Eating plays a big role in our daily lives, one that deserves to be fully experienced. Let your food experience be something that you can savor, and truly enjoy in the moment.
BY: JILL CLODFELTER-MASON, RDN, CD
It’s understandably tough for those of us who have dieted on-and-off to fully experience joy when we eat. Dieting often causes us to consume foods that we don’t enjoy, and experience guilt and anxiety when we eat what we actually want.
While food does provide us with much needed energy for survival, it’s also about experiencing satisfaction and pleasure. Feeling mentally satisfied with what we’ve eaten is incredibly important, and can empower our emotional and physical well-being.
When we eat what actually sounds good – in a setting where we can really appreciate what we’re consuming – we’re more likely to notice when we’re comfortably full, and feel mentally satisfied with what we just ate. As the book, Intuitive Eating, states, “When you allow yourself pleasure and satisfaction from every possible eating experience, your total quantity of food will decrease.”
But how can we create an environment and meals that will be as enjoyable and as satisfying as possible?
The reality is that some days this is easier than others. And that’s OK! Not every meal or snack needs to be perfect, and there will be so many times in life where we will eat.
But generally aiming for as much satisfaction as possible as we eat can help our food experience be more pleasurable, and help us feel more mentally satisfied from our meals and snacks. With this in mind, here are some tips that have been adapted from the Intuitive Eating book for experiencing more pleasure and mental satisfaction from eating.
1. KEEP A WIDE ASSORTMENT OF FOODS IN THE HOUSE – AND DETERMINE WHAT YOU WOULD LIKE TO EAT.
Understandably, many people who have dieted have made their food choices based on what’s allowed on their plan, which has frequently led to not really knowing which foods they actually enjoy. If it’s tough to know which foods sound good, take a few weeks to taste test a wide assortment of foods – and distinguish which flavors, textures, aromas, and temperatures you prefer.
Maybe you’ll discover that you like pasta, bread, soup, beans, cheese, and meat. Or maybe not. Everyone is different. Keeping a mixture of foods in the house that you enjoy will make for more interesting and satisfying meals throughout the week – as will asking yourself what you would like to eat in the moment.
2. TUNE INTO YOUR FOOD EXPERIENCE.
Sometimes consuming a meal or snack consists of eating as quickly as you can at work – or while you work. Or it happens as you fly down the highway running errands while you eat your meal in the car. Life happens.
If possible, give yourself permission to set a certain amount of time aside to enjoy your meal each day. Even carving out 20 minutes to enjoy a meal is something. Some people find that they’re able to be more present with their food if they find a way to decompress before they begin a meal.
Breathing in and out a few times before taking your first bite of food can be helpful – as can chewing your food slowly so that you can take in the mixture of flavors, textures, and temperatures that your meal offers.
When you eat your next meal, tune into what it tastes like. Is it sweet, sour, savory, or bitter? Does it taste good, bad, or neither? Are the textures crunchy, smooth, or soft? Do you like the textures? Why, or why not?
3. EAT WHEN GENTLY HUNGRY, AND TUNE INTO WHEN YOU’RE COMFORTABLY FULL.
Can you remember a time when you went for too many hours during the day without eating? Most likely this was followed by feeling ravenous, and being unable to enjoy your meal.
Eating when gently hungry is helpful because you’ll have an easier time identifying what you would like to eat. Eating before you become extremely hungry will enable you to enjoy how your food tastes, versus rushing through each bite without noticing the different flavors, textures, and temperatures that your food offers.
Throughout your next meal, explore where you fall on the hunger and fullness scale. As you reach the uncomfortably full stage, your food will not be as pleasurable to eat. Eating up to the point of being comfortably full helps you maintain a higher level of satisfaction from meals since you don’t experience the physical discomfort of being uncomfortably full. However, know that if you eat past the point of feeling comfortably full, you can do so without judgement.
4. EAT IN AN ENJOYABLE SETTING.
Decreasing the amount of distractions, such as your TV, cell phone, or computer, and doing more to enhance the setting you eat in will make for a more pleasurable eating and food experience. Some studies indicate that it takes longer to feel full and register fullness when playing computer games or watching television while eating, so try removing these distractions from your meal time.
If it feels intimidating, try eliminating distractions from the first bite of a meal/snack, and then another bite in the middle of your meal/snack. If it feels right, you can gradually build up to eliminating distractions from one meal a day – and go from there. In general, eating more meals without distractions can be helpful for experiencing pleasure from your food. It’s about balance.
What does eating in a nice setting mean to you? For some, this means eating off a pretty plate, lighting some candles on the dinner table, or playing some relaxing music. If you have children and find that your meal time is somewhat chaotic, you may try eating part of your meal with your family, followed by eating the remainder of the meal after everyone else is done eating. As always, do what feels right to you.
5. TRY TO MAINTAIN PEACE THROUGHOUT YOUR MEALS
Most of us can relate to the frustration of sitting down at the dinner table to enjoy a meal, only to have an argument break out at the table. In these moments of annoyance, we might consume our meal more rapidly than usual, and miss out on enjoying the different flavors and textures in our meal.
Plus, who wants to feel angry when they’re finally sitting down to experience some pleasure? Try to make the dinner table a safe zone where arguments are banned. You deserve to have a peaceful meal.
Remember, these are simply tips, not rules. They are ideas to experiment with as you develop a healthier relationship with food by rejecting the diet mentality and honoring your hunger as you learn to eat intuitively and enjoy your food.
It’s always about progress – not perfection.
Adapted from the original article.
Jill Clodfelter-Mason, RDN, CD, is a private practice dietitian, health coach, food blogger, and owner of Cultivate Joy Nutrition in central Indiana. She assists her clients with developing a healthier relationship with food and their bodies. Jill’s mission is to help women overcome the ‘shoulds’ that rule their lives, so they can become fully present in celebrating delicious, nourishing foods and reconnecting with who they are – mind, body, and soul. To learn more about Jill, check out her website, www.cultivatejoynutrition.com, and follow her on Pinterest, Instagram, and Facebook @cultivatejoynutrition.