Fullness vs. Satiety (what’s the difference?)

Food satisfaction

Fullness Vs. Satiety


Have you ever had the experience of eating a bunch of food you consider healthy and yet still feel hungry and end up raiding your cabinets an hour later?  Have you ever felt frustrated that no matter how much water you drink and carrots you eat, you continue to have a nagging hollowness in your belly?  Have you ever wondered if there is something wrong with you because you never seem to be able to feel completely content after eating?


If so, you’re likely mixing up feelings of fullness with satisfaction and you’re in need of a protein and fat intervention stat!


I used to judge my appetite harshly.  If I ended up being hungry at a time that I felt I “shouldn’t” be hungry, I would either ignore it until I was miserable just to say I made it until dinner time, or I’d graze on veggies all afternoon and drink water incessantly and wonder why it wasn’t doing the trick.  The sad thing is that because I often chose ignoring the hunger, I ended up overeating at the end of the night and more so than if I had just truly honored my hunger in the first place!


We feel that if we can’t control our hunger we have somehow failed or that we will experience some dark consequence for not being able to show enough discipline.  The truth is that your body will work with you and respond with kindness when you listen to what it is asking of you.  It may feel like listening in a foreign language at first but overtime, you’ll learn the language without needing a translator and will communicate effortlessly.


So, here are a few steps to a) honor and accept the hunger cues b) take steps to work with your body to give it what it needs and c) experiment with learning even more about what satiates you.


Step #1


Imagine a hunger timeline.  Like this:


hunger timeline


 1 is the most hungry you’ve ever been and 10 is the most full.  Close your eyes and take several deep breaths.  Start to notice signs and symptoms your body is giving you.  How do you know when you are experiencing hunger?  What do you notice in your body to let you know?


Step #2


Determine where you are on the hunger timeline.


Step #3


If you determine that you are at a 4 or less on the hunger timeline, start by taking a big glass of water to take the edge off of any emptiness you might be experiencing in your belly.  


Step #4


Close your eyes again and take a few more deep breaths.  Tune in and determine if the water moved the needle to make you full.  Maybe at this point you realize you’re not as hungry as you thought and can wait until a more convenient time to eat something.  If not, go to step #5.


Step #5


Maybe you determine that the water did nothing and that you are truly hungry and to wait would be a disservice to your body and make you hangry and less productive.  At this point it would be wise to:


Step #6

Opt for some fat and protein alongside some fiber and/or whole grains.   It’s often the fat in food and/or the protein that truly lets us feel satisfied enough to take our minds off of food for a while and give our bodies what it needs.  Fat has gotten a bad rap of late in our eating culture but make no mistake that we need fat as much as the other two macronutrients, protein and complex carbohydrates.

Fats give is a sense of fullness and satiety and can actually elicit a relaxation or pleasure response in our brains. Fats have a sense of warming and nourishing and fat sustains us, giving us the longest calorie burn.Essential Fatty Acids are the building blocks of hormones, cell walls, the brain and hundreds of different chemicals that impact metabolism on a moment-to-moment basis. EFA’s also help to regulate blood sugar and insulin levels.

When we are deficient in fat we can experience: Poor digestion, fatigue, inability to lose weight, constipation, dry skin, blotchy or oily skin, and even an irregular menstrual cycle.

Here are some healthy fat containing foods:





Proteins serve as building blocks for bones, muscles, cartilage, skin, and blood. They are also important for the body to use in making enzymes, hormones, and vitamins.  When we are protein deficient symptoms can include:

Irritability, fatigue, forgetfulness, poor cognition, poor attention span, hunger, overeating, binge eating (especially on carbs), poor muscle tone, bloating, difficulty losing weight, cravings for sweets, sleep issues, depression, brittle hair and nails, hair loss.

Examples of Protein Sources (note that some of these overlap with the healthy fats!)





So, next time you are having an afternoon slump, are having cravings and/or experiencing hunger at a time you are not ordinarily hungry, try these methods described above and try having some additional fat and/or protein instead of just water and fiber or a simple carbohydrate alone.  

Run the experiment and I think you’ll find that you push yourself away from the table with more satisfaction and can get on with your day.  I think the cupboards will stay closed more often and for longer periods of time and I think you’ll be amazed at how working with your body and honoring its cues will save you angst and worry, overeating and frustration on the back end.

Good luck and let me know how it goes!