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Discover the Satisfaction Factor

Satisfaction with your food is the cherry on top for Intuitive Eating. It is that feeling of happy fullness that you get when you follow your heart to fill your stomach. When your food fills your need for taste, texture, and satiation. You only get this feeling when listening to your body, your hunger and fullness cues, and giving your body precisely what it wants. 


Discovering the satisfaction factor is the 6th principle of Intuitive Eating because it’s only after you ditch diet culture, learn to honor your hunger, make peace with food, challenge the food police, and feel your fullness that you can learn to eat for satisfaction. Satisfaction is a big theme in Intuitive Eating, but it takes a lot of time and practice to get the hang of it. If you try to jump into it too early (perhaps before you’ve worked on unconditional permission to eat), it will feel frustrating and uncomfortable. 



Where did our satisfaction go? 


Diet culture is the main thief of the satisfaction factor from your meals by convincing you that the “bad” foods are the ones that are flavorful, sweet, salty, and convenient and that the “good” foods are the ones that are bland, flavorless, and boring (hello kale and quinoa being the epitome of ‘healthy eating’). This leads to inevitably feeling guilt and shame when you eat the foods you have labeled as bad and unhealthy. It’s very difficult to feel truly satisfied with a meal when you are still stuck in the scarcity mindset, with rules and judgment surrounding the foods on your plate.


Your environment also plays a big part in the loss of satisfaction, as eating in a rush, at your desk, while working, watching TV, and playing on your phone all pull attention away from the food. You are not meant to eat alone, standing over the sink between appointments. Busy schedules in this day and age add a layer of difficulty to being able to find true satisfaction with eating. 



Satisfaction VS Fullness 


I want to take a moment to clarify the difference between satisfaction and fullness here. Fullness is mainly physical, that feeling that your stomach is no longer empty, you are no longer feeling the physical signs of hunger, perhaps your belly is getting a bit distended, and you might feel a bit fatigued. On the other hand, satisfaction is more on the sensory and emotional side - it is being content after a meal. It is enjoying the tastes, textures, and aromas of your meal. It’s that elated feeling you get when you eat something so scrumptious. Fullness comes from the quantity of food you eat, whereas satisfaction comes from the quality. 


One of my goals with clients in the Intuitive Eating space, is to bring back the pleasure, satisfaction, and joy with the eating experience. Coming from a place of diet culture, these things are often overlooked and forgotten, which is sad! You have multiple opportunities each day to feel contentment and joy through your food - and I intend to help you come back to that place where you can give yourself that experience! Things like your eating environment, the foods you choose, your hunger level, and much more come into play when we look at eating for satisfaction. Still, by providing yourself with this experience, you’ll find that you will feel a lot more connected to your body, and judgment won’t have a seat at the table anymore.


This is possible for you too, inside my 1:1 Intuitive Eating and Body Image Coaching Program. Inside my coaching, I empower my clients, just like you, to take Intuitive Eating beyond the kitchen so that you can unlock the ability to stop second-guessing every meal, discover self-compassion, and finally begin to feel at home in your body.


When the feeling of guilt comes up after overeating, when you are experiencing negative self-talk every time you step in front of the mirror, or when you are faced with the temptation of starting a new diet every Monday, my program is unique because it is founded on support and accountability. You will have me there with you every step of the way. I understand you because I was you.


If you are curious about implementing this in your life, I invite you to join me. Your first step starts with filling out an application so we can chat and determine if my coaching fits you best.



Satisfaction is the hub of intuitive eating, and it connects all the other principles, so make sure you read my past posts if you haven’t already. Please keep reading if you’re all caught up and ready to dive into the satisfaction factor. In this post, we will discuss Mindful Eating and the whole sensory experience that food provides. I will share some different ways to explore these concepts and find what works for you, but as always, if you need further support, I am here for you. 



Mindful eating 


We discussed mindful eating in the last post, but to recap, mindful and intuitive eating are different. They are often confused for each other, but mindful eating, the practice of eating with intent and focus, is a part of Intuitive Eating. It helps you become more aware of your body and food before and after eating. Remember, though, that Intuitive Eating encompasses far more than just mindful eating.


Please note that I am not suggesting that you practice this every time you eat (talk about time-consuming!), but it is a good tool when you are trying to learn your body’s hunger and fullness cues and work on developing your mind-body connection when it comes to food.  I usually suggest starting with a few meals per week or eating mindfully one meal daily when you have the time and mental capacity to practice this.


Now that we are talking about satisfaction, we take the mindful eating process a few steps further. You will start to consider what you truly want to eat in that moment, considering what sensory aspects of a meal seem appealing to you at that time. This means that you need to have an increased awareness of what sensations different foods provide, which is one of the reasons why this step comes after working on fullness. Now, while we will discuss some of the things that help build the mind-body connection, we also need to consider removing the obstacles that are preventing it… starting by removing all distractions (like phones and TV), making your space comfortable, and giving yourself time and space to enjoy your meal. 



Before you Eat


Consider what you truly want to eat, what tastes/textures/temperature of food/volume/smells sound appealing to you right now? See if you can incorporate these aspects into whatever meal or snack you are about to prepare.


Bring back some fun to the food preparation, planning, and cooking processes! When you are interested in what you’re making, and when you cook meals at home from scratch, you will gain more satisfaction just from the process. The sounds and smells of cooking food build anticipation, preparing your mind and body for the food you are about to enjoy. 


If you HATE preparing your food because you don’t know what to make and you’re in a rush, you are more likely to choose foods that are quick and easy, that you don’t enjoy, and that don’t fulfill your needs and/or desires. This isn’t to say that convenience foods are ‘bad’, but that you want to be making informed decisions here, consider having a few prepared foods on hand like pre-chopped vegetables, soups, granola bars, and ready to eat meals, and get creative with different ways that you can change them up so that they feel that much more satisfying to you. Oh, also, remove the judgment around convenience foods! When you are stuck in a narrative of judgment, guilt, and shame around a food or meal, it prevents you from being able to be in tune with your body.


This is where I bring in aspects of meal planning and meal preparation with my 1:1 clients. These pieces can exist in the Intuitive Eating framework, but flexibility must be considered.



While You’re Eating,


Distractions are the number one thief of joy and satisfaction during our meals. A good meal should have your full attention or at least be shared with friends and family. You can eat more mindfully by preparing your space for comfort, removing distractions like phones and TV, and paying attention to the food’s taste, smell, and feel. 


While you eat, breathe between bites, chew your food thoroughly, and feel it in your mouth and tongue before you swallow. Don’t rush eating and burn your mouth, or eat faster than your stomach can register. Listen to your body to tell you when you are full. Avoid eating more than you want to avoid waste or because you feel pressured to clean your plate. See how the other principles of Intuitive Eating are weaving in here?


While you are eating, your body, whether you are aware of it or not, is searching for something called Sensory Specific Satiety. This relates back to the questions I had you ask yourself about what you’re truly wanting to eat. The concept of pleasantness is important in influencing food choice and plays a role in determining the amount of food you will end up eating. This means when you are hungry, your food smells better, tastes amazing and your mouth is hungry for it, but as you fill your belly and your body is telling you to slow down, these senses often diminish. As you provide your body with the tastes, textures, aromas, and amounts of food that it is desiring, those desires will slowly diminish, and your meal won’t seem so enticing anymore. This is why it’s important to slow down while eating, and pay attention to how things feel.


With practice, you’ll be able to identify when this happens while you're eating, increasing your ability to naturally come to just the right amount of food you need to give you the most satisfaction. Your meal might just become a little bit less tasty, or it won’t smell as enticing as it did at the beginning, or you may be losing interest in it. You can ask yourself questions during your meal to tune into this like, has the flavor diminished? Does it still smell as good? Is the texture and appearance still as appealing?



Dessert


Dessert can be a big fear food when coming from a place of diet culture, and it can bring up all sorts of feelings, which just sucks because dessert by definition should be eaten for nothing but satisfaction, but instead, it often leads to feelings of guilt and shame.  We have already discussed diet culture and not moralizing your food, so I know I don’t have to tell you that the piece of chocolate cake does not make you naughty, or sinful. You do not have to proclaim it a cheat day or make up for it later.


For me, I often like to have something a little sweet after a meal, because I like the sweet flavor - it gives me that last little bit of satisfaction that I need. Before Intuitive Eating was a practice in my life, I would beat around the bush - I would try having some high fiber rice cakes, or some vegetables, or some fruit to try and curb the desire, because diet culture told me that giving in to the craving for dessert made me ‘bad’. Inevitably, I always ended up having the sweet thing in the end, even though I was so physically over-full from all of the things I tried to eat to satisfy the craving, but nothing would ever satisfy it except for the dessert that I wanted in the beginning. This is an example of sensory specific satiety, if your body wants to experience a taste or flavor, do what you can to honor it!


When you allow yourself the freedom of eating the foods you want, when you want, you can enjoy dessert without guilt or shame, or that overly full feeling because you did everything you could to try and eat the ‘healthy’ thing first. Also, when you are not restricting your food, you won’t feel that sense of urgency to eat the desserts while they are available, and you can comfortably say no without needing to justify yourself. 



Impact of hunger and fullness:


It is important to note how hungry you are before eating, this can impact eating decisions and behaviors, consequently impacting satisfaction. When you hold off eating in anticipation of a larger meal or special event later on and get closer to a 0 on the hunger fullness scale, all possibility of true satisfaction goes out the window due to the drive to get food in quickly, and most often, without regard for fullness. On the other hand, it's also just as challenging to find true satisfaction from a meal if you sit down to eat when you have no noticeable hunger. 


To find satisfaction with your meals, it’s helpful to practice finding your last bite threshold—the point at which your body gives you the cues that you are at a comfortable fullness level. When you are eating slowly and mindfully, you can ask yourself questions as you eat, like, how am I feeling? How would it feel to take a few more bites? With practice, you can identify the difference between fullness and satisfaction.



After Your Meal,


After eating your mindful meal, you can gain more from experience by reflecting on how it felt. Ask yourself how you are feeling post-meal. Do you feel still hungry or maybe too full, and what are the cues that your body gives to tell you that? While you tune into sensations of fullness, consider if you are still craving anything. Was there any component of that meal that you didn’t enjoy? Is there a flavor or a taste that you’re still wanting? Next time you prepare that meal, is there a way that you could incorporate that flavor? 


Make a note of any of the negative emotions you might have around what and how much you ate, especially if you are pushing past food rules or previously forbidden foods. It will be an uncomfortable feeling at first when you eat the foods you once restricted, but this discomfort is a necessary experience in the Intuitive Eating journey. Still, you can flip the script and leave the table satisfied when you approach those feelings with kindness and observe them from this new vantage point. 


Exploring satisfaction around foods helps you develop body-food choice congruence - the ability to decide what/when/why to eat from an informed place about how that food will make your body feel. Consider how you want to feel after eating and work on exploring what foods give you that feeling/sensation. This principle takes practice, working on the other principles that precede this one and continuing with the last four. If you keep trying to find satisfaction from food that's just not hitting the spot, it’s just not going to do it for you. Take a moment to pause here and ask yourself what you are genuinely searching for, and practice honoring that without judgment. It's also important to be aware of guilt during these practices, as that can diminish the eating experience and ability to feel true satisfaction. Being present with your meals is essential in finding satisfaction, so be patient because developing the skill of presence and mindfulness can be challenging.






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