Dieting messed with my fullness cues. Big time. Restricting made me ravenous and then I usually overate because I was just so damn hungry. This ruined my ability to identify comfortable fullness because I only knew what it felt like to be stuffed. It was either-or; there was no middle ground. Because I had ignored this sensation for so long, I forgot what it was like for gentle fullness to emerge.
Although identifying hunger was part of my recovery, hunger and fullness were separate battles I had to face. Yes, the whole hunger thing was tough, but figuring out when I was full and when to stop eating was on a whole different level for me. Between eating in response to deprivation, not wanting to stop because the food tasted so good, and thinking I stopped at the right time and then feeling overfull 20 minutes later, I didn’t know which way was up or down. I knew I had a long, bumpy road ahead of me. It took so much energy to identify fullness that I’m glad I came out the other end with my sanity.
Now that I’m at a point where I can reflect on my experience, I think I can give a few pointers to newcomers:1
- Know that there are a variety of fullness cues. Though this is not a comprehensive list, these are the common signals our bodies give us to indicate that we are getting full or are full. You may experience one of these or several of these. Everyone is different.
- fullness sensation in stomach
- more energized and alert
- hunger cues fade
- fewer food thoughts
- food does not taste as good
- less of a desire to eat
- feel calmer, relaxed, or drowsy
- feel comfortable and content
- Check-in regularly with a body scan. When I started mediating, I learned how to do a body scan. Instead of doing a full body scan, I focus the scan on my stomach to see where I am fullness-wise. This wasn’t an after-every-bite type of thing but rather a few times while eating.
- Use the fullness chart. Even though this became second nature after a while, the fullness chart was a good reference for me since my fullness cues were so out of whack from dieting. As with hunger, fullness is a continuous spectrum. I don’t have to stop eating exactly at a 7. Somewhere in the ballpark is good enough!
- Plan ahead. When I started paying attention to my fullness, I would eat until I felt full and then a while later I would fee stuffed.2 I learned that it takes my body about 15-20 minutes to tell me that it’s full.3 One strategy that I find useful is to stop eating when I’m no longer hungry.4 This may not work for everyone, but I find it to be a good guideline.
- Think of this as an experiment! I lightened this experience up a bit by approaching my hunger with curiosity rather than fear. After taking a deep breath, I would ask myself “How does it feel if I stop eating right now?” or “What about if I decide to take a few more bites?” These types of questions, along with the fullness chart, helped me understand the degrees of fullness.
- Pay attention to the taste of the food. Yes, this one I already mentioned in #1, but it was such a light bulb moment for me! When I’m moving towards fullness, I find that food starts tasting less yummy. At some point, my body tells me “Okay, that’s enough.”
- Don’t get too hungry. When I let myself get too hungry,5 I often am a little overzealous in my eating and fly right past my fullness cues. Being mindful is tough when I’m famished, but it helps me to slow down so I can hear my body speak to me.
Babies push away the bottle when they are full. They don’t think about it or question the physical sensation. They just know they’re done. I was like this when I was young, but thanks to dieting, my body’s signal for fullness became blunted. Getting back in touch with it was hit-or-miss for a while and required a lot of patience. Eventually, I was able to recapture that feeling. If this is something you struggle with, it’s normal after dieting for so long. You too can re-learn your fullness cues once you figure out how your body speaks to you.
How does your body tell you you’re full? Please share in the comment section below.
2What the hell?! I stopped when I was full, so why did I feel like I overate? Grrr….
3And if you’re a nerd like me, here’s a video about the science behind this phenomenon:
5Okay, I know life happens, so I am not too hard on myself if this occurs from time to time.
Thank you so much for reading my blog! I am honored that you chose to read about my experience.
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