You’ve probably experienced it — the feeling after a meal when you’re pleasantly full but also mentally satisfied. You’re not thinking about food any longer, since what you consumed appealed to your taste buds and you took the time to slow down and thoroughly enjoy your meal. It’s distinct from just feeling full and perhaps still wondering if there is something else that would help you feel satisfied.
Many of us often eat just for fullness rather than fullness and satisfaction. Yet, both are important for a regular, consistent eating pattern and establishing a healthy relationship with food. While fullness encompasses more of the physical aftermath of eating, satisfaction involves the mental reflection and pleasure.
Fullness may manifest differently for different people. Generally, physical fullness includes a physical feeling in the lower abdomen and possibly some stomach distention. There may be a small amount of discomfort or a little bloating while the body works to digest the food. Knowing how fullness manifests for you can help you tune in to sensations you feel after eating to decide if you’ve had enough or you need more.
While fullness is more of a physical sensation we feel after a meal, satisfaction takes the whole experience of eating into account. Was the food enjoyable? Was it cooked to the right temperature? How was the texture? Did you have a variety of foods and macronutrients on your plate? Did you crave something soft or crunchy? Was there a sweet/savory component to the meal that you looked forward to?
Satisfaction is something we normally experience throughout a meal, while we typically experience fullness near the end of a meal and after eating. Understanding satisfaction can be helpful because it can help prevent mindless snacking or explain why you may continue to eat after a meal or snack.
“Satisfaction is the hub of intuitive eating,” explains Lynleigh Palmer, RD, a specialist in intuitive eating counseling. “Both fullness and satisfaction are important to pleasurable eating, but satisfaction goes beyond the physical sensations to include the emotional connections we have to eating.”
Foods with minimal staying power can bring short-lived fullness but not true satisfaction. For example, eating a salad may result in temporary fullness since it is high in fiber and bulky vegetables, which can be filling and take some time to digest. However, if the salad consisted only of leafy greens, or that salad wasn’t what you really wanted in the first place, (maybe you wanted a slice of pizza), you may still be looking for that savory or salty flavor component. This situation can often lead you to keep eating to try to “quench” that sensation, flavor or pleasure your body may be seeking.
While not every meal ends in fullness and satisfaction, that should be the goal most of the time. Eating for pleasure, but also for nourishment, is important for creating a healthy relationship with food. Here’s how you can aim for both fullness and satisfaction:
- Have a balance of all macronutrients (carbohydrates, protein, fat) and fiber at every meal.
- Consider taste, aroma, temperature and appearance of food.
- Include different textures (crunchy croutons on a salad, soft-boiled egg on toast)
- End your meal with something sweet.
- Experiment with spices.
- Use olive oil, regular salad dressing or butter if that’s what appeals to you rather than processed alternatives.
- Eat slowly and mindfully; savor each bite and chew your food thoroughly. When you notice your food doesn’t taste as good as the first bite, take note of fullness levels. Is it time to stop eating or are you still hungry?
- Minimize distractions during mealtimes to pay attention to your fullness cues.
- Eat in a pleasurable environment (consider indoors versus outdoors, lighting, music, etc.)
- Have something to eat when you start to feel hungry, rather than once you are starving.
Eating for fullness and satisfaction can help you monitor portion sizes and prevent mindless eating. It’s also a great tool to help you bring awareness to your connection to food and set you up for long-term healthy eating habits.
Discover hundreds of healthy recipes — from high protein to low carb — via “Recipe Discovery” in the MyFitnessPal app. Save your favorites and log directly to your diary.