On Eating Less (aka The Minimalist Diet)

Happy fall, everyone! We’re having the most gorgeous weather here in the Pacific Northwest, and I’m soaking in every last ray of sunshine before it starts raining (and raining and raining). I’m enjoying a few more weeks of wearing my One Shoe before I have to switch over to the rain boots…

So I’m writing a new book, and experimenting with minimalism on all kinds of levels. I posted last about my Unplugged Summer, a lovely exercise in dialing back my digital commitments. Basically, I faced my fear of being unproductive, and was rewarded in spades with a mother/daughter summer I’ll always treasure.

But that’s not the only minimalist thing I did this summer. I also experimented with eating—or to be more specific, eating less.

To be honest, I didn’t do it for weight loss reasons. I’d read a study on how consuming fewer calories might lead to a longer life—and I was curious what it would feel like to consume fewer calories.

But being rather lazy about such things, I had no interest in actually counting calories or changing the foods I ate. Therefore, I went about it in a very unscientific way: I simply ate less. For each meal, I put roughly 2/3 of my normal portion on my plate (no measurements—just eyeballing it) and didn’t have seconds.

In addition, I stopped snacking, and never, ever ate anything after dinner. If I felt hungry, I’d drink a glass or two of water instead. I also limited alcohol to special occasions and Saturday nights. If I had dessert, I’d have one-half of my usual allotment (half of a cookie instead of a whole one, one scoop of ice cream instead of two).

By not giving up anything, I never felt deprived. Instead, I appreciated what I did eat all the more. When my quantities were limited, I actually savored every bite—each meal became an event, instead of another task to rush through in my daily routine.

I still got to taste all that delicious food, just in a slightly smaller volume. And it’s not really the volume that brings us joy, is it? To compensate for the smaller portion, I ate more slowly and mindfully, and felt a new gratitude for what was on my plate. And I can’t tell you how much I looked forward (and still do) to that weekly glass of wine!

In the process, I faced my fear of feeling hungry. (I never knew I had such a fear, but why else did I snack or “fill up” at meals?) This summer, when my stomach growled, I didn’t panic and reach for food—I sat with the feeling and experienced it without judgment. In other words, I didn’t associate hunger with “bad” and rush to get rid of it; I thanked my body for its feedback, and vowed to enjoy every morsel of my next meal.

Since beginning this experiment, I’ve lost 12 pounds—they came off slowly and steadily over the last four months, without eating or avoiding any particular foods. (I’m still in the healthy BMI range for my height, albeit at the low end.) Will I live any longer? Who knows—but I’m continuing the practice, because I like the lightness and mindfulness that’s come with eating less.

Now it must be said that I know how absolutely privileged I am to do this by choice. Sadly, too many people experience hunger by circumstances beyond their control; food insecurity is a devastating problem, afflicting 1 in 8 people in the United States alone (here’s one way to help). I can’t imagine the terror of being hungry when you don’t know where your next meal is coming from.

But just because we have the means to eat as much as we want, should we? Or would our bodies (and planet) be healthier if we learned to feel satisfied with a little less? It would certainly reduce our risk of obesity-related illnesses; but could it also bring us more gratitude for our abundance, and more empathy for those without?

I don’t have the answer to this. It’s just something I’ve been pondering, and would love to know your thoughts. As with my Joy of One series, I can’t really give a compelling reason for the things I do (and I’m certainly not suggesting that you do them, too). I simply like to experiment with living, and figure out how we can maximize our well-being and live harmoniously in the world.

So tell me in the Comments—is eating less something you would try? Could it replace all those fad diets? How do you feel about feeling hungry? Would you do it for reasons other than weight loss (philosophical, spiritual, environmental)? Has your minimalist practice influenced your feelings about food? Here’s hoping for a lively discussion that’ll take us where we haven’t gone before… :)

[And no, my new book isn’t about food or dieting; this “diet” is so simple, the book would only be one page! I’ll be keeping much of it under wraps until publication, but will share some early tidbits with my email subscribers—so be sure to sign up for my email list to get a first look.]

79 comments to On Eating Less (aka The Minimalist Diet)

  • Nicole

    Dead Francy,
    I return to your website after a long time without reading. But still keeping minimalism and decluttering in mind.

    Food is just the topic for me. Two years ago our second child was born and since then the weight would go down. By end of august I reached the top. Never ever had I such a weight.

    With cutting down my eating I gainded back my life.
    As you expedited: no food after dinner, drinking water, no snacks (often sweets).

    I also left out the breakfast. It comes from Intervall fastening.
    The first and second day I felt hunger just because “It was time to eat”. My brain and also my stomach was so controlled by the clock. It was redicolus.

    Now two month later. I feel so much better. I am not carving for food. When my children ask for sweets I don’t have to eat sweets together with them. It is okay to see others eating.
    Or limiting myself to eat just a few of something. In two month I lost 5 kg. I am so happy about it.

    Of cause we still eat together with the whole family. On weekends the whole family is together and I eat breakfast together with them. On weekdays the kids are in child care and get their breakfast there while I have a breakfast break on my working place without eating.

    I think limiting eating will get us a new focus on what we are eating. We don’t just fill us up with everyting. It is not about eating nothing but mindful eating what it good for our body and get back the feeling it. So we don’t eat due to boredom or because it is time to eat.

    • miss minimalist

      Yes! It’s amazing how the cravings (for snacks, sweets, etc) go away after the first few days. As you said, it’s like getting your brain and stomach off the clock.

  • Emmannie

    This is a really good idea! Food is can definitely be an area where if we are lucky enough to over consume. I’m not really into mindfulness, but it is good to think about food, where it comes from and how you can help those without. If, I buy less, then I can donate to my local food bank. From a health point of view I think it’s a good thing because portion sizes keep going up

  • Mar

    Love this! love the simplicity and common sense approach to eating (less). I think I would give this a try. I don’t need to lose weight, but I like the idea of being more mindful (and appreciative) of what I choose to consume. Thank you for this post. It really resonated!

  • Linda

    I, too, have practiced this method for shedding a few pounds when they creep up. It’s so easy to do. No counting calories, eating special food, avoiding certain foods, etc.

  • I have been trying to reduce the intake of food in recent past. Staying away from snacks at work is the toughest challenge for me so far. It is so easy to pick up a Kitkat or a drink. As a result, I have not enjoyed any loss of weight though I have not gained either.

    Also social stigma plays a role in this. It just feels weird to join any conversation with just a glass of water in hand as against everyone else who has a drink or snack.

    • miss minimalist

      Totally understand. Maybe a sparkling water (like LaCroix) would do the trick?

    • Mike

      Snacking at work is what gets me. My sig other and I have switched this year first to a vegetarian, and now a mostly-vegan, diet, for health, ethical, and environmental reasons. Through that diet change, and everyday bicycling for transportation, I haven’t gained any weight this year. Unfortunately, thanks to my habit of picking up leftovers from the various meetings and functions at my office, I haven’t lost anything, either. I also snacked quite a bit, often without realizing it, at home. It really is/was for me, “mindless” eating.

      What I’ve done so far is to replace the junk food with healthy snacks. At work, I keep an array of fruits and nuts at my desk, ready for eating during the day; at home, I’ve switched from cereals to berries and carrots for snacks. I get more nutrients and I get fewer calories for the same volume of food (though, to compare highly-processed foodstuff with real food does a disservice to the notion of “food”). What I haven’t been so good at it controlling the temptations for sweet snacks.

      It’s going to get doubly hard as we head toward the end of the year, or “grazing season”, as my sig other calls it. The many compulsory end-of-the-year celebrations, often packed with buffets and/or big meals of tasty delicacies, tests the will of mindful eaters (myself included). I bike everywhere to try to ameliorate the worst effects of overeating, but I must remember: you can’t outrun your fork. Solution: slow your fork.

  • what a great post. i totally agree!

    most of the time i eat a paleo diet and since i do that, those ‘i must eat something or i’m going to faint’-attacks were over. now i can easily go without food until dinner, which i sometimes do because i think it is very beneficial to the body to have some rest from digesting food all the time. i usually eat two meals a day which makes the calorie-intake lower automaticly.

    eating paleo is the most natural to me. i have no cravings, no getting light in the head, no stomach aches or other inconveniences anymore. it is really simple and i never count calories (or eat things as superfoods or hyped foods) either. i stopped drinking alcohol too, about a year ago. lost 6 kilo’s and they never came back. i feel better than ever before.

    yes, i totally agree on the eating less = better-thing :)

    • miss minimalist

      Very interesting! I’m glad you brought up the “i must eat something or i’m going to faint” issue. I used to struggle with that; but I cut out the caffeine, and never feel light-headed anymore. Like you found with the paleo, we really need to listen to our bodies.

      • NicolaB

        My fear with eating less is the lightheaded feeling, like I am going to pass out and/or be sick. I walk to work and dread getting to the end of the day and having to walk home whilst feeling like that! It doesn’t happen all of the time, though, so perhaps I just need to work out what causes it and then I can lose my fear of eating less!

  • I started eating less by accident. My blood pressure and cholesterol were creeping up, so I cut out the not-good-for-me foods. Turns out they were mostly snack foods, like pretzels or cookies and stuff. I ended up with “three squares” as my doctor put it. The snack foods had also been inducing cravings (probably a blood sugar thing). Without the food cravings, I’m quite satiated with three meals and an occasional (healthier) snack. I know, it doesn’t make sense: less food but more satiated!

    I’m happy with my new way of eating. Since I’m not longer spending money on pretzels and stuff, I can buy things like organic produce, grass fed beef and dairy, and free range eggs. And my cabinets are a lot emptier. They’re no longer filled with bags and boxes of snacks waiting to tumble out when I open the door!

    Interesting, thought-provoking post, thanks!

    • miss minimalist

      I agree, snacks –> cravings –> more snacks. Maybe our tummies are happier when they don’t have to work so much between meals. :) Love the emptier cabinets, too!

  • Amanda

    I’ve been limiting my alcohol, too. Instead of a nightly glass of (boxed) wine, I can save up for a glass of something nicer once every other week or so. I contemplated giving it up entirely but realized I’m not a black-or-white sort of person and don’t want to limit myself so strictly.

    So does this mean new clothes? ;)

    • miss minimalist

      Actually, yes–as an unintended consequence of this experiment, I dropped a whole size. I see it as a good opportunity to rethink my “uniform.” I’ll likely be blogging more about this in the near future!

  • Hi Francine,
    Excellent post. I honestly never occurred to me to not snack. I will give it a try. Thanks!

    I’m looking forward to your new book.

  • Amy Heart

    I have also experimented with eating less by doing intermittent fasting, and lost a significant amount of weight. I felt better, and had so much more energy when I did this. I went back to my old habits though, but have thought that maybe I don’t want to do the intermittent fasting for as many hours as I was (17 hrs.) I am thinking 12 hrs might work better for me. The biggest difference is when I stop eating after dinner.

    Several years ago I had read a treatise (or 4 discourses) called, “How to Live 100 Years, or Discourses on the Sober Life,” which is the personal narrative of Luigi Cornaro (1464-1566 a.d.) He completely healed himself of debilitating illnesses, that in his day would have killed him by age 40. He went on to live to 102 years old, riding horses well into his 90’s. How did he heal himself—by limiting his food intake on his doctor’s advice. His small amount of food was extreme by today’s standards, but people were a lot smaller back then. If you are curious, I highly recommend reading his story.

    Thanks for re-inspiring me to return to eating less.

    • miss minimalist

      Thank you for the info! Cornaro was mentioned in the BBC article (on living longer by eating less), and I’d love to read his writings.

    • Karen T.

      Amazing how he did that without “modern medicine”! This is a really intriguing post, Francine, and the comments are almost as good. I’m inspired to try this. I’d prefer not to be one of the older people who are on multiple drugs for cholesterol, high BP, diabetes, and who spend all their time and money going to the dr for tests (looking for diseases, is how I think of it). BTW, I’m 57, so I guess that qualifies as older. Most people I know who are my age are already into that.

  • kddomingue

    I’m one of those strange people that will actually forget to eat breakfast/lunch. I’m also one of those people that realizes at 4pm that she forgot to eat lunch and will grab a snack to tide her over until dinner because I’m to lazy to fix a small something instead. My diet is better if I have no “snacks” in the house so that I’m forced to eat real food. My diet has been better since I learned to make refrigerator oatmeal. I eat a hearty helping for breakfast at about 10am, an apple with peanut butter or cheese and a piece of fruit at 3 or 4pm and dinner at around 7pm. No sodas or liquor except as very occasional treats, just water and black coffee for beverages. My husband of 38 years is still amused by some of my eating habits. I’ll push away my plate and he’ll ask if I’m full and still laughs when I reply “No, I’m just tired of chewing”. At almost 60, I only weigh 10 pounds more than I did at 20…..And I blame my two children for 5 pounds each, lol

    • miss minimalist

      Lol–I’ll forget meals occasionally if I’m writing on a deadline, but usually they’re a welcome escape from staring at my screen! Please tell us more about this refrigerator oatmeal…

      • Ruth

        Fridge oatmeal is at its basics just cold soaked porridge oats, typically with some kinda of thickener, served with some fruit. Fancy ones are like this: https://hurrythefoodup.com/how-to-make-overnight-oats-in-a-jar/

        I make mine by putting three tablespoons of porridge oats and half a scoop of protein powder (acts for me as the thickener and adds that protein that my often vegan diet can lack) in a glass jar, and pouring in enough milk to make a runny mix, and then popping in the fridge overnight. I never measure things (too much hassle) and make up five jars of dry mix for the cupboard at a time – in the evening I can just pull one out, add the milk and pop in the fridge. In the morning I pull it out and pop whatever sweeteners in I want before taking it to work.

        They’re really great for super fast, healthy, good for you breakfasts. I thought cold porridge would be horrid but actually it’s great! No mess, no fuss :)

  • Anna E

    I try to select the simplest food on the menue when I eat out. Not always the chepest food, but the food that sounds fresh and natural. That, and eating soup 4 or 5 evenings a week is my way of minimalist eating.

  • I think we can all learn a lot about ourselves from our eating habits – I spent most of last year and the first part of this year on medical nutrition due to an illness and have essentially been learning how to eat again since the beginning of June. Boy, did plain rice taste incredible the first time I ate it in nearly two years! But one thing I’ve struggled with is portion size – it’s incredible how quickly daily habits or routine are broken and forgotten – I have regularly said, with disbelief, that I actually cannot remember what my portion sizes used to be before I got sick! I’m sure the amounts which are on my plate now, and the size of my morning and afternoon snacks, are less than what I used to eat, yet my weight is steady. This tells me that we are often eating too much, and burdening our digestive system unnecessarily, perhaps not even properly digesting and absorbing nutrients properly due to the excess.
    It certainly takes discipline not to overeat for those of us who are fortunate enough to have an abundance of choice but I agree the mindfulness, and lightness that comes with eating just enough makes it easier :) I also like that it’s better for the planet and could possibly result in less food waste, too.

    • miss minimalist

      So sorry to hear about your illness! Wow, returning to real food really is an opportunity to rethink habits and routines–and appreciate all those wonderful flavors. This experiment made me realize how much I took food for granted. Thanks for sharing with us, and best wishes for an excellent recovery!

  • Heather

    This is awesome advice! I had my third baby a year ago and am still so overweight (I’m usually reasonably slim). I’ve been trying to follow a weight loss program but my heart just isn’t in it. I’m busy with the 3 young kids and just struggling to stick to the recipes and shift the weight. I think your idea is one I could follow. The weight loss would be slower, but that’s fine, as long as it’s headed in the right direction. I’m going to give this a go. I have found snacks to be useful though. One mid morning and one mid afternoon. As long as they are healthy and only a small amount! Fruit, or humous and carrot sticks, that sort of thing. It means I’m less hungry when lunch and dinner roll around and it’s not so hard to eat a sensible amount. But not eating after dinner is a big one. When I get hungry I just have a hot drink with lemon and honey, or a herbal tea and that tends to be enough to keep the hunger pangs at bay. Thanks again for your very helpful, sensible advice!

    • miss minimalist

      I can totally see how small, healthy snacks can help with portion control at meals. I think we all have to do what works best for our bodies! I don’t know how young your children are, but I’ve found it easier to resist snacks now that my daughter is in school (and I’m not snacking *with* her). As far as eating after dinner goes…if my tummy grumbles before bed, I congratulate myself on a good day of eating less. :)

  • Rebecca

    I have been doing the same for the most part with the exception of snacking now that it is Halloween. I am guilty of having a bit of candy but, I am forgiving myself and moving on and will go back to it after this holiday or when the candy is gone whichever comes first.

  • A B

    Such a great experiment! I’ve done this before with wonderful sustainable results. Much more enjoyment from food and life. And yes when you wait all week for your deserts and alcohol, they become that much more special and enjoyable. It’s a feeling of happy, not shameful, indulgence. Thank you for the reminder!

  • Speaking of eating less… What are your feelings about taking vitamin supplements? Some people swear by them, some people say they are useless. I’ve been taking a multivitamin every day for most of my life but I don’t know if it really does anything. I often wonder if I’m just throwing my money away.

    • miss minimalist

      I take a multivitamin every day, too–but I have no knowledge on the subject and don’t know if it does anything either!

    • Mike

      I prefer to get my nutrients from whole foods and sunlight wherever possible. It’s not always possible, such as getting vitamin D on cold, short, winter days of B12 on a strict vegan diet. I’ve resigned myself to B12-fortified tofu and soy because there’s no known non-animal source of B12. Other than that, I don’t take any supplements, preferring to get nutrient doses in small amounts, rather than the intense load of a pill. Not to mention that the vitamin supplement industry is hardly regulated, so not only are you paying for concentrated does of natural nutrients, there’s no guarantee that the contents match the label (or are even safe).

    • Courtney Rae

      Hi there! I supplement just a few specific things based on my lifestyle. Rather than buying an overall “multi-vitamin”, it might be helpful to assess which individual nutrients you need and then buy single high-quality vitamins. For example, I supplement 1) vitamin b12 – because I embrace a vegetarian diet, 2) vitamin d3 – because I live in the Midwest with limited sun exposure part of the year, 3) folate (NOT folic acid) – because I breastfeed and hope for future children, and 4) a probiotic – for gut health. If anyone is interested and I am able to here, I can offer specific brands that I use – I find them all on Amazon. I wish you good health!

  • Lauri

    I’m happy this way of eating is working for you and supporting your values. But I feel I need to speak up. As a person with a past history of disordered eating, I can say that this approach is a slippery slope. It feels like turning the type or quantity of food we consume into a moral issue, which is dangerous for my sort. It can begin with the best of intentions for all the right reasons and quickly turn into a new or relapsed eating disorder.

    • miss minimalist

      Thank you for bringing this up, Lauri. I rarely blog about food and it’s a good reminder for me to be more sensitive about such issues in my writing.

      • Melanie

        I second what Lauri said. It’s not that I was offended or saw insensitivity in your writing (and I don’t think Lauri did either), but the behaviour itself is what made some red flags fly. Admittedly, I’m ultra sensitive to this right now — my daughter is battling anorexia and this is a hell I wouldn’t wish on anyone. I wish I had recognized the signs (reduced eating when no weight loss needed, ignoring hunger, an intoxicating illusion of control) before it was too late.

        • miss minimalist

          Oh my goodness, Melanie–as a mother, my heart goes out to you, and I wish you much strength in such a difficult time. My intention was simply to talk about a more disciplined, healthy approach to eating (cutting back on sweets, snacks, alcohol, and choosing portions that make you feel satiated rather than stuffed), and my deepest apologies if I did not articulate this clearly.

          • Melanie

            No apologies needed! I realize what you were saying, and I also realize it doesn’t necessarily have to be an unhealthy thing, but speaking from experience I would encourage you to be aware of the possible pitfalls. As Lauri said, it’s a slippery slope.

        • Alex

          Melanie and Lauri,
          I completely understand what you both are saying. As someone who has suffered from an eating disorder in the past, I can 100% relate to “turning food into a moral issue” and “ignoring hunger” and the “illusion of control” as both of you have stated. I did all of these things and it started really innocently-as a minimalist I was trying to reduce consumption in general and felt I was doing something right when I ignored my hunger pangs during the day and at night. It turns out, those hunger pangs were telling me something-that I needed to eat before I began fainting and got myself quite sick.

          It wasn’t like I was eating nothing, I ate regular meals every day but was very strict about not snacking, controlling my portions, and thinking that the hunger pangs were a good thing and I would “congratulate myself” when they hit because it meant that I was eating less.

          I know that Francine meant absolutely no harm with this topic, but it definitely reminds me of all the moral and minimalist reasons I used to punish my body. But having said all that, just because it happened to me doesn’t mean someone else will go down the same path. I don’t assume my experience applies to everyone, but I think it’s important to share.

  • Amanda

    A great post! Certainly some ‘food for thought ‘…sorry, couldn’t resist! It’s great to hear from you again. I miss your regular posts and look forward to reading your new book.

  • Sara

    Thank you, Lauri, for voicing your concern about this idea. I wanted to say something too, but didn’t know how to voice it.

    I have a past (but long) history on eating disorders and I actually felt repulsed with this post. Rationally I can see that for some people it may work, but still…It starts out being all healthy and good, and soon it’s about competing who’s lost the most.

    Being healthy today, for me, is the result of many things, the least of which is that I don’t try to control my eating, feelings, and life itself, too much.

    Being healthy also means that I can see past my initial reaction, but only just.

    • miss minimalist

      Thank you for sharing your perspective, Sara; hearing all sides of this issue adds much value to the discussion.

      • Sara

        Thank you, Francine, for once again choosing to be constructive. I admire that about you.

        • Liz

          Chiming in late, so I’m not sure if this will be seen by Francine, but I’d like to encourage you (if you do see this) to research it VERY WELL, if you make eating a part of your new book. I’m also someone with experience, so I found this post to be off-putting at the least, distressing at the most. Sitting with feelings of hunger, feeling good from being without food, cutting out food for “minimalism” is something that is very, very dangerous for a number of people. It’s not that I don’t believe food is a part of excess, or that it’s not an area where some people need to be more mindful, but it has to be approached very carefully. If this is planned for your book, I think it would be great to interview nutritionists AND therapists with specialties in eating disorders, in order to strike the right tone, or to have them read it over before publication. Please take this as constructive criticism; I offer this with sincerity as if you were a friend or a sister. I do not, not, not want anyone equating minimalism and mindful eating with dangerous, disordered behaviors.

  • MelD

    Dietary “holy grails” vary. That’s fine, people are different (thankfully!).
    Ours is low carb high fat.
    Serious wound healing (medical miracle), slow steady weight loss, not feeling hungry and therefore not snacking or eating constantly, midriff fat loss, more energy, less tiredness, massive improvements in blood sugars and cholesterol (to normal) etc. etc. so much of what you describe here and within one summer, too. Automatic portion reduction.
    We find it super simple.

    It’s a crime how the 20th century used business and advertising to mislead us (whole nations) nutritionwise, this makes me so sad. Raise your glass (whether water or wine!) to improved health!

    • miss minimalist

      Good for you! I’m glad to hear you’ve found something that works, too. Amazing how simple changes in diet can have such positive impacts on energy levels and overall well-being.

  • Apple

    This is the “diet” (or moderation?) how my husband lost nearly three stone (40 pounds or 18 kgs) ten years ago. He was very overweight, and needed to lose the weight. He ate half portions, had his dinner at lunchtime, and did not eat anything after 5pm.

  • This is so timely! I’ve been doing the same thing recently. I was reading up on the calorie restriction (there is actually a whole society on it) and how it can extend life. But I have to say, that a lot of why I’m trying this is similar to you… a minimalist way of eating. What I love is that I’ve learned that I can go awhile without food, so I never get that ‘hangry’ feeling and if I’m ‘out and about’, I don’t have to plan to have any food or snacks with me. That helps a lot. Plus, I’m much more mindful of foods, and with calorie restriction, I know that I have to get tons of nutrients, so I choose high nutrient dense foods first like veggies, before I go for animal products or grains. Also, my kitchen is so much easier to keep clean and cooking is very basic now. I also feel much more energetic.

    Also, when we feel hunger, it is our bodies way of giving us ample notice. So, going a few hours or even a day of fasting and feeling hunger is usually not anything hazardous to normally healthy people. In fact, it what our bodies were designed to do.

    I’m sooo looking forward to reading more about this from you!

    • miss minimalist

      Our experiences are so similar. I’ve found it liberating not to have to carry around a “just in case” granola bar when I’m out, and like you I focus on veggies first. Thanks so much for sharing; it’s great to connect with a like-minded eater. :)

  • Karen T.

    Eating after dinner is my bugaboo, and as you said, it’s really mindless eating. I’m not really hungry, I just do it. A mindless habit, and a bad one. I’m going to take your advice. Thanks!

  • Nancy

    Yes, In fact I am trying out the one bowl approach. In my circumstances, my children are grown and my husband travels, so much of the time I am eating at home by myself. I have oatmeal topped with a spoonful of yogurt, about every morning so that counts as already in the bowl. Then for lunch or dinner I have a bowl of veggies (most of the time combined with brown rice or brown rice pasta), salads, soups, or sometimes a baked sweet/regular potato. I do need something starchy at either lunch or dinner to make this work for me.

    I like the efficiency (everything in a bowl) and how it is making my body feel. For desserts or snack I opt for fruit…right now apples. And I buy one dark 80% cocoa to last over 2 weeks.

    Glad you are writing on this topic.

  • E

    Can I just say…. even opposing views, and MM responses. Very respectful.
    It’s nice that there can be a discussion without attacks.

  • I lost half a stone or so using a similar approach last year. After reading some books about mindful eating, I simply paid more attention to the feelings from my body and only ate when I was properly hungry. I stopped eating sooner than I might otherwise and found my stomach shrinking and portions growing smaller.

    Another good way to rid yourself of the hunger fear is to try a fasting diet (e.g. 5:2) for at least a few weeks. Regardless of whether you’re sold on the whole concept or not, it can be enlightening to feel what a bit of proper hunger feels like. I was amazed at how well I coped with it actually, despite being someone who normally feels faint after missing a meal by 30 minutes.

  • I was interested to find your post as this is something that I’ve been thinking about recently, too. I enjoyed reading about your experiences :-) Personally, I’m trying to cut back on sugar….and I’m finding it easier than expected – something I never thought I’d say. It does feel good to be eating better and here’s hoping we’re doing something good for our health too. So delighted to hear you’re writing a new book too! It was your “Joy of Less” book that really kick-started my own journey. Any clues on when it’ll be available? xx

  • Wild Poppy

    I am living a minimalist life and thoroughly enjoy this blog and the comments of fellow readers. The one area where minimalism challenged me was my weight. Having decluttered every area of my life, I found it hugely frustrating to be trapped in a body carrying excess weight.

    On reading a comment on this blog some months back I discovered a documentary that enabled me to begin a new way of eating, that was the initial introduction to a complete makeover in diet. Not only have I shed 23lb in the past 12 weeks, but also many ailments.

    My inspiration came from a documentary called ‘What The Health’.

    I see a couple of comments here on this post referring to a whole food, plant based diet. For me, this is the safest and easiest way to shed excess pounds and ultimately to shed unwanted health issues.

    The most beneficial ‘declutter’ thus far :o)

  • Tina

    I had noticed since I retired 15 years ago I had put on weight. I started eating smaller portions and the weight has been coming off slowly but surely. I can’t eat some foods I like because of GERD and IBS issues. At least I don’t have Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis like some of my family.

  • Since embracing minimalism, I’ve also simplified my approach to wellness. I have given up things, but only because I knew I would genuinely feel better without them. I started by cutting caffeine, then moved on to reducing refined sugar. I’ve focused on health, not restrictions, and I’ve eliminated deadlines for any part of the process. I now accept progress of any amount as sufficient. I have lost a few pounds, but I’m content for that to be a side effect, not a goal in itself. Much less pressure this way, and the gradual process is much less onerous.

  • Marguerite

    In regard to portion sizes, I made an interesting discovery recently. Comparing my 1960s ‘retro’ china and glassware to my son’s recent wedding china and glassware, the difference in size was startling. His was SO much bigger.

    • April

      Yes! Vintage dinner plates are the SAME SIZE as our current salad plates. Isn’t that insane? Some older kitchens with the original cupboards aren’t deep enough to hold the new 12″ (or larger) dinner plates, because those used to be the platters that lived in China hutches back in the day.

      Just like the optical illusion of the same size black dot looking bigger or smaller depending on how large/small the white circle around it is, with larger plates we feel like the same amount of food looks less, like we got gypped… and end up piling more food onto them.

      I only use “salad” plates for my family at meals now. Dinner plates are just too big.

  • Tina

    Regarding plate size: when we eat in restaurants, we take home half our meal to have for the next day. Recently, I have been taking home 2/3 of my meal. Restaurant portions are huge. My husband used to laugh at my habit of asking for sauces, starches, etc. “on the side” but he has been doing this lately. When I was a girl, we always had water with our meals. Drinking water is a good way to keep full.

  • I feel like as a minimalist myself – I struggle so much when it comes to food. I feel like I buy nothing but with food I want to buy it all. I have three boys so it’s tough…they like to eat…a lot. I would totally do something like this for myself as I have heard the same, scientifically a lower caloric diet that is high in quality foods (greens/veggies) can acutally extend your life as your body is working a lot less and is gaining a lot more. I would like to see how I would feel – more energetic? I guess you also would not have to work out as much because you want to sustain the energy you have? how was the piece for you? It seems like a really interesting approach….

  • Erin

    Since last August I’ve adopted the practice of “I drink water “. I have frozen slices of lemon in my freezer to add to hot or cold water. Surprisingly I’m not missing coffee. I’ve reciently learned that alcohol is a Class 1 carcinogen so I’m happy to be rid of that too.

  • Wendy

    Love the post. To me (and I too have a history of disordered eating) it is precisely about moderation, which is what was lacking when I had the eating disorder. So thank you for this very sensible, healthy approach to weight moderation. It is a good reminder, especially given how huge portions have become in many restaurants. These days, when I eat out, I box up half or 3/4 before I even start eating, and I drink sparkling mineral water rather than Champagne. At home, I ensure that I eat three meals a day rather than snacking, and those meals focus on a variety of healthy vegetables and some protein. I love avocados and salads and sometimes have a few berries or half a sour orange or grapefruit or stewed rhubarb. Occasionally I will have a small cube of good cheese, or a single square of chocolate. I have been very surprised to discover that moving to moderation in eating (as opposed to binge-eating or starving myself) has been super-easy and craving-free for me. Initially, I did feel kind of unwell (weary) but that went away after a few days. I’ve now been eating sensibly for years, and highly recommend it for anyone like I used to be — and everyone else. Obviously, if someone is underweight, their version of moderation would be eating a little MORE rather than a little less (which of course is easier said than done if you’re actually anorexic). But most people are not anorexic. Most people would be healthier if they ate a little less than they currently eat. Hence the post.

  • Wendy

    P.S. I also love the frozen lemon slices idea (see an earlier comment) and am going to adopt it myself.

  • April

    What you describe is exactly what was taught in a weight loss program I just went through. It’s called Naturally Slim, taught by Marcia Upson, because it’s about losing weight naturally—eating realistic sized portions (vs restaurant sized portions), eating slowly and savoring every bite, only eating when hungry and not when the clock says to, staying well hydrated, etc.

    It has been the most natural and easiest weight loss I have ever attempted, since there were no special ingredients (in fact, I was encouraged to eat my favorite foods and to avoid typical diet food), no shakes, no powders, no pills, no pre-made meals, no calorie or points counting, etc. The program taught me to listen to my body, and to believe that my body knows how to be a body.

    I’ve lost 50 pounds—and I didn’t change what I ate at all! Only how (very slowly) and when (only when hungry, which for me ends up being about twice a day; no need for snacks). All I did is what you described, plus take care of my mental and emotional health so that I wouldn’t turn to food when angry or stressed.

    The 50 lbs just melted right off of me effortlessly. I never dreamed it was possible. But since it’s all about being mindful and trusting your body, I believe this will work for anyone. If your body is hungry, feed it. If it isn’t, don’t. So simple.

    • April

      Forgot to clarify: I changed HOW and WHEN I ate, as well as the portion size. A loosely balled fist size of food (when chewed up) at each meal is enough for me to feel satisfied without feeling overstuffed. Now when I try to eat my old portion sizes, I feel sick and can’t even finish it all. It’s amazing how much a few months of mindfulness have changed things for me. It will be one year in the spring for me.

  • I was guided to this from a website called The No S Diet, founded my Reinhard Engels in 2004, though I think he had an even more primitive one in 2001. He came Acup with the idea for himself of basically mimicking tradtional eating patterns by limiting himself to three one-plate/bowl meals with no sweets on weekdays. No sweets, no snacks, no seconds. Any of those on weekends and two optional extra days a month for leeway for self/close-family-or-friends birthdays, holidays, etc. His biggest contribution was adding in how to very easily keep track with a simply color system, He called it systematic moderation. I doubt he’s as minimalist as many out there, but he seems to have a better balance than many. His interest seems to lie more with establishing habits in as many areas as possible to free up time for more mentally demanding activities with better payoff.

    Honestly, though I lost about 20% of my weight and have kept it off over the course of 8 years, I think it’s a little bit of a shame that the propelling motivation for most people is weight loss. He was interested in weight loss and did achieve it, but I don’t think he was on a quest to be thin and wouldn’t have kept trying more and more drastic things to get it. He seemed to love the idea of moderation and how to achieve it more naturally. Your weight loss was a byproduct as well, it seems. I’ve seen people latch on to the weight loss goal rather than the concept of moderation wherever it takes you get in the way for many people who come there. There is really no guarantee that any body will lose weight from this or other tactics because we cannot control more than 30% of the systems that the body regulates its output with. I haven’t read the rest of your site but get the idea that you are not out to become a weight loss guru, which he did not as well, and I admire that a lot.

    BTW, I was a binge eater and small amounts of some foods were absolutely NOT satisfying to me no matter how much permission I gave myself. So, I did and do sometimes feel deprived of what I would like to have. I still have the desire to eat the whole half gallon of ice cream or a dozen cookies or more, etc., but wanting to avoid the discomfort later has led to the default choice to ignore the desire. Not as much fun as not having the desire, but I don’t seem to be in control of what I desire.

    I am not systematic in my minimalism but am working on decluttering. I already own a lot less than my same age/same income peers for sure, living in about 500 sq. feet. I know I will let go of more, but am also working on letting it be as it is for now. Decluttering the self-criticism.

    Warmest wishes/

    Also wanted to say that though there is talk of plates being bigger now. I have the china my mother got in 1967 and the plates are the same size as ones I have that I made no attempt to buy smaller sizes of. I also have plates the size of the salad plates and there is no way I will eat my major meals off those consistently.

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