Does the feeling of fullness feel scary to you? The toxic diet culture that we are surrounded by associates so many negatives with feeling full. That getting to this point with food intake means that you have consumed too much food, that you are glutinous, excessive and wrong for feeling full after eating. We are conditioned to believe that feeling full is bad or wrong (thanks a lot diet culture).
They say, eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re full, right? If only it were that straight forward. Hunger and fullness is a spectrum. It’s about being flexible and learning from your body. It’s understanding the nuances of the signals your body may (or may not) be sending. It’s about respecting those signals, yet allowing flexibility with your eating.
Let’s also take a moment to talk about how NORMAL it is to eat beyond fullness and to engage in distracted eating (yep, you read that right!). We are not wrong for eating beyond that point of feeling full. It’s tied to pleasure sensors within our body. It’s normal to want more cake and ice cream because it tastes good and to want to hunker down with your favorite snack when you’ve had a rough day. It’s only natural that we would use it to self soothe. Let’s be real here, eating FEELS GOOD!
We get it though, feeling full can feel scary, especially when you are beginning your intuitive eating journey or working on eating disorder recovery. Just like with hunger, in order to feel our fullness we have to tune in and listen for it and then start reconnecting to this feeling in a positive way.. Start to observe the signs that show that you’re full. Let's get started!
4 STEPS TO RECONNECT WITH YOUR FULLNESS CUES:
Step 1: OBSERVE
First and foremost, stay mindful! Tune out all distractions around you and do your best to focus on the meal or snack in front of you. This means turning off the computer or television in front of you, putting away your phone, closing the books or magazines (no matter how good it may be!). These distractions prevent us from truly being able to tune in and listen to the signals that our body is sending us.
Step 2: SLOW IT DOWN
Did you know it takes about 20 minutes for the stomach to signal the brain that you’ve had enough food? When you eat quickly, it’s very easy to continue eating even if you are no longer enjoying the food, leading you to potentially feel uncomfortable. I don’t mean for you to have to take out a kitchen timer or set an alarm on your phone, but I encourage you to be more present in the experience of eating, allowing you to slow down and savor the food that you are eating.
Step 3: PUSH PAUSE
Once you’re midway through your meal or snack, take a few seconds to pause and tune into your body...where is your hunger level at? How do you feel? What flavors are you loving?
Step 4: CONNECT THE DOTS
Lets pretend you’re eating your favorite meal (Mexican food, anyone?!). When eating this meal or snack, can you taste the different flavors, textures, and temperatures? When you take a moment to pause mid-meal, ask yourself how the food tastes, are you enjoying it? How is the temperature? What are the flavors? Do you taste the spices? (ugh, this has us craving tacos).
Recognizing fullness can be a hard task! There are so many messages from today’s diet culture that discourages us from honoring our hunger and fullness cues. It's one thing to leave a meal or snack being physically satisfied, meaning you feel full and have eaten enough, but it’s a whole other thing to leave the meal being mentally satisfied. Oh yeah, that’s a thing too!
When you’re not mentally satisfied, it’s likely that you will continue eating until your body finds the food that it was truly craving. We’ve all seen this happen, eating a salad instead of a steak, feeling like you need more, reaching for additional snacks and then and eventually eating the steak anyways because that’s what your body was actually wanting in the first place.
RESPECTING FULLNESS IS A LEARNING EXPERIENCE
Remember, there is no failing in Intuitive Eating! At times, we eat beyond fullness. At times, we engage in distracted eating. This principle is about connecting more deeply with your body’s signals, not about how perfect the process is. It’s totally okay and normal to feel excessive fullness. This does not mean that you have failed. When my clients come in telling me that the are worried that they are eating to excessive fullness too often, this actually indicates to me that they are connecting with their body, which, although it may be uncomfortable, is part of the process.
The amount of intake that one needs to eat changes day-to-day due to a number of different variables: hormones, stress, how much sleep you're getting, how active you've been, whether or not you've been ill or healing from an injury. No app on your phone or fancy smartwatch can replace the innate knowledge that your body knows exactly what you need and when. Your body is wise and deserves more credit than you may be giving it.
As you move through your Intuitive Eating journey, be kind to yourself. You are on a path to help reconnect with your body and understand its needs - which takes time! We want you to know that we are here to help guide you through your journey. Our individualized services and support groups can help you move through this process with people in your corner.