What are you truly hungry for, how do you know?
Have you had enough food at the meal, how do you know?
Becoming aware of and honoring your hunger cues is a fundamental practice of self-care. So is finding satisfaction with food whenever possible. Learning to find satisfaction with food from a non-diet perspective is a critical part of recovering from years of chronic dieting and body shame'n blame.
How do you even define satisfaction with eating when you've been told for too many years that pleasure and satisfaction are "indulgent, sinful, or decedent?"
Start by identifying your sensory desires. Such as...
Tastes - sweet, savory, salty, spicy, buttery, rich, bitter, tangy or tart, smoky, mild, bold, bland, etc.
Textures - smooth, crunchy, crispy, dense, flaky, mushy, sticky, dry, moist, light, gooey, greasy, etc.
Smell - sweet, savory, toasted, pungent like stinky cheese, fresh like spring grass or herbs, etc.
Temperature - cold, cool, warm, hot, room temp, etc.
Plating - how is the food presented either on your plate or at the deli counter you're making your selection from? This includes the volume of food. Seeing a little food or a lot of food can trigger desire or rejection in your mind's eye.
CAUTION: be on the lookout for diet mentality or diet rebellion trying to convince you what volume of food you need to be satisfied.
Your eating environment also has an impact on whether or not you'll feel satisfied with your eating experience. Are you distracted by desk-top or dashboard dining? Are you able to eat in a calm atmosphere such as in nature or with gentle music on?
When you're trying to figure out what type of food sounds satisfying to you at any given moment, also bring awareness to any food policing or diet mentality thoughts that may come to mind.
Notice the thoughts without judgment, just curiosity...
" Hun, that's interesting. Why am I judging this desire for something...(sweet, salty, greasy, rich, etc)?"
Then acknowledge the thought, "thanks, but no thanks, I'm doing this MY WAY this time." And move on to make your food choice.
If you're like many of my clients, and you've already worked through making peace with food, honoring full permission with all foods, and made it through the fuckit eating phase (i.e. eating all your previously forbidden foods, all the time, feeling out of control at times and euphoric at others)...
You may experience the Diet Rebel voice trying to convince you to override your satisfaction by continuing to eat beyond fullness because, "Hey, you're not dieting anymore, you can have as much lasagna as you want!"
However, while taste satisfaction is essential, it's also satisfying to not feel sickly full after eating. It's satisfying to be in the moment with your food, your environment, and your body. It's satisfying to make food choices based on your unique self-care needs.
A word about hunger and fullness, because they play a big role in your eating satisfaction.
If you're mildly hungry coming into the eating experience, you're more likely to walk through the process of asking yourself what sounds good based on the sensory cues above.
If you aren't hungry at all and you eat anyway, you're less likely to notice any sensations the food creates. This can be especially true if you're eating under stress or out of boredom. Your mind will be more likely to focus on those emotions or what's causing them than what sensations the food is giving you.
NOTE: there are times when your hunger signals are off-line - stress, illness, travel, emotional turmoil. It's still important to eat regularly even if it's not the most satisfying experience. Consistently nourishing your body is how you maintain a trusting relationship with your body.
If for whatever reason, you arrive at an eating experience ravenously hungry, your primal drive for survival will overshadow your ability to objectively figure out what food sounds good. At that point, your body is in a primal state of, "feed me now, anything and everything!"
This is exactly what's happening when you've been on a chronic diet of food restrictions and then find yourself bingeing on foods that have been off-limits. It's a physiological primal response for survival. Frustrating to go through, but 100% normal, expected, and necessary to eventually find satisfaction with food and your body.
If finding satisfaction seems like a shot in the dark process to you, go slow. Learning to find satisfaction with food or even figuring out what foods sound desirable and satisfying takes time.
Remember, you've been in manipulative relationships with the Food Police and Diet Rebel for a VERY LONG TIME. Those judgy or rebellious thoughts about food aren't going to go away overnight. This is a practice that involves vulnerability as much as trial and error.
Need extra support finding satisfaction with eating experiences and life?
Download the FREE Savor Food & Body Guide. You'll get 6 action-packed steps to start healing your relationship with food and your body. You'll also receive the monthly Alpine Nutrition Insider Newsletter with additional tips, resources, and recipes to support your Intuitive Eating practice.
For another perspective and additional Intuitive Eating resources, check out this post by Jared Levenson