Get in touch with your body's fullness signals.

How to Get Back in Touch with Your Body's Fullness Signals

I recently discussed how to get back in touch with your hunger signals and why that’s so important when it comes to establishing healthy eating patterns. Today I’m going to talk about the other side of that same coin: knowing when you’re full.

This can be even trickier than knowing if you’re hungry.  If you have dieted frequently you may be used to someone else telling you exactly how much to eat, which means believing someone else knows better than you when you’re full.

In addition, portion sizes and dinner plates are huge, and if you’re not paying attention it’s easy to eat every single thing in front of you. And even if you are paying attention, sometimes it’s hard to stop eating. Maybe you’re feeling sad or angry, and eating distracts you. Maybe you’re averse to throwing away food, so you keep going even if you don’t want anymore. Maybe you’re starting a new diet tomorrow so you feel you have to eat everything you can while the getting’s good. All of these occasions mean overriding your body’s signals, and over time you can completely disconnect with them, meaning you’re never really sure when it’s time to stop eating.

Let’s discuss how to get back in touch with your fullness signals so that you can begin to relearn this essential skill. Here are some questions for you to answer.

Answer these questions while you’re eating a meal, preferably one that you started when you were certain you were hungry (breakfast is a good meal to use for this exercise). Answer these questions after you’ve taken three or four bites, again after ten bites, and when you’re done eating.

  1. How do I feel physically right now? How does my stomach feel? How is my energy?
  2. How does my food taste? (You’ll often notice food loses that immediate pleasure and deliciousness after just a few bites.)
  3. Am I ready to stop eating now? Why or why not? Is it physical, or mental?
  4. Is there anything going on in my mind that’s making me think I should stop when I really want more, or that’s making me want to eat more even though I’m physically full?
  5. Did I leave any food on my plate? Do I struggle to throw food away?

Once you start to really understand what your body feels like when it’s full, you may have to do some work to consistently stop eating when you’re full. Two practical suggestions for accomplishing this are serving yourself your meal and putting the leftovers away before you begin to eat and portioning out your snacks ahead of time so you’re not eating from a bottomless pit. However, that may not be enough.

If you still struggle to stop eating when your body tells you it’s had enough, you may need to take some additional steps. For instance, if you regularly find you overeat at a particular time of day, look for an alternate activity to try, instead. Go for a walk, call a friend, anything that will take you away from the food for a while. Once you’ve done that you can decide if you’re still hungry or not.

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