The 10 Principles of Intuitive Eating are from Tribole and Resch's Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program that Works.
Principle 5: Feel Your Fullness
I've talked about honoring our hunger in a previous post of the IE&Me series, but now it's time to talk about hunger's counterpart—fullness. Whenever I have this discussion with individuals, it's often difficult for them to articulate their feelings of gentle fullness.
Wait, There's a "Gentle" Fullness?
I recently had the pleasure of guest speaking with a group of nutrition majors at a local college recently, and when I asked them if they knew what gentle fullness felt like I heard mostly mumbles. There were stares back at me and sideways glances at neighbors, but it was pretty much just those metaphorical crickets I heard. It's interesting, though, because while I got mostly mumbles at the idea of gentle fullness, I got confident and boisterous descriptions of what "way-too-full" feels like. After a moment, though, one student was able to articulate some of the nuances of fullness, and we furthered the conversation from there.
So here are some of the nuances of fullness we discussed in that class:
Flag on the Play!
If you're not accustomed to feeling your fullness, though, it can be challenging (but not impossible!) to get back in touch with your body for this sensation. There are several things that can interfere with gentle fullness aside from being out of practice. Can you think of some things that interfere with your fullness?
Here are some common things (flags on the play) individuals cite for interfering with their sensations of gentle fullness:
While it's not inclusive, the above list is quite common to many individuals. These are all very important aspects of learning to feel fullness, but I want to explore a couple of them a little deeper today:
What happens to our fullness cues when we're anxious or depressed?
Some individuals will experience an almost insatiable hunger when they're in the throes of anxiety or experiencing depression. Ravenous hunger can cause them to blow right past their gentle fullness into the way-too-fullness mentioned in the beginning of this post. This can be a coping mechanism as a way to try and deal with the anxiety or depression.
When I was struggling with anxiety, though, it would completely ruin my appetite by making me nauseated. Not only was this nausea inhibiting my hunger cues, but it was also causing me to experience premature fullness out of fear that the nausea would escalate.
What happens to our fullness when we're too hungry?
When we sit down to a meal ravenously hungry, it's hard to focus on anything other than eating, right? We miss the taste, smell, temperature, texture, and all the adventurous, pleasurable, and satisfying aspects of the food. We also miss our gentle fullness cues. Most individuals I've talked to and worked with have experienced this—have you? Maybe there was a time where life got crazy and you missed a meal (or a few)? What about if you've been on a diet and cutting out all sorts of the foods your body needs to function (like carbs)? What if you're like Elisa* and have been ignoring your gentle hunger for years? Any one of these things can lead to being "too hungry".
Elisa found herself ravenously hungry most nights of the week. Her job was demanding of her time and attention, and she felt she would drown if she stopped for a meal or a snack. When she got home in the evening, though, all she could focus on was food. This would often lead her right into overeating because her body was so hungry it couldn't sense its gentle fullness.
respect your feelings of Fullness
I've discussed several ways to notice gentle fullness and identify barriers to feeling your fullness, but these are just the first steps to respecting your fullness. When you begin your Intuitive Eating journey, you'll find that respecting your feelings of fullness is not usually something that happens overnight. You might find yourself working through other principles first or working on this principle at the same time you're working on others.
The Intuitive Eating journey is a beautiful process. It can be adapted to whomever you are and wherever you are in life. It's not too late to begin finding yourself—you're worth finding yourself and experiencing what it's like to be balanced and whole again!
*Client names have been changed so their true identities will not, in any way, be revealed, in order to maintain their anonymity.
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Hi there! I'm Sydney Cavero-Egúsquiza.
I'm an anti-diet eating disorder dietitian, certified intuitive eating counselor, tap dancer, and lover of Disneyland. My happiest days are shared with my family creating memories for a lifetime. My mission? Help others enjoy their lives and thrive by making peace with food and trusting their bodies.