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HAES Eating: Eat Until You’re Full

May 28, 2013

If “eat what you’re hungry for” is the most controversial leg of Health at Every Size® eating, then eat until you’re full is the most difficult. If you’re fat, there is a great chance that you have years, even decades, of experience questioning your body’s hunger signals. Even if you have never once actively dieted, which is often defined by ignoring hunger signals, you’ve been exposed to thousands of bits of social pressure through the media, doctors, well-meaning (maybe?) friends and relatives, all telling you that you eat too much.

If you’re anything like me, decades of trying to lose weight has left you needing to weigh and measure your food to get some kind of idea of how much you “should” eat. Not enough to be full, but not so much that you’re uncomfortable, such as a piece of chicken the size of a deck of playing cards or a tennis ball of rice. Dieting sabotages your body’s ability to tell you when you’re hungry and when you’re not.

Let me say that again: dieting sabotages your body’s ability to tell you when you’re hungry and when you’re not.

Diet culture tells you that if you eat enough to be full, you lack willpower.

Diet culture tells you that if you do eat enough to be full, you must immediately comment on your lack of willpower in public or on Facebook (if my wall is in any way reflective of that culture).

Diet culture tells you that if you’re fat, your body can’t be trusted. Instead, it wants you to trust points, frozen meals, percentages — or whatever else it can think of to separate you from your money and your body’s signals.

HAES is all about disconnecting from that culture.

HAES culture tells you that even if everyone you know believes you lack willpower, you know better. Going against diet culture and choosing to eat enough on a daily basis, instead of living on the starve-and-binge roller coaster, is hard.

HAES culture tells you that you have no obligation to apologize or make excuses for eating enough food.

HAES culture tells you that you have permission to trust your body.

Eating until you’re full may require some reprogramming. Eating more consciously, paying attention to how your body feels before you eat, while you’re eating, and after you’re done eating, is one way to achieve that. What does it feel like to be hungry? What does it feel like to be just full enough? How do you feel when you eat past that point?

Eating what you’re hungry for is actually a big step toward relearning your body’s hunger signals. There is a tendency that develops with prolonged dieting to over-indulge when the diet is broken with a food on the naughty list. Ate a piece of pizza? Might as well eat the whole thing and start again tomorrow.

But if you know that you can have pizza at every single meal if that’s what you want, suddenly a meal-sized portion of pizza is enough. Eventually you won’t actually want pizza or potato chips or Cherry Garcia at every single meal.

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10 Comments leave one →
  1. oatmellow permalink
    May 28, 2013 10:58 am

    This is so hard for me. SO FREAKING HARD. I’ve really done well with eating healthier foods and eating high protein meals, but sometimes I’m so freaking hungry that I feel terrible when I eat til I’m full. Not physically, but mentally. It’s like I tell myself if I’m full, I’ve eaten too much and therefore undone all the hard work I accomplished by walking for an hour. Sigh. I hate that I “know” something but can’t seem to apply it to myself consistently.

  2. glmorrison permalink
    May 28, 2013 11:12 am

    Reblogged this on Fat Attitude.

  3. nof permalink
    May 28, 2013 11:27 am

    “But if you know that you can have pizza at every single meal if that’s what you want, suddenly a meal-sized portion of pizza is enough. Eventually you won’t actually want pizza or potato chips or Cherry Garcia at every single meal.”

    This was exactly my experience with starting HAES. People kepting saying “Well, if you can eat anything won’t you eat EVERYTHING?!” But after a few episodes of eating an entire pizza or having a huge bowl of ice cream for breakfast or eating a whole thing of chips because I could…the desire to overeat and to eat junk evaporated. The food was no longer on this pedestal that made it into something to covet. I used to sometimes eat a “bad” food to the point of pain because WHAT IF I NEVER GOT TO EAT IT AGAIN?! Now that anxiety over food is gone, and it’s supremely liberating.

    I’ve learned our bodies are actually pretty good at figuring out what they need, and will steer you toward what you need. The first time I craved carrots, it was really weird. I normally hate carrots, but apparently my body needed something it knew was in carrots, and my normal hatred of carrots evaporated. I enjoyed eating them for probably the first time in my life.

  4. May 31, 2013 1:00 pm

    Reblogged this on The Cheese Whines and commented:
    I’m hungry right now (my stomach is growling vehemently) and I want cheese enchiladas. I got paid today, so maybe I will have them.

  5. Dizzyd permalink
    June 1, 2013 7:02 pm

    HAES = smartest thing ever!

  6. eleng permalink
    June 3, 2013 8:02 am

    In the past two months I have eaten what I wanted until I felt full. Now I am like 12 pounds fatter. I don’t think HAES works particulary good for me. I know that I am only talking about my own experience but perhaps the intuitive eating is not for all the people.

  7. June 22, 2013 8:07 pm

    I am facing facts even eating according to physiological hunger pain is not taking any weight off. That one has me worried. I eat around the 4-5 hour marker except when asleep and still the hunger pains come knocking on my door. Not sure what else to do. Live life perpetually hungry and lose weight or eat and be so fat. I of course have issues with HAES as I have written on my blog. I can’t follow the body cues. I can eat breakfast and have actual HUNGER PAIN at 10am if I eat a bowl of cereal at 7am. It’s a major problem. If I eat at that time, I’ve added another snack to the food roster and the calories go up and weight could go up more. I can’t do the protein thing as much due to the kidney stones, to make the food “last longer”

    • June 22, 2013 8:08 pm

      This is organic cereal, whole grain with almond milk…not Sugar pops or fluff….

    • fox permalink
      September 20, 2013 11:21 pm

      Sometimes these pains can be caused by having too much stomach acid. Have you considered that you may have GERD or acid reflux? It doesn’t always present as heartburn. Sometimes it just feels like a burning hunger.

  8. Elizabeth permalink
    June 23, 2013 1:22 pm

    Hi, Peep, if I eat cereal at 7 a.m. and am inactive, I’m hungry at 9 a.m.! I assume that’s an insulin response — Body: Not using those carbs, huh? Okay, I’ll store ’em away for you. If I eat cereal and do something physical — very slow and hobbly, but I finally realized that walking is such a struggle, it must take about three times as much energy as a normal person — I’m okay. That’s a real problem with the kidney stones and protein — have you done any research? I’ve heard kidney stones are the worst pain imaginable.

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