Do you struggle with overeating? Do you feel like you always self-sabotage because you eat way past comfortable fullness? In this post, I am going to teach you how to stop eating when you’re full by listening to your body.
You Can’t Outsource Fullness
Fullness is an internal cue. You can’t look at someone else and ask, “Hey! Am I full?” They would look at you like you’re crazy.
Instead, you need to ask your body, “Hey! Am I full?” Your body will communicate back to you in a number of ways. Your body might say:
- The stomach is starting to feel full.
- My energy feels restored.
- I feel content and relaxed.
- I’m not thinking about food as much anymore.
These are all signs of emerging fullness. Some people miss hearing these signals altogether. Other people hear them but choose not to listen. Whatever your experience might be, trust that you can rebuild connection to your fullness.
Understanding Your Hormones
To feel your fullness, it’s empowering to understand what’s happening at the cellular level. There are two key hormones that regulate eating: ghrelin and leptin.
Ghrelin is the hunger hormone. It essentially tells your body, “Hey, I’m ready to eat!” Levels are high when you’ve gone a while without food and lower as you eat.
Leptin is the satiety (or fullness) hormone. It tells your body, “Hey, I’m feeling good now!” Leptin levels are high when you’re fed and low when you’ve gone some time without food.
This seems pretty straightforward, right? Unfortunately, a number of factors impact our hormones including dieting. Research shows that on a low-calorie diet, ghrelin increases and leptin lowers (aka — you feel hungry all the time). (1)
The best way to balance your hormones is to stop dieting altogether and start nourishing your body. Nourishment comes in the form of adequate meals and snacks, quality sleep, and stress management.
First Comes Hunger
To feel your fullness, you must first honor your hunger. If you wait to eat until you are ravenously hungry, it’s more likely that you’ll keep eating past comfortable fullness. If you skip meals or go longer than 5 hours without eating, chances are you’ll overeat later.
Scan your body for these physical signs of hunger before eating:
- stomach growling
- stomach pangs
- an empty feeling in the stomach
- slight headache
- difficulty concentrating
- irritability (aka hangry)
It’s important to note that everyone experiences hunger differently. This list is an example of various hunger signs. The important message is to listen to YOUR body and eat when you notice subtle signs of hunger.
Then Comes Fullness
Maybe you’re thinking, “Well how do I really feel my fullness?” Fullness cues aren’t just in your stomach. They’re in your tastebuds, too!
Scan your body for these physical signs of fullness during/after eating:
- Taste. The food isn’t as flavorful as the first few bites. Taste has diminished.
- Mind. You’re not thinking about food as much. Desire to eat has diminished.
- Mood. You’re begging to feel content, satisfied, and relaxed.
- Energy. You feel like your energy is restored. Or if you ate past comfortable fullness, you might feel lethargic.
- Stomach. There’s a sensation of fullness in your stomach. If you ate past comfortable fullness, you might feel distention, bloating, or heaviness.
Again, everyone experiences fullness differently. This list is an example of various fullness signs. Listen to YOUR body and stop eating when you notice signs of fullness.
Use the Hunger & Fullness Discovery Scale
It takes time to reconnect to your body. The process isn’t always linear. One tool to support you as you put this to practice is the hunger & fullness discovery scale.
Before eating: How hungry am I? Could I eat right now? Where am I beginning to notice hunger in my body? What would I rate those sensations on the scale of 1-10?
During eating: How is my food tasting? Am I starting to feel fullness emerge? Am I beginning to think less about food? Check-in with where you’re at on the scale.
After eating: How full am I? Could I stop eating and feel content? Where do I notice fullness in my body? What would I rate those sensations on the scale of 1-10?
Over time, you’ll start to feel more in tune with your body. Allow for wiggle room as you practice using this scale. It’s not a pass/fail activity. It’s an experiment to slow down and tune in. If at any point using this scale is overwhelming, ditch it.
It’s difficult to feel your fullness when you eat and multitask. If you watch TV or check emails while you eat, that’s where your attention goes. Experiment with this. Enjoy one meal per week distraction-free! Turn off the TV, set up a comfortable eating environment, and actually sit down to eat. I bet you’ll feel more satisfied after eating.
It’s difficult to honor your fullness when you’re caught up in food rules. Maybe you grew up in a household that taught you to clean your plate. Even though you’re full, you keep eating until your plate is scraped clean. You feel obligated to eat. Instead, remind yourself that you can save or box up food for leftovers and enjoy it more when you’re hungry again.
Maybe you’re filling up on a bunch of “air” foods like popcorn, rice cakes, or calorie-free beverages. In this case, you might be feeling false fullness. Physically air food takes up space in your stomach but lacks the “staying power” to make you feel fully satisfied. There’s nothing wrong with these foods, but they shouldn’t take the place of balanced meals and snacks for meeting your nutrient needs.
What if I still can’t stop eating?
- Are you physically hungry? Or is eating driven by emotional reasons? There’s a chance that emotional eating might be at play here. Learn more about How to Navigate Emotional Eating (here).
What if I feel like I need something more to top off the meal?
- This is where satisfaction comes in! I talk more about the 6th principle of Intuitive Eating, Discover the Satisfaction Factor (here).
Looking for more support?
- There are many nuances to hunger & fullness. Let’s hop on a free discovery call to address your specific nutrition needs and concerns!