Finding Satisfaction with Your Food

I wanted the cookie and so I ate the cookie, and it was delicious.

About a year ago I presented this topic about finding satisfaction with your food, and the preparation for it was life changing! I repeat: LIFE CHANGING! The information  was pulled from the book, “Intuitive Eating” found here.  Basically this book is the foundation many Registered Dietitian Nutritionists(RDNs) use as a guideline to help break the spell of yo-yo dieting and eating disorders (just wait for it, my post and beliefs about intuitive eating will come soon). Just know this though, this book is gold. Of course, there always comes with a few exceptions because we are all built differently and have different emotional and mental needs, but for the most part my beliefs about health and wellness are built on these principles. One concept of intuitive eating is the satisfaction factor.

So, what is it about satisfaction that is so powerful?  Well, Abraham Maslow teaches that

“we are driven by our unmet needs”

We want what we can’t have and will do whatever it takes to calm down the deprivation that arises when our needs/wants are not satisfied.  In a sense, if we are not satisfied, we are not happy.

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(This picture is a screenshot of the one of the pages in the powerpoint I gave on this topic)

So what is satisfying? To be satisfying a meal includes foods that you enjoy and that “hit the spot.” To provide you with more insight I have a story for you. Once upon a time there was a girl who was craving Cold Stone ice cream(370 cals).  But, instead she though ice cream was bad so instead she ate some yogurt with granola (200cals).  After that she still wasn’t satisfied so she ate 1/2 of an apple with peanut butter (250cals).  Same story again….cravings right?  At this point the girl says “heck with it” and buys herself the wanted Cold Stone ice cream and (of course) eats it all.  But, afterwards she feels awful because she is uncomfortably full, upset, and feeling guilty that she ate so much.

We have all been here before, right?  If not, I am so happy to hear it! But,  I know that I have been that girl before with those same feelings. Luckily, i’ve learned how to recognize what my body wants and prevent this from happening.  Let’s go back to the story and think about it for a second.  What if she would have just ate the Cold Stone ice cream in the first place?  Not only would she have enjoyed it so much more, but she would have saved herself 450 calories.  The key is enjoying your food.  Eating a salad when you want a steak will not lead to satisfaction.

So, how do we become truly satisfied after a meal or snack?

  1. Ask yourself what you really want to eat. Identify where your food choices are coming from.  Notice what you are in the mood for and aim for balance and variety while honoring your cravings.
  2. Find out which sensory qualities you are craving. Think about the taste of the food, the texture, aroma, appearance, temperature, volume or filling capacity. If it is cold outside, a warm bowl of soup might fit the bill. If it is hot outside, a popsicle or something light may be just what you need! Allow yourself to explore the options available and try to have fun with it.
  3. Don’t be afraid to enjoy your food! Letting yourself enjoy food will actually result in self-limiting rather than out-of-control eating.  Sit down at the table and have a set time for eating. Try to avoid distractions while eating so you can be more mindful. Eating on the run or with distractions will take you away from being able to tune in with your body’s internal cues for hunger and satiety, and will typically lead to eating more food than you would have. Allow yourself to savor the foods you enjoy. many previously avoided foods again.
  4. Check in: Does it still taste good?  Food will taste the best when you are mildly hungry. Check in with yourself throughout the meal or snack and ask yourself if the food still tastes as good as when you started eating. If it doesn’t you have probably reached what the authors of Intuitive Eating call the “last-bite threshold.” Remember you can always go back for more later, start off with less at first.
  5. Recognize that there is wisdom in pleasure.  Interestingly enough, the Japanese promote pleasure as one of their goals of healthy eating.  One of their dietary guidelines for health promotion states, “make all activities pertaining to food and eating pleasurable ones.” COOL.

If you are working towards building a better relationship with food, consider trying these steps for at least one meal or snack a day until it becomes a habit. You may find this practice to be just what you needed to gain more pleasure from eating and to stray away from the cycle of strict restriction and binging like in the story.  

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*The information and foundation for this blogpost come from the book Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch.

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