Intuitive Eating Myth: Perfect Stopping Point

The idea of intuitive eating is to listen to your internal cues, rather than external rules, to guide what and how much you eat. The hope is that you will listen to your cravings and hunger to determine when to stop eating.

As I said in my previous post, I believe the only way to easily and naturally stop when you are satisfied (as opposed to nervously eating more than is comfortable), is to truly allow all foods and commit to never restricting again.

Don’t Stress Out Over New Rules

One of the rules or ‘guidelines’ that you will often hear about intuitive eating is “stop when you are full”. While I agree that this is a tenet of intuitive eating, sometimes coming from that angle can be stressful.

During previous intuitive eating attempts, I’d get truly stressed over “when I was full”. I was very concerned that I was going to overshoot and “not learn how to do it correctly”. Please note that THIS fear stems also from a deep fear of gaining weight, which is why body positivity is so important.

I have heard from other intuitive eating teachers and books things like: pay close attention to your hunger. Rate your hunger every few bites. Pay attention, satisfaction can happen mid-bite… While I think it is helpful to pay attention to how you feel during your eating, the way that way they focused on stopping points was stressful and unhelpful. It made me believe that there was one perfect stopping point that I should always be finding. And there is not!

There are many bites on a scale of good stopping points. And any point is ok!

You body can handle an extra few bites! Or like way more. You may be slightly fuller, but as long as you are listening and feeling and enjoying, you are doing well. And your body makes up for it in slightly longer satiation. Or slightly less hunger for your next meal or snack. Or revved metabolism.

There is no virtue in stopping just at the perfect point. Or just before you get full. There is no problem being that in-tune, but expecting there to even be a “perfect point” every time you eat is going to leave you frustrated. Especially in the beginning of your Intuitive Eating journey. There is no perfect point. Trying to find it will just stress you out.

and just for the hell of it…

In Defense of Overeating

(My definition is: eating til you are uncomfortably full.)

  • teaches your body there is no famine
  • teaches your mind there is no restriction
  • activates your your metabolism
  • teaches you how it feels to stop at different points of fullness
  • proves to you that eating past fullness can’t destroy you
  • focuses on nourishing, instead of restricting

Don’t get caught up in Intuitive Eating Perfectionism!

7 comments

  1. Heather says:

    Great points about not stressing about intuitive eating. Even a concept that is designed to relieve stress can create stress if we try too hard for perfection.

  2. kait says:

    LOVE!!! Great article 🙂
    I’ve done the same thing…eating intuitively then mildly panicking about when I’m done/full/satisfied/leaving something on my plate or whatever, basically just trying to implement some other “rule” because I always needed a rule to tell me what to eat, how to eat, when to eat ad nauseum.

  3. Nicely put. Quite a few people I’ve spoken to about intuitive eating seem to have it confused with ‘perfect’ mindfulness. I’ve always tended to eat a bit too fast. Now that I eat intuitively, erm, I still do. But I seem to eat a lot less than I used to at any given meal, frequently stopping with food still on the plate. So not paying attention, or eating slowly enough for my brain to ‘catch up’ doesn’t seem to cause any problems at all. Intuitive really is just that. The more you keep your brain out of it, the better it seems to work.

  4. Ali says:

    I so needed to hear this. Have been kicking off about how my kids/husband/cat/job prevent me from being impeccably mindful when I am eating and mess up my quest to find my ‘perfect stopping point’. Have also been rating my hunger and satiety in a little notebook EVERY TIME I EAT. Waaaaaaay too much information…. FUCK IT!

  5. Carolina says:

    Trying to reach the “perfect stopping point,” from a hunger/satiety cues perspective, has been making me under-eat over the past few weeks. Rather than allowing myself to cross the line into overeating, I’ve been stopping when hunger has been removed, but not when my appetite has been satisfied. It’s been a bit like having sex only to remove desire, but not to reach climax or post-coital endorphin afterglow.

    It occurred to me that such caution is keeping me off-balance. Rather than risking crossing the line, I try to always stay primly on the safe side. But I’m realizing that it’s better to cross the line and things will adjust themselves on their own, without my interference, over time.

  6. Ina Nikole Ray says:

    Thanks for the wonderful post! It does make me more calm about not being able to pull away right after hunger has disappeared. I find that in most cases if I do just that, I end up being hungry half an hour after I’ve eaten and I can’t stop obsessing over food till the next meal. Whereas when I eat past that, now after my restriction phase is over, I find that I don’t overeat. I actually eat until a very pleasant comfortable level of satiety. Even with this observation though I was having guilt from not being able to stop myself after hunger was gone. So thanks for this post. It relieved some anxiety.

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