Satisfied versus Full – How Do You Know?

Prior to having weight loss surgery, people talk about wanting to ‘feel full’ after eating. It may surprise you that eating until full should not be your goal after weight loss surgery.

But isn’t that why you would have surgery, to feel full after eating less food?

Let’s look more closely at what we mean by full. We describe feeling full as the feeling you get when you dine out on a delicious, three course meal, so tasty you can not bare to leave any on the plate. It may be the feeling you have after trying to make sure you get your value for money at a buffet, going back several times to top up your plate, or the feeling after lunch on Christmas Day.

Following surgery however, it is important to aim to feel satisfied after eating, rather than full. Feeling satisfied and feeling full are not the same and it is important to understand the difference. To eat until satisfied means to eat until you are no longer hungry. It is a neutral feeling. You feel you have definitely eaten something and may not need to eat for a few hours, however you could eat more if you tried.

Eating until full is different. It can cause some discomfort, which means you have eaten too much. After weight loss surgery, continuing to eat too much over a long period of time will compromise your weight loss and it can cause complications. The actual complications will vary according to the type of surgery you have had but regardless of the surgery type, eating too much is not a good idea.

Eating until satisfied helps guide the amount of food you need to eat. Whilst your surgical team may have recommended you eat a particular amount of food, everyone is different and you need to listen to your internal signals to judge how much is right for you to eat. We often quote a Bariatric GP we once worked with who says “It’s not a matter of seeing how much you can eat and get away with it, but how little you can eat and be satisfied.”

People who have dieted for many years may have lost touch with the signals they get when eating. It is important to re-learn how to listen to your body’s signals to judge how much to eat.

The following scale can be useful to help you understand your internal signals and when is the right time to eat and to stop eating. Your homework for this week is to keep this scale near you when you are eating. Before you start your meal, stop and rate how hungry or full you are. Once you are part way through the meal, pause and think about where you would be on the scale. Has the number changed? Are you satisfied yet? Do you need to continue eating, even if you haven’t finished the plate? If you are still hungry, continue eating. Pause again later in the meal and repeat. If you do finish the plate, rate yourself again.

Try this activity at different meals; breakfast, lunch and dinner. Your goal is to start to recognise the point where you reach a 6.

  1. Starving, ravenous. All you can think about is how hungry you are. This is a ‘danger time’ for overeating.
  2. You may have a headache or feel weak or grumpy.
  3. You feel like it’s time to eat.
  4. Your hunger is just starting, but you could wait to eat. Your stomach is starting to feel empty.
  5. Neutral. Not hungry, not full.
  6. Satisfied or “just right”. You are no longer hungry, but probably will be in about three or four hours. You could fit more food if you tried.
  7. You had a few bites too many. You are a little uncomfortable.
  8. Full. You definitely don’t need more food.
  9. Your stomach feels stuffed, uncomfortably full.
  10. Painful. So full you feel like you could vomit.

If you would like support helping navigate the ins and outs of eating after weight loss surgery, consider our online support. It is a place to learn, connect, be supported and succeed after weight loss surgery. Find out more here.

Satisfied versus Full