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People often ask me “What’s the difference between feeling satisfied and feeling full?” This is an important question. Please stop reading for a moment and ask yourself these questions.  “Have I ever felt full but not satisfied?  Have I ever felt satisfied but not full? “

Fullness and satisfaction are two different experiences. It is important to be able to distinguish them.

Fullness is a physical sensation

Fullness is a physical sensation

Fullness is a physical sensation, a measurement of volume and how much the stomach is stretched. Fullness is related to being aware of what we call “Stomach Hunger.” Stomach hunger is satisfied by (the right amount of) food.

Satisfaction is an emotional feeling, a feeling of contentment or inner peace. Satisfaction is related to what we call “Heart Hunger.” Heart hunger is satisfied by feelings of connection, intimacy and simple happiness.

Satisfaction is an emotional response

Satisfaction is an emotional feeling

Here’s an example of how becoming aware of satisfaction can support mindful eating. After a mindful eating workshop one woman realized that when she was hungry, her body felt agitated. When she ate mindfully, her body felt at peace. She decided that whenever she ate she would keep checking in with her body until it felt at peace. A peaceful body equaled a satisfied body for her. Then she would stop eating. This simple practice solved the distress she felt formerly around food and eating and helped her return to a healthier weight.

When we are distracted by reading, using a computer or even talking to another person, our experience of eating or drinking is compromised. We cannot pay full attention to two things at the same time. You can quickly prove this for yourself. Close your eyes and put your full awareness in the big toe of your left foot. Hold it there for a few seconds. Now move your awareness to your right ear lobe. Hold it there for a few seconds. Now close your eyes and become aware of both your big toe and your earlobe. What happens? Your awareness is divided. You might notice that it flicks back and forth, between the toe and the earlobe.

If we multitask while eating, we are partly disconnected from our body and from the food we eat. We may eat, or even over eat, but we are left feeling dissatisfied. Often we try to make up for the unsatisfactory feeling we experience by eating more This can spark a downward spiral: feeling disconnected à eating more à feeling critical of oneself and more disconnected à eating more à and so on.

After a few days immersed in mindful eating — including eating in silence — participants often comment, “I don’t know why, but I feel satisfied with much less food than I usually eat!” This occurs because when we eat without distractions, when we bring full attention to the experience of eating or drinking, the experience expands. It becomes richer and fuller. It is as if we ate more food.

This occurs because when we are present and aware as we eat, we experience connection. This could include connection to the food as we savor it, to the people who grew it, to the earth it grew in, to the rain that nourished it, to the sun-energy distilled within it, and to our own bodies, hearts and minds.


Peace and contentment are aspects of feeling satisfied

Mindful eating helps us become aware of a feeling of inter-connection that is deeply nourishing, deeply satisfying. It nourishes both our body and heart and makes us feel whole, complete and at ease.

Where would you “look” in your body/heart/mind complex to decide if you feel full?  Where would you “look” to decide if you feel satisfied?

Jan Chozen Bays, MD       USA

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