This article is part of a series of detailing the science-based approach to healthfully nourishing ourselves known as Intuitive Eating and the sensible approach to good health described by: Health at Every Size.
Recognizing comfortable fullness is a natural talent we often lose at some time during childhood. Having to clean your plate is a common way this happens. We start relying on external clues— is the plate clean, the bag empty, the package finished? That signals we are done eating.
Many of us have no idea what comfortable satiety feels like. If we are dieters, we are either always hungry or eating every calorie “allowed” on our current diet—fullness is not a consideration.
Intuitive eaters offer these descriptions of comfortable fullness—the natural, internal signal that you are ready to stop eating for now:
- A subtle feeling of a full stomach
- A feeling of satisfaction and contentment
- Neither hungry or full—nothing
This is a very hard-to-describe and individual feeling. It often requires some experiments with careful, mindful, and conscious eating to start to sense fullness and satiety without going all the way to “stuffed”.
The authors of the book, “Intuitive Eating” suggest these steps for gradually raising your awareness of your fullness level.
Eating Without Distraction
Taking a break from driving, working, reading, or otherwise multitasking is a challenge. When you are able to do this, however, you can tune in more easily to feelings of fullness that occur when you eat. You know what is best for you. For example, maybe lunchtime isn’t ever going to be the meal you can pause for, but perhaps breakfast, dinner, or a snack can be one that is eaten without the distraction of the computer or TV. These skills are a work in progress.
Pause and Check In
Take a mini-time out during a meal or snack to check in with your body and taste buds.
Do a taste check: How does the food taste? Does it still taste god or are you simply continuing to eat because it is there?
Do a fullness check: This will take practice. Ask yourself what your hunger or fullness level is. Are you starting to feel satisfied? Be open to any answer. If you are still feeling hungry, continue to eat.
Making a Conscious Decision to End the Meal
You’ve tasted the last bite, feel comfortably full and decide you are done eating. But then you are tempted to keep nibbling because the food is there. Some people find it helpful to do something little to signal that they are full and finished. It could be moving the plate a little forward or putting the utensils across the plate. Just a gentle reminder to yourself.
When you are finished eating, ask yourself what your fullness level is now. Are you at comfortable fullness? Did you surpass fullness? By how much?
The Last Bite
As you try this check in, over time, you will learn to identify your last bite limit. This is the end of your meal. It may take a long time to get to this point. When you are tuned into your biological hunger, this end point is easier to sense. With patience and practice you will eventually learn to respect and respond appropriately to body cues of both hunger and fullness.
The amount of food that will satisfy you at a meal or snack will vary and is based on many factors, such as how long since your last meal or snack, the kind of food you ate, how much you ate, how hungry you are, how others with you are eating. Because of all of these influences, it will naturally fluctuate. The big key is to stay attuned to your own hunger and fullness levels.
You can always have more of the meal or snack if you are hungry for it later. This permission to eat is a foundation of the Intuitive Eating approach.
For More Information
Intuitive Eating www.intuitiveeating.com
Ellyn Satter Institute http://ellynsatterinstitute.org
Health At Every Size: www.haescommunity.org
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