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Intuitive Eating Principle 5: Discover the Satisfaction Factor to Find Pleasure in Food Again

by | Jun 10, 2022 | Intuitive Eating | 0 comments

Discover the satisfaction factor to find pleasure in food? WTF does that even mean?! Well, let’s talk about it.

Do you ever crave a brownie but instead you eat an apple and 75 other things to feel the same satisfaction you’d get from eating the brownie in the first place?

Do you shy away from REALLY truly enjoying certain foods? 

Have you seen the new TikTok trend of making a “coke” out of balsamic vinegar and soda water? (Ew.)

Do you feel guilty for eating extra sweet or savory foods like cupcakes, pizza, or baked mac and cheese? 

Join the club! 

Our culture around food and bodies (diet culture) in America is not great. We’re taught very rigid rules around food and what is/isn’t “okay” to eat. Everything needs to be “healthified.”

We’re taught to be robots around food and only eat things that are 110% nutrient dense and literally ignore our desires for those extra sweet or savory foods that honestly, to me at least, make life worth living. 

Contrary to American values around food (which are problematic), deriving satisfaction from and finding joy in the eating experience is a CRUCIAL step in developing a healthy relationship with food and your body. 

This intention of this post is to help you create a more satisfying relationship with food so you can stop eating 75 things when you just need a brownie, and experience more joy and pleasure with the eating experience. 

Let’s dive in!

What does discover the satisfaction factor mean?

As discussed above, in America we fall pray to an unrealistic, unhealthy, oppressive culture around food called “diet culture” which is a system of beliefs that:

  1. Worships thinness and equates it to health and moral virtue, which means you can spend your whole life thinking you’re irreparably broken just because you don’t look like the impossibly thin “ideal.”
  2. Promotes weight loss as a means of attaining higher status, which means you feel compelled to spend a massive amount of time, energy, and money trying to shrink your body, even though the research is very clear that almost no one can sustain intentional weight loss for more than a few years.
  3. Demonizes certain ways of eating while elevating others, which means you’re forced to be hyper-vigilant about your eating, ashamed of making certain food choices, and distracted from your pleasure, your purpose, and your power.
  4. Oppresses people who don’t match up with its supposed picture of “health,” which disproportionately harms women, femmes, trans folks, people in larger bodies, people of color, and people with disabilities, damaging both their mental and physical health. Definition from Christy Harrison, What is Diet Culture?

Yikes. Not great! In other countries and cultures, they have certain aspect that promote a huge missing piece that American food culture is lacking. Which is – you guessed it – deriving joy and pleasure from food and the eating experience. 

“The Japanese have the wisdom to promote pleasure as one of their goals of healthy living. In our fury 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.” – page 150, Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch

As humans we seek pleasure, PERIOD! This is literally just part of being human. Think about it this way. In your day to day life, you seek out pleasure in various forms including:

  • Art
  • Music
  • Movies
  • Sex
  • Sunshine
  • Nature
  • Fresh air
  • Friendships
  • Loved ones
  • Physical touch

The list goes on… But when it comes to food, we’re expected to just be robots that survive on bland, flavorless, tasteless, joyless food. As long as it’s nutritionally dense, that’s all we need right?

Wrong! Humans have a desire for all kinds of flavors, textures and eating experiences including sweet, salty, rough, dry, crunchy, soft, savory, spicy, etc. Denying our basic human right to have a FULL flavor profile is only going to backfire. 

You’re not just a robot that needs fuel. It’s OKAY and NORMAL to sometimes eat foods that are not 110% nutrient dense simply for the sake of just enjoying the fact that it tastes good. Period. 

“Whether it is food or relationships or career – if we’re not satisfied, we’re not happy.” Page 150, Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch

PS – in our culture, women specifically are taught to shy away from pleasure. Just think about when Megan Thee Stallion came out with WAP and the HUGE outrage around it. Yet TONS of male rappers create much more “pleasure based” lyrics and songs with much more limited public outcry.

You can read more about this topic in Pleasure Activism: the Politics of Feeling Good by Adrienne Marie Brown. There’s also a new (2022) Netflix documentary all about pleasure – specifically focused on feminine pleasure called The Principles of Pleasure.

Discovering the satisfaction factor with food means listening to and honoring what you’re really in the mood for or what your body/mind/spirit needs AND physically eating in an enjoyable way. For example:

  • If you eat a salad when you wanted a steak that’s not going to be satisfying.
  • If you eat while anxious, upset, worried, or during an argument with someone, that’s not going to be satisfying and you may even not register that you ate and still be mentally hungry for more food. 

When we ignore the need for satisfaction in our food choices both in terms of food choices and the eating environment, we end up doing some weird shit with food. 

A lack of satisfaction in eating creates unhealthy eating behaviors

As mentioned above, if you crave a brownie but you eat an apple you might end up eating 75 other things to try and get the same satisfaction you’d get from just eating the brownie. Is this really healthy?

Ignoring the basic human need for finding satisfaction and joy in food creates many unhealthy eating behaviors.

Imagine that you’re craving oreos. But you feel guilty about craving oreos. So you eat the oreos in secret behind closed doors when no one’s looking and you shovel them into your mouth super fast. 

Is this enjoyable? No. Satisfying? No. You feel shame, guilt, and it’s an all around negative experience. Usually you end up needing MORE oreos than actually feels good because you need more to feel satisfied.

In that shameful oreo moment, you’re not actually paying attention to how good they taste because you’re not allowing yourself to. So, you need more to get that satisfaction reaction in your brain. 

Another example is if you eat in a rush, worried, anxious state, you may not even register that you’ve eaten and so you leave feeling unsatisfied. 

Findings from a 2011 distracted eating study showed that distracted eaters tend to:

  • Eat faster
  • Not remember what they eat
  • Eat more snacks
  • Feel significantly less full

You may literally have to eat again or eat more than feels good in order to try and get that “okay, i’m satisfied” feeling simply because you’re not present. 

Or do you ever eat when you’re not really hungry? That’s not super satisfying is it?

I’m sure you’re now catching on to how important discovering satisfaction with food is, but then why is it an issue in the first place? Why does it feel SO damn hard?

This is a long answer with puritanical, patriarchal, and racist roots but essentially it comes down to fear of fatness as the main barrier to discovering the satisfaction factor in intuitive eating. 

Fear of fatness is a barrier to discover the satisfaction factor

If you struggle with allowing yourself to just simply enjoy food, it’s important to take yourself off the hook by understanding the WHY behind “why is it so hard though?”

People aren’t afraid to eat enough or eat extra sweet or savory foods just because. There’s a LONG and oppressive history behind why it’s so hard for people – especially those in larger bodies – to just simply enjoy food. 

This post isn’t going to dive into the why behind our fear of fat, but the point here is that if you find yourself ashamed of enjoying certain foods, it’s not your fault. It’s on purpose. 

Our culture is SO obsessed with thinness at all costs and upholding the white, thin, hetero, patriarchal ideal SO much that it manifests into whether or not it’s okay for you to enjoy a cookie based on whether you’re thin or fat. 

(And before your brain gets all “but fat isn’t healthy” lemme remind you that stressing over food isn’t healthy and health does not equal weight. But, I digress.)

Our cultural fear of fat is not cool. It makes zero sense. There is a solution though. 

The whole point of developing more positive body image is to work against these harmful, oppressive, f*cked up American diet culture values and develop a relationship with your body where you’re not hating on it so much for not living up to certain standards. 

So while developing a more positive body image is a big factor in healing your relationship with food, you may be wondering – okay, but how do I discover more satisfaction in food?

How to discover the satisfaction factor in Intuitive Eating

Step 1.) What options do I have available?

Whether you’re at home, at a BBQ, a dinner party, or a restaurant first take a pause to inventory your options. Rather than diving into the first thing you see at a dinner party for example, take a moment to check out all the options first. 

Instead of walking in and devouring cheese and crackers when you don’t even like cheese and crackers just because it’s the first thing you see, take a pause. 

You might notice your friend’s amazing spinach dip and gourmet sandwiches from your favorite deli that would be MUCH more satisfying to you. Scan and then eat vs. impulsively eating without thinking. 

If at home, a restaurant, or anywhere else – do the same thing. Check all your options first instead of autopilot choosing something random. 

Step 2.) What am I in the mood for?

If you’re in the mood for a salad but you eat a steak, it’s not gonna fly. Or if you’re in the mood for a steak but eat a salad, it’s also not gonna fly. 

Ask yourself what you’re in the mood for. Crunchy? Fresh? Creamy? Sweet? Salty? Cold? Hot? Spicy? Bland? Flavorful? Smooth? 

It can help to actually put a hand on your stomach and close your eyes. Sounds weird, but it works to get centered and mindful!

Step 3.) What’s a choice that will honor my body AND mind?

Your brain may be screaming FRIED CHICKEN but you feel overdone on fried foods lately and your body is screaming VEGGIES! 

Making a choice that honors both could be getting a salad with fried chicken on top, or grilled chicken on top with a side of fries. 

What if dairy upsets your stomach and you’ve already reached your “quota” for the day but your brain is screaming CHEESE!? Here’s where we wanna put the self-parenting hat on and legit talk to yourself. 

Like, hey friend… I know you want that cheese, and since cheese is delish, I get it! But I know you also don’t want to be in the bathroom all night even more. So let’s choose another option that’s still satisfying and honor what’s best for our body so we’re not uncomfy later. 

Self-talk is key in those instances. 

It’s possible to balance out your choices so that you’re not feeling deprived, but you’re also feeling nourished nutritionally at the same time. 

Step 4.) How do I want to feel and what choice will help me feel that way?

POV: It’s a Friday night. You’re going out to eat and going straight home after. You’ve been eating lots of fresh salads all week and you’re in the mood for something creamy. The baked mac and cheese is calling your name. 

You don’t mind the feeling of something heavier in your stomach since you’re going straight home after. Done.

POV: It’s a Saturday morning at brunch. You’re taking your kids to the playground after and don’t want anything too heavy in your stomach. The yogurt and granola bowl will fill you up, sounds good, and isn’t too heavy. You want to feel full, but not heavy-full. Done. 

Ask yourself. How do I want to feel, and what food choice will help me feel that way? 

Step 5.) Consider the eating experience that will be most enjoyable

Obviously you don’t need to have all the perfect conditions lined up perfectly every single time you eat to have a satisfying eating experience. 

Eating when stressed, with shitty people, or on the go is just gonna happen sometimes. That’s life. BUT when you’re able, try focusing on these factors and see how it changes your relationship with food and eating. 

Emotion…

When you eat during very stressful, anxious, or emotionally charged times you’re of COURSE going to enjoy the food you’re eating less. 

Try to make an effort to take care of those emotions in whatever ways you need (go for a walk, ask for help, etc.) and then eat when the intensity of the emotion has passed. 

Location…

At the dinner table is just one option for an eating spot that could feel satisfying to you. What about a picnic outside? Or on the floor of your living room? I personally love to eat standing up because I have slow digestion and the gravity helps vs. sitting down. 

Ask yourself what sitting posture, and location feels enjoyable to you. No right answers! Your bed could be a location too! It’s all about where you’ll derive the most pleasure from eating. THERE ARE NO RULES!

Company…

Who you’re eating with makes a big difference in how satisfying the eating experience is. Maybe your mom just can’t help herself but comment on your food or body. (If you need help on how to respond to food and body comments, I got you!) 

Or maybe your partner LOVES food and you feel free and more able to enjoy food in their presence. My advice for company when it comes to enjoying your food is honestly just do the best you can with what you have. 

If you have a loved one who always somehow ruins the eating experience for you, I’m sorry and that wicked sucks. I know this sounds like ridiculous advice but if you can, avoid eating with them. 

Especially if they ignore your requests for them to stop commenting on your food or body. Do something else with them like watch a TV show or go for a walk. 

Deriving satisfaction from food is SO important in developing a healthy, balanced, empowering, joyful relationship with eating. Hopefully this post got you one step closer to truly enjoying food, I hope!

If this spoke to you, feel free to:

For more ways to continue developing a healthier relationship with food and your body.

Blog Lexy Penney Nutritionist Boston Intuitive Eating

Hi, I’m Lexy!

I’m a Registered Dietitian, yoga teacher, & body image coach.

I help women make peace with food and built trust with their bodies so they can live the lives they desire and deserve.

Hop on my email list for your weekly dose of food freedom, body liberation and self-care!

Lexy Penney Nutritionist Boston Intuitive Eating

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