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feeling full

October 25, 2010

Mosquito is out, it’s the end of the day; she’s humming and hunting her evening away. Who knows why such hunger arrives on such wings at sundown? I guess it’s the nature of things.  -N. M. Boedecker

In our culture, it can be hard to feel satisfied.  Everything is fast paced, advertising is aimed at creating unnecessary wants, and yet we are encouraged to value deprivation when it comes to food.  We rush our meals, crave the junk we see in ads, ignore our hunger until we are insatiable and then guilt trip ourselves for acting on our ravaging hunger.  What ever happened to slowing down, enjoying wholesome food until you are no longer hungry, and then being done?   It is frustrating how much of a battle it has become to find the presence of mind for such simple, natural behavior.  And yet, this is no excuse to give up!  It is up to each of us to learn how to overcome these challenges and get back in touch with what it means to nourish our bodies.

Feeling full is not simply a matter of eating a bunch of food.  It is not even just about eating foods with a lot of fiber and protein (fiber fills the body & protein tells your brain you are full).   These factors are necessary, of course, but they are not enough on their own.

Have you ever noticed that, even when you are getting hungry, if you are in a light mood you are not bothered by this slight hunger?  Some people even feel false hunger when they are in a bad mood.  I do not have this so much, but I have realized that what does happen to me is that it takes a larger quantity of food for me to realize I am full when I am not in a good mood/mental place.

This is what my eating behavior looks like when I’m in a bad place: I eat more quickly, I don’t really taste or enjoy what I am eating, my mind is spinning in a million directions, before I know it my food is gone and I still feel unsatisfied.  I may then get a second helping or just eat more later in the day because I feel slightly cheated by the unsatisfactory meal.

This is what my eating behavior looks like when I’m in an open, happy, light mood: I thoroughly enjoy the experience of eating the food I’m eating, and I eat more slowly with more time between bites.  I don’t necessarily need as much to feel satisfied and I stay feeling full for longer.  In these instances, I don’t tend to have additional cravings after the meal.

I have known this for a while and continue to work on being present while I eat.  Some meals are easier than others.  But the new piece of the picture I am just now beginning to see is this:  it is not just about how happy & mindful you are while you are eating.  Your mindset matters all the time… for general happiness as well as bodily health.

On days when I am happier, I don’t necessarily eat less, but I do eat better throughout the course of the day.  This may mean eating less, but what it does always mean is that, on the light & grounded days, I eat exactly what my body needs.  This behavior, in tern, makes my body feel safer.  It’s a kind of upward-spiral: eating mindfully can be one method of learning to be present and grounded, and being present and grounded can lead to mindful eating.

Feeling full isn’t just about filling your tummy. It is about finding ways to allow yourself as a whole being to feel fulfilled, nourished and attended to.  I guess in various ways everything leads back to listening to your body, becoming intimate with your body and being sensitive to its needs.  And simultaneously, everything leads to the big picture, happiness and the infinite pushing towards light.

Keep your feet planted on the earth and your arms reaching for the sky! 🙂

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