How many times have you stuffed yourself because “it’s included”? The buffet, Brazilian steakhouse, “all you can eat ANYTHING”, free bread basket, free chips and salsa and the “free” dessert included with dinner?? I have. I just DID. Waddling out of Tuscanos with the giant salad-pasta-sushi-lobster-bisque-kill-me-now bar, unlimited refills on the best Brazilian lemonade you’ll ever have and cute 20 year old waiters popping by with a sizzling skewer of something new every 5 minutes. I could’ve stopped at the giant plate of salad I made twice as big as my stomach. I could’ve stopped after the first jar of lime aid. I could’ve stopped after the salmon or coconut fish or spiced sausage or pineapple chicken. I was FULL. One more bite here, one more bite there, one more limeade just to try out the mango flavor because....well you know...it’s included! Yep, it’s included. My brain wants to get my money's worth and I’m suddenly 16 years old again with my $1.00 lunch budget stuffing as many 7-11 nachos in the little paper tray as humanly possible. I could’ve won an architectural AWARD for that thing once the cheese was applied. And SO....we keep eating. And we get our money’s worth and feel like a temporary king. Until we stand up. And start walking. And we realize what ELSE is included! Hobbling to the car with my stomach so stretched it HURTS. A tight, bloated, miserable night and wanting nothing more but to crawl in bed and make it go away. THAT’S what else is included. You can’t pick up one end of the stick without picking up the other end boo. Bummer, I know. BUT. After feeling sorry for myself, then mad at myself, I decided to get out of the shame/blame cycle and figure out how a nice date night turned into a miserable end. And here’s what I’ve learned: The next time my belly tries to tell me she’s had enough by those first few whispering to STOP ALREADY.... I’m going to do us both a favor and LISTEN. I’ll remind my brain the sun will rise, there WILL be food tomorrow, I’m not on death row and it’s not my last supper. And who knows? I may even have energy left to end the date night snuggling with my husband instead of pillsbury dough-boying it into bed and farting. Because the point isn’t to never go out to eat and enjoy it....the point is to stop while you STILL enjoy it! Enjoying your food does NOT have to come at the expense of enjoying your body. The secret is to listen. LISTEN! Your belly will actually tell you when your body has had enough and when to stop eating. She will. It’s kind of an amazing concept we forget after infancy. Have you noticed how babies stop eating when they’re full? They turn their heads and won’t nurse or take another spoonful of pureed green beans. (It’s kind of amazing they take any spoonfuls of that but thankfully they do.) They just quit eating. Their little belly is full and they stop. Our bodies were designed to do this. If we actually tune in and listen to our belly, it will tell us when to eat. We’ll have twinges of physical hunger that get stronger until we feed ourselves. Our body will tell us when to stop eating. Our belly will feel satiated. No longer hollow or empty or physically hungry. Did you catch that key word? Physically hungry. Because for sure we’re still going to be emotionally hungry if the food tastes good. Add sugar, salt and fat and we’re going to be reaaally emotionally hungry! This is why processed food and fast food corporations hire scientists to engineer these ingredients into their food in the right amounts so we’ll crave and want more of it. It works! But being willing to shift out of your mouth and taste buds and dopamine-lit-up brain, and actually listen to what your belly is telling you…is where all power lies. When you pay attention to your belly and how full she really is, and let HER tell you when to stop…she will. Every time. Full isn’t feeling tight and stretched and bloated like I was. Many of us associate the word “full” with “stuffed”. Not so! “Full” means… I’m no longer hungry. I feel energized and satiated. My belly still feels comfortable. Anything past that is emotional eating. It’s eating past the point of fullness. Like many of us do at most of our meals! You’ll know when you’ve past that point because your belly will tell you. The problem is, most of us don’t check in with her and listen. We just keep eating until we can’t ignore the uncomfortable sensations anymore. By this time, our belly is stretched because we’ve over eaten. And it’s okay to do this sometimes. We all do! We’re humans. But if it’s causing you to gain weight or not like the way you feel or ruin a perfectly good date night like I did…then it’s good to know you’ve got a choice. The solution for overeating is simple. You check in with your belly during the meal and pay attention. Be willing to listen to her when she says you’re done. That’s it. Feel gratitude for what you had and tell yourself you’ve had enough. Then move on with enjoying your day or your date in other ways besides food! That was my lesson from my buffet fail. And when we choose to learn from our failures, they aren’t really failures at all. They become our best teachers.