Signs of Hunger and Fullness

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Learn to recognize the signs of hunger and fullness so you can control your eating. Often, hungry people eat more food than they require because they overestimate what their body needs to feel satisfied. For each meal, determine a healthy portion size that will help you achieve your fitness goals. Curb your hunger pangs by drinking plenty of water before and during the meal. Eat slowly so your body has time to recognize it has received nourishment.

Signs of Hunger

The physical signs of hunger include stomach contractions, gnawing, pains and aches. Your hands and feet may feel colder than the room you’re in. You also might feel tired, lightheaded, weak and empty. Psychologically, you might crave foods, have difficulty concentrating, and feel anxious and stressed out.

Signs of Fullness

When your hunger is satisfied, you might feel a sense of peace or control, as well as a loss of interest in eating. If you keep eating, after satiety comes fullness, which can be uncomfortable. For example, your stomach might hurt and feel bloated, and you might feel lethargic. Your goal should be to eat just enough to achieve fullness. Toward the beginning of a new diet regimen, you might not feel full because your body is used to you overeating. During this difficult period, force yourself to eat no more than a healthy-sized portion. Over time, your body will get used to eating a normal amount and you will achieve fullness with less food.

Expert Insight

Clinical psychologists and therapists often help patients with eating problems analyze their level of satiety. Patients who tend to undereat -- for example, those with anorexia -- must pay more attention to the signs of hunger and learn to recognize those signs as the body calling for nourishment. Patients who tend to overeat must pay more attention to signs of fullness so they know when to stop eating.


Babies can’t tell you how they feel, but some physical signs can help you determine if they are hungry or full. Hunger signs include opening and closing the mouth, sucking on hands, toes or other nearby items -- and smacking or licking lips. Signs of fullness include falling asleep and detaching from the breast or bottle. Over time, as you get familiar with your baby’s personality, you will learn to read her particular actions and cries to determine if she is hungry or full.