HOW DO YOU KNOW WHEN YOU’RE FULL?
It seems like a silly question, but it’s actually an interesting topic to ponder, and the answer isn’t the same for everyone. For some people, they’re full when they feel comfortably satiated. For others, it’s when they feel queasy; or when their plate is empty; or when their food stops tasting good; or when they think they should be full already.
Emotional feelings and mental thoughts also accompany fullness. Feeling full can cause feelings of anxiety, shame, or guilt about the food they just ate and how their body is now forced to process it. Some people work so hard to find that sweet spot – the amount of food that’s enough to eliminate hunger but not enough to feel full. This typically underlies a mistrust of the body and fear that it doesn’t know how much food to demand.
“Listen for the body signals that tell you that you are no longer hungry. Observe the signs that show that you’re comfortably full. Pause in the middle of eating and ask yourself how the food tastes and what your current fullness level is.”
Intuitive Eating Workbook, Elyse Resch and Evelyn Tribole
There are certain behaviors, conscious or unconscious to you, that might be disconnecting you from your ability to feel your fullness. Likewise, you might have conditioned beliefs or experiences that have led you to fear your fullness. Given that you enter each meal under a new pretense each time (time of day, previous meals, energy expended, hormones, emotional state), you simply can’t predict how quickly and how much food it will take to feel full.
Are you a distracted eater? This is one of the most reliable ways of disconnecting from hunger and fullness levels. Whether you’re scrolling on your phone, reading a magazine, chatting on the phone, or watching TV – and no matter how good you are multitasking – it’s unlikely you can focus on entertainment and your food at the same time. Most importantly, you miss out on the emerging sensations of fullness. These are the subtle hints from your body that you are approaching a comfortable level of satiation.
As a reminder, Interoceptive Awareness is your innate ability to perceive the physical sensations of your body. This is something that requires your attention. If you’re distracted by anything heavy during mealtime, you enter what Evelyn & Elyse refer to as a “dissociative-like state” in which you are physically eating but your mind has left your body. This continues throughout the meal until you are suddenly stuffed, and you cant ignore the sensations coming from your belly anymore.
Being super full is typically quite uncomfortable physically, but can be even more disturbing mentally and emotionally. Without compassion for yourself, you can easily feel guilty for eating too much, anxious for the digestive process, or regretful for missing the pleasurable experience of eating.
Try out this exercise from the Intuitive Eating Workbook called the Last Bite Threshold Experiment. This is not a pass or fail assignment, and only serves to help you get a sense of how you experience fullness. This is also an experiment, not a suggestion of how to go about every meal!
Select a meal that will be relaxed and free from distractions. Focus your attention on your hunger and fullness levels while taking in all the sensations of the meal. While eating, take a prolonged pause when you sense that you’re at the point where hunger starts to wane and fullness starts to appear.
Estimate roughly how many more bites of food it will take to be comfortably full. Tentatively mark that as your stopping point.
Continue eating with profound awareness with each bite of food. Notice how the food feels in your mouth and tastes. After swallowing, notice how your body feels. Before taking the next bite of food, ask yourself, is it possible that this next bite is the last for me? If your gut sense is yes, plan to stop at that point.
Notice how you feel. It may be important to remind yourself that you can still eat the rest of this food or meal again. Remember that there are no forbidden foods.
Our next blog post will focus on the sixth principle of Intuitive Eating, Discover The Satisfaction Factor.