Eating is about more than hunger and fullness. It’s about more than nutrition. Not only is it OK to actually enjoy and receive pleasure from eating, it’s a good thing!
So many people feel ashamed when they enjoy eating. They think, “If it’s not green and I don’t hate it, then it can’t be healthy for me”. What if I told you there is so much more to the healthfulness of a food than its nutrient content? Liking the food you eat, enjoying its flavor and feeling satisfied when you eat it all contribute to your overall health!
It’s OK to gain pleasure from food and its deliciousness.
Think about it: how healthy are you really if you’re stressing about food, counting calories, thinking you “shouldn’t” have this or you are “bad” if you eat that? All that mental anguish over food can actually hurt your health.
Let’s talk about pleasure, joy and satisfaction of food and eating. How do you want to feel while you’re eating? How do you want to feel when you’re done eating? I personally want to feel nourished and satisfied. I know that not every bite of food that goes into my mouth is going to be the tastiest thing ever, but I choose to eat foods that I truly enjoy, rather than those I think I “should” eat.
You might be thinking, “If I focus on satisfaction, then I’ll end up eating a horrible diet devoid of any nutrition.” Here’s the thing: when you let go of food rules, connect with your body, feed it what it wants when it’s hungry and respect its fullness, you’re likely to find a natural a balance between nutrient-rich foods as well as those uber-tasty foods that might be lacking in some nutrients.
In other words, when we worry less about what we’re eating, we’re more likely to strike a balance with nutritious and satisfying foods.
I know this can be tough to imagine, but trust me, lots of people practice intuitive eating and do just this! Try following these strategies to discover the joy and satisfaction of eating.
Write a list of your favorite foods
No shame here. Write down all those delicious, fun, sentimental, nourishing, special, memorable foods and meals. They can be foods you make at home, meals at your favorite restaurants, those celebratory meals your family makes. Anything goes. Get to know what you like.
Incorporate tasty foods throughout the day
When you’re deciding what to eat, ask yourself what you’re hungry for. Not just what nutrients you need, but what actually sounds good? Make sure you’re including fun foods every day so you’re not feeling restricted (which can lead to binges). Fun foods include foods you eat just “for the fun of it,” such as sweets and salty snack foods.
Enjoy your meal mindfully
How are you supposed to be satisfied by your food if you’re not even paying attention to it? The purpose of eating isn’t just to shove as much food down your esophagus as quickly you can. In order to feel truly satisfied from eating, not just full, it’s important to pay attention while you eat. It also helps to eat in a calm, pleasant environment.
Respect your fullness
Feeling satisfied means eating enough but not too much. You don’t want to feel uncomfortably or sickly full. There are a few strategies to use when you’re working on respecting your fullness and I wrote all about them here.
Approach eating with flexibility
It’s not realistic that you’ll get to eat your all-time favorite foods all the time. Budget, time, accessibility and other variables impact what and when we can eat. I live in a big city where I can order delivery for just about any food I want. But do I want to spend money on that every day? No. Instead, I stock my house with a variety of tasty foods that I can turn into delicious meals and snacks.
These are just five ways to discover the joy and satisfaction of eating but I can think of many more, such as eating in a way that aligns with your values, cooking with others and eating together, and growing your own food and enjoying the fruits of your labor. I’d love to hear what helps you enjoy eating and feel satisfied! Share your insights in the comment section below.
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