On Eating Less - The Minimalist Diet

COVID-19 is bad for us in more ways than we realize.

Do you eat when you're feeling stressed?  Pull out the snacks when you feel bored?  Or maybe you're tired, and want a pick-me-up.  Perhaps you already had one cookie, so your diet is "ruined" – might as well eat the whole package, right?  (Sure, make your misstep even worse.)

You aren't alone.  A lot of us do the same.

In fact, at the beginning of the COVID-19 quarantine period, sales of snack and comfort foods soared.  We were bored, worried, distracted, and lonely – and we ate.  Stress raises levels of the hormone cortisol, and that messes with blood sugar levels and increases appetite too.  So articles about the "Quarantine 15" (pounds gained during that time) were common.

minimalist pasta dinner

A small but powerful idea

But we don't have to obsess about a diet or resign ourselves to being heavier.  We don't have to compromise our immune systems and energy levels by eating poorly.

Let's simply focus on eating less.

I'm calling it The Minimalist Diet.

Now, I'm not talking about depriving myself of calories my body needs for maintenance and repair.  Studies show that when we overly restrict ourselves, blood sugar levels become unstable, causing cravings that trigger overeating.  I'm talking about a simple reduction of portion size to about two-thirds of what I would normally eat, and a reduction in the number of times I eat per day.

The Minimalist Diet doesn't require counting calories or carbs, or even giving up pasta, potatoes, or baked goods.  My husband is going to join me – would you like to, as well?

6 tips for The Minimalist Diet

1.  Create structure.

Get up in the morning, shower, and get dressed, even if you're not going to leave the house.  Make your bed.  A habit of sitting around in your pajamas or sweats makes it easier to snack.  You may be home all day, but you shouldn't eat all day.  Don't graze on seven mini meals – set times for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and stick to that routine.

2.  Move around.

I have a bad habit of starting a writing project and then sitting at my desk for three hours before I get up and move.  Of course I feel sluggish and stiff, so it's much harder to make myself take a walk around the block.  If you normally commute or go to meetings, use that time to walk, dance, do yoga or stretches, or do some bodyweight exercises.

healthy veggie soup
3.  Stock strategically.

  • If pasta is your go-to comfort food, buy whole-grain varieties and tomato-based sauces.  Go light on the cheese.
  • Keep low-sodium canned soups on hand for quick meals, but stay away from cream-based varieties.  Lentil, split pea, minestrone, and chicken vegetable are all better choices.
  • Keep comforting and filling yams and baking potatoes on hand.  Remember that they are powerhouses of nutrition – it's the butter, sour cream, and bacon bits that pack on the calories and fat.  Try topping them with sautéed vegetables, low-fat cottage cheese, or a variety of herbs and spices instead.  (Cinnamon on sweet potatoes is amazing!)
  • If you really want to have chips or cookies with your lunch sandwich, buy only one variety at a time.  Stocking up on six kinds will just tempt you to eat more.

4.  Limit snacks.

If you feel hungry between meals, drink a glass of water or tea (thirst sometimes masquerades as hunger).  If you're still hungry, eat an apple, an orange, or a cup of berries.  Clean the kitchen after dinner and don't eat anything else before bedtime.

5.  Serve smaller portions.

You don't have to measure it out – just eyeball it.  Serve yourself about two-thirds of what you would normally take, and don't have seconds.  If you decide to have dessert, take half of what you would normally eat (one cookie or one scoop of ice cream instead of two, for example).  Use a smaller dish, and eat slowly.

6.  Make "I want to be healthy" your mantra and goal.

Don't add to to your stress by worrying about your weight, or to your feelings of hopelessness and lack of control by sitting on the couch and eating all day.  You know that bag of trail mix may look yummy, and you also know you'll feel horrible if you gorge on it.  You want to stay healthy and you want to feel good.  Give your body nutritious food and limit the treats.

Why this diet can work

The idea is that by not making any foods off limits, we'll never feel deprived.  By limiting quantities, we'll appreciate each bite more.  We still get to eat our favorites, just in a smaller amount and at a specific meal time.  

When you slow down and savor each bite, you may notice that you feel full even when you eat less.  I know that I often eat so much that I'm uncomfortable, simply because I keep eating until my plate is empty.  If I serve myself a lot, I eat a lot.

If your stomach growls, don't panic and reach for food.  Especially if you carry a little extra weight, you're in no danger of actually depriving yourself of needed calories.  There are still people in the world who have to worry about getting enough to eat every day – you and I probably aren't part of that group.

Our bodies (and the planet) would probably be healthier if we learned to be satisfied with a little less.

Updated September 2022


  1. I missed TV snacks. So I bought a food scale and eat 1 ounce of potato chips as we start watching TV. That's enough to feel like I indulged without eating a whole bag at a sitting. No sense of deprivation here.

    1. Great idea, Linda. Rather than eating out of the bag (which encourages binging), serving yourself just a little and making it last lets you enjoy a treat without going overboard.

  2. Thank you for your kind comment, Charlie. I hope you'll keep reading my blog.

    I had a few minutes to glance at your site. You are one busy author! Your site looks full of interesting information.


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