Now it is time for me to review what I have learnt and experienced about ´Feeling my Fullness´ having explored this in depth in my previous post. Since then I have tried to be more present to my body´s sensations whilst eating and have also gone through the workbook and its´ exercises to try and tune in and integrate this principle further.
First up I have to say that I often find it difficult to know when I am hungry and when I am full. I feel this is a combination of many years of dieting and restriction and also a sense of disassociating from my body since I was a child as a safety mechanism. Being a highly sensitive person I have felt things more deeply than others so the easiest way for me to deal with being a child and growing up was to just escape. I think I have done to varying degrees with food and alcohol since my teens. Fortunately, particularly since I have had children I have become both more respectful and more in tune with my body and my need to connect with it. As a result of a variety of practices from meditation to exercise to lots of self reflection, therapy and personal development I have stopped drinking alcohol which was making my life less rich and I feel have become more aware around using food as a crutch on occasion. My pretty much constant practice now is to try to tune into what my body and mind really need rather than reaching for the habitual food to comfort me or to escape whatever I am feeling.
Present and mindful
Anyway, back to feeling my fullness which is certainly going to take more practice for me, but thankfully there are several exercises in the workbook to help with this. I also acknowledge yet, that again, the principles cannot just be worked on in a few days or a week or two, it is not a linear process and will take time for it all to fit together.
They key thing I have noticed is that if I am at least present at the start of my meal then I can tune into how hungry I am, it helps ground me and remind me to try to eat slowly and mindfully – enjoying each bite. Of course, this is only possible if I am really eating something which is satisfying to me and I allow myself uncondition permission to eat what I want (Principles 5 – ´Discover the Satisfaction Factor´ and 3 ´Make Peace with Food´). I have noticed that even if I am eating with my family or whilst watching the World Cup (yes I know we are supposed to practice without any distractions, but I can´t do everything!) then I can still be present for my food. I was particularly astonished about how much I enjoyed my pizza when I was eating it whilst England was playing (maybe the pizza aided my enjoyment of the match as the first half was so boring) and how slowly chewing it, checking in made a big difference and I felt full far quicker than normally. This was probably due to allowing my body to catch up with my eating instead of wolfing it down and also feeling like I had genuinely chewed and experienced the food so needed less of it.
Back to the workbook. There are a number of exercises that you are invited to do including being aware of how many meals we eat in a distracted state whether watching tv, working, making the kids lunches or being on our phone (guilty of all the above) and how frequent this is also. A really telling question for me was:
What fears or thoughts of discomfort arise for you (if any) when you think about what it would be like to eat without engaging in any distracting activities?Intuitive Eating workbook – Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch
That was not a comfortable question for me to sit with as when I eat alone I find it hard to not feel like I am productive or doing stuff all the time even if it is reading a book or watching tv. That said it is something I am keen to work on as I acknowledge it is not just something I need to work on while eating, but also to allow myself to just be sometimes and that doing all the time is not not necessary or necessarily productive.
Other exercises look at how often we feel we need to clean our plate or finish off our food which helps with our awareness around eating. We are also invited to leave a couple of bites uneaten on our plate for each meal to see if we can break the habit of cleaning our plate. I have actually realised I am doing this most of the time anyway as I am either full or not feeling satisfied by or like I am enjoying a particular food. Another exercise is to learn how to say no to food and be aware of what situations we find most challenging and some phrases or tactics we can use. Again I have noticed more recently that I feel able to leave food when I am out or at people´s houses and simply explain I am full and am working on listening to my body with my intuitive eating (thankfully I have not become a bore about it and just leave it at that).
Left hand experiment
An interesting experiment is suggested to eat snacks e.g. popcorn at the cinema or even swop hands for your knife and fork and see how that may affect your speed and amount you eat. An experiment doing exactly this with those eating popcorn at the cinema and only being able to eat with their non-dominant hand compared to being able to eat with their dominant hand and people generally ate far less with their non-dominant hand as they were more conscious of what they were eating and their fullness level. Anything that disrupts our normal habits or patterns may also do the same.
Water drinking experiment
Another thing to try is to try this experiment with several glasses of water when you are without interruptions and are quite hungry. Slowly drink a glass of water focusing on the sensations of the water in your mouth and as you drink it and see how full you feel. Give yourself about 5 minutes to drink as much as you need before you can feel the sensation of being mildly to quite full.
Then take some time to reflect on how the water felt, the fullness and how long you felt full for and next ate. This helps with our awareness of how full we might be and is not an exercise to try and avoid eating food when hungry!
I tried this and found I drank about 2.5 large glasses of water before I felt quite full. It was interesting focusing on the sensations of the water in my body which is not something I have done before. The main things I noticed was although I only felt quite full after stopping a few minutes later I felt cold sensations in my upper abdomen and then uncomfortably full which lasted about 20 minutes until I felt quite hungry for food about an hour later. Definitely a different kind of fullness and satiety, but not a comfortable one!
Testing snacks and meals for satiety
Another interesting experiment is trying alternative snacks and meals to see how much they affect our fullness levels. There are some interesting suggestions, particularly for someone like me that either goes for a piece of fruit or some chocolate as a snack. One of the key things is to ensure we include a variety of carbs, fat and protein in each meal or snack. We can experiment to see what satisfies and satiats us most whether it be some fruit and cheese vs cheese and whole grain crackers vs cheese and rice cakes to having porridge vs cornflakes and milk or a glass of milk vs juice. Whilst I haven´t extensively tried these alternatives to see what provides most satiety, I have recently swopped my breakfast for porridge with honey, milk and seeds now that the weather is colder (previously it was plain yogurt with fruit, seeds, cinnamon and dried coconut) and have noticed how much longer I feel fuller (and warmer!) Previously I would have a second breakfast of corn cakes and marmalade at about 11am but have not needed that at all this week. This is something I will explore further with, particularly to widen my snack repetoire and ensure I get enough protein which not only extends satiety, but is also essential that us menopausal women have enough of for our bodies and bones.
The other very helpful exercise has been to complete the tables to reflect on our fullness, before, during and after we eat. I have definitely been enquiring more about my hunger levels before meals which has often led me to eating later or not at all, even if the rest of the family are eating. Again looking at how hungry I am during the meal and when I am ready to finish seems to be something that these exercises have really helped me integrate almost subconsciously. I am no longer automatically cleaning my plate as much (unless I choose to obviously!) and trying also to listen to my fullness and pre-empt my last bite and make sure it is the last one by moving the plate away or giving the food to the dog!
Last Bite Threshold
This is something I would like to explore further for me to help me really cement this into my life. Reflecting on my fullness level throughout the meal, but also asking myself how would I feel if I finished it a few bites sooner. As I type this I feel some fear come in and even sadness that I may be deprived or have food taken from me. But the key point to remember here is that this is not about depriving or saying that I can´t eat it all, or can´t eat anything for that matter, as I have unconditional permission to eat whatever and whenever I want. The fact I feel this fear shows me that I have not fully given myself that permission, which I am sure will come up for a long time as I try to reverse many years of doing the opposite!
I feel that I am slowly but surely integrating more and more of Intuitive Eating and whilst I still recognise that I have some way to go to fully give myself permission to eat and to always feel my fullness, I also recognise I have come a long way. I feel a lot less hung up about about my body shape and size currently, possibly as I am now in winter clothes (!) and I have really noticed that when I have given myself to eat as much as I want, but have really been present for it that I have eaten less then I would have previously. Yes, I suspect there is a sneaky undercurrent here that believes that if I carry on like this then my body shape will change as a result, but I also recognise that I feel better in my clothes and in my self generally when my body feels stronger and fitter. I have not been consciously eating and enjoying my food, it has more been a mindless activity that has not really nourished me. I don´t feel that I am striving for some goal weight or shape, I just want to respect and appreciate my body whether it is through what I put in it, how I talk to and about it and also how I dress to really reflect who I am. I feel each day I am edging towards feeling more comfortable and enjoying who and what I am and giving myself permission to do whatever feels good on any given day.
As we go away on holiday in the coming days it is going to be interesting how I deal with a foreign country and wanting to try ALL the food! I still will try to be present, mindful and feeling my hunger and fullness and I know being aware of this challenge is half the battle, plus it is going to be super cold in Iceland (which tends to make me want to eat more). But I have the awareness and the tools and am curious to see how it all goes.
When I come back I will review this again, but I am also excited to get into the juiciness of Principle 7 ´Cope with your Feelings without using Food´, I know it is going to be a good one!
How about you? Have you tried any of the above exercises to feel your fullness? Do you find it easy to eat without distraction (if so, please let me know your tips!)? Are you a recovering clean plater? Or is it easy for you to tune into your body and respect its´ fullness whether out for dinner at friends or wherever? As usual, I would LOVE to hear your thoughts, experiences, questions below or even just say hello it is always great to hear from people.
Thanks for reading!