Feeling Your Fullness: Foundations of Intuitive Eating

In today’s world, it can be easy to get caught up in the idea that we need to control our food intake to maintain a certain weight or appearance. However, intuitive eating, a concept developed by Dietitians Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, encourages us to trust our body’s natural hunger and fullness cues to reach a weight that is optimal for our bodies and that allows us to have freedom around food. There are ten principles of intuitive eating that act as a guide through this journey. The focus of today’s discussion will be on Principle #6: Feeling Your Fullness. This topic is one that many struggle with, as history of disordered eating patterns and the hustle/bustle of our society can lead to disconnection from hunger and fullness cues. Keep reading to understand the basics of hunger and fullness and why it is so important to come back to being in touch with these cues!

What is Fullness? 

Fullness, also known as satiety, is the feeling of being comfortably satisfied after eating. It’s different from feeling stuffed or uncomfortable, which can happen if we eat too much or too quickly. This can happen when we are surrounded by distractions during meal times, and we lose awareness of the amount or speed that we are eating. When we eat to the point of fullness, we’re giving our bodies the energy and nutrients needed to function properly without overloading it with too much food.

Why is Feeling Your Fullness Important? 

Feeling your fullness is essential to intuitive eating. When we eat enough to satisfy our hunger and stop eating when we feel full, we can establish a healthy relationship with food, satisfy our hunger, and properly nourish our bodies. However, if we are out of touch with our fullness cues, we can either not eat enough to satisfy our hunger or overeat past comfortable fullness. Overeating may lead to feeling hungry again shortly after a meal, which is no fun! However, ignoring our natural fullness signals could lead to ultimately feeling physically uncomfortable after a meal, bloating, and even nausea. Mentally, overeating can lead to feelings of guilt and shame and can contribute to a negative relationship with food.

How to Feel Your Fullness

Learning to feel your fullness takes practice and patience and is a skill that can greatly improve your relationship with food. Here are some tips to help you get started: 

  1. Eat Mindfully: Eating mindfully means being present and fully engaged in the experience of eating. This involves slowing down your eating pace, savoring the food, and paying attention to your body’s hunger and fullness cues. Try putting away distractions like your phone or TV; focus on the flavors, textures, and smells of your food. Sometimes it can be beneficial to eat with others to create a positive environment around the food and enable discussions about the characteristics of the meal. 
  2. Use the Hunger-Fullness Scale: The hunger-fullness scale is a tool that can help you tune into your body’s signals of hunger and fullness before, during, and after a meal. The scale ranges from 1-10, with 1 being extremely hungry and 10 being overly full. Try to aim for a comfortable fullness level of around 6 or 7. Before eating, try checking in with yourself using this scale. What level of hunger are you entering the meal with? Cater portion sizes to this level. During the meal, pause to reflect on your progress. Are you feeling more full and satisfied? Do you still feel the need to eat a bit more to completely satisfy your hunger and bring your fullness to a 6 or 7 on the scale? After you finish eating, repeat this exercise to see how you did. This is a process and it is OK for it to take time to learn how to gauge this! Try to evaluate your hunger and fullness without judgment and keep in mind that it is a learning process.
  3. Take Breaks: During the meal, take breaks to check in with your body and see how full you’re feeling. This can help you slow down and prevent overeating. 
  4. Listen to Your Body: Trust your body’s signals and eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re full. Don’t worry about finishing everything on your plate if you’re already feeling full.  

Feeling your fullness is a crucial part of intuitive eating, and it can help you establish a healthy relationship with food. Remember that intuitive eating is not about perfection or strict rules, but rather about learning to trust and honor your body’s needs. With practice and patience, you can learn to feel your fullness and enjoy food without guilt or deprivation. 

Do you have any tips not mentioned above that helped you become more in touch with your hunger and fullness cues? I would love to hear from you!

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