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My intern, Ally, is taking over my blog to bring you a 10-part Mini training teaching you about the ten principles of Intuitive Eating. Each week, a new blogpost will go live summarizing the key elements of the principle while also giving you actionable steps to bring the principle into your life. Ally’s written a few posts in this series, including Principle 1: Reject the Diet Mentality,  Principle 2: Honor Your Hunger, Principle 3: Make Peace with Food, and Principle 4: Challenge the Food Police. If you haven’t already, make sure to check out those posts to get up to speed!

This week, Ally is teaching you all about Principle 5: Discover the Satisfaction Factor. To make sure you don’t miss any posts from this series, click here to subscribe to my weekly newsletter.  

Take it away, Ally!

You may feel full, but are you satisfied? Principle 5 of Intuitive Eating, Discover the Satisfaction Factor, dives into how you can find true satisfaction and pleasure in your eating experiences. This satisfaction is achieved by taking time to consider what you really want to eat, giving yourself unconditional permission to eat, and eating in a relaxing, pleasurable environment. When you’re stuck in the diet mentality, you likely aren’t making food choices that are genuinely satisfying. Diet culture (hello, food police from principle 4!) shouts at you to settle for diet “swaps” instead of the foods you’re craving, which only leads to more intense cravings. Many dieters find themselves in a place where they’ve lost pleasure in eating and are unsure of what foods they even like. In this blog post, I’ll be sharing some steps for how you can regain this pleasure, cultivate an enjoyable eating experience, and create a more satisfying life.

“Knowing what you like to eat and believing that you have the right to enjoy food are key factors in a lifetime of enjoyable eating without dieting.” (page 164 of Intuitive Eating)

Diet culture programs you to believe that it’s normal to find little satisfaction and pleasure in the process of eating. You’re conditioned to associate the foods you love with guilt and stress, which takes the joy out of the experience of eating. This is no way to live! All people deserve to enjoy the aspect of pleasure that comes with eating food. Food is a source of fun, a way to connect with your loved ones, and an opportunity for daily gratitude. Although it may take some time to figure out what foods you like and relearn how to enjoy this experience, with the right tools and support it is absolutely possible to regain pleasure in eating.

“One recent study makes a good case about the effect of distraction on eating… when compared to the non-distracted group, the distracted people ate faster, couldn’t remember what they ate, ate more snacks, and reported feeling significantly less full,” (page 165 of Intuitive Eating). 

Today’s “hustle culture” is rooted in over-productivity and urgency, which means that most people have a habit of eating while distracted. When you eat while distracted, you miss out on the experience, which often means that your brain doesn’t even register that you ate. This disconnect creates a  gap in satisfaction often leading to  eating past comfortable fullness in an attempt to fill that void. This is where mindfulness comes in- allowing yourself the gift of staying present and enjoying the experience of eating has been shown to result in increased physical and mental satisfaction.

In high school when I was the deepest into my struggles with food and body, I frequently resisted the feeling of hunger. Because I commonly associated food with guilt, I would put off eating until I felt extreme hunger. When I finally allowed myself to eat (typically after a long day of school, homework, and swim practice), I’d rush through my whole meal without even stopping to consider my hunger-fullness cues or how the meal was tasting.

By the time I’d finally allowed myself to eat, I was in a state of primal hunger; completely ravenous and deprived of energy. In this primal hunger state, the body is so focused on getting fuel in as fast as possible making it near impossible to stay present during the eating experience. This caused me to rush through my meals, missing out on the pleasure of slowing down and enjoying relaxing dinners with my family.

Now, as I strive to become an Intuitive Eater, I listen to my body’s hunger cues throughout the day and enjoy frequent meals and snacks. This allows me to feel less urgency at meal times, in turn leading to a more enjoyable, satisfying eating experience.

What makes your food satisfying? When you come from a history of dieting, you probably aren’t used to asking yourself this question. Living in the diet mindset, you are so focused on what you’re “allowed” to have that you might forget what you actually enjoy. How many times have you found yourself opting for rice cakes instead of bread, or rushing through eating an “off-limits” food because you feel guilty? Opting for a “healthier” swap instead of the food you’re craving will only leave you feeling unfulfilled, searching for something to actually satisfy you. You’re much better off enjoying and savoring the real thing! Diet culture teaches you to be afraid of letting yourself enjoy food. The experience of eating can be such an amazing source of pleasure, connection, and fun. You deserve the freedom to find this satisfaction.

Satisfying eating can be described as the “three S’s”: eating slowly, eating sensually, and savoring every bite. When making food choices, it can be helpful to ask yourself questions like:

    • What food do I feel like eating right now?
    • Am I in the mood for something sweet, savory, bitter, or salty?
    • What food looks appealing to me?
    • Do I want something light, filling, or somewhere in between?

From here, consider your eating environment. When you scarf down a meal during the 5 minutes you have between meetings, this stress will certainly leave you feeling less satisfied. When you take a few minutes to sit down in a pleasant environment, take a few breaths, and appreciate your food, you’ll feel more satisfied. Even if you only have 15-20 minutes to carve out, try to focus on savoring a few bites and paying attention to how your food tastes.

After these few bites, pause and check in with yourself again- does your food still taste good? If it doesn’t, consider taking a break as this could be your body communicating early signs of fullness. When you rush through finishing your meal without considering whether or not your food is appealing, you’ll find yourself feeling unsatisfied and uncomfortably full.

As an Intuitive Eater, all foods are always available to you, so you can always reach for more at a later time. It’s important to note here that this process isn’t perfect- sometimes you’ll be served a meal at a friend’s house that you don’t love or you won’t have access to the specific food you’re craving. What matters here is how you decide to take care of yourself after the fact. The process of regaining pleasure and contentment in your eating experiences is a fun step on your Intuitive Eating journey- have fun with the process of rediscovery the JOY of eating!

Did you hear the news? We launched a podcast here at Leah Kern Nutrition! Shoulders Down Podcast is a podcast designed to teach you how to harness your intuition to govern not just how you eat but also how you live. New episodes get released every Tuesday!  Click here to listen to our latest episode with Katie Campbell, a fellow Intuitive Eating Counselor who talks about her recovery from disordered eating, wellness culture in mountain towns, and her experience previously working for one of the most insidious diet companies.

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