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How to Tell When You're Full (and Stop Eating)

woman-eating-spaghettiby Patricia L. Raymond, M.D., F.A.C.P., F.A.C.G.

Q. What's a healthy amount to eat at a time, and why do some people get full quicker than others?

Before you snarf down that entire mound of pasta—let alone the never-ending seafood platter—consider: Unlike what the food-service industry has taught us, the total volume of a meal should be about the amount you could comfortably hold in two cupped hands. The result of those nonetheless heaped plates: Sixty-six percent of us are overweight or obese. We need to learn when to say when-to feel when we're satiated.

Satiety: The state of being satiated or glutted; fullness of gratification, either of the appetite or of any sensual desire; fullness beyond desire; an excess of gratification which excites wearisomeness or loathing; repletion; satiation.
Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary, 1913

A filled-up stomach triggers the release of brain chemicals, making your hunger disappear. Normally, you should feel satiety (suh-TIE-uh-tee) about 10 minutes after you're full—not a big help if you wolfed down that entire pizza in record speed. Also, if you just ignore the sensation and keep eating, you will become uncomfortably stuffed.

Fortunately, there are some tricks to cue your body to the feeling of satiety. For example, distractions play a role: Are you eating in front of your TV or computer, or while reading this article? You may have missed your cue.

In addition, in 2003, a small University of Florida study found that if you're obese, your feeling of satiety may be delayed by four to nine minutes—and you can do some serious damage to your calorie counts in that extra time.

So, just take the advice of many diet books: Slow down, and focus on savoring the flavors and textures of your food. Listen for your satiety.

PATRICIA L. RAYMOND, M.D., F.A.C.P., F.A.C.G., is a board-certified gastroenterologist with Simply Screening in Chesapeake, Va.; author of Colonoscopy: It'll Crack U Up!; and assistant professor or clinical internal medicine at Eastern Virginia Medical School.newsletter-graphic


Last updated and/or approved: June 2010.
Original article appeared in spring 2007 former print magazine. Bio current as of spring 2007. This article is not meant as individual advice. Please see our disclaimer.
Comments (2)add comment
written by Leigh Ann Otte , July 08, 2010

Thank you, Judy. I'm so glad you found it helpful, and thank you very much for passing it on!

Leigh Ann Otte
Managing Editor

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So simple... so helpful!
written by Judy Rodman , July 08, 2010

I never knew this before... so simple a truth, so profoundly potentially helpful if heeded. As with most addictions, if we just wait the cravings out...a few small minutes can make all the difference... and they will pass! I'll pass this on to others!
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