“I’m stuck in the house and I just want to eat! My stomach is at an 8+ but my mouth is still hungry! I know I’m not physically hungry, but I want a certain mouth feel – crunchy and salty specifically. How come I’m full but I still want more food?”
When your stomach says I’m full but your mind says more!
This is a common issue these days! (By the way, the “8+” she is referring to is her level of fullness on the Hunger and Fullness Scale. An 8 means she is at the point of discomfort. This is covered in chapter 2 of my book Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat.)
Since it’s something I often talk about, I thought it warranted an updated blog post. So, let’s explore five of the most common reasons for feeling full but wanting to keep eating, and the ways that mindful eating can help.
“I’m full!” 5 Reasons You Want to Keep Eating – and what to do instead
1. You chose a food that wasn’t what you really wanted.
Satisfaction doesn’t just come from physical fullness but also from fully enjoying the food you choose.
Although you might think you should make a “healthy choice,” if it isn’t what you wanted, your choice can backfire. You may find yourself wanting to continue eating even when you feel full because you haven’t satisfied your “hedonic hunger” (which stems from the anticipation of pleasure from eating).
Am I Hungry? Mindful Eating programs teach specific strategies that can help you balance eating for nourishment with eating for enjoyment. Here are a couple of tips:
- Pause to ask yourself, What do I want? before selecting food. Pausing to notice what you are in the mood for will help you choose something that is more likely to satisfy your “mouth hunger.”
- Remember to pause periodically while eating to notice whether you are really enjoying the food you chose and whether it is satisfying the mouthfeel you want. This is beneficial because if you realize you aren’t enjoying what you are eating, you can switch to something else before you’re too full!
- Sometimes there aren’t many choices. If you don’t like what you’re eating and there are no other options, promise yourself that the next time you eat, you’ll choose something you really like. Then remind yourself that eating more of what you don’t like now won’t lead to satisfaction.
2. You ate mindlessly so your brain didn’t get the satisfaction of eating.
Even though your stomach is clearly saying, “I’m full,” if you were distracted while you were eating, your brain didn’t get to enjoy the food leaving you feeling unsatisfied. Distractions can include watching TV, scrolling through social media, reading, working, driving, or even talking (if you don’t pause between talking and eating!).
Eating mindfully, paying attention to your food as you eat—including the appearance, textures, aromas, and flavors—helps your brain register pleasure and satisfaction.
3. You were eating something you don’t ordinarily get to eat.
Scarcity—the belief that you can’t get enough of what you want—is a common trigger for overeating.
So, a fear that you won’t get a particular food again or feeling deprived of a certain food can drive this “scarcity” overeating. When the food you are eating is truly rare, such as a special food you discover while traveling, you may decide that eating more of that food is “worth” feeling uncomfortable. (Remember though that there is a fine line between enjoyment and misery, so you may regret your choice afterward!)
This doesn’t happen just while traveling. More commonly, people overeat foods that aren’t truly scarce. Perhaps, you feel afraid this food won’t be available the next time you go to the store. Maybe you are eating take-out from a restaurant you don’t usually go to. Or you are eating something you don’t often allow yourself to eat.
Restriction of certain foods for dietary or health reasons can lead to feelings of deprivation, making it difficult to stop eating.
Rather than eating it all because it seems “special,” could you save some to enjoy again for lunch tomorrow? Or promise yourself you can have this food again when you really want it?
Eating what you love is one of the keys to breaking the eat-repent-repeat cycle! You may be surprised at how effective this step is for taking the power back from food!
4. You want to keep eating due to an environmental cue.
Having too much food on your plate, fear of wasting food, getting your money’s worth, keeping up with someone else, and dozens of other environmental cues can lead to overeating.
Mindfulness helps because when you notice the disconnect between how full you feel (I’m so full!) and the desire to continue eating (I don’t want to stop), you are able to make a conscious choice to feel good when you are finished.
5. You want to keep eating for emotional reasons.
Emotional eating is normal! Humans eat to celebrate, connect, and relax.
However, if you often feel too full as a result of emotional eating, remember that when a craving doesn’t come from hunger, eating is not likely to satisfy it! While eating may provide the distraction or comfort you are craving, it is temporary.
So, when you eat in response to an emotional trigger, the fear, stress, boredom, loneliness, frustration, or other emotions will resurface when you stop eating, driving you to continue eating (or eat again).
If emotional eating has become a challenge for you, check out the script in my video called How to Decode Emotional Eating. If the problem persists or is severe, take this quiz to see if you may be struggling with Binge Eating Disorder.
Why do you sometimes want to keep eating even when you’re full?
Enjoyed this article? Here are three more that you might find useful:
This article has been updated from a previously published version.