When you eat, do you a) have the urge to finish everything on your plate or b) stop once you feel satisfied?
If you fall into camp A, then this post is for you.
Learning to recognise and respect our levels of hunger and fullness can be hard – especially if we’re coming from years of dieting and listening to “food rules”.
But once we can recognise what being full feels like, it can help us to eat in a way which is comfortable, enjoyable and best supports our wellbeing.
What is fullness?
In the same way that we honour our hunger signals, we can also trust our bodies to tell us when we’re comfortably full.
This can be tricky!
If food has been restricted in the past or if diet culture has tried to tell us how much we’re supposed to eat in terms of calories or portion sizes, it can be hard to know whether our bodies are telling us that we are full!
When we bypass our comfortable level of satiety, it can feel unpleasant.
So how do I know if I’m full? There are many reasons why we can’t tell if we are full. These include:
- The idea that we must ‘clean the plate’, or eat all of something, instead of stopping when we’re full
- Being very hungry (ravenous) when we start eating
- Eating while distracted, e.g. while scrolling through the phone or watching TV
But if we can reconnect with our natural ability to feel our fullness, we are on our way to a peaceful, happy and healthy way of eating.
Other factors that can influence satiety levels include the type of food (for example, foods higher in protein can make you feel fuller), and how long it’s been between meals.
4 steps to guide you to fullness
How can we learn to recognise the internal signs that tell us if we’re full? It is something that can take time, and comfortable fullness can feel different for everyone.
Here are four steps to help explore what feeling full looks like for you:
- First, try to eat slowly in a pleasant environment with minimal distractions. This allows you to check in with how you’re feeling as you go.
- Notice your physical sensations before, during and after your meal: Is my hunger starting to fade? Does my stomach feel stretched? Am I feeling ‘just right’? The Hunger Scale Tool can be a helpful!
- Ask yourself: How does the food taste? Am I still enjoying it? Take notice of your responses from a place of curiosity, not judgement.
- Perhaps keep a journal or take notes on your eating experiences and see if you can identify any patterns. Are there certain meals or environments where you eat more quickly and end up feeling uncomfortable full? Once you see patterns, you can try to make changes to those mealtime experiences to avoid eating past comfortable fullness.
The key to all of this is staying present during each eating experience and letting go of any judgement so that you can start to recognise what fullness feels like for you.
But I don’t like to waste food!
Sometimes when we start to truly identify our hunger, we start to realise that we don’t need to finish everything on our plate, which can end up meaning additional food waste.
A great tip for getting around this is to cover leftovers and safely store them for later. If you’re at a restaurant, ask for a takeaway container so you can take leftover food home.
If you would like assistance with helping to identify your hunger and fullness cues book an appointment today!
Remember that ‘feeling your fullness’ is certainly not a rigid rule. It is perfectly normal, and human, to eat beyond our point of comfortable fullness at times. Some days we eat more, others we eat less… stay curious and always be kind to yourself.