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3 Non-Diet Reasons to Stop Eating Before You’re Full

You may have heard that if you stop eating when you’re 80% full, you might live longer. This is based on the fact that people in Okinawa, Japan, tend to live long and healthy lives, and many of them practice this approach to eating.


Whether you agree with that idea or not, you may have other reasons why you want to stop eating when you’re still a little hungry.


But wanting to do that and succeeding at it are different, so I’ll also cover some tips for how to do it.


Reasons to stop before you’re 100% full

Here are three reasons you might want to stop eating before you’re completely full.


  1. Learning to eat mindfully: If you’re out of practice with mindful eating, it can be difficult to identify when you’ve had enough to eat. This is especially true because it can take a while for fullness cues to get from your stomach to your brain. So, you might want to stop a little early, knowing you’ll feel more full in 15-20 minutes.

  2. Eating again soon: You may also have times when you know you’ll be eating again soon, like if you’re having a snack to tide you over to a meal or if you plan on having dessert. In those cases, stopping before you’re 100% full will let you better enjoy your later meal or dessert.

  3. Exercising: If you have a big workout or exercise routine planned after a meal, eating until you feel full is likely going to backfire since you’re more apt to feel sluggish or even uncomfortable with a full stomach. You want enough energy for the exercise or workout, but not too much.


Tips for stopping early

Admittedly, it can feel strange to think about stopping eating when you’re still hungry, so it may be easier to think of it as eating a bit less. But whatever way you think about it, here are a few things that can help:

  • Use smaller dishes: If you use a smaller plate or bowl, you’ll often end up eating less because you’ll have a smaller portion, but your brain may think it’s getting the usual amount because the plate or bowl is still full. This can help you feel satisfied even when eating a bit less than you usually do.

  • Have an activity planned for after eating: It also helps to have something else fun, or at least neutral, to do after eating. Maybe you can develop a habit of going for a short walk, listening to music, or just moving away from the food. The goal is to focus on something else for long enough that your brain catches up to what you've eaten.

  • Clean your teeth: Sometimes brushing your teeth or chewing gum can help since having that feeling of clean teeth may encourage you to think twice before eating again.


At the same time, it’s important to 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 possibly to leave space for other food, since unfortunately, despite what some people may say, we don't have a separate stomach for dessert.


Stopping early gets easier with practice

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’ll learn to distinguish better between true hunger and that uncertain time after finishing eating.


This approach also helps you avoid the uncomfortable sense of being overly full and instead enjoy the middle ground of being perfectly satisfied – which, as you’ll find, is a very good place to be.

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