by Jan Chozen Bays
This article originally appeared in Mindful Eating Conscious Living. It is reprinted with permission of the author.
What tells me the difference between pleasantly full or over-full?
FULLNESS is related to what we call “Stomach Hunger.” It is a physical sensation in the body, related to volume and sensations of stretch or pressure. People may perceive this in different ways, as an expansion of their belly or a tightness of their waistband.
When learning about Stomach Hunger, at first people may say that they cannot tell when they are full. This comes from chronically suppressing body sensations, especially those related to overeating. If they keep “tuning in” to their stomach, before, during and after meals, soon they will re-discover this important source of information. One woman who was working on “hearing” the signals from her stomach, realized that when her stomach approached full, she was no longer able to take a deep breath.
Mindful eating promotes re-learning sensations of fullness, and pausing before complete fullness is reached.
Is it possible to feel satisfied when I am not full?
SATISFACTION is related to what we call “Heart Hunger.” It is primarily an emotional feeling, of being connected or intimate with eating and food. When we are happy, in the company of good friends or a lover, we may feel satisfied with very little food. Often when we are unhappy, no amount or kind of food will satisfy us.
A sense of being satisfied can also involve experiences in the mouth, such as flavorful tastes and interesting textures. Of course, when we are not paying any attention to what is happening in our mouth, it is hard to feel nourished or satisfied no matter how delicious the food.
Mindful eating promotes feelings of intimacy and connection, to your body, to your thoughts and emotions, to the other people you are eating with, to the community of microorganisms within your body that keep you healthy, and to all the people and other beings who brought the food to you. This experience of intimacy can bring a sense of ease and simple happiness.
Is satiety another word for satisfaction?
SATIETY is a term used by researchers who are interested in when people will stop eating or how long they will wait before eating another meal. Fiber, protein, mouth sensations and what you are told about the food all contribute to satiety.
Food manufacturers work hard to discover what makes people stop eating. Recently some people in the food industry are trying to help with the obesity epidemic by finding ways to reduce calories while increasing satiety (helping people to stop eating earlier).
In learning and teaching mindful eating, we don’t use the term satiety, because it’s a complex and technical term. We are helping people turn back to the wisdom that is already contained in their bodies and the compassion that already dwells in their hearts.
Can you detect different levels of fullness as you eat?
What contributes to a feeling of satisfaction as you eat?
Jan Chozen Bays, Roshi, MD, is a pediatrician specializing in work with abused children. She is the author of Mindful Eating: A Guide to Rediscovering a Healthy and Joyful Relationship with Food and How to Train a Wild Elephant and other Adventures in Mindfulness, both published by Shambhala. She has studied and practiced Zen Buddhism since 1973, serving as the teacher for the Zen Community of Oregon since 1985. In 2002 she helped to found Great Vow Zen Monastery near Portland, Oregon, where she serves as co-abbot. She has published articles about Zen in Tricycle and Buddhadharma magazines. Jan is a wife, mother, contented cook and avid gardener. She is the co-founder of Mindful Eating Conscious Living, an 8-session program that focuses on helping people re-establish a healthy and joyful relationship with food and eating.