Oftentimes when I’m working with clients, we discuss the difference between satisfaction and fullness. This is an important concept in intuitive eating. While we work with the hunger scale (see the real life hunger scale I use with clients below), part of being truly content is the satisfaction factor.
When it comes to the hunger scale, ideally you want to eat when you are at a 3 or 4 and then stop when you are about a 6 or 7. It’s not an exact science and it’s more important to recognize the range of hunger and fullness than attach yourself to a particular number on the scale. However there’s one important missing piece, hunger and fullness don’t account for satisfaction.
You can eat a giant bowl of broccoli and feel physically full but you aren’t satisfied because well, you only had a bowl of broccoli. Meanwhile, you can consume satisfying plant-based foods like tortilla chips or chocolate that aren’t filling. Now, with some carbohydrate, a source of fat, and a protein with your broccoli or a bean dip with your chips, you may feel more satisfied. You can have fullness without satisfaction, but you cannot have satisfaction without being contently full. Tricky, eh? It doesn’t have to be, but it does take practice.
When people eat plant-based, vegan, or vegetarian diet, the satisfaction factor can get put on the back burner. I find this more often when individuals transition to more of a plant-based diet for health reasons. It’s common and almost seems to be natural in the plant-based world to eat more low fat foods. Low or no fat foods like fruits and vegetables are fantastic foods but if that’s all you’re eating, you’ll still have that desire for “something more” after a meal. This can lead to all day grazing or just feeling like eating vegan “isn’t working.”
I’ve also noticed the “carbohydrate fear factor” spreading into the plant-based world but without adequate starch, you won’t feel satisfied either. Satisfaction is more than just the nutrients. It takes into consideration the flavor profile, the textures, even the company in which you share your meal with (read what makes a vegan meal satisfying HERE).
Satisfaction is such an important part of plant-based eating and without it, you’re more likely to binge, overeat, or constantly graze until you reach that satisfaction factor even when you feel physically full. It’s important to tune in to what foods/meal will the most physically nourishing and also provide deep sense of joy in that moment.
A good test for this? The next time you go out to eat, do you choose the “healthiest” option on the menu or do you choose what sounds the best, the most satisfying? Seek satisfaction at your meals and you’ll be ready to tackle whatever the world throws your way with a little more ease and freedom.