How To Understand And Listen To Your Fullness Cues

I’m Kayli Anderson, dietitian and natural foods chef. PBM is your headquarters for empowering, woman-centered plant-based nutrition and lifestyle guidance. 

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We’ve all done it. Eating past the point of comfortable fullness isn’t just reserved for Thanksgiving. Many situations can lead to us ignoring our body’s fullness cues and eating to the point of feeling stuffed. Today we’re going to talk about 4 ways you might be overriding your fullness cues and 3 steps you can take to start to understand and listen to your fullness cues. After all, eating should feel good – not uncomfortable. 

Like hunger, tuning in to your fullness is about: 

  1. strengthening your mind/body connection and rebuilding trust with yourself 
  2. removing blocks that might be preventing you from receiving your body’s signals 

The key to being able to tune in to your fullness and stop eating when you’re comfortably full is knowing that you have unconditional permission to eat when you are hungry again. If you are still restricting or otherwise trying to control your food intake, it’s going to feel very difficult for you to stop eating because your body and mind don’t trust that you’ll allow yourself to eat again when you are hungry. So, establishing that baseline trust that you will honor your hunger when it comes around again is very important. If you haven’t yet read this post about honoring your hunger, I recommend pressing pause and reading that one first.

4 Reasons Why You Might Be Overriding Your Fullness Cues

Back to fullness. We override our fullness for many reasons:

  1. Distracted eating (scrolling on our phones, watching TV, tending to kiddos) which leaves us disconnected from our bodies
  2. Using external signals to tell us when to stop eating – like cleaning our plate or only stopping when the package we’re eating out of is empty
  3. Beginning meals in a state of ravenous hunger
  4. Not wanting to face the emotions that can often accompany the end of a really pleasurable eating experience
Related:  5 Ways To Set Up Your Kitchen For Healthy Eating

Reflect on a few times when you ate past the point of fullness. Was it because of one of these reasons, or a different reason?

3 Steps To Understanding And Listening To Your Fullness Cues

Now that you’re noticing why you’re overriding your fullness cues, let’s talk about how to reconnect with them.

Step 1: identify what comfortable fullness feels like for you.

Many people just don’t know what comfortable fullness feels like because they are constantly in a state of being overly hungry from dieting or distraction, or in a state of being uncomfortably full from overeating. How does “comfortably full” feel to YOU? Envision the feelings you desire after a meal. Maybe it’s feeling satisfied or feeling energized.

Step 2: strengthen the mind/body connection.

You’ll do this in two ways:

Create an eating environment that allows you to be present. 

Most of us are so used to eating on auto-pilot, but tuning in to fullness requires hyper awareness at first. If possible, put your phone away, turn off the TV, and step away from your desk when eating. Take a deep breath before beginning to bring yourself into the present moment. The goal is to create mental space so that you can fully pay attention to your meal and how your body feels. It’s up to you to decide the best way to establish a calmer eating environment based on what works for your life.

Take a mindful pause midway through your meal. 

The purpose of the pause is to check in with how the food is tasting. Is it worthy of your tastebuds? It’s also an opportunity to assess where you are at on the Hunger Discovery Scale. If you find that you aren’t pleasantly full yet, then continue eating.

Step 3: the last step to honoring fullness is to allow yourself to grieve the end of an eating experience

This might sound silly, but it’s not! Food is a pleasurable experience, and when pleasurable experiences end, feeling sad is totally normal. Acknowledge your sadness and remind yourself that you have unconditional permission to eat again when you are hungry and to eat these exact foods again in the future. If you’ve ever heard yourself say, “I’m so full, but it’s so good that I can’t stop”, this step will be extremely helpful. Remind yourself that as soon as you override those fullness cues, that pleasurable experience starts to tip over into a negative experience.

Over to you…

Next time you’re in a situation where you’re prone to overeating, walk yourself through these three steps. Then, DM me on Instagram and let me know how it went! 

Related:  What is Intuitive Eating?

Recognizing and responding to your fullness cues is a key part of intuitive eating. If you want to take your intuitive eating even further, read this post on the basics of intuitive eating, and check out my intuitive eating video training.


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