Why don’t I feel full after eating?


Food isn’t created equal, you probably intuitively understand that there are some foods that are more nutritious and satisfying than others. How full you feel after eating can vary because of so many different reasons. Some of these reasons include the quality of food you are choosing and the level of emotional fulfilment certain meals give you.

Determining food quality  

The quality of food can be measured in many different ways, for example the glycaemic index of carbohydrate food. The glycaemic index has been used to measure the speed in which a carbohydrate containing meal or food ingredient digests. The glycaemic index is mainly influenced by the amount and type of fibre that can been found in carbohydrate food as well as by the amount of protein or fat the food or meal contains. The lower the glycaemic index score, the likely you are to feel satisfied or full after a meal.

Similarly, research has shown that meals containing protein tend to make you feel fuller for longer. Leaving you feeling more satisfied after eating.

The level of satiety felt after eating certain foods types can have an effect on how much a person eats in subsequent meals.  In a 1995 study, researchers took a bunch of people and fed them different types of food in standard 1000kj portions. They were then asked to score how satisfied they felt. After a 2hr fasting period, researchers invited participants to eat as much as they wanted from a food buffet as they measured how much food they ate.

It turns out that certain foods create different levels of satisfaction. Foods with the highest satiety score included: crackers, popcorn, ling fish, Beef steak, baked beans, eggs, cheese, lentils, porridge, white pasta, white rice, wholemeal bread, brown pasta, potatoes, bananas, grapes, apples, oranges. The highest satisfaction rank was observed from eating potatoes, followed by porridge (Holt, 1995).

Notice that the foods that contain the highest satisfaction scores are those highest in fibre and protein. So if you currently don’t feel satisfied after a meal, you may need to adjust what you’re eating.

Get your meal right by including the following quality food ingredients to your dinner plate:

Low GI or high fibre carbohydrate: This could include: basmati rice, potato and sweet potato, legumes, fruit, pasta, multigrain bread.

Lean protein: The best types of protein based foods to add to a meal are; chicken, meat, pork, fish, eggs or vegetarian alternatives like legumes or tofu.

Vegetables: Add at least 2-3 cups of salad or vegetables to your meals. Vegetables contain fibre as well as a wide range of nutrients that will keep your body running like clockwork.

Healthful fats: There is no need to be fat phobic. A small amount of healthy fats is needed in the diet for health. My favourites are olive oil, nuts and seeds and avocado.

Tacking emotional eating: There may be one more reason why you don’t feel full after eating, it’s because you aren’t actually physically hungry for food, you’re emotionally hungry. It’s very difficult for some people to recognise the difference between physical hunger and emotions such as anxiety and loneliness.

What is physical hunger?

Physical hunger is the biological drive to eat. It’s a physical feeling like a tummy rumbling, stomach feeling like its twisting in knots, feeling shaky, light headed or empty.

What is emotional hunger?

Emotional hunger is the desire to eat when you aren’t physically hungry. Typically, it occurs when you are feeling down, angry, frustrated, lonely or anxious, and you use food as a pick-me-up.

For the emotional eaters, out there you’ve already figured out that food has the ability to give you emotional fulfilment sometimes. However, if you find yourself emotional eating frequently it can be a double-edged sword. On one hand, emotional eating gives you a sense of relief, from emotions and a temporary coping strategy. On the flip side however, it can leave you feeling guilty about how much and what you ate, and leaves you with a sense of being “out of control” with your eating.

Often emotional eating is viewed as a shameful practice and something that most people will not admit to, but you’ll be surprised how many people do it. Please note there is nothing shameful about emotional eating. This coping strategy is often learnt and it can be unlearnt.

The reason why emotional eating is so common, is because it’s a learnt thing from when we are very young. Humans have used food as a reward when bad things happen and sometimes this becomes the only coping strategy we know. When our parents take us to the doctor to have a needle, if we behave ourselves, we get a lollypop. Food rewards are built into us before we are ready to walk. You emotionally eat because of the learnt memory that food equates to enjoyable, satisfying experiences.

If you recognise you are an emotional eater, look at other feel good coping strategies you can adopt. For example, when you feel down, phone a friend. When you are feeling anxious go for a walk. It does help to have professional help with this if you are struggling to make change you may find it useful to seek assistance from a psychologist to work through this.


Holt, S. B. M., JC; Petocz, P; Farmakalidis, E; . (1995). A Satiety index of common foods. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 49, 675-690.


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