The Skinny on Being Skinny – Part 2

How to stay skinny
(Polish Poster:  “Three Women” by artist Mieczysław Wasilewski, 1977.  
I always wanted this one for my kitchen!)

How do I stay skinny?

This is a question I get often.

Well, for starters, genes & family habits have a lot to do with it.  My mom raised all of us six kids to be health conscious.  And our family generally had healthy eating habits (minus homemade icecream & Navajo tacos :).  Really, I have had it easy.  I know that.

But I’ve tried to figure out what I might do differently, if anything, so I can give people some helpful tips.  And I’ve come up with a few things.  

(Major disclaimer:  I am not a nutritionist/weight loss expert.  Just passing on tips/philosophies based on things that I do that I believe have led to me being naturally thin most of my life.  I don’t want to advocate being “thin” according to any standard, but rather a healthy weight, whatever that is for you.  I did tell this stuff in detail once to one person and the next time I saw her, she was laughing…she had dropped a ton of weight…and she said it was because she tried what I told her.)

So here you go……..

In addition, to trying to maintain a whole foods diet rich in protein, fat, vegetables, legumes, rice/quinoa, & moderation in all things, here are a few other things I do…..

1.  I don’t ever over stuff myself.  I just hate the feeling of being gorged.  To me, it ruins the satisfaction of a good meal.  So when I am done, I’m done.  The first moment I feel full, I’m good.  If there is more food on the plate, I’m excited cause I know I’ll still eat it…I just save it for some of my next meal.  Many people wonder how I can do this so easily…well…..

2.  I think stomach size plays a big part.  Someone I know in New York hired a fancy nutritionist who worked with celebs & helped them to be lose weight.  Her philosophy was that at one time, you shouldn’t eat more food than the size of your stomach.  The idea was too much food at once will stretch out your stomach, which leads to the need to eat more food to feel “full”, which leads to more hunger pains & over eating.  She said stomachs are naturally about the size of a person’s fist.  SO, instead of eating HUGE meals at once, just eat the size of your fist, which is probably a lot less than most people are used to.  And, the nutritionist advised that…

3.  Since these meals are smaller – – EAT THEM OFTEN (as in maybe 6 or 7 times a day?)  This keeps your energy level at it’s prime since you’re never really overeating and getting into a food coma (which zaps your energy).  Metabolism is always going.  Digestion stays manageable and efficient.  AND you actually feel like you’re always eating, so you don’t feel deprived.  It also helps your stomach to stay in it’s natural size.  When I heard this, I thought – – – YEP, SHE’S DEAD ON!  THAT’S EXACTLY WHAT I DO! 

4.  When you first get started eating this way, you may feel a little hungry as your stomach might need some time to readjust to it’s unstretched size.   I think after just a day or two of a potentially uncomfortable adjustment, things will get better & you’ll soon start noticing that your stomach will feel nice and full with a smaller amount of food. 

5.  The key is:  Once your stomach size is normal, you have to PAY ATTENTION to the first moment that you feel a little full!  If you ignore your body’s signals, you may end up eating way too much (just out of habit!) and your stomach will continue to be stretched out too much and so this whole idea won’t work.

6.  Once this gets going, the beauty is:  You might end up feeling like you eat as often as you want.  When you’re eating, think to yourself:  “I’ll eat this fist size amount now and then whenever I feel a little hungry again, I’ll eat the rest.”  You still get to enjoy every bit of your meal.  No good meal goes wasted…you just prolong the eating of it.  (You could also just sit at a French restaurant!  It’s an easy way to just eat a fist size every hour….all in one sitting 🙂 🙂

7.  I do my best to intentionally work in exercise during the day & to just make it a part of life.  For me, going to the gym is not my favorite thing to do.  Being indoors with no sunshine, sweaty equipment and sweaty men kind of gives me the creeps.  Also, I like to be as efficient as I can be with my time.  SO….I just intentionally work in “activity” into my everyday life.  There is really no set schedule.  For example, when I am waiting for a train, I walk up and down the platform instead of sitting stationary; instead of taking the elevator in my building, I walk up the four floors to my apartment every single time; I always get off the train at a stop that is slightly further from my apartment than the closer one…just so I can have a longer walk.  And, I do work in walks & runs in the park when I can (mostly walks).  I’m guessing that if you needed to lose a significant amount of weight, that you would need to follow a more rigorous routine to get yourself to a healthy weight.  But after that, I think the portion size changes plus weaving activity into your everyday life will help a ton to help you maintain a healthy frame for the long-term.

There you have it!  That’s it! 

Except one other big thing that came later……….ha!  I am Gluten-Free & Dairy-Free due to health reasons/allergies/autoimmune issues.  When you remove a huge amount of carbs and desserts made of flour, you are bound to lose weight.  You can’t imagine the numbers of cookies, cakes, desserts, tarts, baguettes, pizza, and bread I have passed up.  I am telling you, eliminating that stuff makes a huge difference.  But that is a story for another day…..

All comments welcome, as always.

Happy Easter Weekend to all!


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  1. Stephanie April 6, 2012 at 6:11 am - Reply

    i made a few gf things this week–you'd be so proud of me! It does feel good though…you're so right.

    Also, I feel the same way about the gym as you. Always have. But I am at the point where I may have to join in order to sneak in some much-needed exercise. We shall see…

    • mara April 6, 2012 at 6:29 pm - Reply

      Stephanie! Yay for Gluten Free! It has been so liberating health wise & it really is totally worth it.

  2. Shelley April 6, 2012 at 11:31 am - Reply

    I'm with you about the gym too. Once I discovered the joy of running, I've never stepped back into a gym. I read that you signed up for a half-marathon! Hooray! I ran my first half last year (in NY actually!). You will rock it!

    • mara April 6, 2012 at 6:31 pm - Reply

      Shelley – thanks for the encouragement. I need to start training!! This will be the most hard core physical thing I've done.

  3. Danielle April 6, 2012 at 11:38 am - Reply

    Thanks, I will now be viewing all my meals as the size of my fist-I usually eat a couple fists of food in one sitting so this is good. And I know I need to avoid carbs-oh how I love carbs! And sweets, AND dairy! Thanks for the visual, I will be aware of the portions I am taking in at one time.

  4. Sara Estis April 6, 2012 at 2:37 pm - Reply

    Mara, while carbs are one of my favorite things in the world, I have learned that portion control is 100% the most important thing! I love Oreos, but I know if I sit down and eat a whole bunch of them – I'll feel horrible – so I keep myself to eating 1 or 2, knowing that I can have more the next night! Also, I've found buying single serving type desserts (like mini-ice cream cones from Trader Joe's) are good bc I can have 1 mini-cone and feel satisfied – much better than a pint of ice cream where it is much harder to control portion size!

    Thanks for all the great tips!

  5. Nora April 6, 2012 at 3:10 pm - Reply

    Love these thoughts on bodies over the past two days. You are so, so spot on about the principles you discussed in Part I. It is so important to celebrate and accept our bodies and recognize how truly incredible and amazing they are. I love your motivation to keep healthy so you can bless other people and live to your fullest potential — so inspiring.
    I have started doing Tracy Anderson moves for an hour a day, and I love how STRONG I feel!! Thanks for encouraging healthy practices–I'm totally going to work on portion size.
    PS: I mail-ordered those pink pants from Goldy and Mac (they have SPECTACULAR customer service) and am SO THRILLED!!!! They have the perfect rise, fit like a dream, and such a delightful shade of pink. THanks for the tip!
    Have a wonderful easter.

    • mara April 6, 2012 at 6:39 pm - Reply

      Nora – first off, YAY FOR THE PINK PANTS! That is aweseome! I am SO happy about that. They're super cute and you're right, the fit is great.

      And mmm…Tracy Anderson – that is a great idea. I love the idea of a home program. Years ago I had some crazy 80s videos called "5 min. abs" "5 min buns" or something like that. But even the 5 minutes of a work-out made a difference. Thanks for the inspiration…

  6. Mel April 6, 2012 at 3:19 pm - Reply

    Thanks for sharing Mara. I think you hit everything spot on. I think that loving yourself is truly the only thing that can make you feel beautiful. I'm still working on it myself but I know that no matter my size throughout the years I have been happiest what I just loved who I was. I'm still on a journey of loving myself unconditionally but I'm hopeful that I will get there.

  7. The New Diplomat's Wife April 6, 2012 at 6:18 pm - Reply

    i'm not sure if the comment went through? in any case, very spot on -now i just need to follow this advice better. Love the Polish poster – am an avid fan and collector of Polish poster art!

    • mara April 6, 2012 at 6:58 pm - Reply

      New Diplomat – YAY for Polish posters! So happy to hear you collect them. They're so great.

  8. linsey April 6, 2012 at 6:24 pm - Reply

    Great post Mara. I am curious—what were your meal habits as a child? Did you have any rules about how much to eat? Our pediatrician has talked lots with us about the uniquely American "clean your plate" culture, and how this affects a child's psychological relationship with food (and its links to eating disorder—both too much and too little.) I am curious if your healthy relationship with food and portions started at a young age?

    • mara April 6, 2012 at 6:57 pm - Reply

      Linsey – interesting topic. So, as a child – we didn't have any rules really. I am sure there were a few instances where we didn't want to eat some vegetables or something and we were asked to eat it before leaving the table, but I don't remember it being a huge issue.

      As for other eating habits – my mom was a great cook and made extremely wholesome/healthy meals. The bulk of our food was often made from scratch (including things that you would normally buy from the store like bread, noodles, tortillas, granola, any desserts, icecream, homemade candy, etc.) My mom also grew a lot of vegetables in her garden & canned things for year round. We also would get boxes of apples or peaches or strawberries from orchards & farms & make applesauce, fruit leather, freeze or can fruit, etc. Especially as a younger child (under age 11 or so), we had very few things "store bought". I remember it was a huge treat to get something like cereal or even milk (because as a younger child, we drank the milk from a cow next door.) Part of me wishes I could live like this now!! It sounds so idyllic and wholesome (though time consuming!)

  9. Cyd B. April 6, 2012 at 7:00 pm - Reply

    Portion control is probably one of the most effective, and ignored, ways to manage what you eat. That's one reason it's important to not eat in front of the TV – we get so involved in watching that we forget to pay attention to when we're full. I'm a grazer too, so I always have food packed around with me… my friends laugh about it, but they always know who to ask for carrots, sugar snap peas, or an apple! One other thing I've found that's been great is to drink a big glass of water first thing in the morning, and then more water 20 or so minutes before sitting down for a meal. If I've had my water in the morning I usually don't get mid-morning snack cravings… my mission president's wife used to tell us that if we were tired or hungry, we were probably actually dehydrated. Smart lady. I'm very much enjoying your blog! Thank you!

  10. Em April 6, 2012 at 9:55 pm - Reply

    Best resource I've found anywhere for promoting HEALTH rather than DIETING or WEIGHT LOSS –

    Awesome, awesome, awesome resource.

  11. Alisa April 6, 2012 at 10:33 pm - Reply

    Thanks for posting this! I've been working on eating healthier lately, but your post inspired me to try something new today – every odd hour of the day drink at least 8 oz. of water, and every even hour of the day (but no later than 8pm) eat a small fist-size meal that is 200 calories or less. I think this is going to help me get to a healthier weight, as I doubt I'll ever feel very hungry doing this! (So far today it has worked wonderfully.) 🙂

  12. Andrea April 6, 2012 at 10:46 pm - Reply

    I had never heard before that your stomach is the size of your fist. That is excellent information to have and a great visualization tool. We too eat leftovers regularly and I sometimes find that certain foods are even better as leftovers than they were freshly made : )

    I have also been told to try and go low carb/gluten free because of PCOS. I would love to see more posts with gluten free recipes that you just can't get enough of!

  13. Colorado76Gal April 6, 2012 at 11:24 pm - Reply

    I have to totally agree with your post. I gave up most flour-based products and dairy (lactose intolerant) a while ago and have since lost a good amount of weight. I also run. Now people ask me what I do. I just eat whole foods (nothing processed, prepackaged, etc.) and pay attention to the amount I eat. I am a baker by hobby as well so people tell me they dont get it. …All I can say is eat well, exercise and enjoy what you DO eat! It makes a totally different view of food if you do and it seems like your body will find the weight you should be. (Plus, I just tend to eat Danny's zucchini pasta on a regular basis now… happy!!! lol)

  14. Melissa April 10, 2012 at 1:34 am - Reply

    Thanks so much for these tips, Mara! They are such simple ideas but make so much sense! I can't wait to start working this into my routine.

  15. Bose April 10, 2012 at 11:58 am - Reply

    Loved learning this from you! Sharing this with my wife! keep them coming!Mens Health

  16. Marta May 1, 2012 at 5:12 pm - Reply

    I have been enjoying your blog all the way in Poland.
    What a nice surprise to come across Wasilewski's poster among the posts.
    Greetings from Wroclaw!

  17. Anonymous March 12, 2013 at 8:08 pm - Reply

    Poster looks more like a PSA for anorexia. Words like SKINNY should be banned from every jean label and person's vocabulary. How about "healthy" jeans? I'm afraid that the skinny obsession in our culture is warping the reality of the body's we've been blessed with. Focus should be to keep them fit and healthy- not sunken and starved.

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