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The Diet Survivor’s Handbook: 60 Lessons in Eating Acceptance and Self-Care

NEW LESSON: WINTER 2012

Pay more attention to your fullness. The sooner you stop eating, the sooner you will get to start again.

Most people report that as they normalize their eating, they have an easier time starting when they are hungry than stopping when they are full. In the past, part of the reason you overate is because of your belief that once you stopped eating something—usually a "forbidden" food—you would not be able to have it again. Remind yourself constantly that this is no longer the case. If you eat a cookie now, and crave one again in half an hour, you will have it! This type of reassurance allows you to calm down and feel safe when you contemplate stopping. In fact, it is very helpful to remind yourself that the sooner you stop eating, the sooner you will get to eat again!

The solution to addictions, such as smoking, alcohol, or drugs, is to permanently abstain. However, food different; we all need to eat. The key to ending overeating is to normalize your relationship with food so that eating for sustenance and satisfaction is primary. The more opportunities you have to make contact with your natural hunger, the faster this will take place. When you eat beyond fullness, it takes a long time to get hungry again. The nature of compulsive eating means that you feel compelled to go to food often, so there is a good chance that you'll be unable to wait that length of time in order to experience physical hunger. But, if you can remind yourself that the sooner you stop eating, the sooner you will get to start again, you are in a stronger position to remember that another eating experience is just around the corner. Nothing is being taken away from you. You have a life full of eating opportunities ahead of you! This attitude will allow you to accumulate more stomach hunger experiences and move toward your goal of ending overeating.

It can feel difficult to stop eating at times because something tastes good. Remind yourself that if you stop, you will save the rest for later, take it home if you are at a restaurant, or get that item again the next time you crave it. Next, consider getting up from the table for a minute—perhaps to get the mail—with full permission to come back to the food if you desire. The goal here is not to control yourself, but rather to give you a short break so that you can reflect on whether you are truly hungry for more of that food.

When it comes to deciding how full is just right, you will need to focus on your own comfort level. Think about the moment when you feel satisfaction as the point to stop eating. Some people find that the absence of hunger is their signal to stop, while other people find that they like to feel a full feeling in their stomach. You may find that the place that feels most comfortable to stop varies within a day or on different days. Check in with your stomach. Are you comfortable? Visualize how your stomach will feel 20-30 minutes from now. Is that okay with you? It's always up to you to decide where the line is between tuning in to your internal cue to stop eating and eating past fullness. The sooner you stop, the sooner you will become hungry, and making those frequent connections between physical hunger and feeding yourself is the way out of overeating.

Activity: Stomach check-in

For the next week, pick at least one eating experience a day and assess the following:

Are you still physically hungry?

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Can you identify the point where you're no longer physically hungry?

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Can you to stop eating at this point? If not, why?

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Visualize how your stomach will feel 20-30 minutes from now? Is that okay with you?

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The mind's first step to self-awareness must be through the body.
– George Sheehan