Welcome back to another installment of the Intuitive Eating (IE) principles summarized. Today we will be reviewing Principle 6, “Discover the Satisfaction Factor”. We often take for granted something so important that food can provide to us besides energy: pleasure. Finding satisfaction and enjoyment in eating is not a negative aspect, however in our mad dash for health and weight loss, we all too often forget this piece of life. Think about how often you see eating as a pleasurable time versus something that may promote guilt, shame or simply eating for “health or wellness”. Remember, food is more than just micro and macronutrients; it can and should provide delight and contentment.
Eating what you really want in a pleasant environment is a great recipe for a satisfactory eating experience. So first, you must identify what you are craving or what sounds good in the moment. Working on the beginning principles of IE can help with this as you need to give yourself unconditional permission to consume what you are craving. The basis of a diet after all is to be told what to eat, never to ask yourself what you want to eat. Depending on how long you have spent dieting reclaiming your right to enjoy eating may be a significant commitment, but trust that it will be a worthy commitment.
Think of what flavors, textures, aromas, etc sound pleasing to you in the moment. If you desire a sandwich from a local deli, but you get a salad instead, this will not equal satisfaction. Likewise, if you do order the sandwich, but internally the Food Police voice is all too loud, this drowns out satisfaction. Additionally, honoring your hunger when you are moderately hungry versus not hungry at all or famished bolsters the satisfaction of the entire meal. And yes, trying to make your environment as enjoyable as possible plays into satisfaction too.
Try to actually stop during your next meal and focus on the experience of eating - be more mindful. Distracted eating or eating on autopilot removes the chance to savor and enjoy your food, thus removing a big piece of satisfaction. Allot time for the meal - time to sit down and appreciate the food. It does not have to be a long time, but more than two minutes as you rush out the door in the morning can make a difference. If you have the opportunity to actually sit down at a table, take this chance as well. Eating while walking, driving, on the phone etc. can minimize satisfaction. Utilize your five senses during a meal!
Giving yourself time for a “time out” after a few beginning bites is also helpful. Is the food as good as you had hoped? Is the temperature correct? If the eating experience falls short of your expectations, but you continue to eat you will most likely be unsatisfied even if you clear your plate. This can cause you to continue to look for food later to satisfy you and can cause a chaotic feeling of “why am I looking for something to eat when I just had a meal?”. Again, unconditional permission to eat allows you to decide that maybe the restaurant dessert everyone raved about is not as tasty as you hoped and it is OK to stop midway through because you can have dessert or any food you’d like at any time.
As touched on before, Intuitive Eating is not a diet and thus if you do not perfect these principles it is OK. Each eating experience will not be perfect. There will be times that what you truly want is not feasible. Perhaps you are stopping at a drive-thru on a road trip and nothing sounds too crave-worthy in the moment, but you know you need to decide on some sort of sustenance as you will be on the road for the next 8 hours. Going along with the nuances of IE and satisfactory eating in these moments is crucial. Overall, most of your eating experiences will be more satisfactory and enjoyable than the years of dieting you may have endured.