I am so glad that this is the Intuitive Eating principle that we are discussing right before Christmas. This is just what I would like to focus on during the holidays; being satisfied and truly enjoying my food!
Before I go any further, welcome to Intuitive Tuesday. This is a little series on my blog where I talk all things living intuitively. Right now I am focusing on the Intuitive Eating principles as discussed in the book Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch. To read about the other principles, you can click the links below. Also, if this is something that interests you, I highly recommend reading the book!
Principle 1: Reject the Diet Mentality
Principle 2: Honor Your Hunger
Principle 3: Make Peace with Food
Principle 4: Challenge the Food Police
Principle 5: Feel your Fullness
Have you ever found yourself with an intense craving for something “bad” that you thought you shouldn’t be eating. For example, maybe you craved a big bowl of mint chocolate chip ice cream, but you didn’t let yourself eat it. Maybe this food didn’t line up with your diet, maybe you thought it was too “unhealthy” or that it would make you fat. Maybe you didn’t allow yourself to eat this food because you were afraid that once you start eating it, you just wouldn’t stop and you would get completely out of control and turn into the ice cream monster.
Yah, I have been there. I have not allowed myself to eat a certain food because of all of those reasons. To satisfy my craving, I would turn to whatever else I could find in the house that was healthier, but that slightly resembled my craving. Instead of ice cream I would have a bowl of plain greek yogurt, with artificial sweetener and peppermint extract. When that didn’t work, I would find something healthy, like a smoothie that I could cover in cocoa powder. Next up would be my husband’s cereal, maybe toast with honey, a handful of raisins or dates. Anything I could find that would satisfy that sweet craving! You know what? Nothing worked. At the end of my kitchen rampage, I would still be craving that same bowl of mint chocolate chip ice cream. Just now I would have a full tummy and not feel so great. I am sure I had eaten like 5 times the calories I would have had in a bowl of ice cream if I had allowed myself to eat it in the first place.
Okay, let’s try another scenario. Have you ever sat down to eat an incredibly delicious meal or snack, and turned on the TV, or grabbed your cell phone to scroll through social media as you were eating, only to look up and discover that your food is pretty much gone. You inhaled the food without even paying attention to the fact that you were eating it. Maybe you have gone to a movie, ordered a bag of popcorn, or your favorite candy, ate the whole thing without realizing it, and then wanted more. I love reading and eating. I also love being on my phone while eating. It is the ultimate escape. Food + distraction = pure bliss … until my food is gone and I don’t even remember eating it. Then I want more of the same food so that I can actually experience it, but then turn back to my distraction to eat, and the cycle just repeats itself.
Discovering that satisfaction factor while we are eating is about eating what we want, when we want it. If you want a bowl of comforting pasta, but you order a salad, you aren’t going to feel completely satisfied after eating that salad. If you want a salad, but order steak and potatoes, that steak is most likely going to sit too heavy in your stomach and you aren’t going to feel that great.
The satisfaction factor is also about taking the time to really enjoy what we are eating. The theory is that if you are truly satisfied, you will eat less later. With cravings fulfilled, you won’t have to keep going back for more food to fill that void. I think this is the perfect principle to focus on over the holidays. I want to enjoy my favorite holiday foods without having to eat huge servings. I also want to eat what my body is craving, not what I feel like I should eat. I don’t want to feel obligated to have a huge serving of my grandma’s homemade casserole, when what I really want is stuffing.
Intuitive Eating offers five steps (pp 136-145) to help you have a more pleasurable and satisfying eating experience. I know that I am going to want to keep these handy during this holiday season!
Step 1: Ask yourself what you really want to eat
Pretty self explanatory. Make sure that you are giving yourself unconditional permission to eat what it is that you want. Limiting certain foods, or restricting them, can trigger overeating and feelings of guilt, which leads to (you guessed it) overeating. I challenge you to eat only the foods that you really want this holiday season. If you take something and then decide you don’t want it, leave it on your plate!
Step 2: Discover the pleasure of the palate
Live in the moment and enjoy the experience of eating. Focus on all the individual aspects of food. To help you out, here is a list of what to pay attention to while eating (Tribole, Resch, pp 138-139).
- Taste – Is it sweet, salty, bitter, or sour. Are you enjoying the taste of the food at that moment?
- Texture – How does the food feel in your mouth? Is it appealing to you?
- Aroma – How does it smell while cooking? Right before eating?
- Appearance – Is it visually appealing?
- Temperature – Do you feel like warm food or cold food? What temperature is the food you are eating?
- Volume/Filling capacity – How dense is the food? Is this what you are craving right now? How will it make you feel afterwards?
The above characteristics of food are good things to consider when you are trying to figure out what you feel like eating, and to help you enjoy your food. For example, if you are craving something cold and crunchy, then maybe a salad is in order. If you want something warm and smooth, maybe you are better off with a bowl of soup. If you ignore your desires and eat whatever is in front of you, chances are you will leave the eating experience feeling unsatisfied, and probably start searching around for something else to eat – in my case that would be dessert!
Step 3: Make your eating experience more enjoyable
I visited Spain a few years ago. We stayed in a small fishing village. I loved the experience, but one thing that was hard to get used to, was that the whole village shut down for a few hours around lunch time. All of the grocery stores, and all of the restaurants and shops were closed. One of the reasons this happened was because it was so hot out in the middle of the day, so people took a break from working. The other reason? The village shuts down so that people can eat! Lunch is the biggest meal of the day in Spain. When the bars are closed, you can see families and friends gathered together behind closed doors taking the time to savour large meals together. Pretty much, in Spain, people get a 2 hour lunch break, minimum. There isn’t the rushing through 10 minute lunches while multi-tasking, like we do here in Canada and the US. When you rush through your meals, it is very difficult to pay attention to, and enjoy, the different aspects of your foods that we discussed in step 2.
Make time to appreciate your meal. Make sure you enjoy it in a pleasing atmosphere. Try to eat sitting down rather than standing up at the fridge, or chasing after your toddler. Try to eat slowly and taste each bite of food that goes into your mouth. Take a time out from eating and check your fullness levels and ask yourself if the food is still enjoyable or if you are done eating.
Step 4: Don’t settle
If you don’t like what you are eating, you don’t have to finish it. Maybe you thought you wanted that dessert, but when you took the first bite, you realized that you didn’t really like it. Intuitive Eating uses the motto “If you don’t love it, don’t eat it, and if you love it, savour it” (p 143).
I find this step pretty difficult. For example, yesterday I made a not so good sandwich. My baby was sleeping and about to wake up any minute. I didn’t take the time to make it how I really wanted it, and with my first bite I realized that I didn’t really like the sandwich I had made. I could have easily fixed it by adding some more vegetables to it to make it more appealing. Instead I just gobbled it down, trying to ignore the fact that it didn’t taste very good. Laziness gets in the way for me here. This is something that I really want to work on this holiday season and in general.
Step 5: Check in: Does it still taste good?
Most often, when you are eating something delicious, the first few bites are the ones that truly taste amazing. After those bites, the experience diminishes, until we get too full or too accustomed to the taste, and we stop enjoying the food we are eating. Check in with yourself while you are eating, and determine whether you are still enjoying your food.You may want to stop eating for the moment. You can always finish eating the rest later.
Keep in mind that just like everything with eating intuitively, you don’t have to follow these steps perfectly 100% of the time. These are guidelines only! If you are at a family member’s house, and you don’t want the food they are serving, please don’t refuse to eat anything and watch while everyone else eats! You also do need to honor your hunger and fuel your body. Eat what is put in front of you mindfully, and promise yourself a more satisfying experience at your next meal.
Happy eating this holiday season! I hope you really enjoy it and are satisfied by what you eat!
What do you feel like eating at this moment? I want something sweet, warm, and filling. It’s breakfast time and I am feeling coffee and a big bowl of oatmeal!
Do you find that you are usually satisfied after eating? What step is the hardest one for you? I find step 4 really challenging – I tend to eat what is easy, even if I’m not really enjoying it.