If you grew up in a family that celebrated the clean plate club, use food as a way to comfort yourself, or occasionally overeat foods that you deem off-limits, it’s likely you have trouble feeling your fullness. Feeling comfortably full is a sensation that many of us may not know. It seems so simple, yet when you are out of touch with your body signals, it may be difficult to recognize when you’ve hit that optimal fullness level. This is also one of the principles of Intuitive Eating, and it can be a hard one to nail down. Here are some tips to help you discover your comfortable fullness level.
1) Give yourself permission to eat all foods
This is a critical first step. When you allow yourself to eat all foods, the desire to overindulge on “bad” or “off-limit” foods goes away. Allowing yourself to eat cake whenever you want will stop you from finishing that piece of cake when you are not hungry, because you are giving yourself permission to eat cake when you are hungry again. Giving yourself permission also takes the novelty off of that food so it’s no longer special. And believe me, the more cake you eat, the less likely you will want to eat a lot of it because cake or any other processed food or dessert just doesn’t make you feel that great.
2) Remove distractions while eating
Many of us eat while doing something else: reading, working, playing on our phones or tablets, or watching our favorite shows. Distractions interfere not only with the pleasure and enjoyment of eating, but they disrupt our ability to feel fullness. I’m not going to sugar coat it, this is very challenging to do. Many of my clients struggle with this step because they find it boring and inefficient. However, studies have shown that you eat approximately 15% more calories per meal or snack when you are doing something other than focusing on food (1).
3) Check in with your hunger before, during and at the end of meals
Using a hunger scale can be extremely helpful when trying to figure out your fullness. I always recommend assessing your hunger level before you start eating a meal or snack. Eating when you are not hungry will make it even more difficult for you to recognize when you are full. Halfway through your meal, pause and check in with yourself again. If you are still hungry, continue eating. When you reach the end of your meal, check in again and see if you are comfortably full. On a scale of 1-10, your goal is to end your meal at around a 6-7 which is a satisfied to slightly full feeling.
4) Be patient with yourself
Retraining yourself to feel your fullness and stop eating is not something you will master overnight. Be patient with yourself and experiment with different meals, amounts, and feelings. Eventually you will start to be aware of your optimal fullness feeling and be able to take that last bite with confidence.
\If you want to learn more about how Intuitive Eating can fit into your daily routine, click here to schedule a quick (and free) phone call with me.