Today I wanted to talk a bit about feeling full!
Fullness is a sensation which your Eating Disorder may fear due to the false belief that it is the result of over-eating. It can be uncomfortable and feel unnatural, especially in early recovery or following a period of restriction. This is because you are out of sync with your body and not used to properly nourishing it. As a result, fullness can become something you feel the need to avoid, making it incredibly difficult to honour all of your hunger. It may also be the case that during your Eating Disorder or it’s development, you associated fullness with something negative, and so your brain is conditioned to avoid it.
If either or both of these scenarios sound like you, then there are a few steps you can take to overcoming your fear of fullness…
Firstly you need to check whether you know what being full feels like. This is because we can often confuse bloating for fullness, and this leads to us misinterpreting our bodies needs. Bloating is usually caused by a buildup of gas in the digestive tract when undigested food gets broken down or when you swallow air during eating/ drinking. Bloating is, for the most part, completely normal, and whilst it isn’t exactly pleasant and can often be painful, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re full. You can be incredibly bloated and still need to eat. This will likely be the case for you during your recovery, and potentially beyond, as like I’ve already stated, bloating does not equal fullness, so get ready to grab a hot water bottle to soothe your belly, then carry on eating!
In order to overcome a fear of fullness, you are also of course going to have to challenge it, and that means eating until you’re full and then repeating this with every meal and snack you eat. There are however a few obstacles that you will need to consider along the way…
For example, In recovery your hunger cues may not be functioning quite right making it hard to know when you’re full. You may also be experiencing extreme hunger, both mentally and physically, and you need to listen to both of these regardless of whether it means you are eating past physical fullness (this will probably be the case). This may make it harder to learn how your body feels when full, however it is necessary to your healing and to regain your body's trust.
Once your hunger begins to normalise (this is a good thing I promise - it is not something to fear and it doesn’t mean you won’t be able to eat all your favourite foods anymore, it just means you won’t be consumed by them!) eating to the point of fullness may become harder again, especially given the fact physical recovery tends to be a step or two ahead of mental recovery. Therefore, this is the time when you really need to work on accepting your fullness. You will need to consider what it is about feeling full that scares you? Do you associate fullness with weight gain for example? If so, in order to become comfortable with fullness you need to tackle your fear of weight gain and the underlying fat phobia that has caused this. You may also need to look at any other behaviours that you need to change e.g. reducing body checking, or throwing out your ‘sick clothes’. Alternatively your fear of fullness may be the result of something else such as a past trauma which needs resolving. Either way, it is likely that feeling full itself is not the issue, and so in addition to repeatedly exposing yourself to the sensation you need to tackle the surrounding phobias.
I hope that some of what I’ve shared can help you overcome either your fear of fullness, or by applying a similar approach, any other fears you have in your recovery. Remember that being full is not a bad thing. It just means you have met your body's needs for the day which is something to celebrate, not a reason to feel guilty.
More from me soon,
Mais // The Recovery Bean <3