For most people, learning to eat when hungry is the easy part. It is the learning to stop eating when full that poses the most questions. This can be caused for a variety of reasons. One of the big reasons is because for many people, the signals their body sends just don’t feel as strong at first. When you compound that with eating for emotional reasons or even binging – we lose sight of the nuances in between hunger and completely stuffed. But, just like hunger, we can learn to tune into our signals of fullness and even begin to respect those signals.
How to Stop Eating When Full
I recommend that my clients eat until they feel what I call comfortable fullness. This means that you no longer feel physical hunger in your body but that it doesn’t feel uncomfortably full.
The most important thing about learning to stop eating when full is that you have to be hungry to start with.
If you aren’t physically hungry, you are not going to be able to tell when you are full.
As a bonus, food will taste best if you are hungry and have worked up an appetite for it.
You also need to be eating mindfully, focusing on the process of just eating. Being this hyper focused won’t always be necessary but in the beginning, you may need to pay a bit of extra attention to tune into the physical process of fullness. It will be a good idea to not watch television, read or work while you are eating and periodically check in every few bites to see how you are feeling both mentally and physically. You may also find it helpful to consciously slow down and put your fork or spoon down in between bites.
Like hunger, understanding the nuances of fullness takes patience and awareness. Stopping when you feel the comfortable sensation of fullness is they key.
In the beginning, stopping at this point might feel too soon but trust yourself and stop. If after a half hour or so, you still feel physical hunger, you can eat again. Food will always be there and if it takes you a while to catch on to your signals, that is OK.
Often times, people get caught up in the idea that they must stop when they are “satisfied” and that somehow “satisfied” isn’t actually satisfied. I’ve had many people tell me that when they stop eating when they are “satisfied” that they end up still hungry or obsessing over whether or not they are still hungry.
That’s not satisfied!
Your body is satisfied when you are no longer feel any physical sensations of hunger and you feel content in your body.
A common sign that you might notice is that your thoughts begin to roam to other tasks or that the food just doesn’t taste as good as before. Some people say that they “sigh” when they feel comfortable fullness. Comfortable fullness does not feel heavy, bloated or weighed down at all.
If you struggle with emotional eating, my best tip for you is to recognize that you want to eat past this physical feeling of fullness. Pay attention to both your mind and body and observe what happens when you stop eating when you want to keep eating anyway.
What thoughts pop up and what does it feel like for you?
What is the reason you are telling yourself you want to overeat?
What would happen if you stopped?
These questions will help you cultivate the awareness around why you want to eat past full.
Be gentle with yourself here and remind yourself that the food will always be there. Once you have developed healthier coping skills, the desire to eat beyond fullness will greatly diminish and beginning to stop eating when full will happen naturally.