31. Are We Full Yet?

31. Are We Full Yet?

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Shaping the New You

Are We Full Yet?

To the question of your life you are the answer,
and to the problems of your life you are the solution.
 ~Joe Cordare

I remember car trips when I’d ask my parents “Are we there yet?” over and over again. I also asked questions like “Why is the sky blue?” “Why can’t dogs talk?” and “Why won’t my little brother listen to me?” I asked dozens of questions each day, but the one question I never asked was “Are we full yet?”

There was no concept of “full” at our dinner table. My parents were young and doing their best to go to school, work and take care of two small children. My mom usually worked late so my dad was in charge of feeding us. He said we were to eat what was on our plate and that was that. My folks never asked me if I was full. Come to think of it, their parents probably never asked them if they were full either. As a matter of fact, I remember my grandmother telling me that she grew up in the Great Depression and there was never enough to eat at her house. She said it was a “privilege to always have good food” and that everyone should clean their plates. So we did—and not surprisingly, I never thought about if I was full. I didn’t even know what “full” was.

When the concept of “being full” came up at my Weight Watchers meeting last year I stared blankly at my leader, Amy. “What exactly do you mean by ‘full’?” one of my braver classmates asked. Amy explained that “full” means comfortable—a place where you’re not hungry but you’re also not uncomfortably stuffed. This brought up another issue. I’d never thought about if I was hungry. I didn’t even know what “hungry” was. I simply ate what was on my plate when it was “time to eat” and that was that.

My classmates and I all looked at each other as if we were coming out of a spell. Most of us sat there dumbfounded while a few people began to speak. Many people shared the same story about being told that it was good to clean their plates. Others said, “Oh, so that’s what people are doing when they put their fork down and stop eating even though there’s still food left on their plate.” I thought to myself, “Yeah, I remember seeing some of my friends put their forks down when there was still food. I thought they just had a lot of self-control—turns out they weren’t doing anything consciously—they were just full so they stopped eating.” Wow! Weird.

Over the next few months my Weight Watchers class continued to discuss the concept of being “hungry” and being “full” and I began to monitor myself. After months of practice, I could actually tell whether I was really hungry, a little bit hungry, full, stuffed or uncomfortably stuffed. Every time I ate I began to ask myself the question, “Are we full yet?” I started asking myself this every few minutes while I ate.

I’ve found that it’s easy for me to tell when I’m full when I’m eating fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Things get trickier if I get into my “trigger foods” like cookies, cupcakes or potato chips. When I eat these “trigger foods” I have to decide on the appropriate (small) portion before I even start eating because my ability to detect “full” when I eat these foods is still out of whack. I’m a girl who can sit in the grocery store parking lot and eat a dozen cupcakes while swearing to myself that for some reason, “I’m just not full.”

I really liked learning the concept of “hungry” and “full.” It made me feel more in control. It is still strange for me to leave half my food on my plate or (on my good days) to pick at a piece of cheesecake and actually leave some of it on my plate. But I know I have to. I want to be healthy—and to be healthy I know I have to continue thinking about the quality of my food and when I’m full.

Learning the concept of “full” also helped me to get in touch with how different foods made me feel. For years I’ve been thinking that my Weight Watchers leaders Amy and Gwyndolyn were simply “toeing the party line” by pushing fruits, vegetables and whole grains. I lost over 40 pounds by following their advice but I must admit I’d roll my eyes when they extolled the joys of “delicious and amazing fresh fruit!”

I’m not a complete convert—but I have cleaned up my act a lot over the past few years because I noticed that when I eat a snack like an apple or a handful of almonds with skim milk I feel “full” as opposed to when I snack on say—half a sheet cake. The sheet cake doesn’t make me feel “full”—it makes me feel crazed—and then in a heartbeat I go from “crazed” to nauseous.

The hardest part for me was detecting the difference between physical hunger and emotional hunger. Another Weight Watchers leader, Diane, brought clarity to me when she taught me about the “apple test.” She said, “If you’re not interested in eating an apple then you’re not physically hungry.” I often use the “apple test” to get a bead on if I’m trying to nourish my body or simply calm my soul. Again, I’m not saying I always make the right decisions (you’d know that if you saw the candy wrapper I’m currently hiding in the bottom of my purse). But at least I’m checking in with myself and trying to get in touch with my emotions and my relationship with food. I’m not perfect—and never will be—but I am much improved. I am interested in being healthy and I know the road to health is paved with fruits, vegetables and whole grains. I also know that a key to losing weight and maintaining weight loss is to ask “Are we full yet?”

Sometimes I still feel guilty about throwing food away, but my friend Nicole told me a great quote she heard—“Waste or waist.” I like that—you can either waste your food by throwing it away or you can add that food to your waist when you eat more than you should.

This is tough stuff. A lot of it goes back to childhood. God bless our parents—they were good parents—who did everything they could to raise us right. But they never got me to ask the right question, the really important one—“Are we full yet?”

~Rebecca Hill

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