In principle, knowing when to stop eating should be as natural as knowing when to step out of the shower. Once you're clean, you're clean... right? Well, logic would dictate that but, I bet there's plenty of people out there who stay in the shower until they're wrinkled and beyond clean simply because they love the feel of the warm water on their skin, the shampoo in their hair, or the bubbles on their body. Perhaps you're one of them? Herein lies our first big clue as to why we don't all stop when we "should".
My groundbreaking discovery of two years ago about what type of eater you are (according to your natural personality dictates – and what my forthcoming book is about) shone a whole lot of light onto things for me and others who I shared this work with. As I considered this particular issue, which many people seem to struggle with, I realised that knowing what type of eater you are is just as helpful when it comes to understanding why you have trouble saying "no" or "stop" when you're full or satiated, while others have no issue with it whatsoever.
But before we go there, an important aside. While there are unquestionably physiological factors as to why people find it hard to stop eating, I'm not going to be covering those here today. I think it's important to acknowledge these factors exist, but my experience suggests that what overlays and underlays the body's feedback around satiation is the emotion that we attach to food and eating; this then dictates whether we listen to those signals in the first place.
To explain how this works, I'll use myself as an example to illustrate one end of the spectrum, then we'll look at an example of someone who is at the other end. By the end of this article you'll not only understand more about yourself and why you do (or don't do) certain things around eating but you'll also have a series of powerful and effective steps for changing the way you do things if they're not working for you.
Alright. So, I am a combination of "Eater Types" but my dominant type is the "Intuitive Eater". This basically means that my main considerations around eating are feeling in tune with myself and what I choose to eat, and eating to feel satiated – nothing more, nothing less, because food for me does not hold as much importance - ironically - as it does for many other people. With this in mind it's no coincidence that when it comes to eating I have no trouble leaving my plate half full if I am satiated. To my mind (and body) there's just no point eating more than I need. To me more is not better, it's a drain, it makes me feel physically uncomfortable, I don't associate it with pleasure, and therefore something I have no desire for.
Now, let's take someone who is at the opposite end of the spectrum - this is what I term the "Sensual Eater" - and here we have a very different story. The Sensual Eater typically thinks that more is better; they love to indulge, they can even lean towards unabashed gluttony unless tempered by other contrasting eater types in their own unique eater profile, and they tend to feel as if they are missing out if they don't have it all. Needless to say for this type of person they really struggle to stop eating when they're full, and my research to date suggests that a very high percentage of the population have the Sensual Eater dominating their eating style or at least featuring in their profile.
If you find that not being able to stop eating when full is a problem for you then chances are you recognise yourself, or at least some tendencies, in the Sensual Eater.
The good news is that you can work with whatever eater type you are to get the results you want - you just have to work with the type rather than against it.
Here is my step-by-step strategy for being able to stop eating easily, rather than over-eating. NB: You really have to want this!
1) Make a list of all the ways that over-eating is not working for you. e.g. Lack of energy, weight gain, financial cost, impact on health, losing precious time for other things, etc.
2) Ask yourself what story you run when your body says you're full. Chances are it goes something along the lines of, "Oh, but it tastes so good" or "If I eat more now I won't feel hungry later!" There are always stories/excuses. Once you know what this behaviour is costing you, you have the incentive to change your story.
3) Thus: Change your story to one that suits you. Take into consideration here the items you listed in step 1) and see which ones are hurting you the most. These are the best informants of your new story. For example, if you are overeating on a regular basis and your libido or self-confidence is being affected and you detest that, then your new story could run: "The less I eat, the se*xier I feel." Clever, isn't it?! Little mantras like these, so long as they're powerful and hit the spot for YOU, can change behaviours instantly.
4) Whether you implement step 3) or not, I invite you to challenge yourself to stop when satiated for one whole day. Tell yourself you can go "back to normal" tomorrow (and you can). But just give yourself the chance to experience how it is to leave the table feeling perfectly satiated and whole, rather than overfed and bloated - for a whole 24 hours - and see and feel the difference.
5) If, as a result of putting step 4) into practice, you start feeling emotional, be gentle with yourself. Food and emotion are like peas in a pod. Most people, consciously or otherwise, use overeating as a way to block themselves emotionally. Sure, they can also like the taste of food and over-eat for pleasure alone (or so they think) but when you stop over-eating, even if only for one day, any suppressed emotions will start rising up to be felt and addressed, and then you're going to want to have a way of handling those...
We're going to leave it here for today but next week I'll continue with practical strategies for how to handle those emotions that come up when the drug that is excess food is taken away.