Body Image

What To Do If You’re Full But Want To Keep Eating 

June 11, 2024

Self-Paced Course: Non-Diet Academy


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A Certified Eating Disorders Registered Dietitian (CEDRD) with a master's degree in dietetics & nutrition. My passion is helping you find peace with food - and within yourself.

Meet Katy

Hey there, Katy here, and welcome back to Rebuilding Trust With Your Body, and I want you to picture something with me:

You’re sitting at a table at this cute little restaurant, and you’re eating the most delicious pasta you’ve ever had. The sauce is a little tangy, but it’s also got this depth of flavor, and it coats the noodles just right. You notice that you’re getting full, but it’s so delicious that you take a couple more bites. And now you’re getting REALLY full, and you know that you should stop if you don’t want to feel stuffed and miserable afterwards, but you also want to keep eating because it tastes SO GOOD, and there’s not really enough of it left to take home for later (and it probably wouldn’t be as tasty if you reheated it as leftovers), so you’re having a tug-of-war in your brain about whether to stop eating because you’re full, or to keep eating because it’s so delicious and it won’t be available or as good later.

Have you ever been there in a moment like that? I know I have. 

One of the things that makes this especially tricky is if it was kind of a big deal for you to give yourself permission to eat the pasta in the first place. Maybe in the past when you were doing low carb dieting, or when you were tracking your macros you would never order something like a decadent plate of pasta at a restaurant. So it felt really liberating and empowering (and maybe also a little scary) to order the pasta in the first place. And then it’s so delicious that you don’t want to stop eating it – which on some level also confirms your fears that you can’t trust yourself with these types of foods, and you start to wonder if you’ll ever make peace with food. 

I want to reassure you that it absolutely is possible, and you can get to the point where you easily stop eating something like a delicious pasta, or your favorite dessert, when you’re full. You’ll get to the point where that just happens naturally, and it’s not a big deal – and I know this might sound like a fantasy out of a fiction novel, but I swear to you it’s not. I know this because I see it happening every single day with the clients inside my programs.

So how did they get there? Because it didn’t just magically happen because they declared that they have peace with food. Have you seen that episode of The Office where Michael Scott thinks he can declare bankruptcy by just yelling, “I declare bankruptcy!” That’s not how making peace with food works either. It’s a process that requires some skill building around recognizing hunger and fullness, being able to choose foods that are truly satisfying without getting into a mental debate with yourself, and knowing + trusting that the delicious food isn’t going to be taken away or forbidden in the future. It will continue to be available, and you’re not going to beat yourself up or shame yourself for eating it. 

In this episode I’m going to walk you through my framework for the EXACT steps to take when you’re sitting there in that moment of knowing you’re full, but part of you wants to keep eating, and so what do you do? Do you give yourself permission to keep eating because it tastes so good? Or do you tell yourself to stop and honor your fullness? I’m going to give you 4 steps to walk yourself through in that moment that will help you to know what to do, and over time you’ll find yourself having less and less of these moments, because this whole process will happen naturally and intuitively for you.  

Let’s revisit that moment from earlier with the pasta. You’re full, and part of you wants to stop because you don’t want to be stuffed and miserable, but part of you wants to keep eating because it’s so delicious. You’re having that debate in your head about whether or not to keep eating. 

The first thing here that’s essential is to be able to recognize fullness. If you’re still working on reconnecting with your hunger and fullness signals, that’s ok. Keep practicing so that you can get in touch with the nuances of when you’re feeling comfortably full, vs feeling overly full, because that’s essentially what we’re getting into with this discussion today. There are varying degrees of both hunger and fullness, and with fullness we want to practice being pleasantly full so that your body is fueled and satisfied and ready to go live your life after you’re done eating, rather than being sprawled out on the couch in a food coma because you’re so stuffed, or being distracted all afternoon at work by how over-full you got at lunch. 

I have a GREAT free resource to help you with this. It’s my guide called 5 Simple Steps to Reconnecting With Your Hunger and Fullness, and I just (like 2 days ago) updated and revamped it and added in more tools and resources, so even if you’ve downloaded my hunger and fullness guide in the past, go grab it again because the new version is SO GOOD and is jam-packed with my best tips and strategies to help you connect with your appetite cues. There’s also a copy of the hunger and fullness scale in the guide, which is a super helpful tool to have while you’re learning the ropes of intuitive eating and you can screenshot it to save to your phone to use in the moment while you’re eating to check in with your body. You can grab the guide at, I’ll also link to it in the episode description for you. Push pause, go grab it, and then come back to the episode and it will be waiting in your email inbox when we’re done.

I’m about to teach you four steps in this framework. I encourage you to take notes and jot this down so you can refer back to it and use it in the moment when you need it. You could also save it on your phone so you can pull it up.

Step 1: Pause, and Check in With How You’re Feeling Emotionally

This is something that most people overlook. When I am meeting with a client and we’re deconstructing an instance where they overate, and I ask them how they were feeling in the moment they’ll often say that they weren’t having any emotions, and that the food just tasted good and therefore they wanted to keep eating it. 

There’s an opportunity to go deeper here. Even if the feeling you were having was that you were feeling peaceful and happy in that moment, those are still feelings. A lot of people think that emotional eating just happens when we’re upset or eating in response to unpleasant emotions. But it can happen when we’re feeling happy, peaceful or excited too – and the food becomes an attempt to enhance those feelings and to take the party to the next level. You might be thinking, “I’m feeling great, this chocolate cake is so delicious, and I’m full but I’m going to keep eating it because it tastes SO GOOD and it’s going to make me even happier.” 

Here’s my question for you though: Does it REALLY make you even happier to eat past where you were comfortably full? Does it actually feel good to be overly full? What if you were able to enjoy that delicious food AND stop at the point of comfortable fullness and be both physically comfortable AND happy and content afterwards? That would be the best of both worlds, and I can tell you from personal experience it feels awesome. 

When you’re not depriving yourself of foods that you enjoy, over time there becomes no need to keep eating because you trust that you truly can have more later. Delicious food can just be delicious food, and not a reason to overeat. 

Back to the point of step 1 – checking in with how you’re feeling emotionally. There might be obvious emotions that you’re experiencing, and they might feel positive or negative. There might also be less obvious emotions that you’re experiencing, ones that are flying under your radar, and that’s why it’s important to do this emotional check in with yourself when you’re wanting to keep eating past the point of comfortable fullness. 

Ask yourself, “What would I be thinking about, feeling or needing if I wasn’t eating right now?” I’ll say that again, “What would I be thinking about, feeling or needing if I wasn’t eating right now?” Write that down. That question is going to be such a game-changer for you when it comes to healing your relationship with food. If you’re not connecting with the emotions, you’re going to stall out. Simply connecting with hunger and fullness and giving yourself permission to eat is just the tip of the iceberg and the surface level stuff with intuitive eating. We need to go deeper than that and connect with the emotions that have been leading you to use dysfunctional behaviors with food in the first place.

With our pasta example, let’s say that you check in emotionally, and you realize that there are some things that are upsetting you emotionally that day. You had a frustrating interaction with a coworker, you’re worried about one of your kids who is struggling with their friend group, and you got an unexpected bill in the mail that you’re not sure how you’re going to afford to pay it. The simple solution would be to keep enjoying your bliss with the pasta. But just because that offers you some distraction from these other things that are percolating beneath the surface doesn’t mean that eating the pasta solves any of your problems. In fact, we could argue that eating to the point of uncomfortable fullness creates more problems because now you have to deal with that discomfort. Sometimes that’s subconsciously what people are doing with food. They’re trading their emotional discomfort for the physical discomfort of overeating. Something to be curious about with yourself.

Step 2: Be Curious About Whether You’re Judging or Labeling the Food as Healthy/Unhealthy

The way you think and feel about the food itself can have a big impact on whether you are able to stop at comfortable fullness vs keep eating more and more of it. And what’s interesting is that it can go both ways. 

Here’s what I mean by that: 

  • Let’s say you’re eating chocolate chip cookies, and they’re hot and gooey fresh out of the oven. They’re absolutely delicious, but in the back of your mind you’re also thinking about how much butter and sugar is in them, how many calories they have, and how unhealthy they are for you. When we’re judging the food as “bad/unhealthy,” in the back of our minds we’re also thinking about how we shouldn’t be eating the cookies in the first place, and we’ve already broken the rule against eating them, so you might as well keep eating and then tomorrow you can start over and stay away from them. I call this the “What the Heck Response,” where you think to yourself, “What the heck, I already feel guilty for eating 3 of these cookies, so I might as well just keep going and I’ll make up for it later.” Raise your hand if you can relate to this. I can practically feel you raising your hand right now through podcast telepathy.
  • On the other hand, let’s say you made a special keto-paleo-low-calorie-high-protein cookie recipe that you saw on TikTok. Now what we’ve done is put this health halo around the food. In your mind this is a “healthy” cookie, and therefore you subconsciously have permission to eat as many of these cookies as you want. And because (truth be told) they’re not as satisfying as a regular homemade chocolate chip cookie (no matter how hard we try to convince ourselves that these healthified versions are just as good), it’s not as satisfying and you end up chasing satisfaction by eating more and more of them. And you have subconscious permission to do so, because they’re supposedly “good for you.” This is an example of how we tend to overeat both the healthy foods and the unhealthy foods when we’re labeling them this way. 

With our pasta example, I want you to get curious about how you feel about pasta. What’s your knee-jerk judgment about it? Do you view it as good or bad? Healthy or unhealthy? My hunch, because I listen to people talk all day long about how guilty they feel for eating carbs, is that you probably view the pasta as unhealthy, because of the carbs in it. 

The current iteration of diet culture has us labeling carbs as bad. What’s funny is that prior to this when we were in the low-fat era, carbs were seen as good. The grocery stores were full of all these low-fat products, and you’d see all this marketing for foods like those 100-calorie packs of things like crackers and cookies that were basically just low-fat versions of carbs, and even candy like Twizzlers was advertised as a healthy candy because it was low in fat. Nowadays we’d clutch our pearls at the idea of those foods being considered healthy.

My point here is that our culture’s ideas of what’s healthy and unhealthy are a moving target. And the way we feel about the food is impacted heavily by the attitudes that we’re swimming in from our culture, as well as the people around us. If you grew up with a parent who was dieting and would talk about foods as being good and bad, you probably still hold some of those judgments against those foods now as an adult. 

If you’re sitting there looking at that delicious pasta, and somewhere in your mind you see it as unhealthy, but it was SO DELICIOUS, you’re primed to keep eating it because you already broke a rule and ate an unhealthy food in the first place, so you might as well finish it so you don’t have leftovers to contend with tomorrow that you might feel guilty about all over again. Our minds will play tricks on us and do all sorts of mental gymnastics when we’re labeling food this way. 

What’s interesting is when you have food neutrality, it’s much easier to stop at a comfortable level of fullness, regardless of what the food is. So that’s a skill to keep working on in terms of letting go of the food judgments and rules, because they’re interfering with your ability to intuitively listen to your body. We call those “attunement blockers” in the intuitive eating world.

Step 3: Reassure Yourself That You’re Allowed to Eat it Now AND You’ll Have Access to More Later

This reassurance is needed so that you can make a decision that’s based on what you truly want to do, and not based out of FOMO.

Let me be really clear: There is no right/wrong answer on whether or not to keep eating when you’re full. It’s not a moral decision. If you choose to keep eating and end up overly full, THAT’S OK! You’re not “being bad” or failing because of this. My goal for you is to make it a conscious choice, rather than overeating because you weren’t paying attention and you weren’t connected to your body. Those are 2 very different scenarios.

There might be times that you’re noticing you’re full, and you’re thinking to yourself, “I am choosing to keep eating because this is delicious, and I want to, and I know I’m going to be really full, and that’s ok.” 

What I would also invite you to experiment with though is reassuring yourself you can have more later (or another time), and that it’s ok to stop right now and to honor your body’s fullness signal. 

One thing that often trips people up here is if practically speaking they can’t have more of the food later. Perhaps you’re on vacation, or you’re at a fancy restaurant that you won’t be back to anytime soon, or it’s something that you only get on special occasions like holidays or wedding cake. (Although fun fact, you can buy yourself wedding cake or birthday cake any time you want. You’re an adult and we don’t have to reserve things like cake only for celebrations.) Same thing with holiday foods. Just because you typically only have pumpkin pie or green bean casserole at Thanksgiving doesn’t mean you can’t make it in July if you want. Part of neutralizing food is realizing that we can take it down off the pedestal and have it any time.

Your brain needs to know that no food is off limits, and that you can have this delicious food again. If your brain is thinking that this might be the only time you ever have access to this food, or that you won’t get to have it again for a very long time, then of course you’d find yourself wanting to keep eating it now even if you’re full. When you know and trust that access to delicious food isn’t going to be taken away, there’s less pressure to eat it all right now.

Don’t get hung up on this one specific food. That often trips people up. This is actually a bigger picture concept. Reassuring yourself that you can have more later doesn’t literally mean that one food – it means ALL delicious food. There will be times that you can’t have more of that specific food later, but that’s less of a big deal when you have satisfying food all the time anyway. 

When you’ve been dieting and depriving yourself, it’s hard to be chill about stopping at comfortable fullness with an extra tasty food. When you’re neutral about food and you’re not depriving yourself, it’s truly no big deal to stop no matter how delicious the food is.

Step 4: Shift Gears Once You’re Done and Do Something Different to Take Your Mind Off the Food

Whether you decide to keep eating and end up overly full, or if you decide to stop at comfortable fullness and to sit with the potential discomfort of wanting more but telling yourself no because you’re full, the next step is to move on to something different. I talk about this in the hunger and fullness guide that I mentioned earlier, and again the link is in the show notes. Sitting there and ruminating on the food, and what you ate or didn’t eat, isn’t going to do you any favors. It’s going to keep you stuck in this loop of judging the food, and judging yourself, and second-guessing your choices. 

It’s helpful to notice how you’re feeling when you’re done eating. We want your brain to connect with what your body is telling you. If you’re content and comfortably full, we want that to register in your mind. You want to solidify that neural pathway that says, “This feels good. I enjoyed my food, I honored my fullness, and I’m comfortably full.” If you’re overly full and uncomfortable, we want to register that too – without shaming yourself. You can to solidify the neural pathway that says, “I ate past the point of comfortable fullness, and this actually doesn’t feel good.” The key here is to be kind to yourself, and just like if you had a small child who came to you and said, “I ate too much and my tummy hurts!” you wouldn’t shame them, you would give them a hug, comfort them, reassure them that it will be ok, and encourage them to go play and take their mind off things. Give yourself the same grace, reassurance and compassion. No matter how full you are, it’s temporary, and it will pass. You didn’t do anything bad or wrong by overeating. It’s a learning opportunity. And we want your brain to register the fact that it doesn’t actually feel good. Because if you check out and disconnect after you’ve overeaten, your brain only connects the dots that the food tasted good so you kept eating. We need your brain to also connect the uncomfortable dots that overeating doesn’t feel good – not in a shaming way, but just in a neutral, factual way, so that the data gets incorporated into your decision-making process in the future. 

The other thing is, after you’ve eaten your body is fueled. At the most basic level, food is fuel and energy for our bodies, and the purpose of that energy is so we can be alive and go live life. 

So when you’re done eating, change the channel in your brain by shifting your focus to something different than food and your body. Your body knows what to do with the food you just ate, so let your body do its thing while you move on. 

Sitting there and adding up the calories you just ate, or thinking about how you coulda/shoulda eaten something different, or thinking about what you’re going to eat (or not eat) later, or how much exercise you should do to burn off what you just ate…none of that is helpful or productive. In fact, it keeps you entrenched in the diet mentality that you’re trying to let go of. 

Imagine you have a TV remote and you can change the channel to something different. Shift your mental focus onto other things after you’re done eating. Food does not need to be the end-all-be-all in your life. Food is one important area of our lives, but it’s also important that we are dedicating mental and emotional energy to other things. 

There you have it – the 4 step framework for what to do if you’re full but want to keep eating. Let me recap it for you:

  1. Pause: When you notice you’re full, stop and check in with how you’re feeling EMOTIONALLY.
  2. Be curious: Are you judging or labeling the food as good/bad or healthy/unhealthy? These labels make us want to keep eating. STORY
  3. Reassure yourself that you are allowed to eat it now, AND that you’ll have access to more later. (what if you won’t have access later – e.g. vacation, restaurant, etc??)
    1. You’re also not bad/wrong for eating more now and being overly full…
    2. But the idea w/ IE is to honor your body’s signals
  4. Shift gears. Do something different so you can take your mind off the food.

And if you haven’t done so yet, I have an ask. Can you please, please, please take 30 seconds on whatever platform you’re listening to this podcast on and leave me a rating and a review. Obviously I’d love it if you give it 5 stars, but I also want you to be truthful, so if the podcast sucks please tell me. But seriously, I value your input, and the reviews help this show grow. I put this show out for free every week, and it’s a labor of love, and the more people that hear it the better. My mission is to help as many people as possible make peace with food and their bodies so they can live life more fully. Thank you so much for leaving a rating, and thank you for listening. 

In case nobody has told you today – you are worthy just as you are. We’ll talk again soon.

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Search for Episode 129: How to Increase Your Odds of Binge Eating and Gaining Weight

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