How to stop eating when you're full

How to Stop Eating When You’re Full

Struggling with how to stop eating when you’re full? Are you a life-long clean plate club member? Let’s dive in. 

Did you grow up with these dinnertime statements?

“You can leave the table once you clean your plate”

“You can’t have dessert unless you finish your meal”

“You need to finish that, there are kids starving in other countries!”

If you’re thinking “YES, that’s me”, keep reading.

When those are the messages you grow up with, it can be really hard to figure out how to stop eating when you’re full. It teaches you that seeing a clean plate is what tells you that you’re finished instead of listening to (and respecting) your ideal physical fullness. It also teaches you that you’re better off eating those last two bites even if they push you into uncomfortable fullness. And finally, it teaches you that dessert is SO special that you have to finish all of your other (obviously less exciting) food before you can eat it.

While the intention behind those messages wasn’t bad (parents want their kids to eat!), it sets you up for a lifetime of not knowing how to stop eating when you’re full. 

Here are four ways you can start tackling your “clean your plate” mindset:

  1. Be aware of how much food you’re serving yourself. When you’re first learning and practicing listening to your fullness, I recommend serving yourself less than you usually would. Not necessarily so that you eat less, but so that you’re giving yourself a fair opportunity to assess your fullness. If you finish your plate and you’re still feeling hungry, give yourself permission to take more food if you need to! It’s easier to add food to your plate than it is to “take it away”. 
  2. Practice eating mindfully. A good place to start here is slowing down and minimizing as many distractions as you can. Put your fork down in between bites, initiate a pause by sipping on your water, etc. Try to avoid scrolling on your phone or watching TV while you’re eating so that you can fully enjoy your food and listen to your body. If you’re a big broedom eater and have a hard time with mindful eating, make sure to check out this blog post. 
  3. When you start to feel full and there’s still food on your plate (and it’s not enough to save for leftovers), ask yourself some questions. What is more wasteful: throwing these last few bites in the trash, or eating them simply to eat them when my body is telling you it doesn’t need those bites? Honoring your fullness means respecting your body, and while eating those few bites saves them from going in the trash, it doesn’t benefit your health or your goals in any way.  
  4. Don’t ignore your diet mindset. When you’re still caught in a web of dieting, getting yourself to stop eating is hard. The reason it’s SO hard is because dieting says “okay, you’re eating right now so you better eat it all while it’s still time to eat”! Working on letting go of your all or nothing dieting mindset and shifting toward lifelong healthy changes is key. 

Try these tips and let me know in the comments! And if you’re looking for step-by-step guidance and support learning how to stop eating when you’re full, check out The Balanced Life, my membership community for women. 

Meet Jamie

I’m a Registered Dietitian and I’ve been exactly where you are, right now. The all or nothing dieting, the constant food guilt, the scale obsession, absolutely no balance with food…. Sound familiar? 


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