March 25, 2019 | Lex Daddio
I think feeling your fullness can be such a hard principle. The crazy thing is that we’re born with the ability to recognize it without thinking, but as we get older and exposed to different things, we often can lose sight of this one. Especially if you’ve struggled with dieting or disordered eating. Those factors can actually throw off your hunger and fullness cues making it super difficult to recognize them. Other factors that can affect your cues are: being taught to clean your plate, feeling like you can’t waste anything, having a habit of eating to completion regardless of your hunger (the whole hamburger, the entire bag of chips, etc), & starting your meal being ravenously hungry. What we want to discover is how to eat to comfortable fullness and discover what feels good for you, your body, and your hunger level.
One of the key things that helps you figure this out goes right along with principle 3, making peace with food. You have to give yourself unconditional permission to eat, because if you don’t, then you might feel like you HAVE to eat your entire plate, because you won’t allow yourself to eat next until a set time and set amount, etc. It’s much easier to stop eating when you’re comfortably full if you know you’re allowed to eat this food again later.
You might be thinking, “I don’t even know what it feels like to be comfortably full.” I get that, because that was so confusing to me for so long. I only knew what it felt like to be overly/ uncomfortably full or super hungry. Some descriptions that the book, Intuitive Eating, gives as being comfortable full are: a subtle feeling of stomach fullness, nothingness aka neither hungry or full, and feeling satisfied & content. There are so many ways to describe it, but honestly you have to tune into your own body and be mindful and pay attention to your eating so you can discover what it feels like for you in your body. It’s easy to be on autopilot while eating, grazing, snacking, etc. Shift your focus on paying attention to your eating to help you with this!
Most people know they’re eating food, but they aren’t tuned in or aware how much their eating, the taste, smell, etc. Most of the time we are so busy in our lives, we go on autopilot and forget to actually sit down, breathe, and enjoy the food we have. It’s a blessing and it doesn’t have to be a huge sit down meal every time or fancy. But maybe instead of snacking off your kids plate, eating a bar while driving, or watching TV while eating chips, try sitting down at the table with your food and enjoying it. Even if it’s only for 10 minutes. You won’t have to be so focused on being conscious while you’re eating forever, just at the start when you’re learning how to enjoy your food and feel your fullness. Eventually it’ll become intuitive! Here’s some tips on how to be conscious:
1. Pause in the middle of your meal or snack- This doesn’t mean that you have to stop eating. It’s just a time out and a check in to see how you feel. Does the food still taste good? Are you just eating it because it’s there? What’s your hunger and fullness level? Are you still hungry or do you feel satisfied? It can be a little hit or miss in the beginning, but eventually you’ll learn the more you practice. If you still feel hungry, keep eating. If you don’t, then stop and remind yourself you can eat more when you’re hungry again. It doesn’t have to be a certain time of day, a certain amount of food, nothing like that.
2. When you’re done eating, check in to see how your fullness level feels (no matter how much you ate)- Are you comfortable? Did you eat too much? No judgment here, just check in with yourself,
3. Discover the last-bite threshold- This is when you know this is your last bite of food. It may take a long time to get to this point to really discover this, but be patient with yourself. The longer you’ve been struggling with being disconnected from your fullness, the longer it might take for you to arrive here. It will come though!
4. Don’t feel like you have to leave food on your plate- Some people feel like they aren’t allowed to finish their plate, because of what dieting has told them. You don’t have to feel this way either, and hunger and fullness can vary, meaning you might eat different amounts at different times. In the beginning when you give yourself unconditional permission to eat, you may find yourself overeating at times or often. This is typically because of the excitement of finally getting to eat certain foods again. Eventually (the amount of time varies per person), the newness of allowing certain foods will die down and you won’t feel so deprived anymore and you’ll be able to leave food on your plate & not feel the need to finish it if you’re no longer hungry. However, you do have to practice being conscious while eating and the more you practice the more in tune with yourself you’ll become as well as learning to respect your fullness leaving you feeling more comfortable while eating.
Multitasking used to be all the rage, right? Well now, everyone says multitasking actually makes you less productive, etc. Turns out the same is true for eating. Trying to do multiple things while also trying to eat leads you to not be conscious of the food you’re eating. Try eating without distraction and really enjoy your food. I know it’s hard with busy lives, kids, etc, but making this a conscious effort is important if you want to help increase mindfulness around food. It’s worth it, and I believe it’s good to teach this to our kids too 🙂
As far as hunger and fullness, there are so many factors that can play a role in this! Examples: how long it’s been since the last time you ate, how active you are, the kind of food you ate, initial hunger level, breastfeeding, social influence, etc. These are all things to think about and hopefully help you realize why we are sometimes more hungry than others. It’s totally okay for it to fluctuate, that’s normal! That’s why learning to feel your fullness is so important. It’s also important to not be afraid of being full and satisfied. It’s a good thing! It nourishes you and should make you feel good, not bad, so finding that comfortable spot is key. Don’t forget to note that you won’t always nail it perfectly every time. Sometimes I eat more than is comfortable, and that’s totally okay! The goal is just to become more mindful and conscious while you’re eating and truly enjoy your food. To learn how to honor and feel your fullness. To recognize that you’re eating! Next week we’ll dive into discovering the satisfaction factor, which goes deeper into finding the foods you truly enjoy and make you feel good!
Tribole, E. and E. Resch. 2012. Intuitive Eating, 3rd edition. St. Martin’s Press, NY:NY.