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Fullness and Feeling Fat

  • Eating

A couple months back, there was an intense discussion on my Food and Feelings message board ( about the discomfort of feeling full. This is what the diet industry has done to us: twisted a positive into a negative by implying that the sensation of taking in adequate nourishment is bad. If you’re going to eat “normally,” it’s time to view fullness as a welcome occurrence.

For most of human history—right up until the 20th century—filling your stomach with food was considered a positive act. More than that, it was the most effective one you could engage in to keep yourself alive and well. At the end of a meal, folks smiled with satisfaction, sighed with pleasure, and patted their tummies contentedly. That is what fullness should be about. Those smiles and pats signify that a basic human need has been pleasantly met and that it’s time to move on to other aspects of life. Instead, folks who’ve dieted and restricted food for years have turned what is normal and natural upside down and now believe that fullness means they’re fat or have done something wrong. Not true! The sense of having eaten a sufficient amount of food happens whether you’re fat, thin or in between and has nothing to do with what you weigh.

To change your perceptions, make sure your beliefs about fullness are rational. If not, take time to identify and reframe irrational beliefs. Irrational: Full means I’ve overeaten, Feeling full means I’m fat, Feeling full means I’m bad. Rational: Full means I’ve taken in sufficient food, Feeling full does not mean I am fat, Feeling full is not a moral judgment.

I want to underscore that feeling full is a physical state, no different than the relief you experience after a sneeze or scratching an itch. It’s a bodily reaction not meant to generate any kind of emotion or self-assessment. Aside from making sure that you have a rational belief system about fullness, it’s vital that you learn to self-soothe the anxiety that crops up when you misinterpret fullness as bad. Use positive self-talk and convince yourself it’s okay; use mindfulness and let your critical thoughts float on by; laugh at our crazy-making culture; smile and give yourself a pat on the tummy for doing a well done job of nourishing yourself.

Work toward feeling positive, or at least neutral, about fullness. Practice sending yourself good vibes about fullness every time you eat. Refuse to buy into the fullness equals fat mindset. Develop your own connotation for fullness and stick to it. Soon you’ll view fullness as natural and normal—and disconnect it from feeling fat.