| Nourish to Flourish |

Steps in Recognizing Hunger  

“It seems like you have a pretty good idea of how ‘comfortably full’ feels. Sometimes it’s hard to stop there, though"


The girls were gathered discussing the previous lesson. “I made the craziest discovery: If you eat a snack before bed, you will have an amazing sleep!” Chaya crowed.

“I also made a discovery. Turns out I do feel hunger, I just didn’t recognize it!” Leah celebrated.

“Welcome back, ladies!” Bracha got their attention. “It sounds like you’ve made some steps in recognizing hunger. That’s great, because today’s topic of fullness has a lot to do with tuning into your hunger levels.”

“As we mentioned, when we start eating in response to the subtle hunger cues, we can tune into the subtle feelings of fullness, rather than waiting until we’re uncomfortably stuffed. Can anyone think of a time they felt comfortably full? How did that feel?”

Shoshana answered, “I felt satisfied. Like I had eaten something substantial and it was filling and comfortable.”

“That’s a great description. Of course, that will feel different for everyone, and tuning into your own fullness will be personal. One of the things that can help us reach that satisfied feeling is to try to choose foods and create combinations that provide lasting fullness. What is a meal or snack that you find filling?”

“I like a lunch of mac and cheese, a fruit, and something like popcorn or chips to make me full,” answered Leah.

Chaya added, “Now that I’m washing for breakfast and having ‘a full meal’ with maybe peanut butter toast and sliced banana, I’m usually full until lunch.”

Shoshana chimed in, “I make this really filling salad with nuts and toasted grains and loads of vegetables, and this really amazing dressing. I find that when I don’t load up a salad with things I enjoy, it’s really boring to eat and doesn’t keep me full for long. That’s when I’d get those really big hunger signals I mentioned last time.”

“That’s great reflection, everyone! You can all start noticing patterns about how long food keeps you full and whether you need to add more food into your meal, or eat more often.”

Bracha continued, “It seems like you have a pretty good idea of how ‘comfortably full’ feels. Sometimes it’s hard to stop there, though. What might be something that gets us eating past comfortably full?”

“Eating while distracted?”

“The food tastes so good.”

“You have to finish what’s on your plate.”

“Yes, to all of those!” Bracha said. “We’ll discuss each separately. First, think of the activities you do while eating. How much do they distract you?”

The girls all spoke at once.

“Lunch in school is super distracting — there’s so much going on that it’s hard to focus on what I’m eating.”

“Reading while eating is majorly distracting!”

“I’ll sometimes eat while walking to school. Then it’s hard to focus on what I’m eating.”

“Could you try changing one of the times you eat distractedly into eating while being more aware of your eating and fullness level?” Bracha asked. “Focusing on your food and slowing down when eating can help you tune into your fullness level.”

“Sometimes I notice food stops tasting good when I eat too slowly,” Shoshana commented.

“That’s actually a sign that you’re reaching fullness.” Bracha replied. “Eating is a full sensory activity, and so is hunger and fullness. Chaya mentioned eating past fullness sometimes because food tastes good, but if we’re fully in tune with our fullness, we may just realize it’s not tasting as amazing as it did when we started.”

“But what if you just really like the food and want to keep eating?” Chaya asked.

“You’re obviously free to do that; this isn’t the hunger-fullness diet!” answered Bracha. “Most of the time, though, it’s best to respect your body and not overstuff yourself. What strategies can you use to enjoy food, and still feel good?”

“Put away extras for later,” suggested Chaya.

“Savor your bites and ask for the recipe,” added Shoshana.

“Don’t forget about not limiting special foods for special occasions,” finished Chaya.

“That’s all fine,” Leah interjected, “but what about when my mom makes me finish what’s on my plate and I’m already full?”

“That will likely need a conversation with your mom to explain that you appreciate her meals, but only you know when you’ve eaten enough.” Bracha concluded, “This is hard, but we’re all working on getting more in tune with our feelings of hunger and fullness.”

Till next time…

Bracha Kopstick is a registered dietitian offering virtual nutrition counselling specializing in helping children and teens develop a good relationship with food and their body. She can be contacted through Teen Pages for more information about joining your own Intuitive Eating Workshop.

(Originally featured in Teen Pages, Issue 854)

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