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Intuitive Eating Principles Summarized - #5 Feel Your Fullness

Welcome again, folks! Today we will be looking at Principle 5 of Intuitive Eating (IE), which is “Feel Your Fullness”. Principle 5 is all about listening to your body signals that will let you know when you are no longer physically hungry and comfortably full. Sounds simple, right? Maybe not. First of all, there are nuances of fullness, which we will touch on.

For starters, for chronic dieters respecting hunger and fullness have often become convoluted by diet rules. Dieting can also generate the idea that at meal times it is finally acceptable to eat versus any other time you may feel hunger, and thus over-eating can ensue. Dieting tells you not to listen to your hunger cues but rather external rules or a set schedule. And while dieting, your next meal or snack may be scarce, so why would you not clear the plate when you are giving yourself license to do so? It is also difficult to respect your fullness if you are distracted while eating; so often we are eating while driving, working at a desk, watching tv, etc. Try to disconnect and have a meal alone or others over the food and conversation, which can help you to better connect with physical sensations of fullness.

Other factors that may make listening to your hunger and fullness difficult include:

  • As a child being instructed not to leave any morsel of food on your plate by well-meaning parents/guardians

  • Being appreciative and respectful of the economics of food and food waste

  • An ingrained habit of finishing a meal or snack to completion regardless of hunger/fullness, AKA “eating on autopilot”

  • Arriving to a meal or snack in a famished state, which intensifies hunger and can make it easy to ignore satiety cues

The key to respecting fullness is to give yourself unconditional permission to eat (perhaps you may need to jump back to Principle 3, Making Peace with Food if you are struggling here). If you believe that you won’t have permission to eat a certain food or meal again, how can you be expected to leave food behind? As an Intuitive Eater however, it is easier to listen to the sensations of fullness and stop eating at that point knowing that you can always eat or snack again if you feel hunger.

But what will comfortable fullness look like, you may be asking? Well as said above, it is nuanced and will not look the same day-to-day or for each person. Missing comfortable satiety is easy to do when 1. You are not looking for it or 2. You have been conditioned to eat every bite regardless of internal cues. Additionally if you begin to eat without feeling hunger it is easy to feel out of whack with hunger and fullness. There are also different “fullness factors” that can cause hunger and fullness to look differently. Examples include: the amount of time that has occurred since you last ate; the types of foods consumed at a meal/snack; the amount of food still in your stomach; hunger level at time of meal/snack; and social influence or eating with others, which has been shown to influence the amount one may eat.

Becoming a conscious eater is the first step to discovering comfortable satiety. You will find that listening to your Food Anthropologist voice here can be helpful. First step is to pause during a meal or snack for a “time-out” of sorts. Take a taste check: “how does this taste? Is this worthy of my taste?”. Next, take a satiety check: “what is my hunger and fullness level? Am I still hungry or starting to feel satisfied?” (disclaimer, it is a process to identify your personal fullness cues and will take patience! The more familiar you become with your hunger and fullness level and the more often you honor your hunger, this will become easier). Once you finish eating, check in with yourself again to see where your fullness is at. Comfortable satiety or did you bypass it? By how much? It may be helpful here to use the Hunger and Fullness Scale and/or keep a journal to make notes. As you become more in tune with the different levels of fullness, you will be able to recognize the last bite threshold, or the endpoint of eating for said meal/snack. Finally, you are not obligated to eat every bite on your plate! Committing to respecting and feeling your fullness is more important right now versus cleaning your plate(*).

So by now you are probably looking for tips to become more of a conscious eater, right? Well you are in the right place!

  • Eat without distraction(*)

  • Reinforce your conscious choice to stop eating

  • Gently push the plate away or place cutlery or napkins on the plate to signify your decision to be done with the meal/snack

  • Learning to say no to obligatory eating

  • Practice politely saying “no thank you” or whatever version of this statement works best for you

As stated above, the types of food you eat can influence fullness. For example, snacks or meals that contain some amount of fiber, complex carbohydrates, protein, and fat will increase the staying power. Many times dieters avoid certain kinds of foods (i.e. carbohydrates and fat), which in reality are the exact foods that typically cause increased fullness and satisfaction. Try combining these together for a meal or snack that will be more filling. If you are unsure of how to do so, working with a Registered Dietitian would be a great asset! If you have identified comfortable satiety and still feel that something is missing it may be the satisfaction factor, which is actually Principle 6 and will be focused on in the next blog post! See you there.

(*) It is perfectly normal and OK to overeat even when you’ve identified your comfortable fullness level. This can be a piece of testing the unconditional permission to eat value or simply being human. However, once you are more of a conscious eater and the newness of unconditional permission to eat wears off, it will be easier to leave food behind because you know you will have endless opportunities to eat again.

(*) Eating without distraction is not another “rule” as Intuitive Eating is not a diet with rules that can be broken. If you happen to find yourself texting friends during a meal or watching the news, this is OK.

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