Updated: Nov 5, 2020
Do you know your level of comfortable fullness and what it feels like? How often do you actually stop eating when you reach this level of fullness? This post is going to dive deep into exactly that as I talk through principle #5 of Intuitive Eating: Feel Your Fullness.
Now I totally get it, you might be thinking… “I don’t even know what it feels like to be comfortably full." This was me too for the longest time! I only knew what it felt like to either be overly and uncomfortably full, or ravenously hungry. Then there were times I feared being either full or hungry and aimed to just always keep myself fed, no matter if I was actually hungry or not. Some of the descriptions the book Intuitive Eating gives being comfortably full are:
Subtle feeling of stomach fullness
Nothingness – aka neither hungry nor full
Feelings of satisfaction or content
There are so many ways to describe it and it may be different for you! When it comes down to it, becoming mindful and tuning into your own body as well as paying attention to your eating will allow you to figure out what this feels like for your body. It is way too easy to put yourself on autopilot while eating or snacking until afterwards you discover the uncomfortable fullness feeling. If this is you, it’s time to start really paying attention to your eating to help with this!
Yes, I’m sure you know when you are eating food, but how often are you tuned in or aware as to how much you are eating, if you are enjoying the flavors/taste of the food, the smell, etc. Like I said, autopilot is so easily turned on especially when we are so busy with work, school, or kids. We often forget that it’s good to actually sit down, take a break from life, and enjoy the meal prepared in front of you. Now I get that is unrealistic 100% of the time, but maybe instead of sitting with the bag of chips while you watch TV or snacking off of your kids plate, make a conscious effort to sit down at the table with your food and enjoy it- even if you only have 10 minutes! You won’t always have to be so focused on getting conscious while you are eating, but initially when you are learning to apply the principle of feeling your fullness and aiming to get to a comfortable level of fullness, it’s definitely a good thing to do! Know that eventually it will become intuitive as you learn how much fills you. Here are some things you can start doing to become more conscious of your hunger:
1. Pause in the middle of your meal or snack
This doesn’t mean that you have to stop eating all together. It’s simply an easy point in the meal or snack to check in with how you feel as your plate looks ~1/2 full. Ask yourself: does the food still taste good? Am I just eating this because it’s in front of me? What is my hunger and fullness level at? Do I think I need more, or do I feel satisfied? It can and probably will be a little hit or miss in the beginning, but eventually you’ll learn the more you practice. If you still feel hungry, and are enjoying the food, by all means keep eating until you think you’re satisfied! If you decide you think you are at a good stopping point, always remember that you can eat more when you feel hungry again and that it doesn’t have to be a certain number of hours from the meal or snack you just had.
2. When you’ve finished eating, start to check in with how your fullness level feels (no matter how much you ate)
Ask yourself if you feel comfortable? Did you eat too much? Remember, no judgment here, just trying to get a good sense of what your fullness feels like. This is something that will take practice to get to your comfortable level of fullness especially when you are just starting out listening to both your hunger and fullness signals again.
3. Discover the last-bite threshold
And no, I'm not talking about if you can stuff in the last bite on your plate here… Be patient with yourself on this one! This is when you know it is your last bite of food, and then you will be at your comfortable fullness. The longer you’ve been disconnected from your fullness, the longer it might take for you find at what point in your meal this is but trust that it will come eventually.
4. Don’t feel like you have to leave food on your plate, nor feel that you have to clean the plate clean
Some people get the impression that it is bad to finish your meal because of what dieting has told them, or that they need to eat everything regardless of their fullness. Know that you don’t have to feel this way either and hunger and fullness WILL vary day by day and meal to meal. Eventually as you start to tune into your fullness, you will realize that you can either leave some food on your plate, or walk away have eaten everything comfortably (and even when you need to go back for seconds).
As far as what determines how hungry and full you feel, there are SO many factors here. Examples being-
How long ago when was your last meal or snack?
What you ate at this meal or snack, initial hunger level
Your activity level
These are just a few! These are important to consider and hopefully are something to think about that can help you realize you simply may be hungrier than other people, and that is OKAY! Your hunger is meant to fluctuate and this is 100% normal. That’s why learning to feel your fullness is so important.
It’s also crucial that you are not afraid of being full and satisfied. It’s a good thing! You may previously have felt afraid of fullness, because you believe that in order to be “successful” with your diet, you should feel some form of hunger or never be finishing your meals to be healthy.
Remember that fullness is your friend!
Fullness allows you to have peace around food. When you stop labeling foods as “good” or “bad” and give yourself unconditional permission to eat (check out this post for more on making peace with food) you know that you can (and should!) eat again whenever you feel hungry. Also that you have the freedom to stop eating when you are comfortably full. Finding the comfortable sweet spot is key. Don’t forget that you won’t always nail this perfectly every time you eat. The goal is to increase consciousness while you’re eating, learn to enjoy your food , and honor and FEEL your fullness.
Keep it balanced!