Friday, October 14, 2011

Stopping When You’re Full or Satisfied

I haven't done a post about The Rules of Normal Eating in a while or anything that wasn't endurance race related for that matter. So I think it's time to start back up!

Full vs. Satisfied is an interesting topic because a lot of obese people never do feel full or satisfied. The part of our brain that registers satisfaction and fullness tends to have weaker signals than non-obese people. Also the hormones that tell us we should stop often aren't produced in high enough quantities for the signal to register.

What this means is that after weight loss surgery, many of us have no idea what "full" feels like. This can lead to the uncomfortable phenomena know as "the foamies" when we eat just one bite too many, our bodies think we're choking and start producing saliva like crazy (to get the food to slide down) but there's no room for anything more. The end result is pain and often throwing up.
Yes, it's as gross as it sounds.

But even if you haven't had weight loss surgery and you aren't obese, a lot of people are not really in touch with their full signals. Many of us belong to the "clean your plate club"and eat until the food is gone. Or we eat until we are full, even uncomfortably full, even though we were satisfied earlier.

What a minute? Full is different from satisfied?

Think of full as being enough food (fuel) in your belly and satisfied as being the high point of pleasure.

To some extent, the difference between full and satisfied can just be semantics. A lot of people say they are full when they are satisfied and that's fine. But there is a difference between that bite our mind registers as having satisfied our current level of hunger or just having experienced a certain taste to it's ideal level and the feeling that there isn't any room in our tummies for more food. Eating behavior experts call the first feeling "satisfied" and the second one "full."

The problem with eating past satisfied is that you train yourself to always eat the maximum your stomach holds and this can cause unwanted pounds.

Think about eating a bit of your favorite dessert. For me that would probably be something chocolate, maybe a chocolate mousse or chocolate silk pie. I take the first first bite and the chocolate kind of melts all over the tongue and I am in heaven. The next couple of bites continue that feeling. But at some point, the feeling peaks and each succeeding bite is no more delicious than the last. In fact, if I keep going, sometimes the succeeding bites start to sour the experience. I get uncomfortably full or maybe the sweetness of the dessert start to overwhelm me and maybe I even feel a bit nauseous from all that sugar and fat.

So why do I keep going?

Make sure you’re not focusing on the food that’s left and believing you have to finish it or clean your plate. You decide when enough is enough.

Part of it is that I feel like I've paid for my dessert and not eating it is "wasting food". It's taken me a while to realize that eating food that you don't need is just as much of a waste as throwing it out.

The rest of it is probably just habit and training. Sometimes also there is an expectation that you should want to eat it all because, hey, it's dessert!

When you’re done eating, put down utensils, push away your plate, get up—do whatever you need to do to disconnect yourself from the food.

I also find that looking at food still triggers me to want to eat it sometimes. It isn't as bad as it was pre-op when I was hungry all the time. But I still have to remind myself that, if I am done and really don't want any more, I may need to get the leftovers out of my sight or I'll eat them anyway.

The Rules of Normal Eating gives some other tips to help combat this natural tendency to want to eat food past being satisfied:

Quantify fullness and satisfaction with numbers or words such as nearly, too, just or a 1-10 scale. When you feel full or satisfied, focus on that sensation and broadcast it to your whole body.


These two tips are good to practice when you are first trying to figure out what "full" is and what "satisfied" is. When I was early out from surgery, I would ask myself with every bite "Am I done? Am I satisfied?" If I didn't, I'd take that one bite too many and be in pain.

I do it less now but it's a good exercise to perform every once in a while, particularly when I feel I've lost sight of these concepts and need a refresher course. Kind of like now.

So it looks like this was a timely subject for me. I am definitely struggling a bit with my eating. It's this way every Fall/Winter when my exercise routines ramp down, but being out of work has made it doubly hard this year. I feel like a lot of good habits have fallen by the way-side due to a lack of routine.
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