Fullness is one of the most delicious experiences that we can have as human beings. Just bringing our awareness to the physical presence of food in our stomach is a powerful way to connect with our bodies. Emotionally, fullness can feel like love and safety, and can help us feel cared for.
Many (maybe most) of us have so very little contact with this powerful feeling. Diet culture has really done a number on our collective ability to listen to our bodies' intuitive guidance. Fullness is a message that our body sends to let us know that our need for nourishment has been met.
My work focuses on reconnecting people with their own, very wise inner guidance that always knows best about what they need. We are all born into this world with the power to feel and know what we need. However, through socialization, messages that we receive from family and friends, and traumatic experiences, we lose touch with this precious part of ourselves. Hunger and fullness are gifts that come from a very wise, very trustworthy part of who you are.
In our fast-paced, thinness-obsessed culture, we are inundated with messages about what proper, healthy eating looks like, as well as what healthy bodies look like. Usually, images of white, cis-gendered, thin, young, able-bodied people are presented to us as ideal, healthy bodies. Marketing and other messages encourage us to hurry up and do something -- diets, exercise, fasts, juice cleanses, surgery -- as fast as we can in order to conform to these idealized images. We learn to mistrust and distance ourselves from our own hunger whenever we are told to focus on calories, carbs, fats, sugar, and portion control.
Hunger and fullness are gifts that come from a very wise, very trustworthy part of who you are.
It can be daunting and maybe even scary to re-learn how to feel your hunger and fullness, let alone trust them as intuitive messages on how to care for yourself. But, the journey to listening to your intuition, including your hunger and fullness can also be liberating, fun, and incredibly empowering. Here are five tips on how to reacquaint yourselves with your body's inner knowing.
1. Feel your hunger
Fullness is the satiation of hunger. We can’t know that hunger has been satiated if we don’t feel that hunger in the first place!
Make a plan to reacquaint yourself with your hunger on a day that's relatively stress-free and allows some flexibility. Make sure that you have access to food that you like. When you wake up in the morning, rather than eating breakfast right away, check in with yourself. Do a full scan of your body and notice what you feel. Signs that you are hungry might include a hard-to-describe feeling of “emptiness” (may be experienced in your stomach), tiredness, or simply finding yourself thinking about food!
Continue to check in with yourself in this way until you start to feel your body's own unique language for hunger! Once you feel hungry, sit in the experience for about 30 seconds or so. Take note of the sensations that you feel in that moment. Then, go get yourself something delicious and eat!
2. Get mindful
One way to feel more full is to allow yourself the time, space, and a little bit of extra focus to delve into the experience.
Mindfulness is bringing conscious awareness to the present moment. It's a great tool for helping us more deeply experience feelings of fullness.
While you're eating, bring awareness to your food. Notice what it looks like on your plate. Take note of how it smells. As you sit with your food, feel your physical body in your chair. Feel your feet on the ground.
As you take bites, notice how the food feels in your mouth. How hot or cold is it? Is it crunchy or soft? What does it taste like? Is it easy or hard to chew? As you swallow, bring your focused awareness to the movement of your food down your throat and into your stomach. What does this feel like?
Continue to scan your body and notice the changes that occur as you continue to eat. You might begin to feel the heaviness of food in your stomach. You may notice your belly becomes a little bit bigger. You might have feelings of being warm, tired, or calm.
Sit with these feelings for a few moments before carrying on with your day.
3. Name that Craving
Our feelings of satisfaction and fullness are even stronger when we are able to hone in on and give ourselves the particular kinds of food that we crave.
To zero in on what you’re craving in a given moment, ask yourself some questions. Do you want something sweet or salty? Something hot or cold? Something flavorful or bland? Are you very, very hungry, or just a little bit hungry? If you could have any food in the world right now, what would that food be?
The more closely we can learn to listen to our inner guidance in all of its nuance, the closer we can get to meeting our needs in more precise and meaningful ways!
4. Get Hungry for Life
Food is just one thing that can make us feel full. We all hunger for love, for vocation, for warmth, for laughter, for connection, and so much more.
All too often, our ability to recognize these other kinds of hunger gets cut off from our conscious awareness. Emotions are one way that our bodies and souls communicate with us about what we need. Give yourself the gift of being curious about your feelings and what they might be trying to tell you. Ask yourself: are you angry, depressed, guilty, or anxious? Do you feel fatigued or have aches and pains in your body? Do you notice yourself feeling uncomfortable around certain people or in particular places?
Sit with these feelings just as you would sit with your hunger for food. Ask questions about your feelings and what they might be trying to tell you. If you are angry, for example, that might be a signal that you aren’t feeling respected or heard. If you feel fatigued, it might be a signal that you need more sleep, or that you might some distance from a job or relationship that’s draining you.
Knowing what you hunger for in life will help you to recognize the areas of your life that feel full.
5. Get Grateful
We are complex physical, emotional, social, spiritual beings with many needs. Whenever one of these needs are met, we have an opportunity to feel the fullness of receiving support. Can you recognize and feel into a need that may have been met today? It can be something as simple as waking up this morning and feeling rested. Take a moment to sit with yourself and notice any feelings of calmness, contentment, peace, or alertness that you have. This is what it is to be full of rest!
As you go about your day, pay attention to the needs that arise throughout the day. The need for water, the need for coffee (ha!), the need for a break from a conversation, the need for a diversion during your morning commute. Notice how your body and mind let you know about these needs. Notice how wonderful it can feel when these needs are met!