Whether the main entrée tasted too good to stop or the dessert tray was too tempting, you may have felt too stuffed to move overdoing a meal. While it is certainly okay to indulge every now and then, continuously stuffing yourself to discomfort can stack calories and cultivate weight gain. However, how do we know if we are eating to satisfy the body without jumping over the edge of comfort? The answer mostly lies within the body's natural hunger hormones in conjunction with strengthening the skill of mindful eating.
Understanding Hunger and Appetite
People are innately born to seek out foods to sustain life in bouts of hunger, although external factors may be enticing and stimulating an appetite - hunger is the physical need for food while appetite is desire for food. But the difference between feeling stuffed and satisfied largely lies in the body's complex system for appetite regulation, which may be linked to behaviors and the body's physiological reactions to hormones or stress. Appetite is dictated by intrinsic satiety signals, regulated by the hypothalamus in the brain, but can also be affected by thoughts, feelings, and connections to foods. Feelings of fullness or satiety may be further compromised by hormone imbalances and available muscle mass, as individuals with increased muscle generally require a higher caloric intake.
How to Eat Healthy and Feel Full
First off, "eating healthy" is pretty broad, as individuals may have various opinions of what a nutritious diet should resemble. However, most nutrition experts encourage the intake of whole grains, fruits and veggies, lean proteins, dairy products, and healthy fat sources. Balancing each on the meal plate can naturally keep calories within reason, but mindful eating techniques can further keep portions in check, especially when those more "unhealthful" foods are consumed. Practice mindful eating by disconnecting from the external environment to reconnect with food. Ultimately, start by disengaging from all electronic devices and screens and reconnect with food by...
Preparing meals not only allows for ingredient control, but helps form food appreciation. Taking the time to chop veggies, bake chicken, or compile casserole ingredients allows individuals to feel connected with food and transpire into a healthier relationship towards it.
...sitting at the table.
Sitting and eating at the table can further limit distractions, especially with the disconnection of all electronic devices. Eating in a structured environment, with a portioned meal plate, can help minimize the risk of mindless eating that is likely to occur if sitting at a desk with a big bag of chips.
Though it may be difficult to eat slowly with a busy schedule or if the food just tastes that good, it is imperative to learn skills to do so. Meals should at least comprise a 20-minute timespan, as it takes at least that amount of time for the brain and stomach to connect and initiate the "I'm full" feeling. Chewing slowly and putting down the fork between bites can help slow down eating time.
...recognizing the senses.
With external factors minimized, start to recognize just how the food makes you feel internally based on the senses. Fully smelling the aroma, relishing the taste, and other sensations can further enhance food appreciation.