I’ve recently started watching Grey’s Anatomy (only a decade or so late), and in the episode “Enough is Enough,” a man goes into the hospital after having swallowed 10 doll heads (!).
At one point, Meredith Grey asks him, “Why does eating doll heads fill you up? What's the satisfaction?”
She doesn’t get an answer, but it got me thinking about how we often eat things we don’t need because we’re looking for something to fill us up. Most of us don’t go to those lengths, but even when we don’t, we may be trying to fill some need that’s not about food.
How, then, do you tell if what you’re eating has filled you up, or if there’s something else that might give you the satisfaction you’re craving? Here are 3 questions to ask yourself to help figure it out
Are You Looking for Excuses to Eat?
If you’re eating for some reason other than hunger, you’ll get a clue if you start finding excuses to eat more.
For example, you might have just had a meal but still want to nibble on something else. Maybe chocolate… potato chips… ice cream… or even carrot sticks or apples.
If this happens, pause for a minute and try to assess the situation. Is there an emotional reason you might want to eat? Maybe you’re bored, or tired, or upset. Maybe you’re procrastinating on doing something else that you know you should be doing but aren’t in the mood for. Maybe you’re in pain and you’re looking for comfort.
In those cases, you’re trying to satisfy another type of need with food, but it won’t work. Or least, it won’t long-term. If you’re bored, you might occupy yourself with food for a little bit, but it won’t address the underlying problem of boredom.
Try your best to understand the real reason you don’t feel filled up, and then see if there’s another way you can satisfy that need.
Are You Playing the Comparison Game?
Another possibility is that you’re comparing yourself to someone else, someone who’s still eating. It can be very easy in those cases to convince yourself that you’re not full after all, or that you’re not completely satisfied.
If the other person is eating something that looks good, something you know you’d like, you might trick yourself into thinking you haven’t had enough.
You might not even be aware of this. After all, we don’t often think of eating as competitive, unless it’s an actual competition with hot dogs or pies, but subconsciously, you might treat it that way even in other situations.
Take holidays, especially Thanksgiving. When you’re with family, old patterns can take over, and you might try to outdo siblings or others, even if it’s just with that meal.
If you’re eating with others, step back from the food either physically or mentally. See if you’re trying to find satisfaction by keeping up with others, or if you’re truly still hungry.
Did You Eat What You Really Wanted?
You might also run into situations where you’ve eaten enough to fill up your stomach, but you’re still not physically satisfied. This can happen when you eat what you think you “should” be having instead of eating what you really want.
You might be thinking that you can’t let yourself eat what you actually want, but that’s often a self-defeating thought. If you don’t trust yourself around certain foods, you may convince yourself that you don’t have any control over your behavior and end up eating more than you need.
But the reality is, if you do trust yourself and give yourself permission to have at least a little bit of what you truly want, you’ll often be more satisfied.
The trick is to find a balance, not to deprive yourself completely.
The other key to this is paying enough attention that you notice what you’re eating. Otherwise, you won’t enjoy it even if it’s your favorite food, and you won’t be satisfied.
Being Filled and Satisfied is Key
Most of the time, diets only talk about having a full stomach without talking about the importance of feeling satisfied. The truth is, you need to have both. It’s true that you can’t always do this since you won’t always have control over what you eat.
But if you focus on being full and satisfied, both emotionally and physically, you’re far less likely to eat more than you need.