On the authority of Al-Miqdaam ibn Maadiy-Karib who said: I heard the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) saying:
"No human ever filled a vessel worse than the stomach. Sufficient for any son of Adam are some morsels to keep his back straight. But if it must be, then one third for his food, one third for his drink and one third for his breath."
[Ahmad, At-Tirmidhi, An-Nasaa'I, Ibn Majah – Hadith sahih]
This is a well-known hadith about eating in Islam yet how many of us actually do this? Generally we'll say , "Oh yes, that's the Sunnah." But when the family is gathered together, and the dining room table is practically breaking under a mountainous buffet of delicious home-cooked food, who REALLY remembers and only takes 1/3 of what he needs? I admit, I used to be the first one to fill my plate and the first one up for seconds! (think Ramadan Iftar!) And that was WAY more than 1/3 of my stomach, probably more than twice as much as it! What gluttony! And this is the point I'm trying to make. Overeating is so common, and it's not that we're all trying to be animalistic in our eating or we're trying to store up for a famine. It's that we're conditioned to eat like that, through bad habits. Habits of emotional eating (post coming soon insha'Allah), habits of unconscious eating (also coming soon insha'Allah), and no clue about portion size. I want to clear up a misunderstanding about the hadith, too. Since most of us are used to eating 3 times a day -breakfast, lunch, and dinner- it's easy to think that we should only eat 1/3 of our stomachs worth, 3 times a day and that's it. 3 handfuls of food a day, water, and nothing else. Well, if you have that kind of willpower that's great, but I know I would be extremely hungry if I tried that and probably would end up binge eating out of sheer desparation. Perhaps you would too. Allah designed hunger to tell us when we need nourishment, and we feel hungry at certain times throughout the day. Instead of thinking rigidly, and limiting ourselves to 3 tiny meals, there's no reason why we can't eat more frequently, with the 1/3 rule. In fact, you've probably heard about the new health movement away from the standard "3 square meals a day" routine and into the "6 small mealas and snacks is better for you" one. They don't mean 6 MEALS, like doubling your already increasing daily intake, they mean small portions of food, every 2-3 hours on average. A protein and a carb, for instance. A fruit or vegetable and a serving of dairy. Things like that, which fill you up about 1/3 of the way! This way, you're satisfying your hunger, but not overdoing it. And frequently, throughout the day, this keeps your metabolism up too, so insha'Allah you'll feel energized as well. Ok, now I challenge you. Let's give it one day, of frequent eating, and every time before saying "bismillah" and taking the first bite, making sure our intention is set and we're eating 1/3 of our stomach's capacity, drinking 1/3 and leaving 1/3 for our breath. Insha'Allah you'll feel great, and you'll have received a good deed too, for following the Sunnah!