Do you ever eat to the point of fullness yet still feel unsatisfied? I get it! Sometimes I feel full but not satisfied, and it can trigger overeating if I’m not paying careful attention to my psychology.
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 overlap. Fortunately, there are ways to bridge the gap.
I Feel Full but Not Satisfied After Eating, What Can I Do?
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; and — because many of us don’t like feeling this way — 5 steps to minimize the pattern. Let’s dig in!
(By the way, if you’re new around here, this is the home of Psycho-Spiritual Wellness: a path to stopping compulsive eating rooted 100% in psychological and spiritual practices.)
Step 1: Know the Nuances Between Feeling Full and Being Satisfied
Before we dig into the psychology of eating, let’s get clear on the difference between feeling full and being satisfied.
Fullness is a physical sensation. It’s what 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’s what 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 they 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. Here’s what I mean by that…
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 were honoring our hunger by eating when we were hungry and stopping when we were 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 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. So while I encourage you to make peace with it 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
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 that diet has trained you to ignore your body and eat according to your brain.
But the only way to feel satisfied is to eat the food that appeals 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? Usually these people just haven’t sharpened their intuition yet.
It takes time to get to a place where you feel hungry and know exactly what you want. That is a skill that must be developed and nurtured. And 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 is a high-fat, low-carb diet. 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. Always. (Not only have I seen this with myself, my clients, and allll my readers, but research is finally catching up to 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 where 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 (the dear ol’ pasta).
Step 5: How to Get Back to Feeling Full and Satisfied After Meals
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 Psycho-Spiritual Wellness really shines.
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! We’re all so 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 regular 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 and “cling” to calories. Instead, it’s just trying to maintain homeostasis (aka, balance).
This is the mode your body needs to experience the majority of the time in order to reach or maintain your natural weight.
And I know that 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 that coveted feeling of satisfaction after you eat. And that happens when you eat what appeals to you when you’re hungry.
Bonus Step 6: What If You Don’t Know What Foods Appeal to You?
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 come back around.
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. “But that doesn’t seem like it will satisfy me!!!”
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, hurray! 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 when we honor our hunger by fueling our bodies with nutritious food. And if that makes you feel edgy and uncomfortable, that’s when the Stop, Drop, & Feel really comes in handy.
It’s my #1 tool to stop overeating, and it can help prevent that edgy feeling from spiraling into a binge.
You’ve Got This! Finding Balance Between Fullness and Satisfaction
Now you understand the basic psychology of feeling full but not satisfied after eating. And you can remedy this 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’s good stuff!