From skwigg's journal:
You describe it beautifully! That is definitely a thing. You get all anxious about stopping, so you don't fully experience the moment or the joy of eating the food. It's not satisfying because your mind is elsewhere, so you keep munching, both to chase the satisfaction you're not feeling and to avoid the dreaded stopping point.
I don't have that problem anymore. In no particular order, here are the steps I took to solve it:
- I decide on my portion in the moment when I'm about to start eating. When that portion is gone, I'm done eating. That allows me to fully focus on what I'm eating right now and totally avoid the storytelling and bargaining that goes on if the stopping point is a moving target. It's not about restriction or portion control, it's about being kind to my brain. It gets upset when there is uncertainty and endless decisions to be made. It relaxes if it knows. (Note: As an intuitive eater, I don't predecide portions anymore. I'm happy to see how I feel as the meal progresses. I had to learn how to do that though. Predeciding was one step in the journey.)
- I remind myself that I am always free to eat anything I want, any time I want, and as much as I want. For now, I choose to stop at one piece of pie, but I can always have more later, or tomorrow, or the next day. Pie is not going away. Making this your reality is really important. If you say the words but don't believe them, in fact believe you may start that juice fast this weekend, the whole thing no worky. An abundance mindset solves that crazy "now's my chance" eating.
- I eat in a way that feels good and makes me proud. I do not like being painfully stuffed, grossed out, and disappointed. That's the inevitable outcome when you check out while eating, or keep eating because you don't want it to end. There are other much more enjoyable options, like deliberately stopping when you're pleasantly full, knowing you can always have more another time.
- I acknowledge the amazing, fun, awesome benefits to STOPPING eating. I don't think of it as difficult and sad. Not at all. Stopping is how I get to have ice cream *and* abs, buttercream frosting *and* self-respect, nachos *and* clothes that fit. I don't have to choose between restriction and overconsumption, or between having a lean body and enjoying favorite foods. I can have it all if I embrace both the mindful eating and the stopping.
- It's amazing to fully googly-eyed savor something delicious, and to still feel fit, comfortable, and confident when you're done. Overeating in a sad bingey way ruins it. I stop eating not because I "should" or because of any restrictions, but because I've thoroughly experienced the food and I'm ready to move on with my day feeling great.
- I often end this meal by looking forward to the next one. No sad, crazy stories of restriction. I think things like, "That big bowl of cereal and fruit will be so good in the morning." Or, "I'll have more ice cream after dinner." Normally, I'm actually physically hungry when I eat, and that's something I really enjoy. So, it's a no brainer to remind myself that I can eat again later, and that the food will be that much more enjoyable if I'm hungry for it. Shoveling more in when I'm already full is not so fun.
- One caveat about looking forward to meals, watch out for food romanticizing. There's a difference between, "I'm looking forward to dessert tonight." And, "I will have the most wonderful sundae with four kinds of ice cream, and cookies, and sprinkles, and hot fudge, and there will be unicorns and rainbows, and all of life's problems will melt away." Ok, nothing can live up to that. You don't want to obsess and build it up in your mind to the point that you're going to be devastated if the cookies are dry or they're out of sprinkles. I used to use romanticizing about some future meal as a means of coping with restriction now. Cheat day, anyone? That was a suckfest. Too much emotional drama. Now, I enjoy every meal to a similar degree without the highs and lows. I still look forward to dinner though, and that helps me end lunch.
Slowing down when you eat is such an important part of registering fullness and satisfaction. I can't feel anything in a 10 minute meal except rushed, stressed, and moderately ill afterward. I have come to hate eating that fast. It's like you blink and you miss it. Most of my everyday meals take 20-40 minutes. A restaurant meal with a lot of conversation may take over an hour. I often eat in courses and pause between them. For me, stretching a meal out to an appropriate length often requires some kind of distraction, or at least fiddling with my food. At breakfast, I'll eat my bowl of cereal somewhat slowly while reading email and news headlines. When it's gone, I'll continue texting and watching cat videos or whatever for another 10-15 minutes. Then I'll get my yogurt and savor that too. If I were eating quickly with no pauses, distractions, or checking in, I could finish that meal in 5 minutes, eat a whole lot more than necessary, and head out to walk the dog feeling like there was a big rock in my stomach. Slowing down, I've noticed that there's too much cereal in my jumbo coffee mug when I fill it all the way to the top. I'm happier when it's maybe an inch below the rim, with plenty of nuts, seeds, berries and not so much bran. I'm not into full fat Greek yogurt anymore and often can't finish the whole container. I don't want it all. This blew my mind! I bought some lower fat regular yogurt to try this week.
I have other little quirks like sorting my M&Ms by size and color, sorting my almonds by size, shape, and amount of magical sriracha dust, or eating the cherry tomatoes or strawberries smallest to largest/ripest. At lunch, I'll often have a veggie course consisting of a green smoothie, a big salad, or carrots and guacamole for dipping. I'll sit down with that, eat or drink it all slowly, and then get up to make the main course, a sandwich, turkey and crackers, an omelet, leftovers, whatever it is. I'll sit down and eat that rather slowly while watching TV, looking at my computer, or talking to my husband. Then I get up and make the dessert course, which might be like 8 M&Ms, one Reese's heart, and one square of milk chocolate. I'll sit down and sort my M&Ms like a normal person (LOL), paying attention to each one, unwrapping the Reese's, letting the milk chocolate melt in my mouth. The whole meal takes at least half an hour and the satisfaction fully registers. I remember hearing that it takes at least 20 minutes for fullness to begin to register. I don't know if that's scientific fact, but it's sure true for my stomach and brain. If I'm still eating after 20 minutes, I can tell where I stand on the fullness scale. If I'm done in 8 minutes, I may finish and still want more, but then 15 minutes later I'll be uncomfortable and regret the decision.
I'm not a nut about this though. As a busy person with a job, sometimes I have to eat standing up while on the phone, or eat in ten minutes so I'm not late, or NOT sort the pistachios by how far the shell is open. :-) That's ok. It's what I do most of the time that matters. Most of the time I find it worthwhile to allow at least 30 minutes for any meal. A snack is somewhat of an exception. Skilled as I am at doodling around and playing with my food, even I can't make one small piece of pizza and little pile of pretzels last more than 10 minutes. But I do know that if I stop eating with what I initially served myself, I'll still be hungry for dinner in a couple of hours. If I keep grazing, I won't.
I'm genuinely curious how long most people spend with a meal and how the duration is working for you. I feel like slowing down was THE missing piece that finally allowed me to experience levels of fullness and to register not just satisfaction, but whether I even liked what I was eating. Coming out of restriction, I know I ate like a starving animal, very quickly, and definitely willing to attack if you touch me while I'm eating or reach for my food. LOL I really needed to take a breath, put the fork down, and recognize that the food wasn't going anywhere. There will always be more. No need to gorge myself or drag my kill up a tree. Primal hunger felt like that though!
I still struggle with thinking I "should" be full because "that was a lot of food" but then not being so. I often stop at the point that seems sane to stop, even when I'm still hungry for some reason. That never goes well and involves more grazing to overfullness or just walking around in a pit of hunger that's not fun or rewarding.
Did you ever have to contend with that, Skwigg? Where your mind told you SURELY that's more than enough food for one adult female at one time? Hate that :)
I had some of that "can't possibly still be hungry" stuff early on, especially when I first went from the 300 calorie "meals" that I thought were normal and plenty to more like 700-900 calorie meals I actually need. I basically doubled my food intake and still gradually lost weight.
When I was counting and restricting, I hadn't realized the degree to which I was making up the difference and then some. I might be able to go a few days or a week on 1,500 calories and think that was a fine intake, but my body would still get the food it needed somehow. There would be grazing episodes I didn't tally, fudged portions, cheat days, lost weekends, pants-popping restaurant meals. Basically, I was eating more when I was dieting than when I started eating to satisfaction and owning it.
Then, the thing I then struggled with more than "that's enough" was eating more than enough just in case. I had set arbitrary rules about not snacking or when I could eat again. There was intermittent fasting, then Gillian Riley's times & plans, then Lean Habits. If I had to go x hours before I could eat again, I would eat extra now as a preventative measure against future hunger. That was diet brain rule-maiking on my part and not actually what Gillian or Georgie was suggesting. Fixing it required 1) letting go of any (maybe subconscious) rules I was making about when I could eat, and 2) actually paying attention to fullness and satisfaction while I was eating, which I did not know how to do at first. Reading and doing the exercises in the Intuitive Eating Workbook cleared it up for me.
From skwigg's journal:
How do you really stop when satisfied? Any tips? I have a plate of dinner every night and I know when I am comfortable and satisfied. But I want more, i want the second helping or the extra half of a helping which takes me into being bloated and stuffed. I KNOW this end result! As its happened many times before ...but still, i want that extra bit. Is it a habit I have to just break? I am compassionate with myself after having the dinner etc....I don't like how I feel. But all of that goes out the window when I am sitting down to eat dinner. Its almost like a ritual and I want it to last longer (the party in my mouth) so I need the second helping. I even stop the phone/ tv or any distractions and really try to enjoy the food. But still, I want more. I am much better at being hungry for meals, but the stopping when full is really challenging. Thanks in advance :)
Eating to total satisfaction and stopping was the trickiest skill of all for me. It took a few years of practice to get really good at it. Until my stomach and brain synched up I was relying on other means. For the longest time, I had no sense of degrees of fullness *while* I was eating. I could tell you an hour later if I’d overdone it or if I was still hungry, but it was a total mystery while it was happening. I didn’t actually believe it was possible to feel the subtleties of fullness while eating. I thought that was an intuitive eating urban legend. It’s real though! It just took some practice to get it back after years of ignoring it.
There are a few factors at play with stopping eating in a good place. It’s important to get curious and see how or if they are affecting your choices.
- Are you eating enough in general? If you’re experiencing any kind of chronically underfed, primal hunger (or have recently), there’s no off switch.
- Do you truly love what you eat? Or are your food choices and thinking still restrictive? Eating something that lacks flavor/pleasure can cause us to keep chasing satisfaction with more food. Feeling like you’re going to have to eat better or less at some point in the near future can cause you to overdo it now.
- Is food meeting needs that have nothing to do with hunger? Georgie talks about procrastineating and eatertainment. We may fill time with food to avoid an unpleasant task, or to relax, entertain, or comfort ourselves when we don’t have other outlets. That makes it tough to stop.
Once you look at those, you may want to play with some of the alternative methods I used for stopping eating in a good place. I relied on these until satisfaction became second nature. Maybe one or some can help you along.
- It’s so important to cultivate an abundance mindset instead of a scarcity mindset. I had to remind myself repeatedly that I was always free to eat whatever, whenever, and as much as I want. Knowing you can have more later is what makes it possible to stop now. Things like heaping a lot of food on a small plate create visual abundance where putting a normal portion in the middle of a big dinner plate can make you feel like you’re missing out.
- I focused on both how I wanted to feel and on owning my choices. Sometimes I want to be quite full. Sometimes it feels good to stop sooner. Either way, I’m choosing. I own the decision and the consequences. It was a revelation when I realized that the primary consequence of eating more now is that it would be longer until I was hungry again. That’s it.
- With behaviors that didn’t feel so good, but felt good enough to keep doing over and over again, I got curious and observant, experimented with alternatives, but basically let them run their course. I don’t find making changes because I “should” to be very effective. At some point I’ll want to and I will. Then it’s easy. Then it sticks.
On stopping eating:
- I was terrible at knowing when I was satisfied but really good at knowing when I was hungry, so I focused on being hungry for my meals. That actually teaches some valuable lessons about fullness because you notice how you feel after a meal versus when you get hungry again. In order to be hungry for lunch, breakfast needs to be tweaked. In order to be hungry for breakfast, dinner can’t be huge and late. That kind of reverse engineering to be hungry at certain times taught me a lot.
- A lot of times the desire to keep eating was emotional and not a need for food. The best way to nip that was to have something I genuinely looked forward to after a meal. If more mashed potatoes is all you have to look forward to, more potatoes will be eaten. If you know that when dinner’s over you’re going to watch your favorite TV show, check a favorite website, take the dog to the park, text a friend, or do some online shopping (whatever you look forward to), it’s much easier to stop and go do the other thing. You can also have a “finisher” which is a little ritual or treat that signals the end of the meal. Maybe you make a cup of tea, or savor a piece of good chocolate, or put a mint in your mouth. The finisher plus planned fun help your mind transition so that stopping eating doesn’t feel so sad.
- Speaking of which, if you just surf that flash of sadness and urge to eat more instead of immediately giving in, you might be amazed to discover that it’s really short lived. I mean like seconds sometimes, maybe one or two minutes. I had never waited it out to see. So another option is to tell yourself you can have more in, say, ten minutes. When the time is up, chances are you’ll have remembered your values (feeling great, being hungry for the next meal) and easily moved onto something else.
- I looked forward to my next meal. I thought about what I would have next and how good it would taste. I needed to actively remind myself that I would get to eat again soon, that it would be really good, and that there was no reason to overdo it now.
- After all those, when I started to really notice fullness in the moment, two of the things that helped me the most were slowing down and eating with fewer distractions. Ironically, distractions are one of the things that slow me down. So sometimes I’d eat with no distractions and really pay attention to the food. Sometimes I’d have a distraction like the television but shift my full attention to the food frequently, noticing how it was tasting and how I was feeling.
All of this required a lot of thought and practice up front but basically none now. Eating to satisfaction and stopping has become pretty effortless. I get full and don’t want anymore. It’s crazy! I’m sure I had this skill as a toddler. Getting it back has been a process, but SO worth it. I hope that gives you some ideas.
This post is related to the idea of stopping eating, deciding, and owning your choices.
Yes, it's one thing to "decide" that you sort of want to stop, or feel you should, but really want to keep eating, and maybe you will, but you tell yourself you can't do that, blah, blah, blah. That's not deciding. That's still having the crazy debate.
Deciding is when you have zero intention of continuing to eat, so you go do something else and forget all about it. It's a done deal versus still being a possibility. Or it's deciding to go ahead and eat whatever is calling to you, enjoying it, and accepting that you may be less hungry later. No problem. That's also a done deal and not something you're still wrestling with an hour later, "Oh, why did I do that. I shouldn't have. Now everything is ruined. Blah, blah, blah, crazy thoughts..." If you find yourself agonizing and second-guessing, you're not owning/meaning the decision. You're actively undermining it and chipping away at your confidence and self-trust. To me, that toxic thought process is worse than anything I do or don't eat.
It's not that you can't consider how eating two dozen Oreos and half a cold pot roast made you feel, decide if it's in line with your values, and then choose whether you'd like to do that more or less often. In that case, you're still completely owning the decision. You're treating yourself with kindness and respect even (and especially) if you didn't particularly enjoy the behavior. You're not beating yourself up or promoting more drama and insecurity. You're owning your choices and moving forward.