It is possible to both undereat and overeat on a Keto Diet, just like on any other diet or way of eating. When you undereat on keto, you might lose weight faster but you’ll also feel like crap. When you overeat on keto, you will not lose weight and you might even gain weight.
To avoid overeating or undereating on a ketogenic diet, you must learn how to follow your hunger!
Now let’s figure out what “Follow Your Hunger” means and how you can do it effortlessly.
What Does “Follow Your Hunger” Mean?
If you’ve read much of what I write about ketogenic diets and weight loss or you are a part of my group on Facebook, you know that one of my “things” is ‘Follow Your Hunger’. It sounds simple, but what the heck does that actually mean?
Follow your hunger is about intuitive eating. One of the beauties of a Keto way of eating is that it resets and balances your hormones. Hormones like insulin, glucagon, ghrelin and leptin, which all play powerful roles in appetite and hunger signaling. When those hormones are in balance and working the way they are intended, your body will naturally tell you when it needs nutrients and when it doesn’t.
On the other hand, in a high carb way of eating, these hormones get all out of whack. Put simply, regular glucose intake (carbs) causes your insulin to be chronically high, which sets off a metabolic chain reaction. Ghrelin (the hunger hormone) gets released more often because glucose is a quick-burning fuel. And leptin (the satiation hormone) gets sluggish because your body never gets a chance to access your fat stores since it’s burning off all the glucose all the time. No bueno.
Keto helps your body get your hormones back in working order. And I suggest folks that are new to Keto start out by tracking what they eat and using a set of Keto macros to help define what they are eating. This is important because a very low carb, high-fat way of eating is so different from what most people are used to. Having those defined parameters helps you understand what you are eating and gives you guidance at the beginning of your journey.
But you are the only expert on you.
I don’t know you. Even if we’ve met personally or I’ve worked with you individually. And a tracking app certainly doesn’t know you. No meal plan or a customized set of macros can ever be intrinsically perfect for you and your needs.
But your hormones are. They know exactly what your body needs, when you need it, even when that changes from day-to-day.
How to Follow Your Hunger?
It’s pretty simple really.
Let your body tell you:
- When to eat
- And how much
When To Eat
Eat when you are hungry. Don’t eat if you’re not.
It sounds so simple. But we are all complex creatures living in a complex world, so let’s dive in a little deeper.
Eat when you are hungry means throwing out your habits, schedules, emotional eating, and peer pressure. That’s not always an easy task, I know. The more you practice it, though, the easier it gets.
You don’t have to eat just because other people are. Practice saying, “No thanks, I’m good.” And leave it at that.
You don’t have to snack at your desk just because that’s what you’ve always done.
Three square meals a day is not a requirement. Breakfast is not actually the most important meal of the day. (I haven’t eaten breakfast regularly in years!) Six small meals a day was really bad advice.
Eating a Keto diet gives you a slow-burning fuel source (fat) and plenty of energy for your brain (ketones.) You don’t need regular infusions of glucose to make sure you don’t crash.
When you are fat and ketone adapted, you can comfortably go longer in between meals. This is what intermittent fasting is all about, and it is the true secret to weight loss on a ketogenic diet. The more often you eat, the less often your body is accessing and burning off your stored body fat. When you stretch the time between eating, your body also has more time to repair and rejuvenate. That’s why intermittent fasting has such anti-aging benefits. Bonus!
On the flip side, if you are hungry, eat!
Keto is not about starving or depriving yourself. Give your body healthy, sustaining foods when it asks for them. Focus on meat, vegetables, and healthy fats. (Check out my Basic Ketogenic Meal Template for more on how to set up your meals.)
How Much To Eat
When you are hungry, eat until you are satisfied. That does not mean stuffed!
When you eat a low carb, high-fat diet, you are eating for nutrients, not volume. This is a big switch from what you’ve probably been used to for years.
Our bodies have several different ways to signal when to stop eating. The two big ones come down to when you have taken in the nutrients that your body needs and when your stomach is full and can’t process anymore.
On a Keto diet, the proteins, fats and low carb veggies are much more nutrient-dense than high carb foods. That means you’ll be full of nutrients before your stomach is full by volume. Learning to listen to your body’s “full” signals is powerful.
Do you know how sometimes the first few bites of something are absolutely amazing? But then as you continue to eat, it loses some of its luster? That’s your body saying that it is taking in the nutrients that it needs. When the food you’re eating doesn’t sound as good anymore, stop!
Sometimes, you will be more hungry than at other times. That’s ok! Your needs vary depending on what’s going on in your life. Stress, exercise, menstrual cycles and much more change your needs. It’s ok to listen and eat more when your body is telling you.
One of the reasons that I believe a ketogenic diet is a lifestyle that I will maintain for the rest of my life is because it has become so intuitive. It takes time to relearn your body’s signals but the benefits are amazing. Be patient with yourself and never give up. Keep listening and your body and mind will thank you!
All of this is to help you understand that when it comes to how much to eat on a Keto Diet, there is not one right answer for everyone.
And in the end, the only one who can help you find ‘the right amount’ to be eating is you.
If you are stuffed and not losing weight, maybe you should listen to your body and stop eating sooner.
If you are not feeling great, listen to those signs too and try eating a little bit more.
You got this, and I’m here to help.