Candice McDaniel of Little Steps, Big Happy: “Practice eating to satisfaction, not fullness”

Practice eating to satisfaction, not fullness. When we eat until we’re full, stuffed, or start to feel uncomfortable, we’re actually overeating. This means our body has to store the extra calories as fat. So many of us have tried dieting. All too often though, many of us lose 10–20 pounds, but we end up gaining it […]

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Practice eating to satisfaction, not fullness. When we eat until we’re full, stuffed, or start to feel uncomfortable, we’re actually overeating. This means our body has to store the extra calories as fat.


So many of us have tried dieting. All too often though, many of us lose 10–20 pounds, but we end up gaining it back. Not only is yo-yo dieting unhealthy, it is also demoralizing and makes us feel like giving up. What exactly do we have to do to achieve a healthy body weight and to stick with it forever?

In this interview series called “5 Things You Need To Do To Achieve A Healthy Body Weight And Keep It Permanently” we are interviewing health and wellness professionals who can share lessons from their research and experience about how to do this.

As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Candice McDaniel.

Candice McDaniel is a health and fitness coach, self-defense instructor, and author of “Building Your Best You,” a fitness motivation eBook. After spending 10 years struggling with her weight, she learned how to lose weight and keep it off for good. Now she shares her experience and knowledge with other moms looking to lose weight or get in shape.


Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

It was basically my mom and me as I was growing up. We were very close so I learned a lot about life from her. I visited my dad during summers and Christmas vacations.

We moved periodically throughout my childhood. I went to three different elementary schools before we finally settled down anywhere long term. I was a shy child and it would take me a while to warm up to people.

Growing up, money was a little tight. The necessities were always covered, but there wasn’t much for extras.

As a single mother, my mom did an amazing job, but we didn’t live nearby any family. And with it just being her and I, I noticed myself feeling lonely a lot.

I think I probably developed some poor eating habits growing up as well. I was always taught to clear my plate whether I was still hungry or not.

Plus, it was easy to turn to food for entertainment or to help deal with being lonely.

What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.

From the beginning, I have been very inspired by Corinne Crabtree. She’s a weight loss coach, and I always say listening to her podcast changed my life.

In early 2019, I was coming off another failed diet. I was searching around for some inspiration to “get back on the wagon” when I stumbled upon her podcast.

From the first episode, I was hooked! She was the first person to talk about not just what you eat, but why you eat.

I learned how to approach weight loss by more than just eat this, don’t eat that, or counting points, macros, calories, etc. Now, I practice and teach how to tune into your body and listen to your natural hunger and satiation cues. As well as how to journal and check in with how you’re feeling when those cravings and urges hit.

6 months after I came across Corinne’s podcast, I had dropped down to a healthy body weight and I had done it without feeling miserable or deprived.

After struggling to lose weight for almost 10 years, being able to maintain my weight loss without all the misery was a complete revelation. And the skills I learned while losing weight started spilling over into other areas of my life in a really positive way.

I had this moment where it hit me. After 10 years of trying to lose weight, I didn’t know anyone else who approached weight loss like this. Who focused on mindset along with eating nutritious foods and exercising.

It got me thinking about how many other women and moms were out there who would benefit from what I had learned through my own experience.

There were probably tons of other women out there just like me. Tired of trying new diets, losing weight for a little while, and then having it all come back (if not more) as soon as they fell off the diet.

Women who were struggling to find a way to lose weight, keep it off for good, while still managing a busy life and family. I felt like I needed to do what I could to help other women change their lives as well.

That’s when I decided to create my blog Little Steps, Big Happy. I wanted a place just for moms who wanted to learn how to make lasting changes with their health and fitness.

None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?

My husband is the person who has helped me the most. He has been amazingly supportive as I struggled through my weight loss journey and as I started building my business.

He hasn’t always participated in my journey, but he has always supported me. Whether I was feeling emotional over lack of results on the scale or completely overhauling our diet, he has rarely complained or resisted. (And sometimes enjoyed the changes!)

Losing weight can be an up and down journey. It’s full of wins and setbacks and sometimes that can be kind of discouraging.

Knowing he supported me no matter what the results were allowed me to experiment with different healthy habits and eating styles without all the pressure of needing them to “work.”

I have experimented with fasting, keto, low carb, eating vegan, and cutting out sugar. With trying so many new diets, I’ve had more than one recipe fail along the way, and he’s never complained, been irritated, or put any extra pressure on me to get results with my weight.

Just having that kind of quiet support allowed me to focus on my weight loss for myself. I know not everyone has that.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?

The most interesting thing that has happened to me occurred during my weight loss journey. I lost about twenty pounds following a ‘No Flour Diet.’

It worked for about 8 months, but then after moving cross country, our house flooding (along with a host of other life drama), I fell off the diet. And of course, I gained a lot of the weight back.

Once I changed my mindset and how I thought about weight loss, I started losing weight consistently and much easier than I had in the past. I quickly lost the weight I had regained and then started losing some more.

Once I dropped down below what I weighed in high school, I kind of started freaking out. I had never weighed this low as an adult and I didn’t know how to handle it.

I remember going to my close friend and trying to explain to her that I was scared to weigh less than 134 lbs. She had to sit down and reassure me that at 5’3” I was still well within a healthy weight range and that I needed to listen to my body.

Could I still train Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu well? Did I feel strong and healthy? Was I still able to keep up with my workouts? If the answer was yes then I needed to relax and just trust my body to know when it was at a healthy weight.

Which is exactly what happened. I only lost a little bit more weight than that and my body settled at a weight that works well for me.

Looking back, it’s pretty funny to think about how worried I was about being “too small.” After spending years dying to get the weight off, once I finally did I had a bit of an identity crisis about it.

My biggest lesson from that experience is that we can’t let the number on the scale control us. It’s just a piece of data. The real goal with weight loss is feeling fit, strong, and healthy.

The number the scale shows when we reach that point may be higher or lower than we originally thought. But it’s more important to trust how your body feels and performs than an arbitrary number on the scale.

Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?

My favorite life lesson quote is:

“You don’t have to have it all figured out to move forward… just take the next step.”

I love this quote because I am absolutely someone who can get lost in overwhelm if I’m not careful.

For years, I had a hard time losing weight because I didn’t know how to do it in a way that worked for me. It was hard, difficult, and I was embarrassed about how much I struggled with it.

This quote is an important reminder that we don’t have to know how to make it all work perfectly to get started. We can focus on taking the very next step and that is more than enough.

When I was learning to lose weight I had no idea what maintaining it for the rest of my life was going to look like, but I knew what I needed to do that day to keep moving forward. I’ve kept the weight off for 2.5 years and I don’t know what it will look like to keep it off for the next 5, 10, or 15 years, but I know what I need to do to keep it off today.

And that’s what matters.

I can learn the rest as I go along, but if I get so worried about not knowing what it will look like later down the road, it can be so easy to never even try. And the best way to guarantee you never reach your weight loss goal is to be too scared to take that first step.

I’ve also applied this quote to so many areas of my life beyond weight loss including running a half marathon and starting my own business.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?

I currently have a book I’m working on. It’s all about the dieting myths I used to believe that made my weight loss harder.

I think it’s going to help a lot of women drop some of the mental drama holding them back from losing weight. Losing weight and keeping it off is about so much more than only understanding what you’re supposed to eat.

Knowing the perfect diet doesn’t do you any good if you don’t know how to stick with it. And with so much information swirling around in the diet industry, people can get lost and confused trying to follow too many “rules” about food.

This book is going to be a journey through several common dieting myths that I eventually let go of during my weight loss experience. And how letting them go of them made losing weight a lot easier and more consistent.

For the benefit of our readers, can you briefly let us know why you are an authority in the fitness and wellness field?

My authority is based on my own experience and the experience I have working with my clients. I spent over 10 years struggling to lose weight.

I would try a diet for a little while, and one of two things would happen: I would either see some success, get tired of trying so hard, fall off the wagon, and all the weight would come back.

Or, I would find the diet so hard to stick to that I wouldn’t last longer than a few weeks. It took me a lot of trial and error to discover what it takes to lose weight and keep it off for good.

The things I have learned have helped me lose thirty pounds and I’ve kept it off for two and a half years. That includes maintaining my weight loss after having surgery on my leg and being unable to exercise for three months and during the pandemic.

I know for a fact what I have learned and what I teach works when it has helped me maintain my weight loss through those tough situations.

OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview about achieving a healthy body weight. Let’s begin with a basic definition of terms so that all of us are on the same page. How do you define a “Healthy Body Weight”?

I define a healthy body weight as the weight in which you meet these criteria:

  1. You feel confident and happy with your body.
  2. You’re overall healthy (not suffering from things like high blood pressure, bad cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, etc.)
  3. You’re physically strong enough to be active and get through your daily routine.
  4. You’re within the recommendations for BMI by the National Institute of Health (NIH)

I do believe that occasionally people don’t meet one or two of these characteristics and are still at a healthy body weight. However, most people will easily meet these requirements when they are at a healthy body weight.

How can an individual learn what is a healthy body weight for them? How can we discern what is “too overweight” or what is “too underweight”?

Finding a healthy body weight can take some trial and error and it looks different from person to person. For example, at 5’3”, a healthy body weight for me can range from 107–140 lbs. That’s a pretty wide range.

After I had lost some weight and hit 140 lbs., I still wasn’t at a healthy weight despite technically meeting the NIH recommendations. I didn’t feel confident about my body, physically I wasn’t in good shape, and I was still on the verge of having high blood pressure.

I also felt tired and worn down often, and I struggled with low energy. After losing thirteen more pounds, my body feels totally different.

Physically I’m in great shape and can perform well athletically. My blood pressure is well within the normal range. I also feel more confident and happy with how I look.

I feel like I would be underweight if I dropped much below my current weight, however. I wouldn’t be able to sustain my current physical activity and I would lose some of the curves that I currently have and enjoy.

The best way to figure out the best weight for you is to pick a goal within the recommendations listed by the NIH and then check in with your body as you start getting close to your goal.

How are you performing with physical activity? How do you feel about the way you look? How is your health doing? Using all of these metrics will help you find a weight that helps you feel happy and healthy.

This might be intuitive to you, but it will be instructive to expressly articulate this. Can you please share a few reasons why being over your healthy body weight, or under your healthy body weight, can be harmful to your health?

Being over your healthy body weight can leave you vulnerable to a wide range of health issues. You’re more likely to develop high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, breathing problems, and even many types of cancers.

They are also starting to see that being significantly overweight can increase the severity and risk of your symptoms if you get COVID-19.

On top of that, it can be very difficult emotionally to carry around extra weight. Many women struggle with depression, low energy, stress, and anxiety about their weight.

Being underweight also causes some significant health problems. It can cause osteoporosis, lowered immunity, and problems with your skin, hair, and teeth.

I’m not saying that being at a healthy weight will solve all the problems in your life, but it puts you in a much better place physically and emotionally to handle them better.

In contrast, can you help articulate a few examples of how a person who achieves and maintains a healthy body weight will feel better and perform better in many areas of life?

I have seen the benefits of maintaining a healthy body weight in so many areas of my life. One example is I have had so much more energy to help take care of my busy family.

I have three kids I homeschool alongside running my business, and it would be an understatement to say it requires a lot of energy. Before losing weight, I felt very tired and rundown just taking care of my kids.

Now, I sleep better, have far more energy, and I feel better about myself overall. This shows up in how I parent, too. When I feel better physically and mentally, I’m able to show up better as a mom.

I also have a better relationship with my husband since I’ve lost weight. I feel more confident in my body and I’m more open to connecting with him in our marriage.

Ok, fantastic. Here is the main question of our discussion. Can you please share your “5 Things You Need To Do To Achieve a Healthy Body Weight And Keep It Permanently?”. If you can, please share a story or an example for each.

Here are my top 5 things you need to do to achieve a healthy body weight and keep it permanently:

  1. Only start a diet you’re willing to stick with long-term. Whether you choose intuitive eating, Keto, Weight Watchers, counting calories, macros, etc., make sure you’re willing to do it forever. I see so many women try to lose weight by doing a diet that makes them miserable. They think they need to eat nothing but food like broccoli and baked chicken. The diet works and they lose the weight, but then they get tired of eating that way and all the weight comes back. Make sure that whichever diet you choose, it’s one you’re willing to stick with.
  2. Make a daily meal plan. Every day write down what you’re going to eat. This is super important for sticking to a healthy diet. When we’re hungry, tired, and dealing with family life after a long day, we’re unlikely to make the best eating choices. If you plan your meal ahead of time, you’re more likely to stick to your diet.
  3. Drink at least 64 oz of water a day. Our bodies need water to function best. If we’re not hydrated we’re going to have extra hunger cravings and that can make it hard to lose weight and keep it off. I like to drink a glass of water first thing in the morning, with each meal, during and after a workout, and before bed. This helps cut down on hunger cravings, recovery from workouts, and keeps all your body’s systems functioning at their best.
  4. Practice eating to satisfaction, not fullness. When we eat until we’re full, stuffed, or start to feel uncomfortable, we’re actually overeating. This means our body has to store the extra calories as fat. Regardless of whether you’re eating healthy food or not, overeating makes it impossible to maintain a healthy body weight. Work on listening to your body’s hunger and satiation cues to let you know when to start eating and when to stop.
  5. Eat mindfully. So much of our overeating results from not eating mindfully. Being in a hurry or distracted while eating can make it very hard to know when to stop eating or to enjoy your food.

Imagine sitting down to enjoy your favorite meal, but instead of focusing on how good each bite is, you’re distracted scrolling on social media or watching a TV show. Next thing you know, the food is gone and you barely remember how it tastes.

This makes it so much harder to be satisfied with how much you ate and to stop when your body has had enough. By eating mindfully you let your body and your mind enjoy your food so you can avoid overeating.

The emphasis of this series is how to maintain an ideal weight for the long term, and how to avoid yo-yo dieting. Specifically, how does a person who loses weight maintain that permanently and sustainably?

The very best way to avoid yo-yo dieting is to avoid any healthy habits you aren’t willing to stick with long term. Whatever you do to lose weight, you will have to do to keep it off.

A lot of people think that if they just white-knuckle their way through a diet until they lose weight, everything will be fine when they hit maintenance. Then, they can just eat however they want.

Unfortunately, that’s not how it works. If you lost weight by eating low carb and avoiding sugar, that’s what you will have to do to maintain your weight loss.

It’s also important to add in healthy habits slowly. I see a lot of women try to do everything at once. They try to eat a super strict diet, drink all their water, have elaborate meal preps, and exercise an hour a day.

Although all of that is effective, when you try to do too much at once it’s easy to get burned out fast, even if it’s working. Start with one or two healthy habits at a time and master them before adding in new ones.

This method takes a little longer in the beginning, but it helps you turn your healthy habits into a lifestyle versus something you struggle through for a while. And ultimately, this is the difference between people who keep their weight off for good and those who gain it back.

What are a few of the most common mistakes you have seen people make when they try to lose weight? What errors cause people to just snap back to their old unhealthy selves? What can they do to avoid those mistakes?

Here are three common mistakes I see people make when trying to lose weight:

  1. They have an all-or-nothing approach.
  2. They focus on exercise instead of their diet.
  3. They don’t make a meal plan.

A lot of people think if you’re going to go on a diet or lose weight then you have to “do it right.” You have to eat a perfect diet and exercise like a full-time athlete. Otherwise, you’re won’t see results.

Then, as soon as they eat off their diet or skip a workout they feel like they’ve messed up and they have to start all over. Then they tell themselves, “I’ll start again tomorrow or Monday.”

Instead, people should focus on just making their next best decision whenever they slip up. It’s natural to occasionally eat off-plan or have a bad day while losing weight.

All you can do is learn from the situation and try to do better at your very next meal. Practicing this can be the difference between a bad meal and a bad week.

Another common mistake I see is that people focus on exercise instead of their diet. Exercise is very important for your health, but it isn’t the key to weight loss.

You can’t exercise your way out of a bad diet. Focus on eating a healthy diet first and use exercise as a compliment instead of a cure-all for your weight loss.

The last mistake I see often is people refusing to make a plan. You are 42% more likely to follow through with a plan if you write it down.

Imagine being 42% more likely to stick to your diet and exercise?? That’s more than worth the 5 minutes it takes each day.

When you have a plan, it saves you all the mental energy of trying to figure out something healthy when you’re tired, stressed, and worn out after a long day.

How do we take all this information and integrate it into our actual lives? The truth is that we all know that it’s important to eat more vegetables, eat less sugar, etc. But while we know it intellectually, it’s difficult to put it into practice and make it a part of our daily habits. In your opinion what are the main blockages that prevent us from taking the information that we all know, and integrating it into our lives?

I think what prevents most people from integrating healthy habits into their lives is they do too much at once. They try to completely revamp their whole life, and it’s really hard to stick with.

What has worked best for my clients and me is to take it slow in the beginning. Work on mastering one or two habits at a time before adding in any new ones.

For example, if you’re trying to eat a better diet, focus on adding more vegetables to one meal a day and decide no sweets before noon.

That might seem like it’s not enough, but small habits that you stick with over time are far more effective than big habits that you only follow for a week or two.

Plus, once you get used to those changes in your diet, you can add in a few more. Every successful healthy habit you adopt will help build your motivation and confidence that you can master a few more.

Next thing you know, your weight is steadily going down and you don’t feel like you had to completely overhaul your life overnight.

On the flip side, how can we prevent these ideas from just being trapped in a rarified, theoretical ideal that never gets put into practice? What specific habits can we develop to take these intellectual ideas and integrate them into our normal routine?

The best thing you can do is get out of research mode and into action mode. Start TODAY. Right now.

Don’t wait for tomorrow, Monday, or when you get back from the vacation you’re taking in a couple of weeks. Pick one or two healthy habits that you can start immediately.

You can start with something super simple like drinking a glass of water with each meal instead of soda and planning your meals. Keep it simple and easy, but don’t put it off.

The longer you wait, the more likely you are to build the whole experience up so much in your head that you get too worried/scared/intimated to start. The sooner you start, the sooner you’ll start creating the life and the body that you want.

Ok, we are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

If I could inspire a movement it would be to intentionally teach personal responsibility and personal development to children. I think the earlier people learn these skills the better.

I spent years feeling like life was happening to me. This left me feeling very powerless. I didn’t know how to advocate for myself, take responsibility for the direction my life was headed, or how to improve the life I had.

It affected my weight, my mental health, and consequently, those around me.

I think we would be doing our children a huge favor by teaching them how to take responsibility for what they want in their life and how to develop the skills they need to go after it so they aren’t being introduced to these skills as an adult. It may help them skip years of feeling powerless and confused in their own lives.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them 🙂

I would love to sit down and talk with Jen Sincero. Her books “You Are a Badass” and “You are a Badass With Money” had a huge impact on my life and helped me get up the courage to start my own business in the first place.

I would love a chance to first, thank her for writing her books, and second, get a chance to learn more about her journey into entrepreneurship.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

You can find me at my blog https://littlestepsbighappy.com. I also have a Facebook group for moms who want to eat better, exercise regularly, and lose weight. It’s called Mommas Getting Fit.

Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success.

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