it?!! I am more focused on the other factors — the fact that I get to sit down to a Thanksgiving dinner with my soul-mate and husband of 20 years, the fact that I have 4 healthy and beautiful children, the fact that we can put a nice dinner on the table when so many want and need for so much, the fact that I have countless things to feel gratitude for. Somehow, stressing out over food seems so minute and completely pointless. Yet, somehow this time of year seems to breed stress over food.

When there is an abundance and food restriction is number one, it feels like a constant form of deprivation. I know, I have been there. When the chill approach to food is there, it feels like just another adventure in eating. I thinks so much of this stems from the overall attitude and approach to food. The holidays are such a special time of year. I refuse to spend any more time or energy stressing out over it. Life is just too short.

I have spent so much time working to get to this very point — my journey has started from an internal one focusing on so much (things that still demand my attention daily) like self gratitude, my relationship with food, finding a happy place with exercise, learning to live by the standard of grace — not perfection. I feel like that has been necessary. It has been uncomfortable but so worth it. I regret nothing but am looking forward to the promise of things with where I am at now. Because I have laid that all too important foundation, it has set the groundwork for me to be able to press forward and approach my aesthetic goals with a clear head and one in the right place.


Do you have a real life story to share about using Lean Habits in your life? I’d love to hear it and maybe share it on AskGeorgie. Long or short, big or small, I would absolutely love to hear about YOU. Drop a line using the contact form. :)

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Does this count as a treat?

Hey G! I’m working on bringing more awareness to the treats I’m eating. I’m re-reading the chapters in your book about treats.
Lately for breakfast I’ve been having a piece of homemade quick bread (this week it was zucchini, last week was banana) and some full fat yogurt. I find this breakfast keeps me full for a good long while.. At least 5 hours. So I’ve been sticking with it in the interest of sanity, because at work when I get hungry 3 hours after eating it’s annoying and disrupts my day! Would you count that quick bread as a treat? It has butter, flour, sugar, etc in it, so I think you would, but I wanted to check. I also think you would because there’s probably a replacement for it that offers fewer calories, but similar amounts of satiety. Maybe?? Also stuff like bagged granola–I recently bought Kind granola, and it’s super low in sugar, but it is fairly processed.
I don’t want to get obsessive, but I do want to bring more awareness.

Thank you thank you! – Elizabeth

Dear Elizabeth,

The important leap to NOT make is assuming because we call something a treat is has to change. It’s just a baseline.

So lets say you count the daily quick bread as a treat, your weekly count will be 7 higher than if you don’t.

That doesn’t mean anything good or bad, its just a DIFFERENT number.

So let’s say you have 12 vs 19 at the end of the observation period. That doesn’t mean anything by itself.

Where it starts to have meaning is when correlated with your results. So if you are feeling good, sane, calm, satisfied, happy taste buds, and weight slowly coming down, whatever that number is is a GREAT ONE TO STICK WITH.

If you aren’t feeling quite satisfied appetite-wise, or you are satisfied but your weight is not coming down or is rising, only then do you want to look at the total and see where you might bring it down. Lately I have a treat every single day, and sometimes it’s small but sometimes it’s a 300 calorie scone. If my weight is where I want it to be: no problem!

The only trouble you’ll get into is if you don’t count the quick bread, and it is the only sugary or processed things you eat so you have a zero at the end of the 2 weeks, and then you want to improve something. Because you didn’t call anything a treat, there’s no way to reduce your treat count. Make sense?
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Healthy Pad Thai

Pad Thai

Ordering pad Thai in a restaurant could be more damage to your waistline than you’d suspect. You might not realize that 950 calories and 35 grams of fat lurk in those sweet and spicy, stir fried noodles! What?!  Isn’t all Asian food healthy??

Sadly, not so. But don’t worry, I’ve got a delicious solution.

Using shirataki noodles instead of carbohydrate-dense rice noodles is one way to drastically cut calories and carbohydrates. (Roland doesn’t like them, so I make this dish for him with whole wheat noodles). You pick!

Skipping the generous amounts of oil helps, too. Plus, I added lots of vegetables for color, texture and nutrition. Despite the kinder nutritional numbers, this dish is incredibly flavorful, with mingled tastes of ginger, garlic, soy sauce, spicy sriracha, and peanuts.

I know some purists will cringe at putting ketchup in Pad Thai, something that you’ll commonly see on the web.  You’ll also see a lot of pad thai recipes that call for palm sugar, fish sauce, salted radish, and other stuff I just didn’t have on hand. I never said it was authentic. Once I subbed in shirataki, I figured all the traditionalists had left the page anyway. 😉 You could also add a scrambled egg, which is usually found in pad Thai. When I was creating this (on the fly as usual) it just skipped my mind.

You can make it with chicken only, shrimp only, or tofu. Any protein you like, go for it.

Another good thing to point out: this recipe only took me 25 minutes, start to finish. Really, it’s a basic stir fry with a yummy sauce. Nothing you can’t do.


  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce or fish sauce
  • 2 tablespoons sriracha hot sauce
  • 2 tablespoons peanut butter or peanut flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar or equivalent sweetener of your choice
  • 2 tablespoons organic ketchup
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger

Other Ingredients:

  • Cooking spray or oil
  • 2 (8-ounce) packages of shirataki noodles or 90 grams whole wheat spaghetti (enough to feed two people)
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (or enough shrimp or tofu for two people)
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed or minced
  • 1 each red and yellow bell pepper, cut into strips
  • 1 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 6 green onions, sliced into 1-inch pieces
  • (chopped peanuts or cilantro for garnishing), optional
  1. Mix all sauce ingredients in a bowl and set aside.
  2. Drain shirataki in a colander and rinse very thoroughly. Drain well (you want them as dry as possible). If using whole wheat pasta, cook and drain.
  3. Place a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Coat it with cooking spray or use a small amount of oil to keep things from sticking, and add chicken or other protein. Cook until opaque. Drain excess liquid, if any.
  4. Add garlic, peppers, and mushrooms to skillet, and cook, stirring frequently, until soft.
  5. Add noodles, green onions, and sauce. Continue to cook, stirring, for 3-4 minutes or until sauce has boiled for a few minutes and thickened somewhat. If you are using shirataki noodles I find the sauce gets really watery since they release some water, so I crank the heat up to high and boil it off to reduce the sauce. With whole wheat noodles this doesn’t happen.

Serves 2



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Are You Too Focused On Food?

(Client 1) “I find myself struggling with the fact that I am still SO focused on food, like I eat breakfast and then I am looking at the clock or so excited when I feel hunger again because, yay, I get to eat! I would like to one day be the kind of person who could literally “forget” to eat a meal, or wake up late and think no biggie I’ll just wait until lunch. Now, I could do that and sometimes I do (wake up late and wait to eat for lunch), but then I am immediately figuring how great that is because I am going to be eating fewer calories and losing weight…I guess what I am trying to say is that I realize almost more than the weight loss being what I want, it’s to become a “normal eater” who sees food as well, just food!”

(Client 2) “I feel like I could’ve written what you wrote exactly! I pretty much agreed with everything you wrote. I, like you, am still feeling very focused on food. I eat breakfast and then keep thinking about food after that until lunch, and then after lunch until dinner, etc etc etc. I’d love to get away from that focus. A goal of mine is also to be a “normal eater” and just see food as food.”

I know it well! Obsessing about food for many hours of the day, a condition I call permafoodbrain, has made plenty of appearances in my life. It has afflicted me both acutely and chronically.  It can be caused by undereating in a good old survival mechanism fashion, but it can also sink in just as a habit, so we keep thinking about food when we’re eating enough to maintain our bodies or even GAIN weight. So it’s not always helped by simply eating more. (Though as many former under-eaters have found, when you eat more and permafoodbrain goes away completely – it’s a good indicator you were underfed!)

So if you think you might be under-eating and are just HUNGRY, the straightforward solution is to eat a bit more and see if that alleviates the pervasive food thoughts. However, if you are eating plenty and are just in the HABIT of thinking about food a lot – then replacing it with another mental activity can help, much like having a chew toy for your dog to give them so they stop chewing the table legs is better than just swatting them to knock it off. Oh here, sweetie, work on this instead.

So, if you didn’t have food on the brain, what else could you think about?
If you notice you’re going into food planning, thinking, fantasizing, counting-minutes-until-lunch-mode, how about transferring your attention to that other topic? (Here sweetie, work on this instead.)

Maybe what you’ll buy people for the holidays?

Maybe you’ll daydream about the next trip you might take, or even look into flights or hotels to see about making it happen?

If you can imagine what your life will be like when you do become a normal, balanced eater, obviously something else will have to fill in where the food ruminations take a hike. And that’s awesome! You can hasten the process by giving your brain something more meaningful, fulfilling, creative or fun to do, starting today.

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