Stop When You're Full? - Intutive Eating 3 - Diet Review

- POSTED ON: May 05, 2016

Lets not throw the baby out with the bathwater
....which means... 
Be careful not to discard something of value
with something that is of no value.

I see and share various thoughts and ideas here at DietHobby that come from many different sources.  If an idea or article is posted here, I’ve found some of its concepts interesting, enjoyable or valuable to me in some way.
 It does NOT mean that I agree with all of that author’s basic food beliefs or way-of-eating philosophies.

Here is the third of three articles about the basic Intutive Eating Concepts by UK addiction counselor, Gillain Riley, who appears to share my point of view about the general ineffectiveness of this Diet. Ms. Riley states her professional knowledge about these concepts in a thoughtful and precise manner, and I am sharing this series here at DietHobby.

Advocates of Intutitive Eating insist that this diet / manner-of-eating / way-of-eating / lifestyle is "not a diet". My belief is that EVERY diet works for someone, and this includes Intutive Eating.

The other two of the three articles can be found at:
"Does Our Body Tell Us WHAT to eat - Intutive Eating 1"
Eat When You’re Hungry? – Intutive Eating 2

         by Gillian Riley, Author of Ditching Diets (Revised edition of Eating Less)

A great many people do most (if not all) of their overeating at meals, especially their evening meal. You may be one of those who consistently buys, prepares and serves what you know is way too much food but finds it impossible to contemplate cutting back. Or maybe your meals aren't too huge to start with but you find it tough to stop, taking second helpings, finishing off what others have left, picking on things in the kitchen while you're clearing up and then finding things to snack on for much of the evening.

The third principle of Intuitive Eating, suggesting that you 'stop eating when you're full', attempts to address this problem. As with the two other principles we've looked at over the past two newsletters (eat whatever your body tells you it needs and eat when you're hungry), it ASSUMES a reliable, innate wisdom in our bodies. Those who promote Intuitive Eating argue that it's your ignorance of this wisdom that makes you overeat. If you simply pay attention to it, your body will let you know when you've had enough.

Of the 5,000 or so medical academic journals that are published every month, a good number of them, as you might expect, are dedicated to issues concerning food, obesity and appetite. Over the past ten years I've made it my business to spend time in the (absolutely fabulous) British Library in London, hunting down the latest research. I've not found anything to convince me about the theory of Intuitive Eating, and in fact have found quite a bit of research that very much calls it into question.

One paper I've come across that seeks to promote Intuitive Eating reports that in surveys, 'normal eaters' (those who describe themselves as not having a problem with eating and weight) state that they stop eating when they feel full. It's then suggested that this is ideal; the goal overeaters should aim for. (1)

First of all, I suggest that 'fullness' is vague and entirely subjective;. It's a personal evaluation, specific to each individual. Whatever physical sensations are interpreted as 'fullness' by one person will feel like 'just getting started' to another. Research has shown that how 'full' people report feeling before eating doesn't show much relationship to how much they actually consume. (2)

I suspect that many of those who overeat also think they stop eating when they're full. Isn't that what you do? Don't you think that if you tried to eat less at meals, you wouldn't feel full, and that is precisely the problem?
Saying that 'normal eaters' stop when they're full doesn't say anything at all about the process of change, about how an overeater becomes a 'normal eater'.

In terms of this process of change, there are both physical and psychological elements that need to be taken into consideration. As for the physical side of things, the kind of food eaten has an effect on the feelings of fullness, in particular the amount of fat contained in the food.

It has been well established in research that higher fat content inevitably leads to greater consumption of calories. This is thought to be because fat contains more than twice the amount of calories than protein or carbohydrate, gram for gram. (3)

But fat, more than anything else, is what makes food so delicious. Fat is the dressing on the salad, the gravy on the roast and the butter in the cookie. We often think of sugar addiction, but few people compulsively eat sugar directly out of the packet. Add fat to that sugar, though, and you've got something entirely moorish. It's no fun at all to completely eliminate fat, so our challenge is to eat enough to make our food enjoyable but not so much as to make us unwell.

In a rare example of solid research confirming urban myth, feelings of fullness are delayed, developing around 20 minutes after eating. There are two ways to use this information: to do whatever you can to slow down how fast you eat and, most importantly, to accept that it's best not to feel full when you finish your meal. The way to deal with that is to consider waiting to see how you're feeling in a few minutes, and if you still feel hungry you can have some more. This will work best if you've already got that second helping included in your Plan (see Eating Less, Chapter 6).

The notion of being 'full' seems to make sense because we know, for example, that when we fill a cup there's a point at which it will not accept any more filling. It becomes undeniably full and will begin to spill over. Even something elastic, such as a balloon, at some point gets so full that it bursts. But our stomachs don't work quite that way - which may be a good thing or a bad thing! That nauseous, bloated, sleepy, overstuffed feeling of fullness is WAY BEYOND the appropriate stopping point.

As you probably know, our stomachs expand over time to accommodate larger amounts of food. This is why one kind of weight-loss surgery simply reduces the size of the stomach so that larger amounts of food cannot easily fit into it.

Your stomach is supposed to be the size of your fist, but for many people it's become larger due to years of overconsumption. To correct this and to overcome overeating, your goal would be to decrease the size of your stomach, preferably without the use of surgery. Surely, if you consistently eat until you feel full, you will not be working towards that goal. The aim, I would think, is very much not to feel full at the end of your meals.

This, however, presents the problem that few people are talking about, especially of course those who advise Intuitive Eating. How can you finish your meals when you don't feel full - and continue to do that for long enough to make any real difference? To a great many people this seems impossible and unrealistic, which is why it's so often ignored as a viable solution.

This is what's different about the work I'm doing. It addresses this very question and leads you towards a workable resolution of this difficulty. This is one aspect of what I refer to as managing your addictive appetite, the aspect here being the excess appetite, the feeling of not being full at the end of meals.

The truth is that hunger and fullness are very difficult to define and usually only experienced at their extremes. When you give up thinking that you should rely on your body's signals, then you can see that there is an entirely different solution, and one that is both powerful and empowering.

1. "Development and psychometric evaluation of a measure of Intuitive Eating." Tylka TL Journal of Counselling Psychology (2006) 53 (2), 226-240
2. "Reproducibility, power and validity of visual analogue scores in assessment of appetite sensations in single test meal studies." Flint A, Raben A, Blundell JE International Journal of Obesity (2000) 24 (1): 38-48
2. "The role of energy density in the overconsumption of fat." Rolls, BJ The Journal of Nutrition (2000) 130: 268S-271S
See Chapter 6 in EATING LESS: "What to do about Wanting More


Here's a link to my book review of Ditching Diets (2013) by Gillian Riley.

Ms. Riley is a Counselor on Addiction, not a medical professional or Nutritionist. Her own personal way-of-eating appears to Paleo based.  Here’s a link to my previous book review of the Perfect Health Diet (2010) by Paul Jaminet, which is on her short recommended reading list.

NOTE: Originally posted on 3/17/13. Reposted for new viewers.

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Existing Comments:

On Mar 17, 2013 sad wrote:
If i stopped eating when I was 'full' Id be well over 300 pounds. The only time I stoped when I was full was directly after my weight loss surgery as in if I ate one more bite I would vomit. So then I ate very little, cause vomiting after stomache surgery is extremely painfull.

On Mar 18, 2013 TexArk wrote:
Thank you for posting this series. If anyone is interested, the book is free for lending in Amazon Prime lending library.

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