I hope you enjoyed the first instalment of the Natural Eating Q&A last week. As I mentioned in that article, I’m going to spend the next few weeks answering some questions that I often hear clients asking regarding natural eating.
Continuing on with the list of common questions that I posted in last week’s article, this week I’m going to address the question:
How do I know when I’m full?
For those of you who have been overeating to cope with stressful life situations and anxious thinking or depressed moods, it is quite possible that you have come to associate a feeling of over-full, or absolutely stuffed, with being full. It is important to learn to discern the difference between comfortable, appropriate levels of fullness and downright stuffed.
For starters, if you’re using food to cope with stress, you absolutely have to make it safe for yourself to be aware of what you’re thinking and feeling. This is most rapidly and effectively achieved through the use of the list of stressors tool and the Drill Sgt. dialogue in conjunction with the 4-7-8 breathing exercise.
For the first few weeks of this process you must give yourself permission to use food to cope with the understanding that you will sit down with your food and your pen and paper and use your new tools while you eat.
You see, you’ve learned to automatically check out emotionally and psychologically whenever you’re feeling the slightest bit distressed, even if the stressor is relatively small and the solution quite simple. As such, you healing requires that you will soothe and nurture yourself with food until you begin to prove to yourself how often it is your mind that is causing the problem and not that you can’t cope with life in reality. This proof comes from using the tools that are the core components of The CEDRIC Method. Once you’ve had some experiences of proving to yourself, through the use of these tools, that your problem isn’t food or laziness or a lack of willpower but actually the stress in your life and mostly, the thoughts that you have about stress and about your ability to cope with it effectively, you will be able to know and trust that food is not your problem, that you don’t need to binge to survive and that you can handle life with dignity and respect for yourself and for others.
As you are engaging in this two-prong process of consciously allowing the use of food to cope while using your new tools, you will become more and more aware of hunger and fullness cues naturally.
One thing to be on the lookout for is “the sigh.” The sigh naturally happens for us all when we are full – maybe even a little overfull but not stuffed and binging full. There will be a point in each meal, if you’re restricting yourself, where you will hear yourself sigh. This is your body’s natural energetic response to being physically satisfied. This is your cue to stop. Listen for it. You will hear it. If you feel compelled to continue eating even after hearing the sigh, acknowledge that you are using food to cope now and that that is okay for now as long as you use your tools too and seek to understand what is triggering you and what solutions to that stressor exist.
By doing this you simultaneously demonstrate dignity, respect, caring, trustworthiness, and presence to yourself which immediately enhances your self-esteem and makes you feel more confident in your ability to care for yourself appropriately which will naturally diminish your need for food to cope.
Each time you do this you will eat less until your binges cease and you feel solid and trusting in yourself.
You will also quickly come to see how much food you need to respond appropriately to certain levels of hunger, i.e., when I’m really ravenous, I can comfortably eat a whole hamburger and a handful of fries, or a whole breast of chicken and 2 cups or so of veggies. Whereas, when I’m hungry, but not starving hungry, I only need ½ the burger and a couple of fries, or ½ the chicken and one cup or so of veggies.
This is how you begin to reconnect with your own inner dial for hunger and fullness. It’s not all-or-nothing, on or off – restrict or binge, starving or stuffed. It’s actually varying degrees of hunger that naturally dictate a need for a certain amount of food to last me a certain period of time before I next, naturally, get hungry. This is the natural ebb and flow of the healthy physiological need for food in every human body.
It typically takes no more than 3 weeks to get adept at noticing hunger and fullness cues and being able to discern the difference between really hungry and just hungry and between stuffed and comfortably full. A few weeks is not a long period of time to give yourself to undo years of old Diet Mentality approach to hunger and fullness.
Do not restrict. Remember restriction will always trigger a reactionary binge. Also remember that in restricting food, you are missing the point: either you’re hungry in which case it is harmful and irrational to restrict yourself; or you are needing food to cope, in which case, to focus on food and restrict yourself is missing the point entirely: you have needs that aren’t being met and you need to take a few minutes, figure out what they are, and take appropriate action to meet them.
You can do it! And if you have any doubt of that whatsoever, read the article from earlier in this Natural Eating series on Learned Helplessness.