Feeling Your Fullness
Intuitive Eating principle 2 is about honoring your hunger. Equally as important as honoring your hunger is principle 6: feel your fullness. Both concepts enable us to be the experts of our bodies by trusting our own hunger and satiety signals. It is important to listen to the cues that tell us we are no longer hungry. Feeling your fullness is one way to respect your body since practicing it may decrease overeating, help avoid emotional eating, and promote a healthy relationship with food.
Fullness feels different for everyone, but here are a few common experiences:
- Tightening of stomach
- Food doesn’t taste as good, not as interested
- Feeling content and satisfied
- Initial feelings of hunger have gone away
The Hunger Scale can be a useful tool to determine your fullness level. A good goal is to rate your satiety at about 7 after eating.
How to end up at satiety level 7 after eating:
Don’t let yourself get below a 3 on the hunger scale. The lower you are on the hunger scale when you eat, the more likely you are to end up higher on the scale afterwards.
- Check in with taste and fullness in the middle of your eating experience.
- Leave a few bites on your plate. Do you want to finish them? How do you know you do? You are not obligated to finish your plate.
- Look at a before, during, after hunger scale throughout the day. (Will show example)
- Did you go past a 7? That’s okay! It happens. Take note of what you learned this time so you can be closer to a 7 next time. Don’t intentionally restrict after overeating. Our bodies will naturally compensate for us. Just continue to practice listening to your body.
Feeling your fullness can help you to avoid overeating, and undereating. Allow yourself to feel comfortably full. Diets tell us when, what, and how much to eat which could prevent actual satiety. If you’ve been a lifelong dieter, feeling comfortably full may be a new experience. Some dieters may have forgotten what it feels like to be full, and may end up overeating. If this sounds like you, be patient with yourself and keep trying. It takes practice!
Keep in mind that your body will require different amounts of food each day. So what makes you feel full one day, won’t necessarily be the same the next day. Here are some factors that can affect your fullness:
- Physical activity. If you participate in an intense exercise, your appetite could increase that day. Some people notice an increase in appetite the day after exercise.
- Length between meals. The longer you wait between eating, the more you will need to eat to feel full.
- Meal composition. A balance of fiber, protein, and fat creates the most filling meal or snack. Consuming foods that are low in these nutrients prevent you from feeling full. To maximize feelings of fullness, be sure to choose foods high in:
- Fiber. Fiber is a type of carbohydrate found in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and beans. It slows down digestion and helps us to feel fuller, longer.
- Protein. Protein reduces the hunger hormone ghrelin, and increases peptide YY, the fullness hormone. Protein is found in meat, fish, poultry, beans, nuts, eggs, and dairy.
- Fat. Fats slow down the rate of stomach emptying which makes us feel full. Some of our favorite sources are avocado, olives, fatty fish, nuts, and seeds.
- Distractions. If you’re watching a TV show, are on your phone, or working, it may take you longer to realize that you are full. So, you may end up eating more.
A lot of us may recognize the feeling of fullness, but don’t stop eating despite feeling full. Here are a few reasons why you might be experiencing this mental block:
- You’re used to restrictions. If you’re eating pizza and you haven’t allowed it before, you may think to yourself “I don’t know when I can eat this again…I better eat as much as I can.” This can lead to eating past comfortable fullness.
- You feel horrible about wasting food. In most cases, you can save the leftovers. For those situations where you can’t, remember that it was already made and paid for and so there’s little you can do about it at this point. If you insist on finishing even though it’s going to make you feel sick, that is a waste as well. At this point, excess food serves a better purpose in the garbage than in your body.
- You grew up being forced to “finish your plate”. Your personal hunger and fullness scale could have been tampered with from a young age if this was a common household phrase. Though done out of love, parents may have misled you here. As an adult, it is now your responsibility to know that you are under no obligation to finish your plate before leaving the table. You are in charge of your body. You know the appropriate amount of food for your body.
To practice recognizing your fullness, I encourage you to consider when you often engage in distracted eating. Pick one of those times (lunch at work, eating while wrangling kids at home, scrolling on social media during breakfast, etc.) to employ the 3-bite method, created by one of the founders of Intuitive Eating, Evelyn Tribole.
- On the first bite, note how you feel: pleasant, unpleasant, neutral? How does the food taste? What flavors are present?
- In the midst of the meal, pause for the second bite. Does it taste the same as it did on that first bite? Any signs of emerging fullness?
- On your last bite of food, rate your fullness. Is it comfortable or uncomfortable? How did you know you wanted to stop eating?
- Bonus: Try eating with your non-dominant hand. This disrupts our habits and forces us to pay closer attention to the task at hand.