In our society today, we are so concerned with eating “guilt-free” foods like kale salads and green smoothies that we often forget to ask ourselves what we actually enjoy. Maybe those foods are ones that you truly enjoy. Maybe they aren’t. Either way, it takes getting in touch with mindful awareness to discover which foods satisfy us.
This week we are diving into Principle 6 which revolves around discovering the satisfaction factor of food (1). To me, this is a fun principle. As you begin bringing more awareness to what you are eating and how you are eating, it’s like being a kid again and discovering foods for the first time.
In our efforts to be thin or healthy, we often overlook the pleasure and experience that can be found in eating. We typically see foods as either off limits or within our diet. This brings back the idea of thinking in terms of morality with food. However, consider past experiences when you have settled for “healthier” foods that you weren’t actually craving. When I was in college, I often did this. I would tell myself that I couldn’t choose a dessert in the dining hall. Instead, I would settle for a WeightWatchers cake from my dorm room instead. However, I typically found myself eating a couple of them plus extra snacks because I hadn’t experienced the same satisfaction I had been searching for in the first place. However, if I had just challenged the food police to begin with and eaten the dessert, I would have likely eaten far less and felt satisfied. Can you recall a similar situation happening to you?
Instead of depriving yourself of pleasurable foods, why not explore what you actually like?
In Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, there are 5 steps to discovering satisfaction in eating.
Think of a time you went out to eat at a restaurant. You may have been eyeing a cheeseburger on the menu; but then, out of guilt, ordered a salad instead. However, it’s time to ask yourself what you actually want to eat, not what you should eat. Consider which foods taste good to you and you look forward to eating. Sometimes we’ve restricted ourselves of foods for so long that we have trouble figuring out what it is that we like. The next steps should help bring some clarity.
Have you ever heard someone say they have a sweet tooth? Or maybe you’ve heard someone say they prefer salty snacks? Do you know what your flavor preference tends to be? Now is a good time to explore.
Take some time to consider your senses. Do you like foods that are savory, sweet, bitter, tart, rich, salty, spicy, mild smoky, or bland? What textures do you prefer? Do you like crunchy, chewy, or creamy? Do your preferences change throughout the year and with the seasons? Does the way your food is plated make a difference to you? Use your senses! Try different foods and bring awareness to whether that food is something you would want to eat again.
How many of you have felt rushed or stressed while eating a meal? I think we can all safely raise our hands on this one. Often at work, I’ll get so distracted with my work that I’ll quickly eat something while catching up on emails. I certainly feel a difference in the enjoyment of my meals when I am in a peaceful, relaxed environment versus eating on the run. Think about what your eating environment is currently like. What do you like? What could you improve?
When I work with clients who feel that they eat very quickly or don’t have pleasurable eating experiences, I encourage them to take a mindful bite at the start of their meals. This video from Fiona Sutherland describes the process and this additional TED Talk takes you through the chocolate mindfulness exercise I frequently walk through with clients. Every once and awhile when I feel like I am not feeling as relaxed at meals, I will go through the iEat Script from The Intuitive Eating Workbook (2). I recorded myself reading the prompt so all I need to do is press play and continue with the activity. You can do the same if you have a copy of the workbook.
Other cultures do an incredible job of creating experiences around foods. Some European countries spend hours eating together. When I studied abroad in China and Taiwan, I loved the family style eating. It allowed me to try a little bit of everything and decide what dishes tasted good to me.
What happens when you find a food that you really don’t care for? Most of us have grown up in a “clean plate club” household, so leaving food on the plate seems sinful. However, repeat after me: You are not obligated to finish food that you do not enjoy. This also goes for eating past the point of hunger. You do not have to clean your plate. Period.
As you are eating, check in with yourself periodically. Does the food still taste as good as it did when you first took a bite? Sometimes we tune out our senses or become distracted during meals. When this happens, we aren’t typically aware of how our food tastes. Whenever I order a Dairy Queen Blizzard, if I’m eating mindfully, I will notice that the first couple of bites taste the best. After I’m partway through, it tends to lose its appeal. Do you notice this with certain foods that you eat?
As you work through the activities for the sixth principle, don’t forget to have fun! Making peace with food doesn’t have to be all serious. Go out and try new foods or prepare old recipes from your childhood. Explore the foods that bring you joy. To help you along the way, use the journal prompts.
Don’t forget to use the hashtag #SpillingTheBeansOnIE on social media or tag me in any posts while you are going through the principles with me.