Fullness & Satisfaction: What You Need to Know

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This is the time of year that many of us tend to eat a bit more than we typically do. In my opinion, that’s not such a big deal. I believe we can mindfully (and thoroughly) enjoy the special foods of the season and not feel one shred of guilt about it. However, eating to the point of fullness (or over-fullness) without feeling satisfaction from that meal isn’t just unfortunate, it can be problematic.

What exactly is fullness?

Fullness is a physical sensation related to the quantity and volume of food consumed. The primary way to distinguish between a sense of fullness and a sense of satisfaction from eating is to consider if what you’re feeling is physical. Your body registers satiety through several mechanisms, including hormonal communication with the brain, and the stretching of the stomach. Each of us experiences our fullness signals differently, and it can take practice to get back in touch with these sensations.

How is satisfaction different from fullness?

Satisfaction is mental or emotional—not physical. You might experience it as a feeling of peace, contentment, or happiness after eating something. It isn’t directly related to the amount of food eaten. You can feel overfull (you may call it “stuffed”), but there is no such thing as being over-satisfied.

Can I be overfull, but not satisfied?

Satisfaction and fullness certainly go together, such as when you feel pleasantly full and perfectly content after having eaten a wonderful meal. However, one can also be present without the other. Can you remember a time when you felt very full—perhaps too full—and yet you didn’t feel quite satisfied?

Why am I not feeling satisfied with my food?

When you’re physically full, yet are still feeling the need for additional food, you may be searching for satisfaction. There are a few reasons that this can happen, including:

  • Did you wait too long to eat, become overly hungry, and then grab whatever was closest to fill you up without considering what you really wanted? That’s okay, not every meal or snack is going to be completely satisfying. But it can be a good reminder to take time to think about what would nourish you mentally, and physically, before eating can be helpful.
  • Have you been depriving yourself of food you enjoy? This is common among dieters. Ultimately, it ends up backfiring most of the time, causing you to keep seeking something that will satisfy you. And sometimes this behavior ends up causing weight gain.

Managing fullness & boosting satisfaction

This time of year, especially, we want to enjoy our holiday meals and savor seasonal foods. We want to feel good physically and feel satisfied from the food we are eating. Here are a few tips to help you achieve both during this season and year-round:

  • Aim to eat balanced meals that contain some protein, carbohydrate, fat, and fiber. Generally speaking, protein, fat, and fiber keep you physically full; carbohydrates help keep you satisfied. Guiding Stars can help here. Use Guiding Stars to help you quickly make more nutritious choices while shopping and check out our Guiding Stars recipes when planning menus.
  • Eat slowly; let your body catch up to your eating by allowing at least 20 minutes for a meal.
  • Take note of the tastes, temperatures, and textures of your food—eliminate distractions like TV, reading materials, and your phone to focus on your food.
  • Enjoy the experience—pay attention to the non-food aspects of your meal, including the ambiance and your dining companions.

(Check out other posts I’ve written about losing the food guilt and eating mindfully during the holidays.)