The stomach’s stretch receptors register volume. When we’re overfull, those receptors give out strong signals we call “uncomfortable” or “stuffed.” Research shows most people can only detect “empty” or “full,” nothing in between. To assess 4/5 full, we need a more refined awareness. Here’s how I work toward this. Before eating, I note how full my stomach is: empty, 1/2 full, 4/5 full or over-full? Then I consider what volume would be comfortable: 1/2 cup, 1- 1/2 cups or 3 cups? (The average stomach holds 4 cups stretched full, which is not my goal). When I serve myself, I try not to exceed that amount. After eating, I take a break, drink some water, and wait. This allows time to process satiety hormones and assess satisfaction (an emotional feeling) and fullness (a physical feeling).
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Jan Chozen Bays, pediatrician and cofounder of Mindful Eating-Conscious Living