How to Stop Eating When You’re Full
Struggle with leaving food on your plate if you’re full? Don’t worry – you are not alone! Read below to learn how you can stop eating when full, without feeling deprived.
Not being able to stop eating when you are full is totally normal. Whether you grew up with parents who taught you to clean your plate no matter what, or you learned that wiping your plate of veggies meant dessert afterwards, you are not alone.
What we learn from our environment and upbringing, like parents telling us to clean our plate to have dessert can stick with us into adulthood. This thinking and learned behavior can actually encourage overeating. For example, if as a child you were only allowed sweets if you finished your dinner, you likely learned how to finish your plate whether you were full or not. And you probably learned to eat the prized dessert regardless of your fullness level.
A history of dieting can also make it harder to honor your fullness for a variety of reasons. As humans, we don’t respond well to biological and psychological restriction of food. And this can backfire into rebellious overeating which I will touch on later in this blog post.
Inability to stop eating when you are full is not a lack of willpower. There is nothing wrong with your discipline. Eating past fullness consistently is actually a byproduct of restriction. Whether you restrict food, or tell yourself you will never eat chocolate again, these food restrictions can cause rebellious overeating.
You can learn how to build trust with your body and honor your fullness by following the simple steps below.
Understand Your Hunger First
Understanding and honoring your hunger is a MUST before tackling your fullness. Like I mentioned earlier, overeating consistently is a byproduct of restriction. And it’s hard to stop overeating if you don’t understand where your restriction is coming from. Oftentimes your relationship with hunger plays a role here!
In my professional career as a Registered Dietitian, many women I’ve worked with said they felt successful when they felt hunger. To them, hunger felt like they didn’t overeat or had self-control. And the hunger levels that they deemed successful were extreme levels of hunger where they felt ravenous or even lightheaded. Because of this relationship they had with hunger, they had a hard time honoring it until it became too extreme.
Don’t Let Your Hunger Get Too Extreme
And when hunger becomes that extreme, you are more likely to overeat because, well, your body needs food. And when you are ravenous, you are more likely to feel out of control with food or triggered into a binge to satisfy your extreme need for food. This can turn into a vicious cycle of celebrating extreme hunger, subsequently overeating, restricting because you overate, and repeat.
So if you want to stop overeating all the time, you must first honor your hunger before it gets too extreme. And you need to develop a healthy relationship with it! For example, instead of ignoring it until it’s so intense you could binge, honor it when you feel more comfortable signs of hunger like a gentle rumbling stomach. If you don’t know what hunger feels like, read my blog post 3 Ways to Regain Hunger Cues.
Give Yourself Unconditional Permission to Eat
It’s hard to stop eating when you’re full if you fear you won’t get to eat that food again. For dieters, you may be all too familiar with Last Supper overeating which often takes place before starting a new diet. Let’s say you are going on a diet tomorrow and are planning to eat “clean” and cut out specific foods. It’s likely that you may find yourself overeating all of the foods that aren’t allowed on your diet, while you’re still allowed to. And this overeating results in overwhelming guilt.
Hidden restriction can be a culprit of overeating too, and it’s super sneaky. Dialogue in your head like “get back on track tomorrow” or “you really shouldn’t have that third cookie” can cause rebellious overeating. When you were a child and your parents told you you couldn’t have something, what did that make you want to do? Personally, it made me want whatever they put off limits more. The same concept goes with how we think about food and the foods we put off limits!
Give Yourself Unconditional Permission to Eat
Giving yourself unconditional permission to eat means allowing yourself to eat any and all foods, no strings attached. Whether you run 10 miles or sit on your couch all day long, you need to give yourself unconditional permission to eat. Whether you eat one bowl of ice cream or three, you need to continue giving yourself unconditional permission to eat. Get the point?
When you give yourself true unconditional permission to eat you are able to make food choices out of a place of empowerment. You become the boss of what and how much you eat, not old diet rules or your favorite fitspo who recommends 1200 calorie meal plans (which I do NOT support). When you give yourself true unconditional permission to eat, it is so easy to honor your fullness! I talk about how to do this with my systematic approach in my Honoring Fullness E-Course.
Check In With Yourself When Eating
I’m not saying you should sit at your dining table every time you eat with 100% focus, but you should at least check in with yourself to be mindful. With texting, social media, phone calls, work emails, Netflix, kids and dogs to take care of, eating can become a very mindless activity. If you’re eating lunch while working, or grabbing fast food and shoving it in your mouth on your drive home from work, it can be hard to sense signs of fullness until you’re too full.
One of my favorite ways to practice mindfulness when eating is to practice mid-meal check-ins. It teaches you to take a pause when eating, assess how hungry or full you feel and see how much you are enjoying your food! Use the below outline to practice your own mid-meal check-in:
- Taste Check: here you will ask yourself how you like the food that you are eating! When is the last time you’ve done that? If you’re anything like the women I work with, I’m going to guess it has been a while. When you do this check, ask yourself if you like the food you are eating, if it meets your taste buds or if you are eating just because the food is there.
- Fullness Check: here you will check in with your fullness. Are you still hungry? Or are you beginning to feel full? If so, how full are you feeling?
I want to make it clear that this mid-meal check-in does NOT mean you need to stop eating. It is simply a tool to make your eating experience more mindful! Whether you are eating at home, in a time crunch and eating on your drive to work, or dining out on date night, you can do this simple check-in.
Having a good relationship with hunger, giving yourself unconditional permission to eat and checking in with yourself while eating will help you be able to stop eating when you’re full. In my Honoring Fullness E-Course, I dive deep into how you can do this in my 5-Part Course. When you practice these Intuitive Eating tips, honoring your fullness will become easy. After all, this is just food we are dealing with! Let’s not overcomplicate things.