Hopefully by now you are starting to get the idea that intuitive eating takes a bit of practice and requires a bit of attention on your part to really re-gain the natural instinct to eat when hungry and stop when satisfied. Sounds so simple doesn’t it? It is amazing how much we have managed to distort such a simple process as eating.
Think about the last meal you had. How did it end? Did you eat the amount you had planned for that particular meal and stop afterwards, despite still feeling like you could eat a little bit more? Did you serve yourself a large portion because your “eyes were bigger than your stomach”, but finished your plate anyways? Or did you eat until satisfied, even if it meant leaving food on your plate or going back for more?
I admit that this is something I struggled with a lot in the journey to eating more intuitively. I don’t claim to be 100% intuitive as I still do have my moments where I will eat past fullness, but I can recognize a lot of progress in my approach to food and how I eat it. Like today’s lunch, for example. I left about 1/3 of the wrap and 1/2 of the coleslaw because I was full.
In my previous “restrict + overeat” (aka dieting and non-intuitive) life I would have made sure to eat the entire thing. Why? Because leaving food is a difficult thing to do for many who are restricting their food intake.
There are many reasons for this, here are just a few examples.
- Dieting means it is only “legal” to eat at meal times.- If I want to eat, then I have to eat now and I have to eat everything that I allowed myself to eat during that meal. Otherwise, I won’t be able to eat it later because I didn’t plan for it then. Ever have a thought process like this? I know I have. I tend to end up stuffed and feeling gross afterwards, too.
- Begin the meal too hungry. – If you ate too little prior to a meal in an attempt to be “good” you very well could eat past your fullness because you are too hungry to take time to eat and monitor your hunger.
- My only chance to eat this. – When you have free meals or free days many times those days can turn into overeating scenarios because you feel it is your only chance to fit in as much of your “bad foods” as possible. I will admit that even when losing weight I had “free days”. I noticed I would want to eat soooo much more on those days if I was not practicing mindfulness.
- Out of habit. – Sometimes having to make each meal a verification of your membership in the “Clean Plate Club” is simply habit. You maybe grew up being taught to eat everything you were served. Perhaps you hate wasting food and therefore will force yourself to eat it so it doesn’t go in the trash. Perhaps you eat on autopilot from being so used to eating the same meals in the same amounts and you don’t even think twice about it. I know I’m guilty of that too.
That is all fine and dandy, but what can we actually do to feel our fullness?
Below are some tips to monitoring your full factor while eating so you can end a meal perfectly satisfied.
This will allow you to not eat too fast, which can leave you unaware of eating past your comfort level until it’s too late. You can also rate your fullness on a 1-10 scale during these breaks to know whether you need to eat more or stop.
* Limit distractions.
Try to sit down in an environment where you can actually take the time to savor your food. This applies to the above tip as well. The less distractions you have, the more you are able to recognize and pay attention to your body’s signals.
* Give yourself permission to eat again when hungry.
Trying to eat on a schedule can cause you to not pay attention to your fullness. If you know you can’t eat until 3 hours later because it is when you are “supposed” to eat, you may eat past your fullness at that particular meal or snack. Knowing that you can have a snack as soon as you feel truly hungry again will relieve the need to hoard your food in your belly and stave off hunger until your planned eating time.
* Reinforce your decision to stop eating with a physical action.
When you recognize you are beginning to feel full, pay close attention to how much more you eat. At the time you know you are satisfied, push your plate away, set your napkin on top of your plate, ask the waiter to remover your dish, etc. Do something physical to signify you are done eating.
There are numerous situations where we are eating with others and they offer us more to eat. Think holiday dinners with plates being passed around numerous times. Or out to dinner with friends when your friend offers you another piece of bread because they are going for their 3rd and think you may want another as well. Being able to say “no thanks” is a very useful tool in not eating past your fullness.
* Assess your current state before you begin eating.
Remember the idea of being a food anthropologist? This applies to that. Many things factor into how easily you will be satisfied in each meal. How long it has been since you last ate will play a role. Has it been two hours or five? The kind of food you have eaten recently will impact your needs since some foods are naturally more filling. Your initial hunger state when you begin eating needs to be considered as well. You might be ready to eat, but only mildly hungry. Paying attention to each of these factors will help you begin your meal more aware and be more likely to stay mindful of your hunger/fullness levels.
I want to be clear on something. Cleaning your plate is not a bad thing. If you are truly hungry, then you very well may eat everything in front of you. The problem is eating past your comfort because you are not recognizing your body’s needs and desires. It is also a problem when not eating to satiety because you ate your “proper serving” and don’t believe you should go back for more. Intuitive eating is always about paying attention to your body and giving it what it is asking for. Clean your plate or leave half your meal. None of that matters. What matters is did you end the meal satisfied with no guilt, no hunger, and no stress?