So many women I know say something like this: I don’t know when to stop eating. I need a zipper on my mouth and someone to pull it shut because I don’t know how to stop. I’m out of control around food. I’m an addict and food is my drug of choice. These thoughts and feelings make us feel bad about ourselves. We’re bright, accomplished women. We’re good wives, mothers, employees, business owners, and we feel out of control around food.

What if we changed our belief system? What if we hold the belief that we can become the experts about our own bodies, that we can partner with our bodies and learn to eat when we’re hungry and stop when we’re comfortable?

I remember standing in front of a group of 90 women who were looking to me as their weight loss guru and feeling like a fraud. Why? Because in mind, I had just “binged” on my fourth graham cracker. Not my fourth box, but my fourth cracker! It was at that moment that I realized that I needed to decide for myself what to eat, when to eat, and how much to eat. In other words, I could do this. I could develop a harmonious relationship with food and with my body. And those signals would come from within me. From this epiphany, BodySense was born and that was 15 years ago.

Here are the simple (but not necessarily easy) principles:

1. Eat whatever you want, keeping healthy nutrition in mind (I’ll address this next month).
2. But eat only when you’re hungry (explored in the April edition of Jill).
3. And stop when you’re comfortable/ full. Not when someone else tells you to stop or the serving size on the package says you’ve had enough but when your internal satiety feeling says: time to stop. I’ve had enough. (I know, you don’t believe have one, but you do.)

For some of us, though, enough is not enough. We have issues. We want food to fill our emotional abyss – and it can’t – but we keep trying. We need to remember that food is just fuel for the body and not a suave for our emotional wounds. For others of us, we’ve conditioned ourselves to believe that other people are the experts about our bodies. “They” know what’s best for us. And some of us have grown to believe that we can’t trust ourselves, that our bodies will betray us. On all counts, how sad!

Take this leap of faith with me. You can learn to eat when you’re hungry. And you can learn to stop when you’re comfortable/ full. Here’s a strategy that I’ve been using for the last fifteen years, ever since the graham cracker crisis.

I want you to picture an internal fuel gauge that is situated in your stomach and runs up to your breastbone. The numbers on the gauge read from zero to ten with zero being “ravenous” (I’m so hungry I can’t think and I want to eat out the supermarket) and ten being “stuffed” (so stuffed, I’ve made myself sick”). In the middle of the gauge is five which is “comfortable” (I could eat more, but I’ve had enough for now). So… if we eat mindfully, eating slowly, we can notice how our stomachs start to fill up as we move from a two – to a three – to a four – and to a five on the fuel gauge. At five we may be ready to stop eating, although some people feel better stopping at a six or a seven, which is in the “full” range. Notice we are not starting at a zero or a one, the ravenous danger zone and we are not stopping at an eight or a nine or a ten, the stuffed danger zone.

So try this fuel gauge strategy to determine when you are hungry and when you are comfortable/ full. As you use it, you will become an expert about your own body and your own hunger. Let me know if it works for you.

And finally, promise yourself, take a solemn vow, to feed yourself the very next time you get hungry!

Author's Bio: 

Ilene Leshinsky is a licensed clinical social worker with over 15 years of counseling experience. In her Plattsburgh-based private practice, she works with women
who desire more joy and fulfillment in their lives. Ilene’s BodySense program is open to women of all ages who want freedom from food and body obsessions and who want to develop a peaceful relationship with food and with their bodies. Ilene can be reached at 518-570-6164, or