Unlearning habits: How to stop eating once you feel full

One of my biggest WINS since I started dieting is learning how to actually notice when I feel full and then actually taking the action to stop eating.

I don’t remember ever being told I had to finish my plate as a kid, but I do remember even as a child eating till I was literally stuffed and in pain.

When I would binge as an adult it was the same. Whatever I was eating, I would eat so much it would make me sick or feel terrible.

It SOUNDS elementary, easy to just and obvious to just stop when you’re full but for so many of us it’s not.

-Maybe we’re just eating while we work and not practicing mindfulness.

-Or we are eating to numb feelings/cope.

-Perhaps our parents insisted we clean our plate “because other children are starving” so now we feel wasteful not finishing a meal.

There’s a lot working against us on this too.

One thing research shows now, is that bottle feeding formula leads to babies losing their innate sense of when they’re actually full. Parents are looking for that empty bottle at the cue that baby is full instead of noticing their cues like pulling away, eating slower or getting distracted.

We also know that companies literally create food to taste and feel a certain way so it’s harder to put down even when we’re way past full.

Most school lunches these days are about 30 minutes. This is to include the time it takes to go through the line, ultimately leaving kids with like 10 minutes to eat. Now I could fall down a rabbit hole of what other harm this causes but for this purpose it’s not giving our kids the time to tune in to how they feel when they eat. Instead they’re stuffing pizza in their face as fast as they can because they have to get back to class (and for some many maybe that’s the only meal they get so they really can’t waste it!)

Luckily for us we are able to unlearn habits that don’t serve us an replace them with ones that do. I’ve been manipulating my food intake intentionally for about 4 years now and the things that have helped the most are...

  • Eating without distractions- never fails I end up stuffed when I eat in front of the TV

  • Slowing down to eat- I’ve only set an actual timer a couple of times but just the act of slowing down and realizing nobody is stealing your food goes a long way

  • Chewing more- I heard something like at least 30 times is necessary for proper digestion but it’s also helpful to slow down.

  • Taking few deep breathes before beginning to eat- not only does this allow our bodies to actually absorb the nutrients in food better by calming our nervous system, it also helps to us tune in to the meal and be more mindful.

  • Notice body sensations- this one is harder because we spend so much time detaching from our bodies in general but notice what you feel, journal about it, do certain foods make to feel certain ways? Pay attention.

  • Save your food in Tupperware to come back to later especially if you’re worried about waste or hitting your macros.

  • Remember we don’t relearn things over night. Be patient with yourself. Some days will be better than others.

And of course to help set our kids up to hopefully not deal with this as much, consider creating a different environment around meal times. What are the “rules” at your dinner table?

  • Perhaps instead of making everyone finish their plate, we can encourage our kids to at least try and taste everything but if they don’t like it, that’s fine.

  • Try swapping “other kids are starving” with food costs money, time and resources, so let’s be respectful and grateful for what we have.

  • Encourage your kids to put their own food on their plate and start a conversation around only putting on your plate what you actually think you’ll eat to avoid waste. I bet their portion sizes for themselves would look a lot different than what an adult might think they need.

  • Encourage kids to save their leftovers in the fridge for later (bonus, this hopefully gets you out of making more snacks!) Placing them somewhere that’s easy to reach for kids is even better!

  • Never shame your children for not finishing their food.



p.s. I’m not here to shame anyone for how they feed their kids, as long as their fed. Do you, mama.