In my dieting days my goal was to eat the fewest amount of calories as possible, and I applied this strategy when I went to lunch with some friends one day. They all ordered burgers and fries…and I ordered salmon and steamed broccoli. After eating my so-called healthy meal, I looked longingly at their fries even though I was stuffed. At the time, I was confused because all of my dieting books told me that if I was full, then I’d be content. What I now know is that being full is very different than being satisfied.
Distinguishing between the sensations of fullness and satiety can be tricky at first thanks to years of dieting. Fullness is very mechanical and has to do with the volume of food in your stomach while satiety is eating what you want based on what your body is craving and what will make it happy. When I first started working on dissecting these two feelings, I often misjudged because I didn’t know what I even wanted to eat half the time. As odd as that sounds, it was true! I had gotten so used to my diet telling me what to eat that I had lost touch with what I liked. That meant that I sometimes thought I wanted X, so I ate X until I was full, but when I got to the end of my meal, I wasn’t satisfied because I really wanted to eat Y.
There were several things that I had to learn in order to really be able to tell if I was full or satisfied or both:
- If I am full but still want food, then I am not satiated.
- I sometimes eat something that initially sounds good and then it no longer appeals to me even though I’m still hungry. This is my body telling me that it’s done with that food and wants something else. I then take a moment to think about what food will satisfy me next and go from there.
- Learning to be mindful has helped me get to the point where I choose foods that will truly satisfy me.
- I know I’m satisfied when I no longer have a craving. My body says, “Ahhh, that was so good!” and I feel like I don’t want another bite.1
Now that I have a much better understanding of the difference between being full and being satisfied, I rarely am left wanting more. I don’t go for the oatmeal when I want a burrito. I choose the donut over the carrots if that is what makes my mouth water. I eat the sweet food or the salty food or the whatever food if that is what I crave because eating should not only meet a physiological need but also bring pleasure and satisfaction.
1A little caveat: These don’t really apply in the beginning. When I stopped dieting, I wanted to eat EVERYTHING all the time! I go into why in the article “Help! I Can’t Stop Eating!“
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