Why you’re going back for snacks, even when you’re “full”.

Sep 15, 2022

Last weekend, Chad and I went out to dinner with the kids for the first time in a long time. I had the most amazing salad and a veggie burger with fries. It was indulgent and delicious.


We don’t typically go out with them because one starts crying, the other starts running and it turns into full-blown chaos… more on that below…


And while I left the restaurant feeling full in a way that wasn’t uncomfortable… I didn’t feel satisfied.


When I got home, I asked myself…


“What would help me feel more satisfied?”


And the answer was twofold…


1. The answer was “that meal was salty, something sweet will bring balance!” So, I gave myself permission to have something sweeter. I blended an avocado and some cacao powder + monkfruit for a chocolate pudding and enjoyed it to the fullest.


2. My running and crying toddler in a restaurant can drive me into overwhelm because I’m worried about breaking dishware, other patrons, etc., and that sense of overwhelm messes with my hunger and fullness cues. Answer part two, getting re-grounded once the kids were napping and having my sweet treat on “rest and digest” mode.


Afterward, I felt satisfied and could enjoy the rest of my afternoon without food thoughts.


The process might sound really simple, but several years ago it would have gone in a completely different direction. After that lunch, I would have told myself “you’re full. You’ve had enough food. You don’t need anything else.” I would have then spent my entire afternoon obsessing over food. Running around the house looking for tasks to do. Craving something more. Walking in and out of the kitchen, rummaging through the fridge and pantry. Building up more overwhelm. More cortisol. Ultimately, bingeing on something like leftovers of westies fries or a whole pint of dairy-free ice cream when I finally got so stressed my body said we need to replenish my glucose stores, my hunger hormones screamed keep feeding us, and my mental state gave up on the “don’t eat, you’re full” restrictive mentality. Then, I would have felt guilty and beat myself up for my lack of willpower.


Physical, emotional, and mental restrictions lead to overeating and emotional eating. That was the name of the game for me. It further fueled my hormonal imbalance, caused me to gain more weight (because I was never satisfied), and made me so self-critical.


I had to trade my inner critic for curiosity and compassion, and when I did, I found something out about myself: feeling full isn’t enough. I also need to feel satisfied and calm.


And in working with 100s of women on their hormones and mindsets, I also found out that I am not alone. As humans, we need pleasure. Not just because we like to feel good. But, on a biological level, it actually helps us to function more optimally. Research actually shows that the more we enjoy our food, the more nutrients we absorb. The more we’re calm with our food and eat in a way that’s not distracted, the more we can tune into our hunger and fullness cues, and ultimately, in this state we eat less and snack less.


Dieting and strict food rules trigger the body’s stress response. This response slows our metabolism, decreases the absorption of nutrients, and hinders digestion. When we don’t enjoy our food, when stress rises, our bodies don’t function optimally. Furthermore, our bodies release a chemical response that demands satisfaction (this is why you’ll see those end-of-the-day binges when we spend late night hours after the kids are asleep trying to tell ourselves dinner should have been enough or that we should be able to stick to a diet without dessert).


On the other hand, when we allow ourselves to experience pleasure with food and truly feel satisfied, we optimize and maximize digestion and absorption of the food we eat, too, feeling more satisfied.


When your pleasure is up, so is your metabolism.


So what’s the difference between full and satisfied?


•Full – a feeling you experience in your stomach as the result of an amount of food, which feels like the absence of physical hunger signs and noting there is the right amount of food in your stomach


•Satisfied – a feeling you experience in your mind as the result of the pleasure from the food, where your tastebuds aren’t asking for anything else and you feel relaxed and at peace in your thoughts


So, if you find yourself walking back into the kitchen over and over and over t after a meal, even if you’re “full” or you had a “big dinner” I would challenge you to check-in if you’re SATISFIED. If the answer is NO, instead of judging yourself, get curious about how you can get there.