Intuitiveness: Eating Until You’re Full vs. Eating Fully

So I have a secret…


It’s deep and dark, and oh so juicy…

Actually it’s more like deep and dark and oh so sticky…

The secret is…


I ate a cinnamon roll for breakfast.  A full cinnamon roll.  A full cinnamon roll slathered in a delicious but not too sweet cream cheese frosting.  A full cinnamon roll with an ooey-gooey cinnamon brown sugar syrup centre, and dough that is so fresh you can still smell the yeast faintly.  A full cinnamon roll that is so slightly heated to soften it, and that has faint wisps of steam coming from its centre.  A full cinnamon roll that was bigger than the palm of my hand.

My love affair with cinnamon rolls started young, and I have more fondness for some of the memories attached to cinnamon rolls than a lot of other things in my life.  Growing up I spent a large amount of time at my grandparents house, as both of my parents worked and one thing she was famous for were her cinnamon rolls.  I don’t know when I started helping her with her cinnamon rolls, but suffice it to say that I was young enough that to reach the top of the counter I had to be perched on a very high stool.

My Grandma was, and still is one of my best friends.  I have a love for her that I have for no one else in the whole world.  Those afternoons spent with her have shaped me into who I am, and gave me some of the best memories.  Whether it was playing rummy on the patio deck, or getting our hands dirty in the flowerbeds, or (more often than not) baking something wonderful in the kitchen… you name it, I have a grandma story for it.

So I started baking with her when I was really little.  I remember her rolling out the dough, and watching the strands of gluten snap gently as it was moulded into the perfect shape.  She’d take her hands, not a measuring cup, and toss on brown sugar, and shake on cinnamon.  Every time, it smelt the same.  Not too cinnamon-y, not too sugary, just right.



She’d start pressing the sugar gently into the dough, her on one side and me on the other.  I remember the feeling of it between my fingers, that soft pillowy tenderness, not yet sticky as it hadn’t been baked.  We’d meet in the centre of the dough and then look up at each other, and she’d smile.  Grandma always smiles with her eyes.


Her cinnamon rolls… you can’t duplicate them, and this is sheerly because there is no recipe.  The amount of vexation that I and various family members have experienced when trying to get a recipe out of her (98% of the time either the cinnamon buns, or her equally incredible pie crust) is a real issue.

“Grandma, how much flour do you put in?”


“How much sugar?”

“Just a bit.”

“What does that mean?!”

“I don’t know… until it feels right!


For us analytic, and quantitative types, this kind of logic, this innate sense of rightness is unbelievably frustrating.  Especially now, as she loses her sight, and we all know that both the amazing cinnamon rolls and the pie crust perfection are slowly disappearing from our grasp.  In a way, it almost feels like that’s how it should be.  A good baker never reveals her secrets- or if she does, she does it when the one she’s revealing it to is too young to remember numbers and figures.

Ooey-gooey goodness.  We’d make tons of cinnamon rolls, and we’d store them in the freezer.  Being a minister’s wife, there was always a church function to pull them out for. Plus you never knew when someone would pop in for a visit.  Or with ten children and their respective families, holidays were always an occasion requiring a cornucopia of cinnamon rolls… and cookies.

Grandma would make her cinnamon rolls, usually somewhere between 2 to 4 dozen and into the oven they’d go.  You could sit on the floor and watch them rise, and the whole house would cry with the delight of the aromas that filled the air.  But grandma and I had a special thing…

There was my little pan.  She always made sure there was a little pan of mini cinnamon rolls just for me.  It was a little blue and white bowl, with a pink bird on the inside and a stubborn crack running down it’s inner surface.  She’d take the ends of dough left over (or perhaps she just made sure she had some left over) and sprinkle them with cinnamon and make me my little bowl, a soup bowl, with four or five little cinnamon rolls in it.  It was our thing.

I loved my little cinnamon rolls, but I usually only had one of them.  That’s all I ever wanted.  The rest I’d share, usually with my Dad who has the biggest sweet tooth known to man.  And my little cinnamon rolls were the best, because they did not have near as much sugar on them, being the ends, and were just gooey cinnamon-y goodness.

My love of cinnamon rolls was cultivated by my grandmother, and I have nothing but positive memories of them.  They are quite possibly my favourite treat, if they’re done right.  Even with an eating disorder, while they might terrify me, I can only think of great things about them:

  1. Cinnamon.  You can never have too much cinnamon.  Not only does it taste great in almost everything (smoothies, overnight oats, oatmeal, cookies, chicken marinades (yes, really)…), but it has some wonderful benefits too, including aiding digestion and stabilizing blood sugar.
  2. Brown Sugar. Yes brown sugar.  Believe it or not, it has its place!  Sugar is what?  A carbohydrate.  That’s what it is.  And carbohydrates are your body’s main source of energy and are needed for your brain to function properly.  I’m not here to condemn food.
  3. Flour.  More carbohydrates!  More brain functioning!  And of course, you can’t negate the wonderfulness of biting into something doughy and gooey and chewy… without the flour that pleasure could not exist.
  4. Cream Cheese. Believe it or not, cream cheese is often fortified with vitamin A.  Yes, it’s high in fat, but fats help the permeability and rigidity of your cell membranes, and are important for many things not just an energy source, but also for proper nerve function.
  5. Butter.  More fats! More vitamin A!  Butter, though often condemned, actually has another benefit.  It contains butyric acid, which is a particular saturated fatty acid that really aids your intestinal cells to do their jobs.
  6. Deliciousness.  Enough said!

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why cinnamon rolls are wonderful.  Could I put all these facts on a scale?  Could I said, well yes, brown sugar is different from other sweeteners like honey, or maple syrup, or agave?  Could I go into the whole wheat versus  white flour debacle?  Of course I could.  But how is that helpful?  How is it helpful to make someone feel like they are committing a crime by enjoying something in its pure and original form?  How is it helpful to join the voices waging war on the “fat epidemic” by encouraging people to say goodbye to the things they truly enjoy and thereby encourage them to feel deprived and therefore probably eat more than their share of the same exact thing at a later time.  And once again cue the guilt, the shame, the fear, the dangerous and dissatisfying cycle.

Nope.  There are no rules.  Cinnamon rolls have their place, and that place is special.  It is something to be savoured and treasured, and kept solely for the cinnamon rolls.  And they’re something meant to be enjoyed, and enjoyed fully in their entirety.

So back to today. I ate a cinnamon roll for breakfast. A full cinnamon roll. A full cinnamon roll slathered in a delicious but not too sweet cream cheese frosting. A full cinnamon roll with an ooey-gooey cinnamon brown sugar syrup centre, and dough that is so fresh you can still smell the yeast faintly. A full cinnamon roll that is so slightly heated to soften it, and that has faint wisps of steam coming from its centre. A full cinnamon roll that was bigger than the palm of my hand.

These weren’t my Grandma’s cinnamon rolls, but the delicious factor was almost identical.  I took the time to stop at an amazing Dutch bakery and select four of their finest.  And this morning I woke up, and I knew that upstairs in the kitchen was a very special treat waiting for me.  I selected one out of the box and set it on a plate, popped it into the microwave to take the chill off, and waited ever-so-not-patiently for it to be ready.  I sat down at the table and looked out at the view, and took my first bite.

I died a little.

Let me mention that this was the first cinnamon roll I’d eaten in a very long time.  ED doesn’t give you a whole lot of cinnamon roll space in it’s daily schedule.  Suffice it to say, I was long overdue.

A second bite.

Every ounce of happiness.  Every wonderful memory of me and grandma making cinnamon rolls together in her kitchen came flooding back.  And for once, there was no room for ED to spoil it.

A third bite.

This is the point where I normally would start to question things.  How many times have you heard the phrase, eat intuitively?  Eat slowly and in tune with your body?  Listen to your body and honour what it tells you, what it wants, and more importantly separate what it wants from what it needs?

This is a fine line, especially for those with an eating disorder.  It can be incredibly difficult to decipher what your body is telling you from what ED is telling you.  Especially in the beginning of recovery, hunger and fullness cues are not reliable.  Even, take yesterday for example, if I listened solely to my fullness cues, my fullness cues would have told me that I was “finished”, and that I had eaten until I was “full” after only one bite.  One bite!  Logical?  Not so much…

This begs the question:  What is more important- eating until you are “full” versus “eating fully”?

In a world where there is a constant “war on fat”, we are encouraged often to eat only until we are “full”, until we feel that physical sensation of “fullness”.  This is so important because obviously if we eat a few bites too many we will balloon up and our bodies don’t know how to handle it, and automatically everything extra is stored as that muffin top over your jeans and the cellulite on your thighs, right?  Because our bodies are that stupid that they can’t possibly figure out what to do with that ounce of extra cream cheese, right?

I’m not condemning eating intuitively either, don’t misunderstand me.  But I am talking about how even a concept so healthful and balanced such as intuitive eating has been taken to extremes.  Our fat-phobic society has turned eating until you are “full” into an overanalyzed rationale that is lead not by how your body feels but rather by your fear.  Your fear of a cinnamon roll, of a cookie, of an extra bite of lasagna…

This is not intuitiveness.

The definition of intuitiveness, as according to is:

                  “Perceiving directly by intuition, without rational thought, as a person or the mind.”

In my opinion, if we are truly to practice intuitive eating, we cannot do it if the place from which we approach it is one of fear.  When we are so hyperaware of the physical sensation of “fullness” that we look for it, almost pray for it to come faster and faster because we are scared of overeating, we are already placing judgement on that sensation.  We already have a preconceived notion of when that feeling “should” come, and are scared both to feel it, and to not feel it.

Did you notice that while you were waiting for the feeling of “fullness” you were doing nothing but thinking about it?  We can’t be intuitive when all we do is think about it!  That goes directly against the definition of intuition (without rational thought!).

So once again I ask, what is more important:  eating until you’re “full”, or eating “fully”?

I ate a full cinnamon bun today.  I felt physically “full” after one bite.  Did I do it wrong?

There really are two states of “fullness”:

  1. Physical fullness- you can feel it.  You’re physically satisfied.  That food is sitting in your stomach, and your stomach is no longer telling you you need to keep eating.
  2. Satisfaction- You feel both physically full, AND you are no longer eying that cinnamon roll and thinking about how you’d like just a couple more bites.

This second state is the tricky one, only because we overanalyze it.  We condemn it.  We look at ourselves as gluttons just for achieving it, because we went those (literally) two bites past physically satisfied.  This is not turkey dinner.  This is not physically uncomfortable.  This is still within the realms of comfortably full, but you’re also mentally satisfied.  There’s a difference.

If you don’t reach this state of satisfaction, if you stop at simply physically full, chances are you will be thinking about those two or three bites you wanted.  You will think about how you weren’t quite satisfied, and on some level, you feel that sense of deprivation.  With anorexia, this deprivation will give you an unparalleled high, and a sense of strength and resilience.  You’re not a hero… don’t listen to it.

As soon as that dissatisfaction sets in…that sense of deprivation sets in, your chances of overeating later to compensate for it skyrocket.  Because no one likes to feel deprived, and you just want to fill that void that you could have so easily filled with only two bites more.

And trust me, your body knows what to do with those two bites, and chances are it doesn’t involve a muffin top.

So what’s more important?  Eating to you’re “full” or eating “fully”?

They have their place, both of them, and they work hand in hand.  In my mind, eat until you’re physically “full”, but eat until you’re also mentally “satisfied”.  Eat the whole cinnamon roll, or don’t eat the whole cinnamon roll.  Honour yourself, don’t judge yourself.  Eat fully.

Eat salads, and eat cookies.  Eat cinnamon rolls, and eat oatmeal.  Nothing is good, nothing is bad.  Eat fully.

Eat what you want, when you want it.  Don’t deprive yourself. Eat what you want, until you’re full, and until you’re satisfied.  Honour yourself, and by doing so you don’t need to worry about unbuttoning your pants (unless it’s thanksgiving!).  Eat until full, and eat fully.


6 thoughts on “Intuitiveness: Eating Until You’re Full vs. Eating Fully

  1. I’ve just started this intuitive eating journey. It is terrifying. I love how you write, and that you share so openly and honestly. Thank you! Hunger and fullness cues are so difficult to determine. It took a while for me to even realize I had hunger cues, but they came, and now I wait until I’m almost ravishing. But perhaps it’s still progress, because at least now I hear them. But to eat until I’m full is still danger-zone in my brain. I have hope though.

    Also, cinnamon rolls are in my top favorite foods as well – I haven’t had one in quite some time. You make a compelling argument.


    1. That’s awesome that you’re starting to be able to listen to your body! Sometimes we have to swing from one extreme to the other before we can know what the in between is. It’s a tricky line, but with a little grace and self-compassion, I hope we all can learn to walk it.


  2. 🙂 that was an absolute joy to read! Never mind I’m starving now and want to be adopted by your grandmother! I love cinamon rolls:-). You made me drool. Ahhhh. I say life is short. Eat until you’re so full even looking at another cinamon roll would make you feel ill. :-):-):-). If not one will just keep coming longingly back to the kitchen to inhale the scent. Beautiful post.


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