Why is food satisfaction important ?
What IS food satisfaction ?
In a nutshell it's the pleasure and satisfaction that you can find from the whole experience of eating. This can be from the smell, texture, taste or temperature of the food, from eating exactly what you want and not compromising or picking a 'healthy' version. It can also be from the overall experience, such as enjoying a new food, the ambiance or 'buzz' of a restaurant, or the joy from the social aspect of eating with others.
In short, it's when your eating experience and/or the food really hits the spot 😊
Aren't calories or the healthfulness of foods more important ?
In principle, I don't agree with calorie counting as its a restrictive behaviour that causes more problems than it solves for most people. Plus, calories don't tell the whole story when it comes to the healthfulness of a food. What's more important is consideration of the nutrients, vitamins and minerals a food can provide as part of an overall balanced diet. For example, foods such as oily fish (e.g. salmon), avocados, nuts and seeds are higher in calories but provide us with so many beneficial nutrients.
So, am I saying that you should only eat foods that are considered 'healthy' ? Well, it may sound counter-intuitive, but no and here's why......
It's also super important that we eat satisfying foods, the ones that do 'hit the spot'. This is because you need to meet both your body and minds needs. If you don't, you'll simply end up feeling deprived and craving the foods you really want. These are known as your 'phantom foods'. Often when you restrict and tell yourself you can't have your phantom food, you eat something else, which doesn't hit the spot, so you try another food, which again doesn't satisfy you and before you know it, you've eaten way more than you would if you'd just had the food you actually wanted in the first place.
When you have unmet needs, when you're not satisfied, you will feel unhappy. Have you ever really craved a steak but ate a salad instead because you thought it was the better option ? How did you feel afterwards ? Did you feel satisfied ?
Often people are scared that if they allow themselves to eat the foods they really want, they won't be able to stop. Well don't worry, this doesn't happen. It's actually the opposite, it's when you restrict, then have huge cravings, that you tend to overreat. I wrote about this in my article 'How to stop food cravings' which you can read here. When you eat foods that give you a sense of satisfaction, you're less likely to have cravings and overreat.
The balance to be achieved is not just eating foods that are meeting your bodys physical needs but also ones that give you that satisfaction factor. They may not be the same foods and that's ok.
How do I get food satisfaction ?
Finding food satisfaction will look different for everyone as we all have different likes, dislikes, feelings and needs. It can also vary for you from day to day. This can be dependent on mood, hormones, how hungry you are etc. For example, if you aren't that hungry, even your most favourite food probably won't give you much satisfaction.
Eat when you are moderately hungry. Not starving, or still pretty full from your previous meal or snack. If you're starving you'll probably eat your food too quickly and not even register if you enjoyed it or whether it was satisfying. Conversely, if you're not really hungry, the food won't feel satisfying.
Ask yourself what you really want to eat and then give yourself unconditional permission to eat it. This is something that we rarely ask ourselves when we are dieting. This is becasue we are far too tuned into what we think we should eat, or we are simply told what to eat by a diet plan or app. Chronic dieters often find that they've forgotten how pleasurable eating the foods you desire actually is. Instead it's almost a battle of willpower to avoid such foods.
Focus on the different sensual aspects of the food. What does it smell like ? I mean who doesn't love the smell of freshly baked bread...?! What does it look like ? It's no coincidence that instagrammers post super attractive images of food and chefs perfect the beautiful plating of a dish. It if looks good, you're more likely to want to eat it. How does it taste - is it sweet, savoury, bitter etc ? What does the texture feel like ? Often people have particular likes and dislikes when it comes to texture. What's the temperature ? Sometimes we get more satisfaction from a hot bowl of soup, that we do from a cold salad, especially on cooler days. Remember that everyone has different preferences and yours will often change depending on factors such as the weather, your hunger levels, your mood and so on. Before deciding what to eat, think about these sensory factors and decide what your body wants. Choose foods that are appetizing to you as these will give you the most satisfaction.
Savour your food. Don't rush it whilst sat watching tv ! You'll find you've inhaled the lot and hardly noticed how hungry/full you are, or what it tasted like. Did you even enjoy it ? Have you ever noticed that a relaxed meal with friends or family gives you much more of a satisfaction factor than dinner on the sofa ? If you eat at work, try to take some time out, away from your desk and really make the most of your break. I promise you'll enjoy your food a lot more.
Try not to eat when you're feeling highly emotional. It's not a satisfying experience to eat if you're trying to push down emotions, or if you've had an argument with someone. Try to sit with your feelings and let them pass before eating. Maybe try some deep breathing or a meditation.
Reject the diet mentality. If you're focused on calories, macros or the nutritional content of the food, you're much less likely to enjoy it. You may even find you judge yourself for it. Not satisfying ! Remember, food is not the enemy.
Respecting your body when eating is also important. If you're constantly thinking about your body, or if you're feeling physically uncomfortable, such as through wearing tight clothes, you'll find it harder to find food satisfaction. Again, you might end up judging yourself for your food choices.
Being able to ignore or challenge anyone who makes comments about your food, or what you are eating will also help increase satisfaction. Remember, YOU are the expert of your body. You know what foods you want to eat, you know how hungry you are, you know what will provide your body the nourishment and satisfaction it needs at that time. No-one else does and besides, it's none of their business !
Bringing it all together
This all may sound a bit aspirational right now but taking things step by step and not being concerned about perfection is a good way to start the process. It's definitely a process, a journey, and there will be times when you just can't stop that inner food critic, or times when you need to eat, even when you're not necessarily enjoying it. For example when you're ill. You might be eating at a friends and they serve you food that you wouldn't necessarily have chosen but you eat it anyway. That's fine. Don't worry about it, don't beat yourself up. Life can't always be perfect and that's just the same with food. Just jump right back in when you can 😊
If you'd like to learn more about this, or would like support to repair your relationship with food, then get in touch to find out how I can help you.
Click here to book a FREE 15 min discovery chat with me.