Mini-Pledge Week 8: Stop eating when you feel full

Next week’s “real food” mini-pledge is not about what we are eating, but about how much we are eating. Now some of you may think you already stop eating when you feel full, but unless you are French – think again. Based on research, Michael Pollan says instead of using our internal cues to know when to stop eating most of us “allow external, and usually visual, cues to determine how much we [should] eat.” Think back to your last meal…did you stop eating when your gut told you you’d had enough or when your plate was clean, the package was empty, or the T.V. show was over?

Mini-Pledge Week 8: Listen to your internal cues and stop eating when you feel full.

According to Pollan:

Supposedly it takes twenty minutes before the brain gets the word that the belly is full; unfortunately most of us take considerably less than twenty minutes to finish a meal, with the result that the sensation of feeling full exerts little if any influence on how much we eat. What this suggests is that eating more slowly, and then consulting our sense of satiety, might help us to eat less. The French are better at this than we are, as Brian Wansink discovered when he asked a group of French people how they knew when to stop eating. ‘When I feel full,’ they replied. (What a novel idea! The Americans said things like ‘When my plate is clean’ or ‘When I run out.’) Perhaps it is their long, leisurely meals that give the French the opportunity to realize when they are full.

I don’t know about you, but as long as I can remember I’ve been told to “clean my plate.” I am finding that it helps to start off with less food, because it can sometimes be difficult to stop eating an exceptionally good meal when there are only one or two or even three bites left. It wouldn’t be enough food to save or pack up at a restaurant, and I know we’ve all been taught how awful it is to “waste” food. And speaking of eating at restaurants my husband and I have been making an effort to split an entrée as well as a small appetizer since their portions tend to be over-sized here in America.

The key is when you start with less food you can always add more. You may be surprised at how often you don’t feel the need to pile on more…especially if you rest for a few minutes before going back. This is something I’ve honestly struggled with myself ever since I first read Pollan’s book, but I continue to try as hard as I can to not be won over by a delicious meal and instead stay in check by listening to my gut. As Pollan says “Better to go to waste than to waist,” which will “help you eat less in the short term and develop self-control in the long.”

Not to mention “Americans are on average eating 200 more calories a day than they were in the 1970s.” We think this concept of controlling our portions goes hand-in-hand with eating real food because we have personally found that real food is incredibly filling. You truly don’t need to eat as much to get to that “full” feeling as you would with the empty calories that make up highly processed food. But following through on this concept can sometimes be easier said than done, which is why we are devoting an entire mini-pledge week to the “way we eat.”

Some other similar concepts from the “How should I eat?” section of Pollan’s book Food Rules:

  • Pay more, eat less.
  • Stop eating before you’re full.
  • Eat when you are hungry, not when you are bored.
  • Eat slowly.
  • Spend as much time enjoying the meal as it took to prepare it.
  • Buy smaller plates and glasses.
  • Serve a proper portion and don’t go back for seconds.
  • Do all your eating at a table. (A desk does not count!)
  • Try not to eat alone.
  • Leave something on your plate.

To take the pledge: Please leave a comment below with the number of people in your household that will participate in the pledge this week. Some older kids might be able to join in, but I know most younger kids already stop eating whenever they want to instead of when their plates are empty anyway, which is apparently not such a bad thing!

Good luck!


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  • Comments

    1. Crystal |

      I’m in! I really struggle with this so this is great for me. It’s only 1 in my household b/c my 2 kids already stop eating when full and my husband has no interest in this.

    2. Jessica Kielman |

      We are in! All 4 of us are going to try…my husband and I are going to stope eating when we are full, and our two children said they will not snack out of boredom! What a fabulous idea!

    3. Lise Silverwolf |

      I’m definitely in. I do this quite regularly already, but will make a full concious effort on it this coming week.

      Anyone got any suggestions for someone (my hubby) who’s body actually does not EVER send that “clue” that the stomach is full? Right now, we just measure out portion sizes for him, but I’d love to hear any other ideas people might have. No, he’s not making it up, just to eat more. There’s just some weird reason he body never sends that “I’m full” response to the brain. In the past, it ended up with huge weight gains, and severely overfull tummy.

      • Elizabeth |

        I know from hearing my patients stories that they never felt full and could eat an entire pizza, liter of soda, etc and never feel “full.” These were patients who were morbidly obese and had resorted to bariatric surgery. Your stomach literally stretches to accommodate all of the food we stuff into it. But, when we stop eating so much, it does rebound back. This takes time though. I don’t know if your husband is obese or how long he has been measuring out portions, but the simple answer is to just keep measuring out portion sizes and taking at least 20 minutes to eat so your body can respond. Eventually he should start to notice that he feels satisfied. If not, it could be some other disorder and should be evaluated. I hope that helps!

    4. Cassie |

      We’ll do it. I already don’t make the kids clean their plates just make them take one bite of everything on their plate, but I usually follow behind and finish it for them. Bad bad bad.

    5. Erica |

      We are in – 2 adults. My 3 yr old has not been tainted yet and stops when she is full. Now if i could just get her to try one bite of everything on her plate as mentioned in a previous comment, i would be thrilled!

      • 100 Days of Real Food |

        We even say “3 bites for a 3-year-old” in our house…too bad for her she turns 4 tomorrow!!

        • Amy |

          Ha! We do that too and my son turns 5 next Sunday . . . meals time will become even more torturous for him :)

      • Andrea |

        I also have a stubborn 3-year-old. There is no way he’s taking a bite of anything he doesn’t want to!

    6. Barb |

      We are in!! 2 adults and 2 teens.

    7. |

      My husband and I and two kids are in for this one, if you count the kids. The kids don’t know what it’s like to “have” to finish their plate, I never push it because it was really pushed with me. I want them to grow up to know that you need to listen to your body before anything else. I’m the only one that has a problem with this. My husband is amazingly good at this actually. I’m learning to serve myself smaller portions, but when I don’t I just cover up what I was eating and put it in the fridge for later.

    8. Siri |

      I am in. I am wondering what advice others have for getting the kids to eat something… I have a very picky 4 year old. If I don’t FORCE her to eat a certain amount of her plate (I never force her to eat all of it), she won’t eat anything and then will come back an hour later looking for a yogurt or a banana. Sure, those are not horrible alternatives, but that isn’t my idea of a balanced dinner. I may try the ‘four bites of everything’ rule for my four year old…

      • |

        My daughter went through that phase. She figured out if she skipped dinner, she could have something better later. I started putting her plate in the microwave or fridge and when she came back hungry, I offered it again. She’s 7 now and eats when we do. I still have to make her try new things and things she doesn’t like at every meal, but she doesn’t fight me on it.

        When she was in that phase and we went out to eat and we didn’t want to take her food to go, we always just gave her a worse option to eat first when she finally got hungry. Like eat a few pieces of broccoli or spinach, then you can have yogurt. Luckily for us, she loves spinach and broccoli, but would never choose it over yogurt.

    9. Elizabeth |

      I’m in. I’ll work on the hubby too. I have been trying to lose weight and usually I do this but every now and then I get so hungry that I stuff my face and then I want to die afterward because I feel too full. I’m sure you all never have that problem….
      So, part of this challenge for me will be to not allow myself to get so hungry that I want to eat the kitchen counter!

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