The question of how much food one should consume has come to us at PaleoPlan in many forms. Some people write in asking if a particular meal they ate was too much food. Some people have written in saying they’re often hungry on the diet. Others ask why they’re not losing weight, even though they’re following the diet strictly. So let’s discuss this.
First of all, your gender, age, height, weight, activity level, and how much weight you want to lose or gain (if any) determine your caloric needs, so every person is totally different. You can figure your caloric needs out at free diet journaling sites like www.myfitnesspal.com, www.fitday.com, and others. Still, if it tells you you need 1500 calories a day to lose 2 pounds a week, that’s just an estimate. It’s a robot making its best guess given the scientific equations available to it. Every person is different.
Having said that, if you’re one of those people who just isn’t losing weight after being on the diet for months and months, I’d listen to what the robot has to say. That is, after you listen (REALLY listen) to what your body has to say. Here are a few questions to ask yourself to figure out how much food to eat.
1. Are you feeling tired and weak regularly? If so, have you been eating Paleo for fewer than 3 weeks? If yes, then you may still be detoxing. Don’t change anything yet – just muscle through this first part and take it easy on yourself (read: don’t exercise like a maniac and get a lot of sleep). Then after the first month if you’re still feeling tired and weak, add more fat to your diet for two or three weeks in the form of fatty meats (pasture raised), coconut milk, coconut oil, olive oil, tallow, lard, bacon grease, and avocados. If you still don’t feel better, add more starchy veggies like sweet potatoes and squash, and eat more fruits of all kinds. I don’t care what they say about bananas.
2. Are you hungry? If so, are you ACTUALLY hungry or are you just craving old foods out of habit? Or are you hungry for love or comfort and trying to get it from food? If your stomach is actually speaking to you in gurgles and rumbles, you need to eat. The meal plan at Paleo Plan and the meal plan in the ebook provide anywhere from 1,450 to 1,900 calories per day. That means it’s perfect for some people, too much for very small people trying to lose weight, and not enough for very active people or very large people. Use it as a template. And eat when you’re hungry, but know that hunger can mean a lot of different things. Some people use the word “empty” to describe how they feel in the beginning of the diet. Empty isn’t the same as hungry. I think empty is the absence of that “normal” bloated feeling you have after eating dairy and grains. Eat when you know your body needs sustenance.
3. Are you very active? By very active I mean do you work out more than 3 times per week at a high intensity level for longer than a half hour? If so, you’re going to need either more fat or more carbs. Some people can train their bodies to run on fat and very few carbs. Some people can’t. Some of us just need carbs, especially if you’re an enduro athlete or doing any sort of endurance training regularly. Give your body what it needs, and if you need more carbs, eat them. Oh, I could go on and on about this one.
I’d love to hear your own experiences with hunger, figuring out how much to eat on the diet, and carbohydrate consumption in the comments.