One of the most difficult parts in attuning to our bodies is discovering our satiety cues. Have you ever noticed yourself physically feeling full but mentally needing to finish the food on your plate before you realized just how uncomfortable you were? No matter the amount of discomfort, it almost didn’t register until your plate was empty. Intuitive Eating principle #6 can be a gamechanger for you.
Principle #6: Feel Your Fullness
There are many reasons why we may continuously work to clean our plate, even if it’s painful:
You may have had parents who insisted you eat everything on your plate
Not wanting to “waste food”
Developing a habit of eating to finish. Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, the creators of Intuitive Eating, point out that this is based on external cues. When the food is gone, you stop eating – regardless of if you’re full beforehand (Tribole, E. and Resch, E., 2020, p 168).
Beginning your meal or snack when you’re over-hungry. At this moment, your ability to attune is reduced because your need to eat is so increased (another reason that food restriction doesn’t work). Rigid adherence to a designated meal time can make this worse.
Food Insecurity- you may not have known when you would eat your next meal.
To respect fullness, you must have given yourself unconditional permission to eat in accordance with principle #3, Making Peace with Food.
Many people don’t know what comfortable fullness feels like.
Comfortable satiety is unique to each individual. In order to figure it out, you will need to slow down your eating experience and be “hyperaware (Tribole and Resch, 2020)” of your eating.
Intuitive Eating suggests that recruiting your Food Anthropologist (from Principle 4) will be helpful here. As a reminder, the Food Anthropologist is the objective observer who simply files data about your food experience. Tribole and Resch (2020) call this shift from eating on autopilot “conscious-awareness eating (Tribole, E. and Resch, E., 2020, p.170).”
You can engage your Food Anthropologist while eating by:
Pausing in the middle of your meal/snack and checking in on taste and fullness
Check in with fullness level after you finish eating. Are you comfortable? Overfull? An Intuitive Eating coach can walk you through Intuitive Eating’s Fullness Discovery scale to help you recognize your satiety cues.
Take an action to mark being finished. Some people put a napkin over their plate, or push their plate away. This can be a helpful visual tool.
Taking those three steps can help you attune to your individual hunger and fullness cues. In addition to recruiting the Food Anthropologist, you can also tap into your Nurturer voice for help. Remember, the Nurturer helps you operate in compassion and kindness to yourself.
It’s ok to leave food on your plate.
The Nurturer reminds you of the new things you’re learning and helps you normalize some beliefs or actions you used to demonize.
Diet culture is all about disavowing your biological needs in order to meet some predetermined, dismissive, objectifying “ideal.” One of the ways in which diet culture fractures our relationship with food is in sabotaging our hunger cues.
It’s important to remember that fullness will mean different things to different people. Using Intuitive Eating’s Fullness Discovery Scale can help create new associations between you and your satiety cues.
There are also several factors that contribute to whether we are hungry or not.
The amount of time passed since last meal
The nutritional composition of the food
How full you are when you start eating
What everyone else is doing (or the social influence)
As a holistic nutritionist in Michigan, I see how overwhelming it can be to unravel the effects of a lifetime of diet mentality. An Intuitive Eating Counselor can help you navigate any roadblocks or difficulties that surface.
Wherever you are on your journey to a right relationship with food, know that you’re doing hard work. Any steps forward are good steps and a win. Remember to celebrate your forward progress and be compassionate with steps you might need to repeat. You’re learning something new! If you need help taking these new steps, don’t hesitate to contact my team.
Tribole, E., & Resch, E. (2020). Intuitive eating: A revolutionary anti-diet approach. St. Martin's Essentials.
Katie Valley is a Holistic Nutritionist and Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor whose goal is to dispel the myths of diet culture and reinforce a holistic, health-focused approach to wellness. After her own experience with disordered eating and poor body image, Katie found true healing by practicing Intuitive Eating and Body Acceptance.
Now she has her own practice, Katie Valley Wellness, where she helps women who feel out of control around food learn to eat intuitively, pursue TRUE health, & feel confident in their own body.