Feel Your Fullness
Now that you've done a lot of work to break down your lingering diet rules, you're ready to start tuning in to fullness from a place of self-care, not one of deprivation.
I recommend completing this module over the course of a week, taking some time to review the material a couple of times, and to complete the journal exercises each day.
Start by listening to the talk below. When you're done, scroll down for the notes, journal exercises, and audio meditation.
Audio: how to Feel Your Fullness
Module 6 Notes
The process of feeling your fullness can be quite challenging, because if you still have lingering thoughts from the diet mentality or the food police, you may have a tendency to police your fullness.
Maybe you’ve had bad experiences where a diet set you up to be so hungry and deprived that you physically couldn’t stop eating even when you were full.
Perhaps you have a deep fear of not getting enough, and that leads you to eat to the point of uncomfortable or even painful fullness every time.
Or maybe you’ve tried to practice “mindful eating” and ended up fixating on finding the “perfect” level of fullness.
Whatever your past experience, the first step to authentically engaging with your fullness is to trust that things can and will be different once your intuition is in charge. You may have some challenges or “slips” along the way, but really there are no mistakes in this process—they are all part of the learning experience.
Here’s what’s so different about using your intuition to guide you in feeling fullness:
- Once you’re consistently practicing honoring your hunger, you won’t often get to a place of ravenous, can’t-stop-even-when-full hunger. (If you’re still struggling to notice or honor hunger, try reviewing Module 3.)
- When your inner caretaker’s voice is coming through loud and clear, you’ll feel more confident that you can get “enough” without eating to the point of feeling sick. And when you’re listening to your caretaker, you generally won’t want to make yourself feel sick, either. (If you’re still having trouble tuning in to your caretaker’s voice, try reviewing Module 5.)
- Your intuition isn’t perfectionistic. It doesn’t seek out a “perfect” level of fullness—it just helps you do your best in any given situation. If you don’t end up feeling comfortably full on one eating occasion, there’s always the next meal or snack!
Journal Exercise 1: Fullness Levels
It can be very helpful to start thinking about your fullness as a continuum, and try rating it on a scale of 1 to 10, much like you did with hunger. And now that you’ve practiced rating your hunger for a while, it will probably make slightly more sense to apply this same technique to fullness.
It still may be difficult at first, so give yourself some compassion and time.
Note: If you find this exercise to be triggering (for example, if you've recovered from an eating disorder that involved obsessive "logging" of your food), feel free to skip it. You can also try simply checking in with your fullness after each eating occasion, rather than writing it down. The goal is just to bring awareness to your fullness, NOT to track what you ate in detail.
Remember there are no wrong answers to any of the following questions; this is about exploring your unique experience of fullness:
- How does each level of fullness feel in your body? Do you notice any sensations or symptoms at higher levels that weren’t there at the lower levels? (Use the infographic at right to help you, and feel free to print it out and add to it in your own words!)
- If you're at a high level of hunger when you start eating, how does that affect your fullness? What differences do you notice when you start eating at lower levels of hunger?
- Do you notice any thoughts, judgments, or emotional states associated with different levels of fullness?
- Do you have a harder time noticing certain levels of fullness than others (for example, is it more difficult to notice moderate levels of fullness than higher levels)?
- Do you have a harder time noticing fullness in certain contexts (e.g. in front of the TV, or in a loud, busy restaurant)?
- Do you notice any difference in your fullness levels when you eat different types of foods? We'll discuss nutrition in more depth in a later module, but for now just try to use your nonjudgmental awareness to notice and write down any patterns.
- Do you find yourself slipping back into old control-based / diet-mentality thinking about fullness, e.g. thinking you "should" stop at a certain level?
- What fears come up when you consider breaking the old rules about how full you "should" feel?
- Instead of "shoulding" all over yourself, can you use the three pillars of your intuition—your inner caretaker, nonjudgmental awareness, and gentle boundaries—to guide you?
Let Taste Be Your Guide
One way to tell when you’re approaching fullness is to pay attention to your sense of taste.
That’s because of something called food habituation, the process by which a food begins to taste less delicious, flavorful, or interesting as you eat more of it. Generally speaking, when a once-flavorful food stops tasting like much, you may be approaching fullness.
So if a food provides significantly less flavor or interest than it did when you started eating, that can be a good time to pause and check in with your body. By no means is it a rule to stop then—in fact, you will probably still need a bit more food to feel satisfied at this point—but just take a break and try to assess your fullness on the 1-10 scale (again, using nonjudgmental awareness).
Continue this journal exercise throughout the week, as often as you are able, and as compassionately as possible.
If you find the process of feeling your fullness to be challenging, humbling, or frustrating, you're not alone! Feeling your fullness can bring up a lot of emotions (more on those in the next module), and the food police tend to pipe up loudly on the subject of fullness.
If that's the case for you, be sure to write down what they're saying in your journal, and then write back to them from your healthy voice, just as we practiced in Journal Exercise 1 of Module 2.
Give Yourself Permission
Just as you did with the hunger exercise, give yourself permission to feel your fullness, and permission to eat to as high a level of fullness as is comfortable and satisfying to your body—not comparing your intake to anyone else's.
It’s totally normal even for intuitive eaters to sometimes eat to the point of discomfort, not to seek out some "perfect" level of fullness.
Intuitive eaters generally stop at a comfortable level of fullness, but of course we can't possibly eat to exactly a 7 on the scale every single time. Here are a few of the reasons why:
- Sometimes circumstances keep us from honoring our hunger until it's overwhelming, so as a consequence we end up eating until we're uncomfortably full.
- Sometimes a social event (e.g. Thanksgiving dinner) encourages us to eat a bit more than we would on a regular basis.
- Sometimes a proper meal isn't available at an event (e.g. back-to-back meetings), so we end up making do with snacks throughout the day, resulting in lower levels of fullness.
Intuitive eaters aren't perfectionists. Perfectionism is the domain of the diet mentality and the food police; intuition is about figuring out how to do the best you can.
That said, if you find that you're consistently subsisting on snacks or delaying meals until hunger is overwhelming, you probably need to carve out more time for self-care. That might mean asking for help or rearranging your schedule, which can be challenging—but you absolutely deserve to have time to take care of your body's needs.
Give yourself permission to carve out space for eating, as well as for other essentials like rest, connecting with friends and family, alone time, and other nourishing self-care activities.
When Fullness Doesn’t Stop You
If you find that you often can’t stop eating even when you reach uncomfortable levels of fullness, ask yourself whether any of these things could be playing a role:
- Restrictive eating: Did you restrict yourself at any point during the day, or restrict particular foods? As we discussed in the module on hunger, restriction can set you up for eating a lot more than is comfortable.
- Eating to soothe or manage emotions: Are you using food to cope with feelings, in addition to satisfying your hunger? We'll discuss this in a few weeks, in module 8.
- Values around finishing food: Do you have a deep-seated belief that it is wrong to throw away food, even when you're full? How would it feel to challenge that?
Journal Exercise 2: Post-Lesson Reflection
In your journal, reflect on what you learned in this module.
- Are there particular aspects of feeling your fullness that seem more challenging for you than others?
- Did anything about this process seem easier than you'd expected?
- How will feeling your fullness help you move closer to your goals and intentions?
Please provide your feedback to help us improve this module.