Not too long ago, I wrote about exploring your hunger cues. So today, let's talk about the fifth principle of Intuitive Eating, "Respect Your Fullness." As I've mentioned in the past, diet culture praises restriction versus nourishment - which makes it challenging for many people to feel comfortable about eating enough to feel full.
When I'm working with clients and they begin honoring their hunger, and eating enough food to feel comfortably full - versus just slightly full - they also experience feeling full for longer periods of time after eating. Feeling full after eating is something new for some of my clients who have been chronic dieters. As my clients consistently honor their hunger, eat enough to feel comfortably full, and experience feeling full after eating, they often indicate that they obsess about food less. That they feel more comfortable around it, versus feeling out of control. This increases their body trust and confidence around food, which is so important in the Intuitive Eating journey.
We'll talk more about respecting your fullness in a moment, but before we do, I want to add that honoring our hunger is important for so many reasons. When we're honoring our hunger consistently, we're providing our bodies with nutrients and are building body trust by feeding our bodies regularly. We're also helping those hunger cues return if they've been dulled for a while due to chronic dieting, promoting more balanced blood sugar levels, etc. Honoring our hunger also enables us to tune into our fullness levels more easily!
So back to fullness cues! Tuning into our bodies' fullness cues can be really empowering. Doing so enables us to explore how a variety of things can impact our levels of fullness. Like different food combinations, how hungry we were when we began eating, distracted eating, the environment that we eat in, etc. Additionally, we're able to recognize what the different levels of fullness actually feel like for us - which builds confidence around food and helps us nourish our bodies more adequately. Feeling full after eating can help us focus on other things that we enjoy - besides food.
RESPECT YOUR FULLNESS
The "Respect Your Fullness" principle of Intuitive Eating encourages tuning into your body's internal cues to determine when you are no longer hungry. To recognize when you are comfortably full, and honoring that. Feeling comfortably full means that eating more food would cause uncomfortable fullness.
It's important to note that in Intuitive Eating, you always have the right to eat past the point of feeling comfortably full - without judgment. Intuitive Eating is not a hunger/fullness diet. It doesn't mean that you only eat when you're hungry, and you always stop when you're full. There will be times when you'll realize that you didn't eat enough food to feel comfortably full, and there will be times when you'll realize that you feel stuffed. Sometimes you might want to eat more of something because it tastes so good. And that's alright! You may experience unexpected changes in your schedules - which can affect your eating pattern. Life happens, and this is a learning process.
When we eat to the point of feeling comfortably full, our stomachs are more - like the phrase indicates - comfortable! Eating to the point of being comfortably full is a great way to make your meals and snacks more pleasurable.
TIPS FOR RESPECTING YOUR FULLNESS
Give yourself unconditional permission to eat - without judgement. Remember, dieting doesn't work for most people and can be harmful. Rejecting the diet mentality is such an important part of the Intuitive Eating journey - and frequently needs to be revisited throughout the process because it can feel hard to do so. Revisit this principle as you're working with your fullness cues if it feels intimidating to eat enough food that you feel comfortably full. Remember, feeling full after eating can be really empowering. When you eat meals that you enjoy - to the point of feeling comfortably full - you will feel more mentally and physically satisfied for longer periods of time compared to when you've eaten until feeling just slightly full.
If you have some lingering "forbidden" foods in your life, it can make it more challenging to honor your fullness. "Forbidden" foods can generate a "It's now or never" eating mentality, which can create this fear that you won't be able to eat that particular food in the future. When this happens, compassionately remind yourself that this is part of the process, and that with time, you will remember that you can always go back and obtain more of that food if you would like. It can be helpful to revisit the "Make Peace with Food" principle and do some additional work in that area. Here are some tips for creating peace with food.
Sleep well - regularly. I know...you're super busy! But if possible, obtaining an adequate amount of sleep on a regular basis can be a positive way to support your physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Among many things, poor sleep has been associated with making people feel hungrier by enhancing the levels of the hunger hormone, ghrelin, and reducing the quantities of the hormone, leptin. Leptin reduces an individual's appetite.
This shift in hormone levels can make the process of working with the hunger and fullness cues more stressful for some individuals.
When possible, eat in an enjoyable environment, and try to maintain peace at the dinner table. Reducing the number of distractions during meals and snack time will help you tune into your body's internal cues more effectively. Some research indicates that it takes longer to experience fullness when playing computer games or watching television when eating. It's really about balance. While I enjoy eating most of my meals in a peaceful environment, I'm also a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor who will absolutely eat a meal in front of the television when an IU basketball game is taking place during dinner time!
It can also be helpful initially to eat some meals and snacks alone - so that you're more easily able to tune into your fullness levels. Does this mean that you have no hope of tuning into your fullness cues if you eat with others? Nope. But it can help initially. Removing distractions from your meals and snack times can also make your eating experience more pleasurable.
When eating with others, if possible, try to make the dinner table a safe haven for peace and harmony. Have you ever sat down at the dinner table to enjoy a meal, and then an argument suddenly breaks out during dinner? In these moments of frustration, it's easy to consume your food much faster than usual - and can make it hard to tune into your fullness cues. If possible, try to make the dinner table a place where arguments are prohibited.
Tune into how you feel. There will be times when your body actually needs more energy - and therefore you'll need to eat more. There will be times when you're not as hungry, and you might end up eating less. Working with the Intuitive Eating Hunger and Fullness Scale can help you recognize the different levels of hunger and fullness that you experience when you're eating.
When working with this scale, the lowest number, zero, indicates that you're feeling painfully hungry - while the highest number, ten, symbolizes that you're painfully full/absolutely stuffed. Many people feel hungry for food when they're at a 3 or 4 on the scale, and feel comfortably full at 7.
Try gauging your levels of fullness. Before you eat a meal or snack, refer to the Hunger and Fullness Scale to rank your level of hunger. Halfway through the meal or snack, rank your level of hunger again. Notice if you're still enjoying the flavors and textures of your food. Observe if you're starting to notice your hunger lessening. Are you starting to feel slightly full? Keep eating to the point of feeling comfortably full. Notice how you physically feel when you're comfortably full. To the point where if you were to consume anymore food, it would feel uncomfortable. Observe the physical sensations that you're experiencing. 25-30 minutes after eating, rank your level of fullness again. As you work with your fullness cues, take note of how the different levels of fullness affect your mood, energy level, and eating patterns throughout the day. Be curious! Remember, feeling full after eating is a good thing!
The bottom line is that you deserve to develop a healthier relationship with food and your body. You deserve to feel comfortably full - and to experience feeling full after eating. There is no pass or fail in Intuitive Eating. The primary point of working with your fullness cues is to develop the ability to really tune into your internal biological cues - and how honoring those cues makes you feel. With time, this will become easier. If you feel like you would benefit from receiving some assistance with Intuitive Eating, I recommend checking out this Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor Directory. Remember, Intuitive Eating is a process. Progress, not perfection!
If you would like to work with me on developing a healthier relationship with food and your body, or address general wellness concerns, click here to learn more about my private one-on-one sessions. Happy eating!