Sometimes it feels as if the worst thing in the world is to have to stop eating, never mind that you’re stuffed to the gills and your brain has gone numb. Of all the rules of “normal” eating, stopping when you’re full or satisfied is the hardest, hands down. However, it does grow organically and logically out of the previous rules. If you follow the first three, stopping is a lot easier. Well, actually, it won’t be easy for a long while, until you’ve done it so often that it’s become habit. It will be very, very hard at first.
If you eat when you’re not hungry, you won’t know when to stop because it wasn’t food you wanted in the first place. On the other hand, if you’re too hungry, you’ll snarf down your food so quickly that you’ll have eaten too much before you know it. When possible, eat when you’re moderately hungry. Also, make sure your food choice is what you really want, not what you feel you “should” be eating or the only thing left when you discount all the foods you believe you “shouldn’t” eat. Being enthusiastic about what you’re eating goes a long way toward satisfaction. But—and this is essential—along with enthusiasm, you need to give yourself total guiltless permission to eat it.
Before you eat, assess your mood. If you’re in the throes of some awful inner turmoil, back off from food. Do your feelings work, then eat. Cut out distractions and concentrate on food and nothing but. Staying connected to your body’s reactions is the best way to know when you’ve had enough. If you’re not listening, you won’t know what your body is saying. Most importantly, chew your food so the flavor will burst out, and let food sit on your tongue, the most vital organ in managing appetite. Rely on your tongue to signal your brain when you’re full or satisfied. It can’t do its job if you don’t give it a chance.
If you’ve followed all three rules and pay attention, you’ll notice body signals that you’re full or have had enough. Sure, you might not be thrilled that you’re sated so quickly and still want more; then you can decide to take one more mouthful or stop. Pay attention to feelings of anxiety about leaving food or sadness that you have to say goodbye to it for now. Check your beliefs about throwing out food, cleaning your plate, getting your money’s worth—you know all those irrational things you learned in childhood. If you’re not noticing signals to stop eating, perhaps you’re not paying enough attention. The best thing you can do for yourself is to eat slowly. Breath between bites, put down your fork, do a couple of neck rolls, have a little conversation with yourself, have several. Knowing when you’ve had enough is the first step. Armed with information, at least you, then, have a fighting chance to put your knowledge into action.
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