Eating less food is hard for those of us who love food and who are used to eating generous amounts of food. And restricting ourselves via diet is sure to cause a rebound effect--tell me I can't have a thing and what do I immediately want? And even if I hold out now, or for months, the time comes when I will eat the forbidden fruit.
I gave up dieting per se a couple of years ago after reading Intuitive Eating and after life long experience of losing weight on a diet but always regaining it. Even after keeping the weight off 5 years I regained. So weight lost by dieting is at most a failure in the long term for me.
Appetite plays a tremendous role in how much a person eats. I know this first hand because the first time I lost 50 pounds I was taking Sudafed around the clock--doctor's orders for chronic ear fluid due to allergies. I didn't make the connection to my lack of hunger being caused by the Sudafed for a long time. It was so easy to stay on my allotted 1200 calories a day. But when my ear got better and I discontinued the medication my appetite returned. And all those months of eating small amounts seemed not to make a difference--I returned to being hungry.
Nowadays my approach to minimize hunger is to eat foods that are high in fiber, foods that take a long time to leave the stomach, and foods that are bulky or very filling--like soups--so I will fill full sooner and stay feeling that way longer.
As well I have worked to come up with foods that have the lowest calorie intake but still give me great pleasure and food satisfaction. We foodies must have that satisfaction with our food--life is just not the same if we can't have what we consider wonderful decadent food. After all, life isn't worth living if one can never have chocolate or cake or ice cream or cheese and such like, is it?
The framework I came up with for me is 3 meals and if I am hungry in between 3 snacks. I call it 2,3,4. Two hundred calories for breakfast, three hundred for lunch, and 4 hundred for supper, plus 3 snacks around 150 calories each. These calorie amounts are approximate. Obsessing about them, trying to be exact creates frustration and anxiety, which serves to make me hungry. I only lose my appetite if I'm am seriously afraid. Fear will make me sick. Anxiety or frustration makes me hungry.
But--I don't actually count the calories I eat. Instead I eat by protein, fat and carb categories and small portions of each, per meal or snack. I put food into two classes--those I should 'eat often' and those I should eat 'once in awhile'. Classifying food in this manner helps me make better choices. If I've already had a regular hot dog this week, I don't need to be eating another one any time soon.
Breakfast is almost always a half portion of oatmeal, with some low fat milk for protein, and a dab of nut butter for good fat. And I have coffee with low fat (1%) milk. It's small and it gets me going. Later, if I am hungry I have a snack, usually a piece of 'easy' fruit--a banana, an orange, an apple--it depends on what is in season. When I tire of oats I eat an egg and a piece of toast, plus my coffee.
This small breakfast works for me because I'm not that hungry in the morning. You might need a more substantial breakfast. It might work better for you to have your snack portion with your breakfast meal. The snacks can be moved around--maybe you don't need a snack after supper--generally I don't, so I might eat those snack calories at supper instead.
If your are like me and you hate measuring every forkful you put into your mouth, come up with some breakfasts, lunches and suppers, and some snacks that will fit the approximate calorie amounts. Be sure to include fruits and veg in your snacks a lot of the time. A serving of V8 and a couple of celery sticks for crunch can be very satisfying...cold, crisp, salty--and spicy if you add a dash of hot sauce.
Make a checklist too--be sure you get in the good stuff nutritionally every day. You want 5 servs combined of fruit and veg daily--minimum. I aim for 2 fruit and 3 veg minimum. You want some green food every day. You want lots of slow carbs--beans, brown rice, oats, stuff like that--it'll fill you up. You want some protein, preferably lean, and some good fat. Eat some fat free and very low fat foods and save your fat calories for the good fats. I don't like most fat free foods, but some are tolerable and they can be a tool to help you enjoy your food. A Laughing Cow Light Cheese wedge--which is low cal and low fat-- spread on 4 whole grain crackers is nice. If you are having a sandwich and would miss the cheese, use a fat free or very low fat slice to replace what you usually eat. Opt for mustard instead of mayo. Or use low fat mayo or even fat free if you can abide it.
It's all about making choices, picking options that fit you; that you can live with forever.
Remember when you were a kid and ate a hot lunch at school? It was handed to you in the proper portions, with all the food groups and always included a small dessert. I never went away hungry, was always satisfied. I think it was because the meal had balance (that was waaayyyy back in the day mind you, when the food workers really cooked, versus the opening and heating they do today). At home, when mom cooked we often had dessert. But it was simple. A small dish--maybe a half cup--of pudding.
How did we go from eating and being satisfied with that half cup of pudding to needing/wanting the whole pan full? I imagine television and marketing had something to do with that, and I often wonder if subliminal messages played/play a role. We can make our bodies smaller and our pocket books fuller by eating less and beat the marketers at their own game--a win/win.
The real key to long term success with weight loss is to take the time and figure out what you must have food wise for the rest of your life. Then, use that knowledge to devise your own personal plan that will get you where you want to be.