5 Tips to Help Stop Eating Before You’re Too Full
In mindful eating, I often use a hunger/fullness scale to help people think about how hungry they are or to identify how they feel after eating. The scale ranges from 1-10, with 1 being ravenous and 10 being so overfull you feel sick.
But what I still sometimes struggle with is the idea of stopping eating when I’m at a 5, which is Satisfied, rather than going on to a 6, which is Full, or a 7, which is Very Full.
Part of that is likely how American culture thinks about eating. After all, we like seeing images of babies or puppies with little rounded bellies, showing that they’ve had a good meal, and we rarely hear anyone in media talk about stopping before Full.
Plus, being full is comforting and reassuring. If you have enough food to be able to eat until you’re full, that might give you a sense of abundance, that you have plenty to get you through the days and weeks. And if Full is good, isn’t Very Full even better?
What this ignores, though, is that when you eat to the point of being overly full, you’re eating more than you truly need. It also ignores the fact that it can take a while for any fullness signals to reach your brain so that if you stop eating when you’re full, you could later end up feeling very full or even be uncomfortable from overeating.
How, then, do you shift things so you stop eating before getting too full? Here are five tips to help.
Tip 1: Remember it’s not about deprivation
The first and most important thing to remember is that this isn’t about deprivation. You’re not stopping because you’re only allowing yourself a certain amount of food.
Rather, it’s about making a choice about how you want to feel after eating.
When you eat more than you need, you’ll often find that you’re a bit tired, perhaps sluggish, and want to take a nap. That’s fine for puppies and babies, but it’s not a good plan if you have to go back to work or have other responsibilities.
You may also feel uncomfortable or ill, depending on how much you overeat. You may still choose to eat more on certain occasions, but other times, you’ll likely want to eat enough so that you feel good afterward and can go on about your day.
Tip 2: Have something to drink
Sometimes feelings of thirst are confused with feelings of hunger, which is why I often like ending a meal with a cup of tea. Having that drink makes sure that I’m not dehydrated, and it also “fills in the gaps,” as it were, in my stomach.
You might choose something other than tea, but the idea is the same. Plus, if you’re drinking something hot and sip it slowly for five or more minutes, that will also give your body time for the fullness signals in your stomach to reach your brain.
Tip 3: Know what you’ll do after eating
It can also help to plan for something to do after eating that will keep you occupied until those fullness signals catch up.
Ideally, this should be something that you like to do, or at least don’t actively dislike. For example, I don’t love washing dishes, but I don’t strongly dislike it, either, so for me, that can be a good after-meal activity to focus on.
Getting out for a short walk is also an option if that works for your schedule, or reading a chapter of a book, or perhaps reading a blog or article that you enjoy. If you like puzzles, maybe you could work on a few puzzle pieces. You could play with a pet, do some stretching, or anything else.
The goal is to have a defined endpoint for eating as you transition into the next part of the day.
Tip 4: Pay attention to changing hunger/fullness after eating
I mentioned that it can take a while to notice that you’re full, or at least not hungry anymore, and it can help to pay attention to have an idea of how long this takes for you.
I know for myself this can take anywhere from 20-30 minutes. That’s honestly part of what makes it a bit frustrating, because if I finish eating in 15 minutes, then I sometimes need to wait another 15 minutes to feel satisfied or pleasantly full. But knowing that helps because I can remind myself that it simply takes time. And then if that time goes by and I’m still hungry, I’ll have something else small to eat.
Tip 5: Sometimes eat until you’re full
This last tip might seem strange, but it can help to occasionally eat until you feel full, or a 6 on the hunger/fullness scale.
This goes back to the first tip. If you only ever eat just enough to be satisfied, it can start to seem like deprivation even when you don’t intend it to.
You may also have occasions where it’s okay to be a little sleepy or less energetic after you eat, and you want to truly enjoy the food. And having that comforting, reassuring feeling of food in your stomach, and being pleasantly full, isn’t a bad thing.
The key here is to stop when you first start to feel full, not get to the point where you feel stuffed or sick, since then you’ll just end up being miserable.
Eating until satisfied
It takes practice to eat until you’re satisfied or just full rather than eating until you’re too full, but it’s good to aim for that most of the time. It means you’re not overeating as much, and you’ll feel better physically.
Having a plan for after you eat, and knowing how long it takes you to feel full, will help you stop at satisfied. But remember, this isn’t about deprivation, and you may still sometimes make other choices, which is fine. The goal is to feel good in your body, and you’re the best judge of what that means to you.