I Feel Full but Not Satisfied After Eating, What Can I Do? 5 Ways to Gain Clarity and Balance

5 reasons why you feel full but not satisfied after eating

Sometimes it’s possible to feel full but not satisfied after eating. Perhaps your stomach has no more room, but you’re still craving for something more — whether you know what that craving is or not. I’ve been there many times before, wondering why am I not satisfied after eating enough food?

There’s a big difference between being full and feeling satisfied. We often think they should coincide — and sometimes they do — but sometimes they don’t occur at the same time. Fortunately, there are ways to bridge the gap.

You’re about to learn why it’s possible to feel full but not satisfied after eating and why this doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Because many of us don’t like feeling this way, I will also share 5 steps to minimize the pattern of never feeling satisfied after eating.

I Feel Full but Not Satisfied After Eating, What Can I Do?

To explain why you might feel full but not satisfied after eating, some online sources like to point to biological phenomena.

For instance, leptin resistance is a condition where the body does not properly respond to leptin, the “fullness” hormone that provides a sensation of satiety. Hypothyroidism is a condition where the thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormones responsible for regulating metabolism, which can also lead to feeling full but not satisfied after eating.

While these biological phenomena are real and should not be overlooked — ask your doctor to test your thyroid, and consider doing extra blood work to test your leptin levels if possible — I find that it only describes a minority of people that struggle with overeating.

Yes, there are many biological reasons for feeling unsatisfied after eating, but I believe that I am part of a larger population of people (arguably the majority of people) that have perfectly functional hormones and yet still struggle with overeating anyway. This is why I prefer to focus on the psychology behind overeating instead.

Before we dig into the psychology of eating, let’s get clear on the difference between feeling full and being satisfied.

Step 1: Know the Nuances Between Feeling Full and Being Satisfied

Fullness is a physical sensation. It happens when our stomachs reach capacity. We often feel it as a “content” or “stuffed” feeling, depending on how much you’ve eaten or overeaten.

Satisfaction is an emotion. It happens when we eat exactly what appealed to us at the time. If you’re craving something in particular, and you eat the craved food when you’re hungry, you will end up feeling satisfied — as long as you stop when you’re full and avoid overeating.

Many of us expect to feel satisfied once we’re full, but satisfaction and fullness don’t always overlap. If we aren’t careful, this can lead to “entitlement eating,” where we overeat because we feel entitled to feeling satisfied every single time we eat.

Sometimes it’s appropriate to feel full but not satisfied, especially if doing so means that you are honoring your body by eating when you’re hungry and stopping when you’re full.

Step 2: Look at the Underlying Reason Why You Feel Full But Not Satisfied

There are often two core reasons why we feel full but not satisfied:

1) We didn’t know what we wanted to eat when we were hungry and started eating, or 2) we knew what we wanted but we didn’t have the resources (time, money, availability) to get it.

While it can be frustrating to feel full but not satisfied, sometimes it is very appropriate because it usually means we honored our hunger by eating when we were physically hungry and stopped when we were physically full.

This is the best formula there is for reaching and maintaining your natural weight. However, sometimes we end up in situations where we feel full but not satisfied after eating, and we don’t like it.

It’s important to acknowledge that this is perfectly fine. No one feels perfectly satisfied after every single meal (unless they can afford to have a personal chef on hand every second of the day).

And while I hope we can all develop more tolerance and patience with ourselves when we feel full but not satisfied after eating, I know that it’s not the best feeling. While I encourage you to make peace with not feeling satisfied after eating sometimes, there are steps you can take to avoid feeling this way in the future.

Step 3: Harness Your Intuition, A Key Ingredient for Feeling Satisfied After Eating

woman smiling and eating a yogurt with enjoyment which fosters feelings of fullness and satisfaction

For example, if you don’t know what you want to eat when you’re hungry, maybe it’s because you’re currently on a diet and it has trained you to ignore your body and eat according to your brain.

But the only way to feel satisfied is to eat the foods that appeal to you — not the food prescribed by a diet — and that’s why I’m a huge advocate of giving up dieting. (It doesn’t have to lead to the weight gain you might be afraid of!)

And what about the people that already gave up dieting but still feel confused? It often takes time to develop your intuition through practice. It can be a slow going process to get to a place where you feel hungry and know exactly what you want, but you will get there.

Intuition is a skill that must be developed and nurtured. Furthermore, it’s a skill that we actively suppress when we are dieting.

Step 4: Understand How Diets Diminish Your Ability to Feel Full AND Satisfied

Let’s say that you’re currently following a ketogenic diet, which focuses on eating high-fat and low-carb. Pasta is definitely not allowed.

If you get hungry and crave pasta, but you don’t allow yourself the pasta and have something else instead, you’re going to end up feeling full but not satisfied. Why? Because you denied yourself of what you truly wanted!

Restrictive diets not only diminish our connection with intuition, but they always end in a binge. Not only have I seen the restrict-binge cycle in myself, my clients, and my readers, but clinical research supports this phenomenon too.

When on a diet, instead of eating what appeals to us — which leads to fullness and satisfaction — we eat according to an external set of rules. This leaves us feeling full but not satisfied after eating.

And while there’s nothing wrong with this from a purely weight-management perspective, it often leads to overeating because we denied ourselves what we really wanted all along.

Step 5: How to Get Back to Feeling Full and Satisfied After Meals

plate of sushi with chopsticks to represent an enjoyable meal that won't leave you feeling full but not satisfied

Now that you understand the reason why we sometimes feel full but not satisfied after eating, let’s talk about the solution! This is where my program, Psycho-Spiritual Wellness, really shines because it focuses on the psychology behind overeating.

One of my favorite mottos to encourage healthy eating patterns is: “Relax and eat what you want to eat.”

If you want pasta, eat pasta! If you want brownies, eat the brownies! Too many of us are afraid to eat these foods because we think it will make us gain weight, but as long as you eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full, your weight will regulate itself.

Best of all, if you eat exactly what appeals to you when you’re hungry — and you eat in a relaxed fashion — and stop when you’re full, you’re going to feel both full and satisfied! And your body is also going to sing praises to you!

Because relaxation helps stimulate the production of digestive enzymes and keeps your body out of fight-or-flight mode. This means your body isn’t trying to conserve energy by slowing your metabolism in response to restriction. Instead, it’s just trying to maintain homeostasis (aka, balance).

Stopping when you’re full can be the hardest part, and that’s what all my other blog articles are for — particularly the Stop, Drop, & Feel method to stop binge eating. But for the sake of this article, I’m mostly focusing on the steps you can take to get the desired feeling of satisfaction after you eat.

Bonus Step 6: What If You Don’t Know What Foods Appeal to You?

woman standing in front of the refrigerator scratching her head unsure of what to eat

Many people recovering from life-long diets need time to recover their sense of what foods actually sound good to them. Intuition is a skill that needs time to return and recover.

In the meantime, there are tricks you can use if you’re hungry but nothing sounds good. Particularly, you can focus on eating healthy, balanced meals. Please note that this is very different from a diet!

For example, if you’re hungry but nothing appeals to you, then you can fix yourself something that hits all your major macronutrients: carbs, fats, protein. A great example is an avocado-turkey sandwich.

This is a simple, nutritious option, but it might have your brain grinding to a halt. It can trigger the familiar anxiety of eating and feeling unsatisfied; but sometimes it’s okay to feel full but not satisfied after eating.

Not every meal is meant to be perfect and satisfying. In fact, this can be an unhelpful pattern of perfectionism that gets in the way of healthy eating behaviors. We won’t always have the perfect thing available at the perfect time.

When we do manage that magic combination, we should relish the moment and savor it. But when we can’t get our hands on foods that we crave, or if we don’t even know what we want, that’s okay.

That’s when we honor our hunger by fueling our bodies with nutritious food. If that makes you feel edgy and uncomfortable, that’s when the Stop, Drop, & Feel  comes into play. It’s my #1 tool to stop overeating, and it can help prevent that edgy feeling from spiraling into a binge.

Finding Balance Between Fullness and Satisfaction

Now you understand the basic psychology of feeling full but not satisfied after eating, which can be remedied by harnessing to your intuition. Do your best to eat what appeals to you when you’re hungry, and when you have no idea what sounds good, just try to do the kind thing. Do the kind thing, and relax and eat what you want to eat.

Thanks for reaching to the end! If you want to keep digging into eating psychology, I highly recommend grabbing the free ebook below titled The Spiritual Seeker’s Guide to Stop Binge Eating — it will not disappoint!

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The Spiritual Seeker's Guide to Stop Binge Eating

The Spiritual Seeker’s Guide to Stop Binge Eating will show you even more insight into the subconscious reasons why we eat past fullness — even when we really don’t want to! (It’s a free, 13-page, beautifully-illustrated PDF.)

When you sign up, you’ll also get a free 5-part crash course in Psycho-Spiritual Wellness to catch you up to speed. It’s perfect if you’re new to my blog. Sign up below:

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Even if you struggle with overeating, I bet I can guess your strength around food.

If you think food is your weakness, take the quiz and give me the chance to change your mind. There are just 8 questions.

Once you finish, you can either skip the email part (because I hate quizzes that force you to enter one!) or you can sign up to get a free 5-day crash course on Psycho-Spiritual Wellness. It’s perfect for beginners!

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If you’re ready to take things even deeper, check out my most popular workbook, Why We Do the Things We Do: A Workbook to Curb Self-Sabotage.

By actually putting pen to paper, you’ll be surprised by what comes up. This is how you can discover your unique psychological blocks to compulsive eating.

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If you like everything you’ve read so far, this is the perfect place to make massive progress. (It’s my bestseller, after all!)

Since you're here, I would LOVE it if you dropped a comment on this post.

I read and reply to every single one! Just like I do with my emails. Since I don’t use much social media (outside of Pinterest and YouTube), I very much enjoy this opportunity to hear your thoughts and connect ✨

11 thoughts on "I Feel Full but Not Satisfied After Eating, What Can I Do? 5 Ways to Gain Clarity and Balance"

  1. Lizsays:

    Excellent piece that hits on a major problem with weight maintenance and food cravings. Thank you!

    1. Kari Dahlgrensays:

      Thanks for the comment Liz! 🙂

  2. C. Smithsays:

    This is the first article I found that describes what I’ve been going through. Over the past few years I’ve discovered food allergies and intolerances and have had to change my diet drastically. I agree we don’t have to be satisfied by every meal, but I find myself at the verge of tears sometimes since I’m unsatisfied at almost every meal. Wheat, rice, potatoes, and milk are all foods that contribute to poor health for me, this includes their derivatives (starches, syrups, etc). My favorite foods that leave me feeling satisfied every time are sandwiches, pizza, and sushi. Notice all those have foods that do not work well with me. I’m so tired of having to spend hours every week making alternative foods with alternative grains, fats or proteins and spending so much money for commercial alternatives. I just want to eat normal food. I don’t want to look at food and see an ingredient list hovering over it of all the things I shouldn’t eat. I don’t want to keep having to turn down going out to eat with people because I’m sick of spending $15 for a salad I could make cheaper at home and still feel just as unsatisfied there (if I do go I have to explain over and over why I’m only drinking sparkling water). I’ve been working trying to find the underlying cause of these food intolerances, and it’s so slow going. I really can’t see why I have to be depressed while I’m trying to get myself better. This difficulty is compounded by the fact I’m trying also to manage my weight, and all the things I make as alternatives are very high calorie (oils, nut flours, and “grains”, like buckwheat, are responsible). I try to make lower calorie versions by reducing the quantity, but them I’m just still hungry and unsatisfied.
    I know that’s a lot, but do you have any suggestions? Even if not, thanks for taking the time to read.

    1. Kari Dahlgrensays:

      Hi C! Wow, I think every single person reading this feels for you. That sound so tough, and I get why it would make you feel depressed. Gosh, the only suggestion that comes to mind is, are you eating enough food? I know that sounds like a crazy question – so many of us that struggle with overeating believe that we eat too much – but you’d be surprised at how many people aren’t eating enough, and I’m wondering if giving yourself the grace of eating a proper amount of food will make things less intolerable?? That’s my only thought at the moment given the little that I know about you. Feel free to comment back with more insight, or email me. I’m happy to dig further.

      1. C. Smithsays:

        Thank you for the reply! Admittedly, I do stop before I’m full because I’m just sick of eating what I’m eating, or I know I’ve eaten the allotted calories for that meal and don’t want to go over. When I do eat to fullness, I still want to eat more because I don’t feel like I’ve eaten something–I don’t feel the satisfactory emotion that comes with having a full meal. I try to just go about my evening, but I’ll often wonder through to kitchen hoping it sparks something that I can remember I can eat. Sometimes all the food I make is gone anyways, and I’m too tired to make something else. I don’t keep snacks around because I’m trying not to get extra calories in because more nutritious snacks (like nut mixes) are high in calories or not satisfying (like veggie chips, plus the commercial ones may have potato starch, one of intolerances I have).
        Thanks again for the reply, I hope the above gives some more insight.

        1. Kari Dahlgrensays:

          It totally does. It reminds me of one of my vegan friends. She goes hungry at night sometimes because she’s too tired to cook food that she can eat. It is definitely a lifestyle – and for her it was chosen, for you it is not, so again, I really feel you! I still wonder if you’re eating enough, and I wonder if my recent blog post about healing your metabolism might provide some good insight for you. Let me know! I’m glad you got back to me 🙂

          1. C. Smithsays:

            Thank you for the link to the post! I’ve encountered similar information to this before, and I’m not sure what to make of it given my lifestyle and goals. Weight loss for me is simply to be comfortable. I’m so uncomfortable feeling like I’m encased in flesh. My size is such that if I don’t wear the right clothes, my thighs chafe. The times when I was able to lose weight, it had to do with my lifestyle at the time. For example, when I was college I ate two meals a day (a piece of fruit or granola bar for breakfast and a full dinner in the evening) and I walked around 3 mi. because the campus was spread about the city. I did this weighted as well since I carried around my 15lb laptop and books. Other scenarios where I was eating fewer high-calorie foods (like in college), or eating a lot of low-calorie foods (like a ‘raw food’ cleanse with 90% non-starchy veggies and fruits, no volume restrictions), plus moderate amounts of exercise, I was able to maintain or lose weight and not feel hungry or dissatisfied. This was all before I discovered these intolerances, allergies, etc. and my food choices were varied. Now, eating intuitively for me means eating all the foods that harm me because that’s always what I want. I may not have to be like this forever based on what my reading and my health practitioner have said. I might be able to add wheat back at least. But it’s making life very depressing and expensive in the meantime. I’ve been years at this. What weight I am losing recently I think is just because I don’t want to eat because it’s so much trouble, or the food is so dissatisfying. If I do get better, I don’t know how I could maintain eating as much as I wanted/needed while also meeting a weight that makes me feel comfortable in my own body. My lifestyle now is very sedentary (I work in an archive), and I’m not a driven person when it comes to exercise. All I can do is about 15 min. a day. All that is a long-winded way of saying I don’t know how to heal my metabolism, since the first step of intuitively eating seems unreachable right now.
            Thank you again for replying to me. I know you don’t have to do this because it’s how you make a living. I would rather pay to get some help (I had a food therapist before when these allergies first were discovered), but I’m really not financially in the position right now, so it’s encouraging you’d even read what I have to say. Thank you again.

  3. Allisonsays:

    Thank you for putting this into words! How is it that my darn perfectionism is screwing with my eating habits?? Thanks for giving me the permission to eat to fullness, yet be ok with not being totally satisfied each time. I needed to hear that today.
    Keep sharing, Kari! These are some huge things to ponder.

    1. Kari Dahlgrensays:

      Thanks for the comment Allison!!! I also find huge relief when reminding myself it’s OK not to feel satisfied every single time 🙂 I relate to perfectionism too. I used to be pretty high strung and “Type A” back when I was still dieting. It’s almost like they both feed into each other: the rules heighten the perfectionism and the perfectionism heightens the rules!

  4. Carriesays:

    I am having trouble reading my body cues about when I am actually full or satisfied. I can eat lots of food…more than I know I should, but I just never seem to get full. And if it’s something satisfying, I eat all of it because it tastes good. After years of dieting, I fear I have lost touch with what my body feels.

    1. Kari Dahlgrensays:

      Hi Carrie! I completely understand the dilemma. Years of dieting can certainly make us doubt ourselves and whether or not we’re truly hungry or full. Time and practice will help. I also encourage you to take an objective look at how much you’re eating, because in my experience, 90% of my clients aren’t eating enough!!! Diet culture has taught us that starving ourselves is normal, and I wonder if that’s what’s happening for you. And if you truly are eating enough and can’t seem to get full, try talking to your doctor. I also wrote a piece on still feeling hungry after eating that I think you’ll find helpful.

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