Knowing when you’re full is one thing, but knowing when you’re satisfied, is a game changer. Discussing the difference between feeling full vs. feeling satisfied this Mindful Monday!Knowing when you're full is one thing, but knowing when you're satisfied, is a game changer. Discussing the difference between feeling full vs. feeling satisfied this Mindful Monday!Hey guys! I’m excited to have my friend Alex from Delish Knowledge back on the blog today. You all know she’s my go-to blogger for delicious, plant-based recipes but she also writes a pretty insightful Mindful Monday post as well! Today’s post, Alex talks about an important nuance of intuitive eating – the difference between feeling full vs. feeling satisfied. This comes up a lot with my intuitive eating clients who aren’t used to tapping into satisfaction. After all, satisfaction doesn’t belong in diet-culture! If you’re currently only relying on your hunger and fullness cues (or some other arbitrary rules), I hope today’s post is helpful for you. Take it away, Alex!

Hi! I’m Alex, a registered dietitian nutritionist who believes that healthy eating doesn’t have to be complicated. I blog at Delish Knowledge where I share simple, vegetarian recipes that focus on in-season eating. As a yoga teacher, I strongly believe that mindfulness is an integral part of a healthy lifestyle; I forgo traditional diet-speak in favor of intuitive eating concepts. While Kara is off on her European adventure, I’m so happy to be back here talking about one of my favorite subjects, feeling full vs. feeling satisfied.

When do you stop eating? If you’re like most of my clients when they first come to see me, it’s when you start to get that physical sensation that fullness is near. That subtle (or perhaps, not so subtle) feeling is usually what most of us go off of to gauge when we’ve had enough.

When I start working with clients on Intuitive Eating (IE), I tend to start here. While IE isn’t a hunger and fullness diet, working with your own hunger and fullness cues can be a liberating experience. Instead of being told what time to eat and exactly how much food to eat, you learn to listen to your body’s own cues on when you need nourishment and how much.

For those who have been on and off the dieting bandwagon for years, these cues are often suppressed. Instead of trusting ourselves, we trust rules. We trust specific calorie counts and portion sizes, stopping when we are done rather than when we are satisfied. We ignore hunger cues when we don’t think we ‘need’ any more food or when we’ve met our calorie limits for the day. It’s one reason that traditional diets fail; we don’t learn anything about our own needs, we instead follow generic, and often arbitrary, rules.

So while knowing your own hunger and fullness cues is so important, there’s often something missing. The difference between feeling full vs. feeling satisfied.

Generally speaking, we think of satiety in the form of macronutrients. Adding in protein, fat and fiber to your snacks and meals will help you feel more satisfied, sending physical signals to your brain to let you know you are full. It’s why an apple and peanut butter is more satisfying than an apple alone. Yes, the apple and peanut butter combo has more calories, but it’s the presence of fat, protein and fiber that makes the snack more filling. Fullness is more related to macronutrient content and physical distention than overall caloric content.

Beyond general nutrition, satisfying food has to taste good. To me, this is the secret of sustainable, nourished eating. It has to provide both physical fullness and mental satisfaction. I like salads. Hi, I’m a vegetarian dietitian. I’m pretty sure it’s an unspoken job requirement. I often joke that my mission in life is to showcase how awesome (and satisfying) vegetables can really be.

But, there’s more to satisfaction than raw vegetables and fruits. While I could be physically full off a giant bowl filled with lettuce, carrots, radishes, cucumbers, tomatoes and the like, I probably wouldn’t be very satisfied. My stomach would physically be full, but I’d be searching for more. Without satisfaction, I’d probably spend the next few hours after that raw vegetable salad looking for a sweet treat or a savory goody, anything to satisfy my taste buds.

Healthy eating shouldn’t feel like a punishment. Salads are awesome, as long as we feel satisfied in that choice. Without that satisfaction piece, we’ll always be searching, grazing, eating, until we find what we are really looking for.

To put this into practice, I’ll often have my clients think about what they want to eat before they do. While it’s not always possible to link what you want to eat with what you’re able to eat, this helps get a better picture of what will satisfy most in the moment. From there, consider what foods make them feel their best. I might want an ice cream sundae for lunch, but I know I won’t be very productive in the afternoon afterwards. So instead, I might focus on foods that make me feel awesome, with a small scoop of ice cream for dessert. This way I’m balancing both physical nourishment and fullness with mental satisfaction.

I believe that this concept is why most traditional diets fail. We can follow specific rules and certain foods for a while, but when we aren’t truly satisfied, we tend to go off. Forgoing the lower-calorie options with the foods that we really want. Thankfully, it doesn’t have to be this way; considering food choices as both filling and satisfying is the key.

Thanks for letting me guest post on The Foodie Dietitian! For more thoughts on intuitive eating (and vegetarian recipes), follow my blog, or connect on Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook. Thanks again to Kara for letting me share my thoughts today!

BIG thanks to Alex for her thought-provoking guest post today! I’d love to hear your thoughts on feeling full vs. satisfied in the comments below. What resonated for you? 

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  1. Bill Boehner

    I just read this…thank you Google! I think this is one of the critical skills to develop to be able to eat and live healthy, especially if you are trying to get some extra weight off and keep it off.

  2. Such great info to recognize and keep in mind for living a healthful life!

  3. Such a great guest post Kara! Keep ’em coming! 🙂

  4. This is very insightful and something that I need to work on myself. My biggest challenge is stopping when I know I am satisfied even if there is still food on my plate to be finished.

  5. Such great info! This is an article that needs to be read and re-read.

  6. Such excellent points and something I’m often thinking about or talking with clients about. Saving this post!

  7. Great tips on being mindful with food!

  8. This is right up my alley! Need to pay more attention than eating after work with the tv on! Really love the tip about focusing on foods that make you feel awesome!

  9. I am 100% with this nutritional philosophy – food has to be tasty and satisfying. Great post!

  10. Great post! This is such an important distinction to make, and being in tune with both physical and emotional satisfaction.