When Are We Truly Full?

A young woman sits at a wooden table with her eyes closed, smiling and enjoying a meal as she lifts a forkful of food up to her mouth.

My whole body was tense. A surge of irritation rising up from the pit of my stomach moving into my muscles, causing them to seize. My skin was crawling, my breathing was shallow. My thoughts moving in many directions, all of them negative and displaced.

The subway platform was slowly getting crowded. The type of crowded where people are close enough to feel their breath on your neck. Normally I can deal with this type of scenario – the subway during rush hour – but today my body was in high alert.

It’s a double edged sword being body aware. You become available to the high, low and myriad of in between states it is capable of producing. But the fact remains, I’d much rather be in my body than ignore the signals it sends my way. Why?

Because these signals are an attempt to help. They are the body trying to work with me, not against me. 

If only I would just listen.

A young woman stands still on a subway platform and as a grey subway rushes by.
(Photo by Eutah Mizushima)

I realized my hyper reaction to a situation I’d normally be able to breathe through was revealing something to me. As the day progressed, I began to realize what it was.

Clients had been constantly emailing, my schedule was more full than normal. I was getting requests from studios and managers to teach more, do more, be everywhere. I’d been working on my website all afternoon which is basically like pouring gasoline on my mental fireplace and throwing a match on top. Not to mention several social engagements I’d committed to and an article I’d agreed to write. 

Standing on that bustling platform was the tipping point. My body knew I was asking too much of myself before I’d been ready to admit it. 

I made it to my yoga mat and had a good long practice. Finally my brain and body started to align as I unloaded the day in my downward dog. I eventually reached a more clear headed space where I was capable of making decisions to place me in a less hectic existence.

The same thing can be said when it comes to feeling your fullness. 

Just like my plate was full in the proverbial sense, my plate also gets full in the literal sense. 

A young woman sits in the corner of a cafe working on her laptop at a counter full of other student's laptops.
(Photo by Andrew Neel)

Eating and feeling our fullness becomes much more possible when we are intuned with the body. 

Just like there was a delay between my body and my brain when my life was full to overflowing, the same goes for the message from your stomach to your brain when it’s at full capacity.

It takes approximately 20 minutes to realize the body is full. This is why mindful, slow eating is helpful. Although not always possible with the busy days we lead. Even so, when we do have the chance to sit down, taste, chew, swallow and savour it makes a world of difference.

It also gives us a chance to enjoy our food. This is also a double edged sword. If you’re eating not so great food, taking time to feel how it affects the body, you may find yourself craving different things.

Things that help you feel calm. Things that help you feel satiated for longer. Things that help you think clearly, move with physical ease and get to sleep at night. 

A pair of hands holds a blue mug of coffee over a pink linen napkin and a blue striped table cloth.
(Photo by Gaelle Marcel)

This type of change doesn’t happen overnight, but if you decide to step down that road of body awareness, the desire to eat better and feel better will probably be a sneaky side effect.

Of course the body still craves the sugary, salty lovely goodness of decadent or deep fried foods. The good news is, if we use our minds to override these cravings by feeding the body things we know are good for it, we can tone these initially intense cravings down.

Make no mistake, working with the body and mastering cravings is probably one of the hardest things we will ever have to do. However, through the practice of yoga and the study of nutrition we can learn how to listen and be in the body more successfully. Overtime we can rewrite old patterns for newer, more healthful ways of existing.

The trick? Believing you are worth it. No small task in and of itself. But this feeling of worth is the soul food we need to learn to crave. And if you’re having a hard time believing your worth? Do your best to surround yourself with people who will believe it for you. 

So the next time you’re feeling tense on a subway platform, the next time you have the chance to sit down for a meal, take the time to listen to what the body is telling you. If we can learn to work with the body we are in, imagine the possibilities for finding peace within ourselves.


(Header image by Pablo Merchan Montes)