Feeling Full

When I think about "fullness" and "emptiness", even if my subject is food, there is inevitable emotional weight attached. We can use our logical brains as much as we like, but food and eating are still intimately connected with love and comfort and acceptance. And I believe there is an emotional component to feeling "full".

Unfortunately, desiring this feeling of fullness can compel many of us to overeat. Especially if one is on a "diet" and restricting calories or portions or (God forbid!) fat, when mealtime rolls around, there may be a greater sense of hunger and urgency surrounding food. A feeling of deprivation can drive that desire for more. We may be looking for more flavor, more texture, more volume, but we will probably end up with more calories and more poundage on the scale.

So how can we turn this around? How can we eat less but feel like it is more?

I have a few ideas.

1) Eat more protein and healthy fats. Every time you eat a meal which is high in carbohydrates, especially refined carbs (bread, pasta, rice, etc.) your blood sugar immediately spikes. The body responds with a rush of insulin to bring that blood sugar under control. The result is that you feel hungry again very soon. A meal of carbs just cannot bring your hunger under control for very long. However, adding a mere 3-4 ounces of high-quality protein (beef, chicken, fish, eggs) to your meal, plus a small amount of fat (avocado, nuts, olive oil, grass-fed butter or cheese) can hold your hunger at bay for at least 4 hours.

2) Eat high-fiber foods. If you are going to eat carbs, make sure the carbs you choose are the healthiest and most nutritious. All vegetables fit this description. And eating your veggies WHOLE ensures that you get plenty of fiber along with those vitamins and minerals. If possible, eat fruits which include the peel and the seeds. The peel often contains not just fiber but also antioxidants. Beans, lentils, and peas are all great sources of fiber as well. Make these the "starchy" component of your meal instead of bread or pasta. Fiber slows digestion and keeps hunger at bay.

3) Eat foods with TONS of flavor. Add fresh herbs like basil, mint, or cilantro. Squeeze fresh lemon juice into your salad dressing along with chopped garlic. Grind fresh pepper and sea salt over your salad. Use strong cheeses like feta or parmesan for loads of taste in small servings. Cut back on sugar and discover other taste sensations. Enjoy sour, spicy, and bitter flavors. Experiment with cuisines and flavors that are new to you.

4) Slow down! Eat slowly and savor your food. If this seems impossible, force yourself to put down your fork between bites. Chew thoroughly. Breathe. Really taste what you are eating. Even if you skip every other step and only do this one, you will derive more satisfaction from your meal.

5) Before you even begin your meal, drink a LARGE glass of water. Do this 20-30 minutes before your meal. The water will help quench your thirst and we often feel hunger when we are actually thirsty. The water will also help your belly feel full without adding a single calorie to your meal. If you are attempting to lose weight, this tip alone can make an enormous difference.

I believe that part of the satisfaction when eating is the actual food you are putting into your mouth. But another important part of the equation is how you FEEL about your food. Choose foods that are both healthy AND delicious. Eat foods that make you feel GREAT about yourself. Really enjoy every mouthful. This way, you will derive a big sense of satisfaction from eating that goes beyond just stuffing your stomach with a large volume of food. Fill yourself instead with PRIDE!