The Key to Stopping When You’re Full

If you read any “mindful eating” advice, it will tell you that the keys to a good relationship with food are:

  • Eat What You Want, When You’re Hungry
  • Stop When You’re Satisfied

And I agree. After all, it is logical and natural- and following those guidelines will lead you to health and nourishment. In the right state the body should be able to do this no problem.

So why is it so hard? Why do people hear this advice and think I can’t trust myself to stop when I’m satisfied!? I’ll stuff myself! I can’t trust myself to listen to my own desires? I’ll never stop eating! I’ll only eat cookies!

Why It Hasn’t Worked

It has been so hard to trust yourself because your mind is still scared that food is scarce. The only reason stopping when you are full is hard, is because you are petrified you won’t feed yourself well in the future. And why shouldn’t you be? You haven’t seemed to be feeding yourself well in the past!

When you aren’t scared that you will deny yourself food in the future, stopping when you are satisfied is the pleasurable thing to do. And it is not a struggle or a fight.

That is why committing to not depriving food quantity or type is essential to intuitive eating. The body and mind know when you are tricking it; Well I’ll say I’m allowed to eat ice cream, but I better stop at 1/2 cup. If I can’t stop at a half a cup I must not be listening to my hunger anyway, because who would really be hungry for ice cream. Its not nutrition like liver or kale!

Fuck It. Seriously.

You will have an impossible time making peace with food, and letting yourself happily stop when you are good and satisfied if you are still telling yourself, Ok, I’ll let myself eat as much pasta as I want tonight, but I better not want this tomorrow too, because it can’t be good to have too much pasta two days in a row.

No! Your worried mind cannot know what you need. AND as long as you are making weird arbitrary rules you heard from Cosmo Magazine or The South Beach Diet, your body will not be able to relax and actually eat what it wants. And it will not be able to relax and actually stop when it wants.

Because truly, once you get used to it, it become easy.

The hard part, is being strong enough to get to the easy part.

So Where To Start?

  1. Commit to letting yourself eat whatever you crave. Whatever. You. Crave.
  2. Trust that it is a process and be in it for the journey. You won’t trust yourself overnight. It takes time.
  3. Expect you may gain weight in the process- see it as part of the healing. Hard but often very necessary.

Trust Trust Trust.

Easier said than done, but Oh So Worth It.

22 comments

  1. daguttgrl79 says:

    Mother lover thank you for this amazing post, I needed this right this fucking second, really! I’ve been working on eating intuitively but feel like it’s not supposed to be work, right? Anyhow, it’s getting better and helps that I have other goals and hobbies in life besides obsessing over food. Thank goodness. Earlier today I was hungry and there was a lot provided at a lunch function.Normally I would go for veggies first and be “good” but today I had my eye on this fatty brisket and went for it. I casually took a medium piece, devoured it, and then went in for a couple more. I didn’t do my old habit of piling up on salads and “safe” foods; I even told my old vegan self to shut the fuck up. For whatever reason, I just wanted fatty beef. Not chicken, even though I ate some, it was the beef I wanted. I’m honestly a little embarrassed admitting it, mainly because I woke up today thinking it was going to be a Vegan day… haha, well fuck it.
    thank you, you are right about being patient. I’m willing to be uncomfortable with my food choices for a while if it means freedom later. I am seeing the light!

  2. Great post. When I first started eating properly again, I literally lived on oats and ice cream washed down with orange juice for about a month. Can you say carb-starved?

  3. Tom says:

    Remember to get some perspective and not to place labels on things. Its easy to call something a “binge” and feel like you’ve gone “too far”. Everything is relative and what may seem like a binge to you would be very different to someone else.

    • Caroline says:

      You are right, there IS a difference between a binge and overeating. A binge is manic, it is an override of the conscious part of your brain, food is being used specifically to pacify. Overeating can be less intense, and not always bad. A binge is food eaten in a certain state. Overeating can be a choice. And not always a bad choice.

      Tom I can’t tell whether you are giving helpful advice or criticizing something I have written. I don’t recall using the word binge at all. Maybe I am just not understanding fully where your comment is coming from.

      Going too far in eating can leave you uncomfortable, and be a response to denial and lack of trust with food and your body. And it IS personal and unique to different people what that is.

      Letting yourself eat whatever (and however much) you want is still the answer in my opinion!

      • Tom says:

        Sorry my comment did come across a little critical and wasn’t meant to. I love all your writing and am just trying to add some advice to anybody who is following these points you have put forward.

        Keep up your good work, I love this site. Thank you! 🙂

      • Great post, thank you.

        I had this conversation with a friend this week. She was worried although she had switched to intuitive eating, she still ‘binged’ on chocolate.

        After a bit of exploration, it turns out that her ‘binges’ were not out of body experiences, she was completely aware that she was choosing to eat chocolate. And sometimes she just really wanted it. And sometimes she really wanted a nice big salad or some grilled fish. She came to the happy conclusion that her eating really wasn’t out of control after all.

        This mirrors my own experience of intuitive eating completely. I cured a 30-year chocolate ‘addiction’ practically overnight. Sure, sometimes I still want it. And I have it. And that’s fine. Sometimes my body just wants chocolate. And sometimes it wants what I would once have called ‘healthy foods’. In my diet days, this would never have happened. I’d have eaten the fish and the salad under duress, would never have dreamed about actually wanting them, and would have days where I would chew a hole right through you if you got between me and that chocolate bar. Which I would then devour before coming up for air and noticing the world still existed.

        There is a difference between wanting and craving/bingeing. Eating intuitively doesn’t mean you’ll never fancy a packet of Revels ever again, or that you won’t occasionally overeat. But neither is cause for self-loathing or compensatory starvation/circuit classes. (Although IMHO, there’s never a cause for circuit classes, but that’s just me)

      • Caroline says:

        Hahaha, I agree that there is never a cause for circuit classes 🙂

        I find that so much of disordered eating is mental and caused by the denial we have with food, conscious and subconscious.

        But, physically too, I read somebody say the other day that when suffering from, or recovering from, abnormal and restrictive eating, blood sugar levels are all over the place- which gives the impression that sugar is addictive because you may be responding to it so badly.

        But it is so incredibly liberating to find out that sugar and food are not addictive. At least not any more than they are supposed to be! 🙂

        Thanks for the comment Ang!

  4. Ninabeenaribeena says:

    Hey just found this blog through Never Diet Again UK. You ROCK!!! This is an excellent post on stopping when you’re full. Something I think took me about three whole years to perfect! I definitely felt the benefit of giving up dieting straight away but I did find myself frustrated sometimes at the notion of ‘tuning in’. I often felt my body was just not talking to me. But the further along the road of self-acceptance I travelled, the stronger the signals became. And the moment I finally truly believed that my self-worth and my health were well and truly NOTHING to do with my weight, was the moment my body said “Well thank fuck for that. She’s not trying to lose weight any more. So, what I really want to eat is…”, and the signals are wonderfully loud and clear now! Just last month I found myself eating a lot more than usual one morning, to the point where I stopped and thought, ooer, hang on am I, you know, actually bingeing here? But I went with it, and you know what? That evening I started a really nasty virus. My body was at war with an invader and needed the extra energy! To think that I used to try and exert control over my body all the time makes me so sad now. My body knows best, and I will always trust that now. Keep up the good work!!!!!!

    • Caroline says:

      Hi Nina! So glad! You’re story is wonderful. It really does take a while to REALLY connect with your body, and make sure your body REALLY trusts you. It is like layer after layer, how nice can you be to your body? 🙂 Sounds like you really got it down. Glad to have you as a reader!

  5. mhp says:

    Hi Caroline! I think your site is really wonderful, and I’m grateful for the encouragement it offers at quite a daunting transitional point in my life. So, sincere thanks, first of all!

    Also, I was hoping you could share some quick advice, based on your experience. You mention above (in response to Angela) that prolonged disordered/restrictive/obsessively clean eating can result in erratic blood sugar during recovery. I have been practicing intuitive eating for almost a month now, with unbelievable success emotionally (and also a little weight gain, but I’m trying to think of that as evidence of healing!) – but I find that I am still having sudden & dramatic blood sugar crashes, especially after eating carb- or sugar-heavy meals. I’m not binging at all anymore (only eating foods that I truly crave, and stopping when I’m full), but the sugar crashes persist, esp. after larger meals, and sometimes make it difficult to focus on anything but a nap!

    Did this happen to you, and if so, can you reassure me that it goes away in time? Is there anything specific I should do to help speed the process? At the moment, I’m just trying to stick with it, and ignore the nagging doubts that arise each time with these symptoms.

    Thanks so much, again
    x

    • Caroline says:

      Thank you for your kind comments!

      As far as the sugar/carb crashes are concerned, I actually, in retrospect, upped my carbs pretty slowly over the past half year. I wasn’t intending to, but it was just sort of a natural progression … (unfortunately, probably rooted in fear). But you absolutely do not have to do it that slowly like me.

      I WILL say, that last summer, I would feel terrible and thirsty and cranky after eating anything with more than a little bit of sugar. And now, I eat easily 2 or 3 times the sugar with no problems. So I believe 100% that your body can adapt, but what is the best way and how long does it take? I am not sure.

      I think if you are working on eating intuitively, you are still on the right path, and that a month is not that long. So give it more time.

      Some things to play around with: I don’t always eat protein/fat with carbs, but most often I do, and I find it to be stabilizing. Also, in the beginning of my journey off of paleo, I did my week with low water to help with my chronic thirst. The theory is to keep the cells hydrated with electrolytes and sugar, so I was drinking coconut water (with some salt) a lot all day long, and drinking sugar often (albeit, not THAT much) was something that I never would have done before. I have a feeling that that was a helpful boost and sort of carb-shock to my system to help me start metabolizing more sugar.

      But I really have gone slowly, and now find that I can handle a TON of carbs and sugar (with protein and fat)- and instead of them crashing me and making me feel hungry soon, I actually feel satiated for a while. Yippee!

      Also, it is possible that your exhaustion is just a part of the healing mechanism. Also, are you getting enough sleep?

      One last piece of advice: I would keep on going, intuitively as can be, and just make sure you are enjoying your food. After you eat a lot of carbs, if you feel sluggish or tired, just feel it without judging it, and if it was something specific you should avoid, your intuition will make note. Trust the process! And keep me posted on your progress!

      • mhp says:

        Thank you for your thorough reply! All good advice. I do think there may be a correlation for me between eating carbs/sugars alone (without protein or fat), and subsequently crashing. I’ve been trying not to force myself to ‘balance’ my meals anymore, but I will take note intuitively from now on, of how it really feels to eat protein + fat + carbs, versus just carbs, and see if those non-judgmental observations help me to start craving more stabilizing combinations in future.

        Also, I probably do just need to wait it out. I definitely didn’t make the transition slowly (from orthorexic, to intuitive eater). I found that overturning all of my restrictive food rules at once felt so amazing psychologically, that I couldn’t bear to go back to letting my fears weigh in even a little bit, even if my body does feel a bit unsettled at times by the new variety of foods I’m giving it. The change was certainly a shock to my system, so I’m willing to trust that I’ll probably adjust as more time passes. I have been sleeping more than usual at night, so perhaps this is just a healing stage, all around.

        I’ll keep you posted! Thanks again, Caroline!

      • Caroline says:

        Yea, definitely give it more time them. I applaud your quick switch to intuitive eating. That is excellent, mentally! Just keep trusting. The change was just a shock, your body will catch up!

  6. Nina says:

    “You can’t trust yourself to eat the right amount peacefully, until you can trust yourself to eat what you want.”
    I’ve read a thousand flippin diet books and blogs, and you just made every single one of them absolutely inconsequential with that one sentence. THANK YOU!

    (The little “Ya? Confusing? Read it again.” was perfect, too, because I totally mentally stumbled over that sentence the first time I read it! Brilliance!)

  7. Pat says:

    Thank you so much for this. I’ve recently thrown myself into recovery from a nasty half-year of orthorexia. I’ve eaten a crazy amount of muffins, cookies, and cakes in the past 3 weeks just because I’ve had cravings for them. My body still is not fully healed and I feel anxiety from time to time because the amount that I eat seems to increase everyday. I know my body is not fully healed yet but the anxiety makes me want to restrict against my 5-8 cake cravings a day.

    My head is still swarming with thoughts about food. And then I come back here. I read your posts about giving into your cravings and defending sugar and I go “Fuck It.” If my body wants this, it’s getting this 4th piece of chocolate cake. If not physically, eating this way has helped me so much mentally.

    Thank you for the freedom of mind!

  8. Cinsy says:

    omg you are a goddess. i really needed this. i just turned 14 today and i have stuffed myself with everything i craved. i told myself that i need not feel guilty about eating all that crap because it is my birthday. but now, thanks to this blog, i realise that i shouldnt feel guilty for eating the foods that i like. its probably going to be pretty hard learning the art of intuitive eating and stopping when im full because ive been brainwashed into all kinds of bullshit, however, i really hope that somebody ill be able to eat like a badass without even thinking about it. thank you for your wisdom!

  9. CampbellSoup19 says:

    Wow. What a godsend you are! Your blog teaches that healthy eating isn’t about eating the “right” things, as much as it is about having a healthy, trusting relationship with all foods. After two years of depriving myself, I’m finally starting rebuild that necessary trust.
    Thank you so much!

  10. ereefairy says:

    I always know when i’m full, but rarely stop at that moment. I always eat beyond that point and often overeat. And binge.i expect myself to have a celebrity’s body and so try to eat like one. (High protein, healthy fats, a little bit of carbs) but im exhausted trying to control my body…and obsessingover food, bingeing…im definitely eating enough food just feel deprived and deoressed over dieting.

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