Principle #5 in Intuitive Eating: Discovering the Satisfaction Principle
“The Japanese have the wisdom to keep pleasure as one of their goals of healthy living. In our compulsion to comply with diet culture, we often overlook one of the most basic gifts of existence—the pleasure and satisfaction that can be found in the eating experience. When you eat what you really want, in an environment that is inviting, the pleasure you derive will be a powerful force in helping you feel satisfied and content. By providing this experience for yourself, you will find that it takes just the right amount of food for you to decide you’ve had “enough.”
Think back to the last time you followed a diet or a trend, did you choose what to eat based on truly what you wanted in that moment?
What you were in the mood for? Something that was delicious? Or did you eat something that you “should”? Something based off a plan? Something maybe less flavorful or fun because it was the “healthier” option? We’ve all been there. But depriving ourselves from what we really want only causes unmet needs. And when our needs aren’t met, we will do whatever it takes to then get those needs met. So when we restrict our favorite foods? Ultimately we will give in and eat them with such powerful vengeance afterwards.
There’s also an underlying theme that finding pleasure in eating is “sinful” or bad. People feel guilty for enjoying food. But pleasure is what keeps us content and satisfied after our meals. If you regularly choose an unsatisfying food or an unappetizing eating experience, you’ll likely continue searching for that “pleasure”. We see this time and time again – have you ever felt physically full after a meal, but not satisfied, only to scour the pantries for something more? The absence of that satisfaction factor often has you wishing for more.
Satisfaction is really the hub of Intuitive Eating. In intuitive eating, we bring back pleasure in our eating experiences. Food doesn’t have to be bland, rigid, or boring! When we think about intuitive eating as a whole, there really is a theme of bringing back satisfaction in every aspect – in your movement, in your eating environment, in your actual food, your emotions, and so much more. Is it really pleasurable to kill yourself on the treadmill, and miss out on social events because you’re dieting? Heck no!
So, how can we bring pleasure and satisfaction back in?
- Food is not the enemy. Eat what you actually want and desire. Let yourself enjoy it without guilt. Ask yourself what you actually want to eat. If you really want a steak, but order a salad, you simply won’t be satisfied. You can still practice gentle nutrition – maybe you get a steak and salad for balance!
- Work on honoring your hunger and eating when you’re moderately hungry, rather than starving. Your eating experience will be much more enjoyable! Food also tastes better when we’re hungry, so eating foods when we’re truly hungry helps us get the most pleasure out of them, versus eating something out of obligation or emotions. Explore what hunger level results in the most satisfying eating experience for you.
- Instead of thinking in terms of calories, healthy vs. unhealthy, good vs. bad, focus on the taste qualities of food: savory, sweet, bitter, sour, salty, smoky, tart, bland. What do you like? What are you in the mood for?
- Think about the texture qualities of food: rough, soft, chewy, sticky, smooth, chunky, liquid, moist, fluffy.
- Think about the temperature of food – what sounds satisfying to you in this moment? Something warm and hot? Comforting and dense? Or something cool, light, and airy? Asking yourself these questions can help you tune into what is going to be satisfying to you.
- Think about the volume or filling capacity of your food – some days you may feel satisfied off a bigger meal – maybe more volume, more dense foods, more protein or fats. And some days you may feel satisfied off something that’s lighter, more airy, less filling. Since our hunger levels vary day to day, what is going to satisfy us is going to vary day to day. This is why having only one “go-to” snack doesn’t work, because some days it just isn’t going to cut it or keep you satisfied, but some days it may.
- Practice eating mindfully. There are tons of free youtube videos or meditations to help you practice this. I love doing these in session with my clients. Mindful eating is all about slowing down, savoring your food, using all your senses, and viewing it with curiosity, rather than judgement.
- Eat without distractions. When we eat while watching the TV or scrolling through our phone, we aren’t going to be connected to our body or paying attention to how the food tastes. Have you ever been eating in front of the TV, only to realize the food is gone and you don’t remember eating it? That’s an example of mindless eating. We want to get pleasure out of our eating to feel content, or else we’ll be reaching for more food.
- Eat in a peaceful environment when possible. Which sounds better: eating in a rushed state in the car on the go, or eating at the table with some light music playing? I choose the latter. If our eating environments are peaceful and pleasurable, we’re going to have a better eating experience and be able to eat more mindfully and find that satisfaction. I know in our busy lifestyles this isn’t always possible, but try to maybe at least eat dinner every night at the table, or actually take a real lunch break at work instead of eating while typing away. It does make a big difference!
And as the authors of Intuitive Eating state, “remember the 3 S‘s of satisfying eating: eat slowly, eat sensually, and savor every bite.”
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