Quick Guide: How To Know If You’re Eating Too Much 

 May 11, 2020

By  jennifer@thinkingnutrition.co.nz

How do I know if I’m eating too much? How do I figure out my ideal serving size? How do I know when I’ve had enough to eat?

Those are GREAT questions. And much needed questions if you want to stop overeating.

Because if you’re like me, you grew up as a member of the clean plate club ?. Starving children in Africa, and all that stuff.

“How can you have any pudding if you don’t eat your meat?!” (Or greens?) 

That was my life. Was it yours too? Sadly, the fact that you and I overate at many meals (to clean the plate), helped neither the children in Africa or us.

They were still starving.

And we were eating too much for no good reason.

How to know if you're eating too much

Then Dieting Came Along And You Overate Even More… Argh!

The Diet Lie told you that you could only eat at certain pre-assigned times.

It didn’t matter whether you were hungry or full at those assigned meal and snack times.

You ate EVERYTHING on your plate, because experience had told you that overwhelming hunger was just around the corner.

And knowing you’d have to live with that hunger until the next assigned meal was awful. So the only logical solution was to eat and ignore your fullness cues.

Load up while you could. It was legal after all. The Diet Lie said you could have that much.

Sadly though, that sense of entitlement on a diet leads to you renewing your childhood membership to the “clean plate club”.

Maybe right now you’re thinking, “I bought a lifetime membership to the Clean Plate Club, damn it. How am I going to cancel my membership and get out of this?”

Well I’ve got news for you – and it’s ALL good if you want to know how much to eat AND to stop overeating…

Your Body Has Accurate Fullness Cues

Your body’s fullness cues are the MOST accurate indicators you have, of how MUCH to EAT.

So, no you don’t need a diet plan with assigned portion sizes.

No, you don’t to measure or weigh your portions.

And you definitely don’t need to pull out your measuring cups again (unless you’re baking a cake or some other delectable dish!).

So are you ready to reconnect with your body’s natural fullness cues (yes, truly you’ve got them)?

This is your passport to stopping a LOT of your overeating; simply knowing when YOUR body is full and how much to eat.

How To: Feel Your Fullness (& Know If You’re Eating Too Much)

Feel Your Fullness is Principle 5 in Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program That Works (by Evelyn Tribole & Elyse Resch).

The introduction to the chapter about Feel Your Fullness says the following:

“Listen for the body signals that tell you that you are no longer hungry. Observe the signs that show that you’re comfortably full. Pause in the middle of eating and ask yourself how the food tastes, and what your current hunger level is.”

Okay, all well and good if you know what those body signals are, right?

But chances are you’re not feeling too confident on that front. I know I wasn’t when I first ditched diets and decided to try intuitive eating.

So here are some descriptions of what comfortable fullness feels like, according to Tribole & Resch:

  • A subtle feeling of stomach fullness
  • Feeling satisfied and content
  • Nothingness – neither hungry nor full

While I could try to describe what my fullness feels like, it might not feel the same for you. So, like a lot of things about intuitive eating, you need to personally experience it yourself to really learn how to recognise YOUR OWN feelings of fullness.

And I’ve got some great practical exercises to help you do that.

But maybe that still doesn’t feel like enough information to start with. Do you want a few more clues to know EXACTLY “what should I feel like when I’m full?”

It’s a fair enough question. No one taught us this stuff as a kid. So basically we’re trying to reconnect with our body.

I prefer this list of characteristics of fullness that’s found in The Intuitive Eating Workbook: 10 Principles for Nourishing a Healthy Relationship with Food.

Characteristics of Fullness

There are four key groups of characteristics, that together will give you a pretty darn accurate idea of when you’re feeling full.

STOMACH: A sensation of fullness in the stomach, ranging from slight distention to heaviness and bloating. You might also note a slight pressure at the base of your throat as it connects to your stomach.

HEAD: You may experience fewer thoughts about food and eating. Perhaps you’ll notice that the desire to eat is diminishing.

MOOD: Many people feel their mood shift; they begin to feel pleasant or relaxed (a.k.a. you’re no longer ‘hangry’!).

ENERGY:  Some people feel reenergised when they’re full. Others may feel drowsy after eating. And sometimes it depends on what you’ve eaten.

The key is to NOT wait until you feel uncomfortably full – that’s the point when you feel like undoing your trouser or belt. When you just want to flop onto the couch, to find a way to be comfortable. Because the stretching of your stomach is so much that it’s truly uncomfortable.

That feeling is not fullness; it’s OVER-FULLNESS.

Improve Your Chances of Honouring Your Fullness

So you’re looking for those characteristics and that means practice, practice, practice. Like a sport. Only this time the sport is “spot my fullness!”

The best chance of making that happen accurately is to follow these guidelines (not rules, guidelines, and you’re not bad or naughty if you ignore these guidelines):

Eat slowly – it takes around 20 minutes for your stomach to communicate it’s fullness to your brain. If you eat fast you’ve got no chance of recognising your fullness at the accurate point.

Eat mindfully – remove all distractions, like TV, phone, magazines and so on. Eat mindfully, because if you’re not focussed on your food and body you won’t notice your fullness emerging.

Resign from the Clean Plate Club – yes you need to officially denounce your membership to the infamous Clean Plate Club. A good way to do this is to purposely leave a mouthful or two of food on your plate at every meal. Yes it will make you uncomfortable. That’s the point. Keep doing it until it doesn’t bother you anymore. Then you know you’ve left the Club.

Learn to say no – there are always going to be people who want to offer you more and more food. You need to learn how to politely say “no thanks,” if you’re feeling full. Even if they keep asking you, you still say no. No, NO. NO.

PRACTICAL ACTIVITY: Feel Your Fullness & Stop Overeating

A fantastic and EASY way to practice feeling your fullness (and get on the path to stop overeating forever), is the water-drinking activity from The Intuitive Eating Workbook: 10 Principles for Nourishing a Healthy Relationship with Food.

This is a practical way to experience the sensations of fullness, without needing to have plates of food distracting you from the real objective.

Time Required: Set aside 5-10 minutes for this activity.

Things You Need:

  • 2-4 cups of non-carbonated water at room temperature.
  • A cup to drink the water from.


  1. When you are ready, begin drinking the water – don’t rush, just slowly drink the first glass.
  2. Notice the sensations of the water travelling down your esophagus.
  3. Continue drinking the glass of water and as many of the following glasses of water (not rushed) until you feel the first signs of fullness.
  4. Describe the sensations of fullness that you are experiencing.
  5. How are those sensations similar to or different from the experience of fullness when eating food?

You can practice this as many times as you like to create a better familiarity with what fullness feels like in your body.

So that’s all for feeling your fullness today – give it a shot!

This is an ESSENTIAL life skill, that most of us have not been taught. So go ahead, and dive into it. This is something you’re going to use every day, for the rest or your life, to stop your overeating forever. How good is that?

Jennifer xo.

P.S. Wanna learn more about how to stop overeating forever? Grab this free PDF I created:

Note: The links to books in this article are affiliate links, so I may earn a few dollars if you do purchase one of these amazing books. Thanks so much for supporting this blog!




Hey, I’m Jennifer. I help women transform their relationship with food, their body and weight, so they can ditch the guilt and shame, and focus on more important stuff - like living a happy and healthy life!

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