Raise your hand if you heard statements like these at the dinner table growing up:
“Clean your plate.”
“Eat up because there are other kids who don’t have food.”
“You need to eat it all so you can grow up big and strong.”
It’s no wonder, then, that some of us learned to keep eating well past the point of being full. And as adults, plenty of us struggle to know when to stop eating. How much is enough? And where’s the line before we hit too much?
That’s what we’re going to talk about today.
The Brain / Belly Connection
Wouldn’t it be awesome if our stomachs came with a max-fill line and a cute little bell that dinged when we approached the line at every meal? That would be so straightforward and simple.Instead, our bodies let us know we’ve had enough to eat by communicating through releasing a chemical from our bellies to our brains.
Before you begin eating, your stomach sends a message to your brain that says, “I’m hungry!” As you begin to eat, the message changes to say, “Not so hungry now,” and eventually, “Feeling better,” and finally, “Now I’m full.” But it isn’t automatic. The chemical process takes time. In fact, it takes about 20 minutes for our brains to register a feeling of fullness and another 10 to 30 minutes for our bodies to recognize the entirety of what we ate. (1)
Sit Back and Relax
The process of recognizing fullness takes time. That’s the way our brain-belly connection works. But we’re so often eating in a hurry. When rushing through lunch to get back to work or hurriedly eating breakfast before leaving for the day, we don’t give our bodies time to communicate as intended.
When you’re able, practice eating a portion of your meal and then sitting back to relax for a few minutes. You might take this time to chat with a friend or family member at the table or to read if you’re eating alone. At the end of five minutes, check in with your body. Ask yourself, “Do I feel full?” If not, continue eating and checking in with yourself along the way.
The goal here is to avoid finishing your meal thinking you are just barely full, only to feel miserable when the chemicals (stating “too much!”) reach your brain in 30 minutes.
Conduct a Few Experiments
Take some time to notice how you feel when you’re hungry and how you feel when you’re full. If you feel hungry and it’s not quite time for a meal, see if a light snack does the trick. Not right away, of course, but about 20 minutes after eating.
Avoid letting yourself get ravenously hungry. If you wait until this point to eat, you’ll be downright miserable by the time the fullness chemical hits your brain.
Try a few different strategies for when to eat—and how much—in order to find a rhythm that works best for you.
And if you need more help to know when to stop eating, give us a call today at 866-324-8081.