The cyclical nature of hunger and fullness is part of our biology, yet there are circumstances that override our natural signals. Here’s how you can regain trust with your body’s needs.
So many of us eat meals while watching television, watching a video on our phones, scrolling through social media or while on our emails. Think about it — when’s the last time you sat down at a table and did nothing other than eating (and perhaps talking with your dining partner)?
These distractions make it easy to lose touch with your own body’s fullness signals.
Have you ever heard the term “respect your fullness”? It is one of the 10 principles of intuitive eating, and it’s about tuning in with your body while you eat and listen to those signals that are saying “I’ve had enough to eat.”
Honoring your hunger and respecting your fullness are different sides of the same coin. They both involve mindful eating and body trust. It can take some practice but you can get there. A professional can help, especially if you find yourself compulsively overeating, or you suspect you may have binge eating disorder.
So what are the steps to respecting your fullness?
1. Eat mindfully.
What does it look like to be mindful while eating? Ideally you tune in with your hunger before you start eating, and as you enjoy your meal. You think about where you are on the hunger and fullness scale. You chew each bite thoroughly, savoring the flavor, scent and texture of your food.
You ask yourself: Am I still hungry? Am I getting full? Ideally, you push away your plate at around a 7 out of 10 on the scale. This means you’re comfortably full, but not overstuffed. You’re not uncomfortable and you’re no longer hungry or thinking about or interested in food. You’re satisfied.
2. Stop when you’re full.
What does fullness feel like to you? Absence of hunger, an expanded belly and no longer feeling interested in food are all signs that you’re getting full. The key is to stop when you’re feeling pleasantly full and before you feel uncomfortably full.
You know you’re full but you want to keep eating. Ask yourself why that may be. Is it a food you don’t normally allow yourself to have? The major cause of overeating is restriction, so think about it: if you know you can have any food any time you want, what would drive you to overeat it?
If there is a particular food you shy away from because you think you will overeat, it’s time to open up access and give yourself permission to that food. It might seem counterintuitive, but it’s just like telling a kid they can’t have or do something — then that’s all they want!
When you’re full but still have delicious food on your plate, save that food for later and remind yourself you can have it whenever you want. You are respecting your fullness, and preventing that feeling of discomfort. You’re doing what is best for your body right now, and you can eat whenever you want.
3. Don’t fear being full.
What if you’re afraid to eat to the point of fullness? This is common in people who are restrictive with their food or have disordered eating. But going through life always hungry is no way to live, along with the associated irritability, brain fog, low energy and food preoccupation. It’s important to eat until you’re full to build that bidirectional body trust. You need to trust your body to tell you when, what and how much to eat so your body will trust you to feed it when, what and how much it needs.
Remember that hunger is your body telling you it needs nourishment. If you find yourself constantly hungry, it may be a sign that you’re often undereating. Are you restricting foods? Are you compulsively exercising? Is your body below its healthy weight? These are all things that can cause your body to send more hunger signals.
4. Accept that overeating happens.
Holidays. Vacations. Emotional times. Food insecurity. Crazy schedules. Medications. There are many reasons we overeat and that’s totally normal. Sometimes we undereat, and sometimes we overeat. It’s a fact of life. It’s also normal to overeat a food if you’ve just given yourself unconditional permission to eat it. It’s an expected part of the food freedom process, so know that things will balance out in time.
You can be as prepared and mindful as physically possible, and still find yourself in situations where you’re eating too little or too much. Cut yourself some slack and remember that the answer is not to restrict after overeating, which will simply perpetuate a harmful diet-binge cycle.
Remember to trust your body to tell you what it needs, and you might find yourself naturally less hungry after a day of overeating. Or not, and that’s OK too.
After all, being hungry is neither right or wrong.
Adapted from the original article.
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Taylor Wolfram, MS, RDN, LDN is Chicago-based Registered Dietitian who helps others lead a life of compassion that improves their overall relationship with food, exercise, and their bodies. As an expert in eco-ethical and vegan lifestyles, she’s passionate about helping individuals end their struggle with food and live an unrestricted life in the kitchen. Learn more about Taylor at Whole Green Wellness.