Understanding Fullness


 “Eat when you are hungry, stop when you are full.” Is it really that simple? 

The act of eating is so much more complicated than this. In a previous article we scratched the surface of the variations and complexities of hunger, but when it comes to fullness, how do we know when it is time to stop eating? How does being satisfied (or not) play into this decision? 


First, we should understand the difference between internal and external cues: 

EXTERNAL Fullness Cues:

Means: Associations between the act of eating and our environment or routine 


  • Finishing all the food in front of you because it is the polite thing to do 
  • Polishing off your entree and diving right into dessert until completion, even if you are no longer hungry
  • Continuing to eat past physical fullness in a social situation because those around you are

INTERNAL Fullness Cues:

Means: Paying attention to our body’s signals to gauge how much we eat 


Stomach Fullness Cues: Sensation of your belly filling, literally, which may result in a little distention (visible stomach expansion- normal!), heaviness, or bloating 

Image result for ate too much

Head Fullness Cues: Your thoughts may move away from being focused on the need to eat. You may be better able to focus your thoughts on your next task!

Mood Fullness Cues: Your mood may shift toward feeling pleasant or relaxed (*especially if you feel SATISFIED by the food consumed)

Energy Fullness Cues: Depending on the food consumed, you may feel re-energized or drowsy and sluggish

*BONUS* The Satisfaction Factor:

Means: Fullness is the physical sensation of satiety, while satisfaction is the mental sensation of satiety. If you aren’t completely satisfied, it is harder to stop eating. 


Eating a large bowl of raw veggies may make you full, but not satisfied

So…? Eating balanced + enjoyable meals can help you achieve fullness AND satisfaction!

Reflection: What fullness cues are you most attuned to, whether external or internal?

Sources: Intuitive Eating Workbook, Alissa Rumsey, Rachael Hartley, Craving Change, Healthline

Article by: Sydney Withers RD