honor your hunger

Principle #5: Feel Your Fullness

Principle #5 of Intuitive Eating… (this marks halfway!)

Feel Your Fullness.

Not only is it important to honor your hunger (read about that in principle #3!), but we also must listen for the signs that our body is no longer hungry. Honoring hunger and respecting fullness are different sides of the same coin; they both involve eating mindfully and trusting your body. If you aren’t honoring your hunger and are forcing yourself into a ravenous state, your chances of overeating when you do get around to a meal are very likely.

The same way that our body sends hunger cues when it needs food, we can observe signs of being comfortably full, too.

Some common signs of fullness include:

  • Tight belly

  • Pressure and/or discomfort in your stomach

  • Beginning to feel sluggish

  • No longer enjoying the food

  • The signs of hunger have diminished

for this principle, there is one big takeaway:

Practice conscious eating to find comfortable satiety.

Ways to do this? Read on.

1. Tune in while you eat.

I know I’m extremely guilty of eating while I’m working, watching TV, or scrolling through Instagram. Getting rid of these distractions allows you to truly enjoy your meal, savoring the flavor and aroma, chewing each bite thoroughly. SO SLOW DOWN. Being tuned in also means paying attention to how hungry you are at the start of a meal and when your body hits the point of fullness and satisfaction.

2. Pause in the middle of a meal and ask yourself: 

  • Does this food still taste good? Is it still pleasurable?

  • What is my current fullness level?

3. Don’t feel obligated to leave food on your plate.

Sometimes you’ll reach fullness and satisfaction before the food on your plate is gone. Don’t feel the need to stuff the rest of the food down if your body doesn’t need it. As long as you allow yourself to eat again when hunger hits, your body will appreciate you stopping at a level of comfortable fullness. It’s not uncommon for past dieters to feel they must “clean their plate”, having experienced some sort of food scarcity in the past. Because they’ve felt deprived, there is a need to finish food at any given chance. On the other hand, though, if you finish the food on your plate and still aren’t satisfied, honor that too, and find something to satisfy your remaining hunger. It’s not an absence of willpower to finish your food or even grab something extra after.


In answering the question “What is my current fullness level?”, it’s helpful to use a scale like the one below.


The hungrier you are when you start eating, the higher your fullness number is likely to be when you stop. Beginning to eat when you hit a 3 or a 4 gives you more likely of a chance to stop when you hit 6 or 7—satisfied, but not overfull.

When you’ve finished your meal, assess your fullness level again with the scale. Are you comfortably full? Uncomfortably full? Satisfied? Still hungry? Comfortable fullness typically stands around a 6 or a 7. You’re comfortably full, not overstuffed, and no longer hungry or thinking about food.

We ALL have the power to listen to our bodies in this way, but many individuals have ignored these signs and signals for so long that they must intentionally work to get back in tune with them.

IF THAT’S YOU: Working with a dietitian can help guide you back to successfully identifying hunger and fullness cues. Likewise, if you find yourself feeling out of control and consistently eating very large amounts of food and/or to a very uncomfortable state, seeing a professional can help.

Some other things to remember and practice are:

1. Stop comparing your needs to somebody else’s.

Every BODY has different needs, and those needs change each day depending on a number of factors such as physical activity, hormones, sleep, etc. We don’t all eat the same foods, the same amounts, or at the same times every day. Sometimes you’ll eat more than everybody around, sometimes people will eat more than you, and sometimes some people won’t eat anything at all. No matter what, your only responsibility is to listen to YOUR body and honor what it needs in that moment. Nobody else’s choices should directly influence yours.

2. Know that it’s okay to overeat sometimes; it happens.

There are many reasons that we might overeat: holidays, vacation, a crazy schedule, an emotional time. It’s also very common to overeat after you’ve newly given yourself unconditional permission to eat what and when you want on your intuitive eating journey. Your body just has to learn to trust you again. Balance will come. The important thing is to not restrict in any way after you do overeat. This is just going to perpetuate the diet cycle. You might feel even more hungry than usual the next meal or the next day, you might feel less hungry. There’s no right or wrong answer, just respect what your body is telling you.

3. You have a right to say no.

Often at social events, hosts may try and “push” food onto their guests. You can say no. You don’t have to eat just because somebody wants you too. If the food does sound good to you, though, please accept it and enjoy it.

4. You won’t always eat the same amount of food.

Some foods might keep you fuller for a longer period of time, some days your normal amount of food at a certain meal may not be enough. Many factors can play into our feelings of fullness such as:

  • How long it’s been since your last meal—if it’s been quite a few hours, you may need some extra fuel.

  • What you’re actually eating—different carbohydrates, fiber content, protein, and fat all influence your fullness and satiety. A key practice here is to incorporate a complex carbohydrate, source of protein, source of fat, and fiber into each meal (and ideally at least two different groups in a snack). Balanced meals will provide your body with the nutrients that it needs while increasing satiety.



Another common road bump to feeling your fullness is this:

what if you’re afraid to eat to the point of fullness?

This is the case in many individuals that have struggled with disordered eating habits. What I can tell you is this: going through life hungry is no way to live. You will continue to feel preoccupied with food, often irritable and with low energy. Eating until you are full and satisfied is the only way to build mutual trust with your body.

If you’re consistently under-eating (maybe only eating to about a 5 on the hunger-fullness scale), restricting certain foods or setting them as “off-limits”, compulsively exercising, are underweight (or under YOUR body’s ideal weight)… you’re most likely going to experience skewed hunger and fullness cues.

Often times individuals will also feel they’ve reached “fullness” but still can’t stop eating, or are “full” but not “satisfied”. I’ll talk more about these in the following principles, so stay tuned!

Learning to feel your fullness takes practice, patience, and intention. There is no failing, and sometimes you are going to eat past fullness or while you’re distracted watching TV. That’s okay. This is about learning to connect with your body’s signals, not about being perfect.

Get ready for principle #6!

Principle #2: Honor Your Hunger

It’s time for Intuitive Eating principle #2:

Honor your hunger

Simply stated, this means eating when you’re hungry, every time. But how come that can be so complicated? Are there times you’ve felt hunger but didn’t eat?

Hunger is a normal, biological process. Hunger cues are a biological signal that we cannot ignore. Trying to override these feelings or honor them unsatisfactorily will ultimately lead to overeating, strong cravings, and being unable to trust your body. Dieting leaves you feeling deprived and hungry, and your ability to perceive moderate portion sizes and to truly be conscious of what you’re eating dissolves when you reach the point of extreme hungry. Learning to honor your hunger will allow you to establish self-trust.

However, so many of us have dishonored our bodies’ cues and implemented external food rules that have caused us to lose touch with what hunger really feels like. Society tries to convince us that we need to control our hunger and is always promoting a new way to “overcome” it. Hunger is not a matter of willpower, it’s pure biology. If you’re hungry, you just need to eat.


To honor your hunger and your body, here’s a few things you can do:

1.   Recognize YOUR hunger cues.

These may not be the same from one person to the next, but it’s important that you are able to realize when you’re hungry so that you can honor it. There is no right or wrong way to feel hungry. Some signs of hunger might include:

  • stomach gurgling

  • dizziness or light headedness

  • irritability

  • lack of concentration

  • nausea

  • moodiness

  • emptiness in your stomach

  • an upset stomach

  • lack of energy

  • shakiness

  • a preoccupation with food

2.   Forget the clock.

No matter what time of day it is or how long it’s been since you last ate… if you’re hungry, eat. A meal plan or eating schedule doesn’t know what your body needs when it needs it; you’re the expert. (Although if you’ve lost touch with your hunger, you may need to eat at regulated intervals while you try to normalize your hunger and fullness cues again)

3.   Eat what you WANT.

Give yourself permission to eat exactly what your body wants in that moment. By doing this, you build body trust and are able to move on with the day, putting your focus on the things it should be on. By teaching yourself that you can eat what you want, when you want, you’ll repair your relationship with food and rebuild trust with your body. 

4.   Be prepared.

Meal plans that try to dictate what and when you eat are not helpful, but especially if you’re somebody with a busy schedule, having meals or snacks ready to grab-and-go is important. It’s smart to have something on hand at all times, even if it’s just little energy bites (like these!). You can make some big-batch meals and store them in the freezer for when you need a quick dinner. This eliminates the excuse of “not having food” from being a reason to not eat. Keeping FUN foods in your house is important too, because they are not off limits, and sometimes you’re going to crave ice cream, potato chips, or a chocolate chip cookie. That’s normal. That’s allowed. That’s okay. If that’s what you want, eat it.

The foundation…

…of honoring your hunger stands on being able to trust your body and your body being able to trust you. Constant denial of hunger cues regularly tells your body to store the food you eat for the next time you’re hungry or deprived, rather than using it as fuel like our bodies are supposed to. The best way to “rev up your metabolism”, like the media is always talking about, is really just to eat: consistently, adequately, and satisfactorily. This is how your body will find its natural, healthy size, too.

Focus on YOUR internal cues and not on anything that is trying to externally dictate your food or eating. Your hunger is unique to you, and it won’t be the same from day to day. If you’ve completely lost touch with what your hunger feels like, begin eating on a consistent schedule: you could try 3 meals and 2 snacks everyday, each about 3 hours apart. You want to try and eat balanced meals with a variety of foods and without long periods of time between meals.

Learning to honor your hunger is another part of the intuitive eating journey. Like I’ve said, this is not an easy journey. The freedom, joy, and acceptance that it brings, though, is more than worth it. Stay tuned for principle #3!