Most people think of smug as meaning conceited, self-adulating, and feeling superior to others, but that is not the original meaning of the word. Smug meant that you were satisfied not with yourself but within yourself. It meant that you didn’t need anything; that you were content and comfortable.

“Do you want some more?”

“Nope. I’m smug.”

And I will tell you that smug is more than a word. Smug refers to a distinct physiological sensation. It’s the feeling that you’ve had enough to eat. And, it doesn’t come from being physically full, from feeling that you don’t have a bit of room left in your stomach for any more food. The feeling of smugness comes before fullness, and it is more subtle than fullness.

So, what is the feeling of smugness? It’s partly related to the capacity of the stomach, where you feel you’ve done enough filling, but it’s not that you couldn't eat another bite. It’s more that you know you don’t need to eat another bite.

So, the feeling of smugness is more about realizing that you are sated, that you don’t need any more satisfaction from eating, at this time, because you are already satisfied.

But, as I said, smugness is more subtle than fullness, and if you haven’t paid attention to it for a long time, it may be off your physiological and psychological radar. In other words, you are used to blowing past smugness and continuing to eat all the way to fullness, and fullness is the only inhibiting sensation you experience when it comes to eating.

And that is a bad thing, first, because it involves over-eating, and we know that reducing calories is the most proven and effective life extension technique. But secondly, it taxes the stomach because if you eat until you’re full, where you are literally stuffed, your body has to add digestive secretions to the contents, so a half-hour to an hour later, you may be really uncomfortable. And if you do it chronically, you could wind up with chronic digestive problems and start supporting gastroenterologists, who are a very wily group of doctors, in my opinion. I have no appreciation for their remedies.

So, eating less and stopping when you get to smugness is the best thing you can do for your stomach and digestive system.  

But, what should you do if you just don’t feel connected to the feeling of smugness? Well, you should try to get it back, and here’s what I recommend.

First, learn to eat slowly. Eating fast almost guarantees that you are going to blow past smugness and not even notice it.

Second, ignore the amount of food on your plate. I come from a family in which it was considered a sin not to clean your plate. I don’t know how many times, as a boy, that I was reminded about the starving Armenians, but it was a lot. We were expected to clean our plate. But, that is a false virtue if there ever was one, and whether you do it or not will not have any effect on the Armenians.

Third, consciously think about your relation to the food and your perspective about it. How strong really is the impulse to put that next bite of food in your mouth? Are you just doing it because it’s there? Or are you just doing it because other people at the table are still eating? There is a distinct feeling of knowing that you don’t need to take that extra bite, that you’re good without it. That’s smugness, and that’s when you put your fork down.

Fourth, really make it a personal ambition. Have the mindset at the start of the meal that you are going to try very hard to eat to smugness and then stop, regardless of whether you feel physically full and regardless of anything else. And let me tell you: you’ll feel good about yourself the times that you do it. And I’m saying that as someone who comes from a long line of over-eaters. They used to say, when I was young, that there is no way the All-You-Can-Eat Buffet could make a profit on us- or even break even.

So, I admit that I wrestle with it too, but I know it’s good for my digestive health and my overall health, and even my longevity if I get in touch with my smugness and heed it. 

So, forget about the common usage of the word and realize that: it’s good to be smug.