The Best Portion Control Hack to Avoid Overeating

Figuring out how much you need to eat to reach your goal (weight loss or just maintaining!) is just as important as choosing what to eat.

And portion control is usually not for the faint of heart, especially when your stomach is sounding like bad radio static.

Have you ever noticed that the apple and peanut butter you usually have as a morning snack is sometimes perfectly satisfying? Sometimes that same apple and peanut butter doesn’t do the trick at all and you’re starvin (for Marvin) for lunch before 11AM OR you eat the apple and peanut butter and dig your spoon back into the pb jar for just a little more. And, then more, and then more, and then more peanut butter.

What’s the deal?  How much of this apple and pb goodness should you be eating?

Today I’m gifting you with one of the best hacks to conquer portion control: Hunger Quotient (HQ).

Your HQ is one of the more difficult concepts to wrap your head around (yes, it takes mental work!) when it comes to healthy eating. But you can do this, you can learn this, it eventually becomes easy, and it does work.

It will be one of your greatest nutrition tools in your knowledge base (regardless of the food you eat) and get you closer to the healthy eater you were meant to be.

What is Hunger Quotient (HQ)?

Your HQ is a number on a scale of 1 – 10: how hungry are you? It helps you figure out your appetite at any given moment.


When you were born, you had the ability to eat when you were hungry and stop when you were full. As you grow, that ability sadly diminishes.

As an adult,  you eat for so many reasons other than true hunger, and sometimes you eat without any hunger. Yes, we’ve all done that!  Many times!

Stress, your previous meal experiences, emotions and hundreds of other factors influence your appetite.

Quieting all of this “noise” that has a say (a big one, kind of like your mother-in-law-chiming-in size) in what and how much you’re eating, connecting with your true hunger and giving an objective number to your readiness to eat is essential to eating the right amount and for the right reasons.

This may sound easy, but it takes loads and loads of practice. The pay off? A lifetime of weight management once you conquer this. I promise. I live by it.

Your goal is to always be between a 4 and a 6 on the HQ scale at any given time. {Tweet this}. 

You do not want to be starving or stuffed — you want to feel empowered knowing that you’ll be eating again in a few hours, so there is no need to overdo it at this meal, or under-do it at the next.

At the beginning of each meal, you should be aware of slight hunger as you tuck your napkin onto your lap, take a sip of agua and pick up your (preferably not plastic) fork.

You should not be ravenous.

Being an 8 or higher on the hunger scale makes it impossible to be in the moment because you’re so hungry all you can do is focus on getting food in your belly.  Translation: head first into the leftover Chinese food container.

Every opportunity to eat is an opportunity to eat just enough to be comfortable — what I call slightly satisfied.

When you are at a 4, slightly satisfied, you are “just right” because you have eaten just enough to feel content without needing to loosen your belt or take a nap.

This may sound simple, but it can be the most difficult part of healthful eating. Understanding your HQ forces you to slllooooowww down.

If you need a good example of a healthy meal that is properly portioned, try my Dijon Salmon. Chefd will even deliver the ingredients directly to your door, so you don’t have to use brainpower at the grocery store.

Then, before you dig in, take a deep breath and a few sips of water.

Turn off your brain, which is telling you “I always have room for dessert.”

Shut down those childhood thoughts telling you “I must clean my plate.”

It’s not easy to get into this mindset of shutting down these thoughts, but you can do it! Take a few minutes to eat your food mindfully and check in with yourself as you go.

Is the feeling of hunger going away? Are you enjoying your soup? Could you stop eating now and be satisfied, even though there are a few bites left?

There is no true answer to the question, “how much should I eat?” It changes meal by meal and day by day. But conquering this feeling of being slightly satisfied will change everything.

Regardless of whether you’re eating a kale salad or Fetuccinni Alfredo, if you never eat past this feeling, you’ll never overeat too dramatically. (I’m not encouraging the alfredo fyi, just sayin’.)

Become confident listening to your body. Don’t give up on this. It’s your secret weapon to finding your healthy weight.


Why Do We Eat So Much on Thanksgiving?

Why is Thanksgiving a binge-fest? Why do we not only allow, but plan to give in to our gluttonous selves on the last Thursday of November? Why is Thanksgiving all about the pumpkin pie? The puffed appetizers? The black Friday plans? The in-dul-gence?! Man, we’ve taken this holiday and made it all about stuffing our senses like we stuff that bird. The thing is, why we eat so much on Thanksgiving may not have everything to do with the food. It’s super possible that the food is just a symptom of something bigger. Whaaaa? Yeah. Have you ever thought about eating the Thanksgiving meal on a Tuesday in July? More likely than not, it would not bring out the worst in you to dive into that food. You could eat that decadent meal in an empowered and healthy way without eater’s remorse and the three day post turkey day coma. If it isn’t just the food, what is it about Thanksgiving that makes it so challenging for us to navigate this holiday easily?

Stress comes with the holidays. Stress is a huge trigger to overeat. Thanksgiving brings on not only the bad stressors of travel, broken routines, extra time in crowds, and the like. It also brings good stressors that you may not think of: spending time with your 2 year old niece or 85 year old grandmother, writing your holiday cards, standing out in the cold while you watch your alma mater annual football game. . . these are wonderful things, but they take extra energy and this can be draining. You want to keep your stress level to a minimum at all times, because with stress comes the hormone cortisol, which is destructive to both your waistline and your health. NL Live Consciously Tip: PLAN for these stressors, both good and bad, so that you won’t feel overwhelmed and not know why. {Tweet this!} Identifying the stressors of the day will help keep you in check. Have a mantra, something like “be in the moment” to remind you stay present and not get overwhelmed.

Your world is disrupted. Is it possible you’re overeating at Thanksgiving because you’re out of routine? We celebrate Thanksgiving to honor a time when bread was broken among strangers from different lands and harvests were meaningful because everyone participated. These days, the holiday has evolved and we eat with our families and friends and shop at the market down the street for our feast. Still, Thanksgiving is a day, followed by a day off, followed by a weekend that turns our regular day-to-day on it’s ear. Most schools and businesses are closed. Our world breaks routine. The thing is, your body likes routine. It likes to sleep in it’s own bed, pee in your toilet at home, and sleep and wake at the same time. Routines are healthy and even good disruptions keep our systems from humming at their best. NL Live Consciously Tip: As much as possible, stick to your daily lifestyle routines of sleep, waking, morning habits, coffee of choice and wellness work. The little bit of consistency will make it easier to recover from Thanksgiving and set you up for a healthy December.

Your nurtured self is on a shelf. Could the desire to overdo it on the sweet potatoes covered in marshmallows related to your disconnection with your body? Let’s face it, celebrating turkey-day is not always easy on the old self care routine. As a host, there is lots of planning, prepping, organizing and expectation to manage. Taking time to squeeze in a bubble bath, read a few pages of your novel, or flip through your Instagram just ain’t gonna happen. Any chance you could re-think that one? We need our nurturing time to restore balance to our bodies. Taking care of ourselves, beyond the basic teeth brushing, hair washing and toenail clipping takes us from surviving to thriving. When your wellness isn’t thriving, you’re more likely to get sucked into overeating, skipping the exercise and having the extra glass of holiday cheer that starts a cycle of unhealthy behaviors. NL Conscious Living Tip: Feed your soul like you’re feeding your tummy this Thanksgiving {Tweet this!} by planning to listen to your favorite tunes, call your bestie in Cali, or a similar self-nurturing few minutes of the day. Feeling good makes you want to fuel-good!

Enjoy yourself this turkey-day, and do it in a way that you can feel great about. Think beyond the food to the underlying reasons you may overdo it. Maybe one of the reasons above speaks to you. Squash your stress, maintain balance in your world and remember to nurture yourself. Happy Thanksgiving!