Last month I shared a blogpost called, “How do I know if I’m hungry?” and I’m sure it would feel helpful to follow up with some thoughts about fullness.

Fullness often feels just as tricky as hunger. The biggest reason for that is we don’t stop eating just because we feel full — we also want to feel satisfied. It’s worth noting that fullness and satisfaction are two very different sensations, but both are important for triggering the cue to stop eating.

Fullness is more of a physical sensation of stomach distention while satisfaction is an overall sense of fulfillment from eating. When used together, they create the ability to step away from the table with the physical and mental energy to go live your life for a few hours without thinking about or feeling preoccupied with food.

People tend to run scared of satisfaction, equating it with overeating; however, avoiding satisfaction can often lead to overeating.

Food is meant to feel rewarding; it’s a natural biological process for the eating experience to create positive feedback to your brain so you will continue to do it each time you get hungry. If you don’t feel satisfied, then your brain becomes preoccupied and obsessed with food. You think about all the things you could eat to feel satisfied instead of thinking about other, more important things. Eventually, you cave and eat all those things, creating an all or nothing mentality that leads to extreme, compulsive behaviors. Humans will seek satisfaction at all costs.

full and satisfied

This means feeling full and satisfied with your meals and snacks is your solution, while not feeling full and satisfied can lead to problematic behaviors. Because it’s a common concern, it should be noted that feeling satisfied with food differs from numbing or distracting with food. The former leaves you feeling balanced, energized and content while the latter leaves you feeling unbalanced, lethargic and discontent.

How to feel full AND satisfied

  1. One of the best ways to achieve satisfaction is to include a wide variety of foods and food groups in your meals. Balanced meals that include a few food groups (choosing among carbohydrates, proteins, dairy products, fats, fruits and vegetables) will feel far more satisfying — for longer periods of time — than meal patterns which exclude entire food groups.
  2. It’s also easier to honor feelings of fullness if you know you can have more later or at another time. If you feel like a diet, deprivation or restriction is around the corner, then it’s going to be very difficult to stop eating. If you won’t ever get it again — or at least tell yourself that — you’ll want it all right now.
  3. You also contribute to satisfaction by eating regularly and adequately throughout the day. It’s going to be hard to respect your fullness when you find yourself overly hungry because you are skipping (or skimping on) meals and snacks. Creating predictable and rhythmic food patterns will make hunger AND fullness cues more reliable.
  4. Lastly, paying attention to the process of eating is definitely satisfying. Slow down a bit and take in your enjoyment of the food. Think about how it looks, tastes, feels and smells. It’s much easier to notice when you’ve had enough to eat when you pay attention this way.

Remember, satisfaction is your solution!