Why being satiated is different from feeling full

My husband and I had an interesting conversation in the car yesterday after my son asked him what his favorite junk food was when he was a kid. He talked about his favorite dessert being graham crackers smashed up in a bowl covered in sugar and topped off with milk. He talked about having two or three bowls of this concoction and then feeling bloated and ill, very very full, but not completely satisfied. He said, “Eating this dessert always ended with me thinking, 'why did I do that?'” But then he would do it all over.

Graham crackers with milk

I told him that little phrase (WHY DID I DO THAT?) summed up my relationship with food, for most of my life. It dominated how I ate, and how I felt after I ate. What is the difference between then and now? It is “being satiated” versus “feeling full.”

Feeling full is the goal of most one size fits all diet plans. Weight Watchers encourages people to eat many fruits and veggies and then down water so you feel full. Drinking water is not about nourishing our organs with what they need to function (the true reason we need all that water), but to feel full. The problem with this is that while you may feel full, you never feel satisfied. You have that empty fullness my husband felt after he ate his graham cracker dessert. This is when cravings for more and more carbohydrates kick into high gear. Then you get fat, you feel bad about the fat, but you can't stop yourself, so you eat more and more, you get fatter, you wonder where your willpower is, and on and on.

Being satiated is completely different. It really is a state of being rather than a feeling. When you eat adequate amounts of fat (about 11 grams per meal and snack) a hormone called Cholecystokinin is released. It communicates the message of satisfaction. When we eat a low fat or no fat diet, this never happens. This simple biochemical process explains why I was so miserable for so many years, never feeling happy and satisfied after I ate–only ever asking, “Why did I do that?”

So the good news in all of this, YOU GET TO EAT FAT. As a matter of fact, it is a biochemical necessity if you want to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight without feeling starved. `


2 Comments on “Why being satiated is different from feeling full”

  1. Then how do so many people who eat for satisfaction still overeat and/or become fat?

    • An individual’s biochemistry is pretty complex. My post was meant to point out a general difference between how approaching weight loss from a point of view of trying to help people feel full versus an approach that teaches you how to feel satiated are very different. I think fat is the key, and we are taught to eat low fat you simply never feel satisfied.

      Everyone is so different, and behaviors can be complex. That is why I recommend working with a professional to problem solve these issues.

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