The Feeding Doctor on Pinterest

Satisfied? Hunger? Appetite?

Posted by on Apr 26, 2012 in Blog Posts | 4 comments

As I finished my lunch the other day, I realized when I work at home, lunch isn’t “over” until I’ve had a cup of coffee, and most days, a piece of chocolate with it. While I was waiting for my coffee to brew (I am having a lively discussion on my personal FB page about considering Keurigs vs Nespresso machines if you want to chime in… ) I thought about the question of how we know when  a meal is “over,” when I can leave the table, and be satisfied…

I thought back to a dinner I had when I was making that leap to tuned in eating a handful of years ago. I had never been a messed up eater, but still relied on external cues and more shoulds and shouldn’ts at the time… So, we were eating at a Vietnamese restaurant, and my ample entree was gone, but I wasn’t satisfied. Was I hungry? I didn’t think so, but I felt a little antsy, and like I wanted more. Did I need to wait twenty minutes to find out? I was debating ordering something else, when the fortune cookie showed up. I ate half the fortune cookie, and was satisfied! I remember being astounded. I had been debating a dessert or a spring roll, when I realized after those few bites, I was there. Happy, full, appetite and hunger satisfied.

To me, hunger is the calories, the tummy, the headache maybe, and appetite is the tongue and the soul.

When did you get the difference? Are you still working on it? What is helping, what makes it harder?

With kids, I hear the advice often that we have to teach kids the difference. I too fell into that trap. A few years ago, I proudly told Ellyn (Satter) about my clever way of helping my daughter learn the difference. Often enough at a meal, I’d say, “I’m full,” and then eat a few more bites. I didn’t want to confuse M. So I’d say (she was three at the time.) “My tummy is full, but my tongue is still hungry.” Ellyn looked at me for a moment, and said something to the effect of, “Why are you talking about it? She know already, you just have to let her listen to her body. She’ll figure it out.”

All the talking is distracting. I figured it out on my own, not by reading about it, or counting points or dealing a meal, but by listening to my body… Kids can be trusted to figure this out too within the framework of a healthy feeding relationship. I have seen M do this for years: ask for seconds, or thirds, take one or two bites, and declare she was done.

Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • Digg
  • Reddit
  • StumbleUpon
  • Tumblr
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter


Join the conversation and post a comment.

  1. Lisa J

    Two things: I wanted to tell S that our daughter (now a beautiful normal weight 18 y/o) was slim in early elementary and gained around her waist around 5th grade. She remained above the ideal through middle school. Occasionally my husband worried privately to me. I insisted at that we say NOTHING and I even got my m-i-l mad at me for asking her to avoid the topic of my daughter’s weight. Well, without any effort or intention on her part, she just slimmed down around high school. Sheis not skinny, she has a lovely woman’s body. And I am so so glad we said nothing and didn’t even allow it to be an issue much in our minds. It is not a major issue for her and she does not mess with her food intake for weight issues. I am so thankful, because I went on a diet in 10th grade and my eating has been mostly disordered since. Only now am I truly beginning to return to normal eating.

    Katja, what did you read in those two years to change your thinking about healthy weigh and weight and health? I read Ellyn and some others. just wondering what you recommend.
    Thanks for your blog.

    • katja

      I read Rethinking Thin (Kolata), Big Fat Lies (Gaesser) and Linda Bacon’s Health at Every Size. Jon Robison has some great PDFs, look up Jon Robison and the war on childhood obesity. (ooh, I’ll go put that on my website downloads if I can…) Also, going through Ellyn Satter’s Treating the Dieting Casualty workshop, with her clinical videos and cases and research cemented it perhaps most for me. The first half of Secrets of Feeding a Healthy Family (people don’t know that Satter actually has done more work and research on adults and eating competence.) In addition, seeing this all work with my daughter, and ultimately with my own tuned in eating, when I ate truly free of “shoulds” and my weight stayed stable with no effort, and with a liberation from the cognitive control piece was such a gift to myself, and I’m thrilled my daughter eats in a tuned in way.

  2. S

    This is coming at a crucial time for me. As a former disordered eater (and a person who still fights it each day), I’m not really sure when I lost that innate sense. It has taken me years of therapy and focus to get it back. I was a chubby child and remember feeling overfull somewhat often, but also, UNsatisfied often when I was encouraged to eat diet foods and skip all else. I’m not sure WHY I was a chubby kid (not obese or even very overweight, really…just rounder). Was it my set point? My normal shape? Or was it because I overate? OR, is slight overeating sometimes (or often) what feels satisfying to me?

    Fast forward to today and I have a 4.5 year old daughter who, in the past couple of months, has been HUNGRY. She is eating larger amounts of food than she did 6 months ago and as a result, her body shape is changing. Clothes have become a little bit harder to find because her backside is rounder than most kids her age (like her Mama) and she is taller than most kids her age. She loves food (like I do) and actually loves to help me prepare food.
    I will admit that a part of me is in panic mode. I don’t want her to live through the struggles that I went through with dieting at a young age. I REALLY don’t want her to be unhappy with her shape. I have always followed the DOR with her and don’t intend to change that. But how do I quiet the panicky former disordered eater in my head and allow her to be the shape that is most fitting and healthy for her, even if it’s the very shape that caused me so much turmoil as a child?

    • katja

      This is SOOOOO hard. Several points here. First, many, many chubby kids, actually grow into the “normal” range. The United States Preventive Services Task Force said, “A substantial portion of children, even above the 95th percentile will grow up into the normal range.” Now, we don’t know if you would have done that or not, because it sounds like you didn’t have the opportunity to see what happened, supported with DOR and joyful activity.
      Have you read Your Child’s Weight: Helping Without Harming? I highly recommend it…
      Another piece, children often go through shifts with their body shape, traditionally weight increases before height, so you might see a growth spurt soon. A normal weight for height curve often looks like gentle waves, with weight increasing before height, repeatedly.
      We cannot gaurantee if your daughter will be slim, or bigger than average. Know that she can be healthy at a range of weights. (BTW, it took me about two years of reading to undo my brainwashing about BMI and weight and “health.”) Know that she can be trusted to eat and grow in a way that is healthy for her if you do your jobs with feeding and activity. Know that with your history, it will be that much harder.
      Just this morning, I was musing on this issue (Not really a word…) Maybe this deserves a fresh post… But. Here is the initial thinking as I work with clients and families, with about half the mothers disclosing a history of an eating disorder or disordered eating…
      That past will make it harder for you to trust your instincts. It may make you overreact to normal things, or not be supportive enough with feeding. For example a mom recently was very upset because she shamed her daughter about eating, and was beating herself up over it, when the incident was actually an appropriate exercise in teaching manners. (If you want the last of something in a group setting, it is polite to ask if you can finish it…)
      This mom’s reality check was off with her history. Likewise, I am a danger-phobe, so I can’t always trust my initial reaction with my daughter in terms of what I let her do, and what is actually unsafe. In these cases, I have to do a lot of thinking, and bounce things off my husband, trusted friends. Is it OK to let her go to the mailbox alone in our apartment building? Is it OK to let her fly on her own? My instincts are off, so I need to be more thoughtful and seek other input.
      Does that make sense?? (I hope so!)
      Stick with it, use your knowledge of your past, and where it led to, to not make the same mistakes. Get support from books, from here, from HAES forums, wherever you can. In our culture it is scary to have a child who is not “average,” particularly a girl who is bigger than average. Trust her. Build her up, be good about feeding, ve good about providing her opportunities to run and play and be happy. Protect her from the weight stigma. Model loving yourself, your body, and food in a healthy and balanced way. I hope that helps….

      You quiet the panicky part with reflection, journaling, reaching out for support, prayer, whatever! Hang in there and let me know if this helped at all…