Have you ever eaten too much? Of course you have – we all do it from time to time. Sometimes intentionally like on Thanksgiving. Other times because we simply are not aware of how much we are eating, like at a party. Still yet, we may just not want to stop eating because the food is too good.
Overeating is an uncomfortable feeling, isn’t it? And sometimes it is embarrassing, like when you are wearing a tight black dress at the party and your stomach starts to bloat. Or you are in a meeting and you just have to unbutton the top button on your pants under the table or you will burst!
The Fullness Factor
Within each of us is an alarm that goes off when we are approaching the danger of stuffing ourselves. The problem is we have learned over time to ignore that alarm or forget it is even there. We have silenced our body’s ability to recognize the “fullness factor.” With food everywhere, and pressure to finish our meals and not be wasteful, we are trained to bypass our “fullness factor” and overeat.
This “fullness factor” comes to us as a feeling of satiation or of gentle pressure. It is not a feeling of being “stuffed.” Going past the “fullness factor” point leaves you feeling bloated or uncomfortable. It also sets the stage for indigestion, heart burn or stomach cramping. If you are not eating consciously (i.e. paying attention to what, how and why you are eating) you will easily miss this signal.
When you eat, your body releases chemicals that enter your brain and create the feeling of satiation. However, it takes about twenty minutes for your brain to register these chemicals. Many people will complete a meal in less than that, so they skip this mechanism and eat more as a result. When you leave the table, you should feel satisfied and energetic, not tired and heavy. Pants should be securely fastened. (Find out more about Why We Overeat and How to Stop)
Quality Not Quantity
You will also feel your “fullness factor” more clearly if you eat whole, unprocessed foods in the form of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Processed food is designed to bypass your fullness factor, prompting you to eat MORE. The lack of quality nutrients in processed food leaves your body desiring more because it is searching for the real stuff! Dean Ornish, a doctor who specializes in reversing chronic illness with diet and lifestyle changes, once said, “As human beings we need a certain amount of gratification, and if we don’t get it in quality we tend to make up for it in quantity.” The higher quality your food is, the less you need or want to eat!
If you have the habit of eating quickly, here’s an exercise to help you become aware of your eating habits and work towards getting in touch with your “fullness factor.”
At your first meal, eat as you normally would. Notice how long it takes you to actually eat your food. Write that down, along with how you feel after eating. The next meal, try to extend your meal time by five minutes. Each subsequent meal, extend your meal time by five minutes until you reach twenty minutes. Some techniques to extend your meal include chewing more completely, putting your fork down in between each bite, or enjoying a conversation with family or colleagues. Be sure to note how you feel after each meal.
Above all, remember to trust your body. By just taking a few moments every day to check in with yourself and see how you are feeling, you will learn to listen to your body and understand its signals.