Posts tagged Satisfaction Factor
Intuitive Eating Principles: How to Find Satisfaction in Everyday Eating

Satisfaction is considered the hub of the wheel in intuitive eating, but what does that mean? For those of us with a history of disordered eating, the concept of eating what you want, in the amount that you want, when you want (while paying heed to hunger and fullness cues) can feel like a tall order. When your food choices have largely been determined by extrinsic values, like a points system, carb counts, or weight goals rather than intrinsic ones, ordering a burger and fries (with a Coke, #pleaseandthanks) can feel equal parts daunting and ridiculous. 


Let’s break it down. 

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Satisfaction isn’t (only) about eating “forbidden” foods.


In my dieting days, I thought the only foods that were truly delicious were “forbidden” foods like salt and vinegar chips, pizza, and sour gummy candy. While I enjoyed salads, I never thought of them as crave-worthy. Perhaps you feel similarly? 


While pleasure is central to the intuitive eating process, safety is an important consideration. It’s tough to derive pleasure from foods we don’t feel safe around. You can work toward a more relaxed relationship with food while working through your restrictions in the present moment. It takes time to neutralize the morality our culture attaches to food (see “sinful” or “guilt-inducing”), shelve the weight loss goals, and to integrate true unconditional permission. 


Satisfaction can mean eating cheeseburgers and fries, if you like, but you may prefer or need to start with more manageable steps, like eating safe foods to satisfying amounts (rather than measuring), playing with condiments (like rooted garlic mayonnaise and cheesy dips), and broadening the variety you currently consume before moving on to more challenging meals. 


Satisfaction is fluid. 


“Nothing’s certain in life but death and taxes.” Surely you’ve heard that old adage, too? Satisfaction follows suit. The foods you found satisfying in childhood (like Mom’s tuna casserole) may no longer appeal to your adult self, in the same way that what you enjoy now may not be as enjoyable even ten months from now. 

Intuitive eating has truly taught me that our desires are flexible; in the winter I may crave heartier meals and more complex flavour profiles, while I may be perfectly content with a simple egg sandwich come mid-July. My palette is constantly widening in response to new recipe attempts, travels, restaurant meals, and interactions with people whose food interests may vary from my own. 


The foods you find satisfying at the beginning of your intuitive eating journey may not be the same foods you derive satisfaction from several months in. 

Satisfaction is context-dependent.

What passes for a satisfying breakfast on a weekday morning may look vastly different from the satisfying 3-course meal you enjoy on a European vacation. Not every meal is going to be gourmet. There’s nothing wrong with starting your day with a simple bowl of oatmeal, or ending it with some scrambled eggs and toast. The most important thing, always, is adequate, regular, and consistent intake, and it’s okay if that happens to also mean boring, economical, or quick. 

At the same time, you’re welcome to cook a more elaborate meal if you enjoy it, or if you have some extra time and want to cook up something special. 


And while we’re on it, satisfaction isn’t limited to pizza and pasta, either. Many outsiders commonly (and falsely) believe intuitive eating is anti-health. While you may crave more fun foods at the beginning of the work and eat disproportionally more cookies than celery, a salad with chicken or a vegan burrito bowl loaded with vegetables may also be satisfying. Intuitive eating, after all, isn’t about the food, but about the mindset you carry about nutrition. 


Satisfaction is a sign of privilege. 

Even though satisfaction may be an intuitive eating principle held near and dear to many folks, what it means to you depends largely on your privilege. Some of us can afford to eat the take-out we like, eat at nice restaurants, and make balanced meals on the regular. For many others, satisfying may mean sating our hunger at the very basic level. 


You may not always have access to the foods you prefer, particularly if you are traveling to different countries, experiencing changes to your income, or, hey, in the midsts of a natural disaster. Years ago, when I lived in Tallahassee with my then-partner, we lived on corn tortillas, ham, grits, cheese, pasta, yogurt, cereal, strawberries, big bags of grapefruit, and vegetables we stocked up on for cheap at a produce stand on the outskirts of Plant City. 


When I moved to Toronto, my grocery staples included cartons of eggs bought for two dollars at my local drugstore, discounted produce at the grocer, rice, and many, many legumes. I simply couldn’t afford meat, cheeses, and more expensive ingredients that I now gratefully enjoy. 


Satisfaction may become more nuanced in time.


Intuitive eating is a practice, not a one hit wonder of a diet. It takes time to incorporate the principles and to unlearn all of the lessons of diet culture. As you move through the process, you may find within you a growing curiosity regarding about different ingredients, recipes, and cooking styles. I’m always excited to see how my interest in food changes from week to week: sometimes I’m all about chicken fajitas and burrito bowls, while the next I may crave steak and mashed potatoes or a Greek salad with shrimp skewers and lemon potatoes. Sometimes I only want to snack on chips, while other times I enjoy charcuterie plates or crackers and hummus. Give yourself space and permission to discover, learn, and grow. 


That’s always been the most satisfying part of the process for me. 



From Dieter to Intuitive Eater: Should I *Always* Honour My Hunger?

Moving from dieting to intuitive eating can be fraught with all kinds of confusion and challenges. While dieting encourages you not to listen to your hunger — just drink water, right? — and to actively suppress it using all manner of things, intuitive eating is all. about. listening. 


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CONSEQUENCES OF NOT HONOURING HUNGER

Part of this is based on the Ancel Keys landmark food deprivation study conducted during World War II. Thirty-two healthy men with “superior psychobiological stamina” were selected for the study. During the first three months, the men ate as they liked (ate intuitively); during the next six months, the men endured semi-starvation. The effects studied and observed closely mirror the symptoms of dieting, including: 

  • 40% decrease in metabolic rate 

  • Obsession with food (the men experienced heightened food cravings, talked about food, and collected recipes)

  • Participants would ravenously gulp their food, stall, play with food, or dwindle over a meal (symptoms seen in those with eating disorders)

  • Episodes of bulimia and binge-eating 

  • Incidents of over-exercise to increase their food rations 

  • Changes in personality (i.e. the onset of apathy, depression, irritability, moodiness.)

But…should you always honour you hunger, Sarah? 

In short — yes. Yes, yes, yes.

Diet culture teaches us that our appetites can’t be trusted. Whether it’s carbs, macros, calories, sugar, fat, “clean foods”, and the like, we’re constantly being told what to do (um, bossed around) — and constantly left questioning whether we’re doing “it” right

Dieting really complicates eating, transforming everything we’re doing with food into a conflict to be resolved. And semi-starving us all the while.

Eating actually doesn’t have to be so hard. 

HUNGER IS ACTUALLY HEALTHY

One of the 10 principles of intuitive eating — the second one, in fact - is “honour your hunger.” It’s an important principle, and one that’s easy to get stuck on (particularly if the diet mentality hasn’t been fully rejected.) 

While hunger is a meaty topic that could easily cover several blog posts, I do want to illuminate the following today: your hunger is natural, healthy, helpful. Even if it doesn’t always seem that way. Honouring hunger is fundamental to feeling sane around food.

Ignoring it, dismissing it, or actively trying to suppress it can have unintended consequences. As Elyse Resch and Evelyn Tribole discuss in Intuitive Eating, “eating is so important that the nerve cells of appetite are located in the hypothalamus region of the brain. A variety of biological signals triggers eating. What many people believe to be an issue of willpower, is instead a biological drive. The power and intensity of the biological eating drive should not be underestimated.” (62)

For most of us, we breathe consistently without any work on our end. We don’t have to try, or think about it. We just do.

Our detoxification organs are always working for us, whether we realize it or not. 

And our hunger? It lights up when our energy stores are low and we need more food

Hunger isn’t a trick. It’s not a “problem” to be suppressed with all kids of low-cal diet foods, beverages, or “hacks.” It’s not out of control. Getting hungry often doesn't mean there’s something wrong (and in fact, there could be a whole lot right.)

Hunger varies. Sometimes you’ll be super hungry, and sometime less so. Sometime the reason will be apparent — and sometimes not. 

Sometimes you’ll need three snacks, and sometimes your three meals might be enough. 

So…how do you work with hunger instead of against it? 

You listen to it. 

You honour it.

You eat. 

Unsure of what hunger feels like? Let’s chat.



Three Questions to Ask to Stop Feeling Guilt and Shame Over “Bad” Foods

Whether you’re new to intuitive eating, deeper into learning about the non-diet approach, or at a different stage of your eating disorder recovery, it’s very possible you still feel guilt or shame about — or judge — the foods you’re eating. This can feel especially irritating if you’ve embraced body positivity and intellectually know restriction — or holding on to the diet mentality — isn’t serving you. 

Guilt and shame around “forbidden” foods is one of the most common conflicts I address in my nutrition practice. And you know what? It has nothing to do with the food. 

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An apple and potato chips would be morally neutral if it weren’t for diet culture’s interventions. Moving away from restrictive tendencies and toward a more liberated approach to food requires vigilant questioning and criticism of the diet industry and its trappings. Who decides what’s “healthy”? How have I come to my beliefs about food? Why do I feel like eating multiple servings of a “forbidden” food is too much? What’s wrong with enjoying a chocolate bar? 

Dissolving judgment, guilt, and shame around food takes ample time, and isn’t easy or straightforward, here’s 3 questions to start asking yourself to make peace with food. 

1. How do I believe my feelings are benefitting me? 

When we speak about judgment, guilt, and shame about food, chances are good we’re talking about judgment, guilt, and shame about body. If you’re unsure if this is true, ask yourself this: If I totally loved my body and how it gets received in the world, would I care about the double cheese pizza I’m eating right now

I want you to get really curious: are you holding on to your thoughts and beliefs about food because you feel they’re benefitting you in some way? Maybe you feel a distinct charge around “carbs” because you believe they will lead to weight gain (false), or around sugar because you’re inherently “addicted” (no such thing.) 

If you are still trying to manipulate your body size or shape in some form or another — even in subtle ways — they can lead to feelings of guilt and shame around food. While food exposure therapy can be helpful at normalizing “forbidden” foods, deeper body image work and fat acceptance are necessary for completely neutralizing the charge. Fully recovering from diet culture and disordered eating requires complete acceptance of your natural body. 


2. What’s consistent about the foods I carry negative feelings for? 

We can get so caught up in the diet mentality bubble that we often miss its trappings. It’s important to question — and keep questioning — your beliefs and reactions about food. What’s similar about the foods you’re reacting to? Are you always eating these “forbidden foods” at the same time? In the same way?

It’s helpful to look at your food and eating patterns. Are there certain food groups that provoke a deeper reaction from you than others? Do you feel safe around fat, but not around sugar? What sorts of messages are you exposed to on a regular basis? Which foods are demonized at your office? In the room? Within your friend groups? 

Food exposure therapy doesn’t just happen at the table. It happens out in the world.

3. What do I think about when I’m eating these foods?

Do donuts remind you of anyone or anything? What about French fries? In the same way that certain foods carry positive connotations — enjoying fresh-picked raspberries with your grandmother, for example, or savouring an ice cream cone with your best friend on a hot summer’s day — we also carry more negative food experiences with us (I’m looking at you, negativity bias). Are those negative moments making it tough to neutralize certain foods? 

It’s important to look at the framework around the foods you feel guilt or shame toward. In my professional experience, the medium can be as important as the message. 

Now, I want to know: which of the three questions above do you find the most helpful? Does one resonate more than the others?