As someone who struggled with disordered eating for almost a decade, I know firsthand how difficult it can be to not only recognize when you’re full, but also be at peace with the feeling of fullness. It can feel like a whole lot of overthinking coupled with shame, especially in a society that tells you to eat as little as possible for weight loss. All this worrying and stressing over fullness can be harmful to both your physical and mental health.
First, let’s tackle how to know when you’re actually full. Learning to feel your fullness is crucial for maintaining a healthy relationship with food and your body. It means being attuned to your body’s hunger and satiety cues, and knowing when to stop eating when you feel satisfied rather than stuffed.
Feeling fullness has a variety of benefits, including the fact that it’s a signal that you’ve provided your body with enough energy. In today’s dieting-obsessed society, it can be tough to remember that calories are actually units of energy, not little demons trying to thwart your weight goals. Feeling full also begins to rebuild the trust that’s been broken between your brain and your body. If you haven’t been allowing yourself to feel fullness, your body has learned that you won’t provide the sustenance it needs. When this happens, it can trigger bingeing because, again, your body isn’t sure when the next time you’ll feed it will be. So the last benefit to feeling your fullness is the fact it can prevent future episodes of bingeing because your body is once again trusting that you will feed it adequately.
But how do you actually learn (or re-learn) to know when you’re full? Here are a few tips that have helped me and my clients:
- Slow down and pay attention to your food. Instead of eating quickly and mindlessly, take the time to savor each bite and pay attention to how you’re feeling as you eat. This will allow you to better gauge your hunger and fullness levels. Incorporate all your senses into the experience: sight, taste, touch, smell and sound. If you’re sitting down to eat something, have it be something you enjoy and savor the experience. You’ll feel much more satisfied than when you inhale your dinner or dessert.
- Check in with your body regularly during the day, as well as during meals. Take a few minutes throughout the day to pause and check in with your body. How hungry or full do you feel? What does your body need? This can help you tune into your body’s needs rather than relying on external cues. Many diets tell us we’re only supposed to eat at certain times of the day (and certainly never after 7 p.m.!) Instead, try to use the hunger and fullness scale to gauge how hungry you are. Aim for what feels like pleasant hunger. If you wait too long to eat (and ignore initial hunger signals), you may trigger a binge and override any “comfortable fullness” signals. Also, remember to check in with your fullness halfway through a meal. With practice you can learn to find your “last bite threshold,” the last bite that will leave you not only feeling comfortably physically full, but also mentally satiated.
- Practice mindful eating. Mindful eating involves bringing your full attention to the present moment while eating, rather than eating while distracted (e.g. watching TV, scrolling through social media). This can help you be more aware of your food and your body’s fullness signals. Fullness may feel like a slight distention in the stomach, a feeling of mental (“ahhhh!”) satiation, a heaviness in the stomach, clear-headedness, or a calming of your nervous system. Sometimes we distract ourselves when we’re eating because we feel a level of shame about it, whether it’s the fact we’re eating at all, what we’re eating, or how much food is in front of us. This can lead to eating too quickly and missing initial fullness cues.
- Don’t be afraid to stop eating when you’re full. It’s okay to leave food on your plate or not finish everything you’ve been served. Trust your body and its fullness cues, and don’t feel pressured to eat beyond your limits. Remember that, as an intuitive eater, you’re allowed to eat whatever and whenever you want; so if you underestimate your fullness and end up hungry an hour later, you’re allowed to go back to the food. No “last supper mentality” here!
It’s important to remember that feeling full is a normal and natural sensation; it’s one we were very in tune with when we were babies and children. It’s not something to be feared or avoided. By learning to recognize and accept the feeling of fullness, you can develop a healthier and more positive relationship with food and your body.
If you’re ready to take the next step in your journey toward intuitive eating and a happier, healthier relationship with food, why not schedule a discovery call with me today? In just a short conversation, we can discuss your goals and how my coaching program can support you on your path to intuitive eating success. Click here to schedule your free 15-minute call now and let’s start creating the building blocks to your food freedom!