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Stopping When Still Hungry

Do you ever find that a little while after you stop eating, you feel more full than you did after you finished your meal, sometimes even uncomfortable from too much food? Do you ever wonder why this happens?

One of the main reasons for this is that if you’re out of practice with mindful eating, it can be very difficult to identify the point when you’ve had enough. This is especially true if you’re eating fairly quickly and the fullness cues haven't caught up to your brain. Until it does, it makes sense to keep eating, doesn’t it? After all, who wants to stop eating when they're still hungry?

Odd as might sound, stopping when still a little hungry is sometimes a good thing to do. It can give you brain time to catch up to what you’ve already. Or maybe you want dessert, or know you'll be eating again soon, so it makes sense to stop early.

Whatever the reason, this isn't always easy to do, so it can help to have some strategies in place to get you through the transition period while your meal settles. Everyone has to find what works for them, but here are a few ideas of things that help me.

One approach is to have something else fun, or at least neutral, to do after eating. Maybe you can develop a habit to go for a short walk, listen to music, or just move away from the food. The goal is to focus on something else for long enough that you catch up to your meal.

It also helps if the activity is eating incompatible. A couple of things I find helpful are chewing gum or drinking hot tea. Both of those keep my mouth occupied, and the tea (or other beverage of choice) can help bump me into the satisfied or full feeling.

Or sometimes simply brushing your teeth can help, since having that clean teeth feel may encourage you to think twice before eating again.

At the same time, it’s very important remember that you can eat later if you're still hungry, or if you simply choose to even if you’re not hungry. The purpose of stopping short of full isn't to torment or deny yourself; it's to help assess if you truly are still hungry, or to possibly to leave space for something coming up, since unfortunately, despite what some people may say, we don't have a separate stomach for dessert.

The good news is that the longer you practice eating mindfully, the more in tune you get with your body's feelings, and the more natural this becomes. You learn to better distinguish true hunger from that uncertain time after finishing eating. This also helps you avoid the uncomfortable sense of being overly full and instead allow enjoy the middle ground of being perfectly satisfied – which, as you will probably find, is a very good place to be.

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