Authors: Evelyn Tribole, M.S., R.D. and Elyse Resech, M.S., R.D., F.A.D.A.

Information taken from Chapter 10, “Discover the Satisfaction Factor. St. Martins Griffin Press, New York, NY; 1995. By Jenelle West, RD

“The Japanese have the wisdom to promote pleasure as one of their goals of healthy living. In our fury to be thin and healthy, 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. By providing this experience for yourself, you will find that it takes much less food to decide you’ve had “enough.”” (Quote from Tribole and Reesch, 1995)

In our diet-centered society today how often do you hear, “I really enjoyed the taste of that candy bar and feel satisfied and content?” or “I think I’ll try whatever looks the best to me on the menu?” Probably not very often. On the other hand how often have you eaten plain popcorn when what you really wanted was a chocolate chip cookie? How much popcorn and possibly other foods does it take to fill that need for a chocolate chip cookie when it would have only taken one chocolate chip cookie to get that same satisfaction?

If you feel truly satisfied with the foods you are eating, you will find that you eat less food in the end. When you are unsatisfied with the food you are eating, you will likely eat more to try and fill that satisfaction and still be on the prowl, regardless of how full you are.

THE WISDOM OF PLEASURE

As was stated in the introductory paragraph, Japan promotes pleasure as one of their goals for healthy eating. In fact, one of their Dietary Guidelines for Health Promotion in Japan is to “Make all activities pertaining to food and eating pleasurable ones.” Now apply this to the way many Americans look at food and the eating experience. Many Americans see food as the enemy and the eating experience as the battleground between tempting foods and the willpower to avoid them.

DON’T BE AFRAID TO ENJOY YOUR FOOD

Letting yourself enjoy food will result in self-limiting rather than out-of-control eating. Taking the time to prepare an attractive meal and taking the time to enjoy that meal will lead to feeling a sense of satisfaction that will actually decrease your yearning for food at a later time.

HOW TO REGAIN YOUR PLEASURE IN EATING

If you have lost your pleasure in eating due to disordered eating or dieting, here are the steps that the authors of Intuitive Eating use to help their clients achieve pleasure and satisfaction in their eating.

Step 1: Ask yourself what you really want to eat

Satisfaction is derived when you take time to figure out what you really want to eat, give yourself unconditional permission to eat it, and then eat in a relaxing, enjoyable atmosphere. Sometimes if you have had disordered eating or have been a dieter for an extended period of time you may not know what you like because your eating has been dictated by what you “should” or “shouldn’t” eat. If this is a problem for you, step 2 will give you more clarification.

Step 2: Discover the pleasures of the palate

Have you ever worried so much about a food you have just eaten, or what you are about to eat, and how you are going to “work off the calories” that you didn’t even enjoy it? It is because you were so focused on the calories that you forgot to taste and savor the food you were eating. To discover what foods you really like, and how to increase the satisfaction in your eating, you need to pay attention to the sensual qualities of foods.

First of all, taste your food. Put the food on your tongue and see which of your taste sensations gets stimulated. Do you like it sweet, salty, sour, or bitter? Are there certain times of the day when you prefer certain tastes?

Second, find out what textures you like or dislike. Do you like that food crunchy or creamy, does it feel good on your tongue, is it too abrasive or too much like baby food, and if so does that appeal to you or not?

Third is aroma. If the aroma of a food is not appealing, you probably won’t get as much satisfaction from it. If it smells great, satisfaction increases. Have you ever walked past freshly baked bread and had to have some or if you have a cold and can’t smell anything your favorite food isn’t any fun to eat? These are two great examples of how aroma can affect satisfaction. Appearance can also play a roll in the satisfaction of food. Before you take a bite of food, take a look at it. Does it look fresh, is the color interesting, is it attractive to you? Food that looks appealing will increase the satisfaction you derive from it.

Temperature is important. Have you ever had cold soup or melting ice cream and it was not appetizing to you? Temperature can be an influential factor in satisfaction. Do you like your food really hot or more room temperature? Does it depend on the food? How much ice do you like in your drink?

The last sensation is volume or filling-capacity. Some foods are light and airy, while others are heavy and filling. The filling capacity of food choices will influence the amount of food you need to satisfy you. If something tastes great on your tongue and in your mouth but it makes your stomach feel queasy it will diminish the satisfying experience.

Keep in mind that you will have taste and texture preferences and not all foods will look desirable. Your preferences may be lifelong or change from day to day. When you keep in touch with what your body feels is appetizing, you will always be able to choose the most satisfying foods.

Step 3: Make your eating experience more enjoyable

If you are racing through your meals, you aren’t giving yourself the opportunity to experience the sensual aspect of your food or appreciate it. To help you savor your food and get more satisfaction from your meals:

  • Make time to appreciate your food, give yourself time to eat.
  • Sit down to eat.
  • Take several deep breaths before you begin to eat.
  • Pay attention to eating slowly so you can taste your food.
  • Taste each bite of food that you put in your mouth and experience the different tastes.
  • Take a time-out in the middle of the meal to check how full you are. Food does not taste as good or will not be as satisfying when you are full.

Eat when gently hungry rather than when over hungry. If you sit down to a meal when you’re so hungry you could eat a cow, you won’t be able to tell the difference between a delicious steak and the cow itself. When you are overly hungry your biological need for energy supersedes your ability to eat slowly and taste what’s before you. Other factors that can make your eating experience more enjoyable are:

  • Eat in a pleasant environment when possible
  • Avoid tension at the table
  • Provide a variety of foods in your diet to keep appealing food choices available

Step 4: Don’t settle

Have you ever seen a very attractive dessert, but when you took a bite it was mediocre, yet you finished it anyway? If you are truly tasting and experiencing food, combined with the knowledge that you can eat whatever you want when you want to, you will be able to adopt the motto: “If you don’t love it, don’t eat it, and if you love it, savor it.”

Step 5: Check in, does it still taste good?

Have you ever been eating popcorn and eaten it until the bag was gone? Did it taste better at the beginning or the end? Did it really taste at all by the end? Researches have found that continued exposure to the same food results in a decrease of desire for that food. When you are eating, make sure to check in with yourself to see if the food tastes as good as it did when you started. If it doesn’t, consider stopping, and wait until you are hungry again to eat it. By doing this your food will taste better and you’ll be more satisfied.

If disordered eating or dieting have been a large part of your life, it may take time to reclaim your right to enjoy your food. “Knowing what you like to eat, and believing that you have the right to enjoy food, are key factors in a lifetime of weight control without dieting.” (Tribole and Resch,1995)