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What Does It Mean if You Don't Feel Full After a Meal?

author image Rachel Nall
Rachel Nall began writing in 2003. She is a former managing editor for custom health publications, including physician journals. She has written for The Associated Press and "Jezebel," "Charleston," "Chatter" and "Reach" magazines. Nall is currently pursuing her Bachelor of Science in Nursing at the University of Tennessee.
What Does It Mean if You Don't Feel Full After a Meal?
Portrait of young woman eating a healthy meal. Photo Credit: George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images

Eating is meant to satisfy your appetite and your taste buds, but when you don’t feel full after a meal, this can lead you to either eat more or feel unsatisfied with your meal. If you’re trying to keep your weight under control, a failure to feel full can be cause for concern. Feeling satisfied after a meal is a complicated process that involves hormones and your brain. Understanding how feelings of fullness are triggered can help you determine why you don’t feel full after a meal.

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Hormones and the Brain

Your stomach has receptors that send messages to your brain to tell it when you are full. Just as it takes a few rings to reach someone on the telephone, the messages between your stomach and brain aren’t instantaneous. Your stomach needs anywhere from 10 to 45 minutes to release the hormone cholecystokinin, which signals your brain that you are full, according to an article in the online "Ladies' Home Journal." If you are eating too quickly, your hormones may not be signaling that you are full.

Mindful Eating

Feeling full after eating a meal can be equal parts physical, such as your stomach stretching because it’s full, and mental. The mental part comes from the satisfaction associated with eating a meal. Your taste buds and your sense of smell can play a role in helping you feel full after a meal. If you have eaten very quickly, there’s a chance you may not feel as full as if you had slowly savored each bite. This is called mindful eating, in which enjoyment of food leads to increased feelings of satiety, according to Professor Kathleen J. Melanson, a registered dietitian quoted in "Ladies' Home Journal."

Energy Density

Volume and number of calories can affect your feeling of fullness. Eat foods that are low-energy dense, which means they are low in calories, as well as high in bulk. This means that you can eat a larger volume of food without consuming too many calories. When you eat low-calorie foods, you are able to eat more of them, which can stretch your stomach and activate the hormone receptors that trigger feelings of fullness. Think of it this way: Eating two chocolate chip cookies is equivalent to eating a full bowl of green salad with tomatoes, cucumbers and low-calorie dressing. The cookies and the salad may have comparable calorie counts, but the salad is more likely to leave you feeling full. If you do not feel full after eating, consider switching to foods that have a low-calorie density.

Leptin Resistance

For some, eating slowly and mindfully isn’t enough to create a feeling of fullness after a meal. This is because their bodies do not properly use the hormone leptin, which is associated with feelings of fullness and pleasure after eating, according to Harvard Health Publications. Normally, leptin interacts with your brain after a meal, and your brain sends a signal to stop eating. If you experience leptin resistance, your body may not accurately interpret the signals for feelings of fullness. As a result, you may not feel full after you have finished eating. Speak with your doctor if you are unsure whether your body is using leptin or digestion-related hormones properly.

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