On Fullness, Rest Days and Intuitive Eating

You might be thinking right now, “Wow, 3 super-taboo blog world topics in one post? This girl is cray.” I can’t necessarily dispute that last statement πŸ˜‰ but as much as I think these issues have been discussed to death lately, I needed to provide my own views on the topics. Amanda had a great post on this last week and it really got me thinking about how bloggers put too much emphasis on what they’re putting into their mouths and how much they’re moving their bodies. Health is important of course, but not when it becomes obsessive.

So first, my thoughts on feeling full. I have to admit, I don’t have the best relationship with this feeling. I have always had a small stomach capacity, so I’ve never been able to eat much without feeling fuller sooner than others. I’ve mostly resolved this issue by eating 5-6 small meals every day and this works for me. But, I still experience very negative emotions when I do get full. Generally, I only feel truly full after meals out, since restaurant portions tend to be larger, and even if I don’t eat the full amount, it can still be overwhelming, no matter what it was I ‘filled up’ on. Let’s look at two examples from this weekend. On Thursday night, my family came up to my apartment because my sister had a college visit at a college nearby and they wanted to save money on a hotel. We went out to eat at one of my favorite restaurants up here, and I had a delicious, individual-sized pizza with kale, garlic, figs and grilled onions on thin crust. I ate 4 out of 6 slices, along with a small orange cream vegan and gluten free cupcake following. After eating, I felt satiated but not too full. Usually, I would feel quite full for maybe half an hour, and feel some guilt over eating ‘that much’ but we ate fairly late and I hadn’t had much to eat in a few hours. However, the following day my mom and I got Qdoba for lunch. I had my usual, the naked veggie salad with black beans, habanero salsa and lots of guacamole. I ate most of the salad, and when we ran errands afterwards, I could sense that I was full, and it messed with my mind for most of the afternoon. Why was I feeling so full after basically just eating lettuce, beans and avocado? I felt guilty for eating most of my lunch, even though it was healthy and balanced.

The meal that made me feel more self-conscious about fullness.

The meal that made me feel more self-conscious about fullness.

Basically, I just have guilty feelings associated with being full, no matter what I got full from. I don’t think this is a healthy relationship to have–I’m not saying feeling full after every meal is necessarily good either, but it’s okay to feel full from a meal every once in awhile, Β especially if you enjoyed it while eating. And some days, we just aren’t as hungry, and can get filled up from even little meals, and we shouldn’t beat ourselves up about it.

I didn't get in any tennis this weekend, but I was ok with taking a rest day on Friday.

I didn’t get in any tennis this weekend, but I was ok with taking a rest day on Friday.

About rest days. I’m bad about taking them myself, but I absolutely believe they’re essential for everyone, from pro athletes to casual exercisers. Since I’ve been exercising regularly (for about the past 2 years), I’ve rarely gone a day without some form of a workout. There were a few days when I was out all day and didn’t get in a traditional workout, but I was on my feet all day running errands or shopping and I counted that as my workout, since it was pretty strenuous after a full day. But even on the days when I exercised a little less than the day before (usually because I was too busy), I freaked out. I would love to say I work out just for the good feeling it gives me, but that’s not entirely true. I also do it for the calorie burn, and because it makes me feel okay with eating. Sad, but true. But on Friday, I worked on my exercise guilt. Since my family was up here, and then we headed back to the Springs after my sister’s college visit, I couldn’t fit in a lifting session or even a quick ab workout. I wasn’t completely sedentary (my mom and I ran errands around town for an hour or so) but I didn’t do much other than that, and surprisingly, I was kinda ok with taking a rest day. Sure, I got right back into my routine on Saturday, but it helped me realize that a rest day here and there isn’t the end of the world. In fact, it might help with exercise burnout, and in preventing overuse injuries. I’m not sure if I’m ready to take a full rest day every week, but I’m hoping to get there soon.

Finally, onto intuitive eating. This one has been discussed so much lately, so I don’t want to go into too much detail here. But I do think it’s been misconstrued a lot. I think moving away from calorie/macro counting and measuring is a great thing (and something I’ve been doing since the beginning of the year) but not when it turns into something that isn’t intuitive at all…orthorexia. I know, because I’ve fallen into it myself. I’ve become more hyper-focused on the ingredients in the foods I’m eating, and it’s been obsessive at points. It might seem healthier than calorie counting, but it can be just as destructive. When people start saying they’re eating intuitively, yet still stick with ‘safe’ foods, that could be a red flag for orthorexia. When someone’s obsessed with clean ingredients to the point that they get anxious about eating foods they don’t know the ingredients for (I’m guilty as charged), it could be a sign of orthorexia. Intuitive eating isn’t about stuffing your face with cake or ignoring all healthy eating guidelines, but it isn’t about eating ‘clean’ 24/7. It’s about being flexible, sensing fullness, enjoying your food and not letting it rule your life. I feel like I was pretty good about eating intuitively this weekend. I had everything from fancy vegan pizza, to nori wraps, to Larabars, to a vegan gluten-free cupcake, lots of guac and roasted veggies to protein smoothies. I ate pretty balanced everyday, enjoyed all of my food, didn’t freak out too much when I felt a little fuller than usual and didn’t overthink my choices as usual. I know this is something I’ll still struggle with, but feeling more free is a great thing!

A healthy weekend option, balanced by vegan desserts and pizza!

A healthy weekend option, balanced by vegan desserts and pizza!

What are your thoughts on fullness, rest days and intuitive eating?Β 

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19 thoughts on “On Fullness, Rest Days and Intuitive Eating

  1. That fullness part so relates to me. Sometimes I even skip eating beans, etc. because of the fullness that comes after, which is ridiculous. That’s awesome that you got to see your family πŸ™‚ Have a great week!

  2. Ashley this is a brilliant post indeed! I so much enjoyed reading this and it makes me realize that you DO have the knowledge to overcome your disordered behaviours,you only need to USE it finally! πŸ˜‰
    Anyhoo.
    First of all: Feeling full doesn’t have to be a negative thing AT ALL. I guess if you’d ask a “normal” person how often he/ she feels full after a meal,you’d be surprised just how many people actually DO feel full on a regular basis – but without feeling bad about it at all.
    I,too,hate feeling full – I absolutely dread this feeling,to be honest! However,I think the problem is that you and I have a completely wrong idea of what it’s like to feel “normally” full. We see the extremes: starving and stuffed,but NOT “full” – because full means your stomach is full. Period. It doesn’t have to be a negative thing,and even if you DO feel a little over-stuffed – just like you’ve said it yourself – the feeling will pass. Earlier than we tend to think.
    Also,I’ve been realizing that I am not necessarily truly “stuffed” all the time,I only tell it to myself very often. I use it as kind of an excuse to not have to eat,like,I eat let’s say a slice of bread with almond butter. Bread is a huge fear food of mine,so I feel very anxious and uncomfortable about this,so the ED part of me immediately yells: “HOLY JESUS,am I STUFFED! I won’t be able to eat ANYTHING for the rest of the day!” – Absolute bullshit,obviously,but it makes sure I won’t eat anymore after this “bad” meal and “help” to “balance it out”… Not. You know how EDs fool you,though,don’t you?
    Then: Rest days. Ooooh,rest days. These are a problem for me,too. I am really trying to cut back on exercise recently,though,at least regarding cardio. Some days,it goes better,some days… Not so much. BUT I haven’t turned into a fat ball yet DESPITE taking like THREE days off from cardio in a row last week! THREE DAYS! So yeah,that’s kind of an achievement,I guess. πŸ™‚
    And now,finally… The big topic: Intuitive eating.
    Personally,I truly feel like the blogging world has its trends like the fashion industry does. First,that paleo-thing,then,suddenly,everyone was gluten-free,and now – oh my god! – one realizes it is possible to eat MORE than vegetables and protein powder and STILL be okay,so how do we call that…? Wait,YES! Intuitive eating,that sounds good. Right?
    No.
    Because again,what most bloggers call “Intuitive eating” has NOTHING to do with the term at all. Intuitive eating is eating what you want,when you want,without thinking too much about it. This has become absolutely IMPOSSIBLE for most of them,though,and even if they WOULD be craving a brownie… In the end,90% would NOT eat it,or rather eat a Chocolate Brownie Quest Bar because it tastes “absolutely identical”! – Wo-hoooo! Another excuse to not eat that terrible,unhealthy brownie thing. Great!
    So,really… I am also trying to eat intuitively,but I want to REALLY do it… Including ice cream,chocolate,chips and all. And I DO this as well,but it sometimes make me feel kind of crappy when reading about others who swallow each bite,pause a minute and in the end decise after three teaspoons of their – of course,sugar-free – oatmeal they’re “satisfied” and don’t need the rest anymore.
    Phew. Sorry for the novel. I was just really excited to read this post on your blog and I am quite sure you CAN get out of this,Ashley… You only need to find the willpower to do it!
    And if you need a kick-butt-buddy: I am right here. Always. πŸ™‚

    • Yay for taking 3 days off of cardio! That really is something to be proud of, since it can be SO hard to take even one day off.

      You’re spot-on with how some bloggers see intuitive eating. Apparently it means eating just eggs, huge salads and Quest bars and tiny portions of all those things but somehow it satisfies them every single day. I don’t think you should feel badly at all about really eating intuitively! If eating ice cream, cookies and other things makes you happy and doesn’t give you any stomach issues, I say go ahead and keep enjoying them. It can be hard to push aside all the opinions of other bloggers, but everyone’s different and honestly, in many cases, some of them want to truly eating intuitively, but are too afraid to!

      Thanks for sticking with me through all this! You’re the best πŸ˜€

  3. This is a great post. I think bloggers emphasize it a lot partly because that’s just what we’ve chosen to write about on our blogs, but I can see how it can come off as obsessive. If I only typed about how much I sleep you’d think I did nothing else. I hate feeling full. It totally messes with my mind, especially with salads or healthy clean food because I feel like I shouldn’t feel full because I ate good food. But all food is food, good or bad, and you’re gonna feel full anyway. I used to be terrible at rest days, but now I take one a week, and I always really enjoy it. Even though my workouts are only 30-60 minutes, it’s nice to take that extra hour on a weekend to catch up on things.

    • That’s true, and I don’t have anything against talking about eating and exercise (since that’s what I mostly talk about too) but just the huge emphasis lately on intuitive eating which usually isn’t that intuitive.

      I think I’d really enjoy having a weekly rest day, it’s just hard to get over that mindset of working out every day, since I usually only workout for an hour, and I feel like some people do so much more.

      • I used to do yoga on my rest days so that I wouldn’t feel so bad about it. Now that I lift heavy I usually feel sore and tired, so it’s easier. I feel like people do more, but that doesn’t mean they’re doing it right.

  4. P says:

    I love your honesty Ashley, and I can relate to having those negative thoughts on “feeling full” on occasion. A lot of it stems from worrying about eating too late, since I used to fear eating past a certain time (even if I got back from school late and the only time for a proper meal would be after 9pm). I feared that if I ate right before going to bed I would “get fat” and also because I disliked that full and bloated feeling.

    I have one late day at school every week for this quarter, so late dinners are my only option if I want to have a nice home-cooked meal. I’m feeling much better about eating at “late” times than I was in the past, even though that full feeling can trigger some negative thoughts from time-to-time.

    Exercise for me was ALL about calorie burn up until recently. In terms of my running, I’m more about developing the fitness to run faster and longer, more so than how many miles burned how many calories. I do feel guilty sometimes if I have a rest day and feel like I’m doing nothing, but then I realize it does so much wonders for my workouts the days following, since the body does need rest to recuperate itself.

    • I used to have the exact same fear about eating late! It was crazy, I would freak out if I had to have dinner later than usual or if I was out at night and got hungry, but it was too late for a nighttime snack. I’m glad we’re both getting better about going with the flow when it comes to eating times, because I’ve read that it really doesn’t matter to our bodies what time of day we eat!

  5. Loved hearing your thoughts on the taboos, Ashley πŸ™‚ The feeling of fullness used to absolutely terrify me. I remember not being comfortable unless I was a little on the hungry side, and not being able to justify eating something unless I was absolutely SURE that I was physically hungry. But I honestly don’t think that people who have suffered from disordered eating and restriction have a very good idea of what genuine fullness is. I got so used to going through my days being on the verge of hungry and unsatisfied, that even the slights move towards “normal” felt like too much to me… But if you look at most people, they’re probably hardly ever at the point where they can actually say they’re hungry – for most people it’s normal to eat or snack on something even if they’re not hungry, just because they’re feeling it… And I think that’s part of the reason that people who have struggled with an ED are always thinking about food – they’re always hungry, they just don’t realize it.

    • Agreed 100%. I’ve noticed with my own family (none of whom have ever had disordered eating) that they don’t eat at prescribed times. Sometimes they skip a meal due to busyness, but make up for it later. Sometimes they snack a lot or eat late at night because they’re hungry. And when I’ve told them that when I get hungry, my stomach actually hurts, they look at me like I’ve got 2 heads, because they don’t ever experience such extreme hunger since they eat more regularly and in larger amounts, since they don’t fear fullness. So I think you’re completely right about people with EDs not really knowing they’re hungry all the time, yet they probably are because they’re so obsessed with food.

  6. Great post on important topics, Ashley.
    As you know feeling my fullness is something I’ve been working on lately, too. For me as a volume eater, however, it was rather surprising to see I was satisfied with smaller servings than before. That being said I still make sure to meet my calorie target every day and not cut back in the slightest. I agree that some bloggers say they ate intuitively yet still stick with their same “safe” and super healthy foods like green smoothies, sugar-free desserts and else. Claiming it was what they truly craved and what made them feel great.
    To me, I know I need to switch up my meals more, too, but I’m at least trying to have foods I previously claimed “bad” like chips without weighing out a serving, too. It really is about trusting your body to find a balance in between “play foods” and healthier options.
    Rest days can be tough to deal with for me still, too. As you said, though, we do honestly need them and will hurt ourselves if we don’t take them in the long run. Especially lately I’ve been making a conscious effort to listen to my inner voice and take time off if I just don’t feel a workout. Walks are a fantastic workout alternative especially now that Spring has finally arrived. Try to plan at least one rest day a week and take it when you feel it might do you well.

    • That’s great that you’ve been making progress with not weighing or measuring your portions! I’ve never had a food scale because I know it’d make me more obsessive, but I used to measure everything and it just got to be too much.

      I like the idea of taking walks rather than intense exercise! Now that it’s getting warmer, it’ll be really nice to just go on a walk every once in awhile and enjoy the outdoors.

  7. Having a small stomach is ok πŸ™‚ Actually, your stomach can stretch to fit a larger capacity if you eat big meals for about a week! And also, I also get anxious about eating foods when I don’t know “what’s in them”, but I’m getting better at it πŸ™‚ Good luck!

  8. I think this is beautiful, Ashley.
    None of us are perfect and there are always going to be things that are harder for us to deal with and overcome. But, I truly believe that being aware of what you struggle with is the first step in getting past them. I’m so proud of you for knowing that you might not always be exercising for the right reasons and that you’ve fallen into food traps over the years- we’ve all been there at some point!
    Your getting stronger and stronger every day (that’s clear through your posts!) and I know, if you stick with it, you’ll be free of these anxieties in no time!

    • Thank you so much for the reassurance! As much as I would never wish these issues on anyone, it really helps me to know that I’m not alone in my struggles and by finding support in the blogging world, I really can overcome them!

  9. “Great post!”, I thought, when I read it.
    But then I got to the last part and its sad to read on one side,but it kinda cracked me up,too.
    I love what u wrote here:

    ” […] I feel like I was pretty good about eating intuitively this weekend. I had everything from fancy vegan pizza, to nori wraps, to Larabars, to a vegan gluten-free cupcake, lots of guac and roasted veggies to protein smoothies. I ate pretty balanced everyday,[…]”

    HONESTLY?!!

    what on earth is inuitively on that?
    Didnt u just write that post to let us all know, that the blooging world needs to change its approach to food and orthorexia and eating clean and that eating inituively should be seen as what it relly is: eat what u crave ?!

    so your last sentences of this post are the COMPLETE opposite of that.
    Sure, u craved NORI-Wraps, not the real deal?!
    sure, u craved Larabars, not the suff theyre trying to copy with their flavours?
    and u never ever craved a gluten-free-cupcake since u are not intolerant to gluten and your body knows that,, so i bet u wanted a real cupcake.
    and what is so different between sippin protein smooties and eating veggies now “inituively” to ur usual intake?

    well, i am actually not the one to say stuff like this and I ABSOLUTELY HATE that my comment sounds so mean, but i am suffering from ed as well and i just want u to think about what i wrote.
    and your behaviour.
    thank u,
    Mary

    • Hi, thanks for your thoughts on this. I don’t want to come across as defensive, but I feel like I need to explain a few things that you brought up.

      Since I’ve started living a healthier lifestyle over the past few years, I’ve actually come to crave healthy foods and they’re just a part of my life now, and not something I “force” to fit in or be super healthy. Nori wraps are actually one of my favorite lunches at the moment because it’s fun to fill them with all kinds of stuff, and I love the taste of nori in general. I prefer Larabars to the actual desserts because they’re better as a snack option and I truly enjoy their flavors. I got the gluten-free cupcake because it was vegan, not because it was gluten-free (it just happened to be both) and I like being able to try out vegan desserts when I’m out because they can be hard to find. Even my non-vegan or GF family liked the cupcake, so I think that says something about its flavor aside from its health benefits.

      I can honestly say I don’t crave any of the typical foods people my age tend to enjoy. What I was trying to get across here is that sometimes I crave something like quinoa pasta that is healthy, but is still a scary thing for me to enjoy, and those are the times when I shouldn’t deny my craving but embrace it. I feel like I’ve become a lot more flexible with this–for instance, I bought a coconut flour bread made with egg whites because I wanted to try it, even though it wasn’t vegan–and I do recognize that I still struggle with this. So that’s what I was trying to say here.

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