Satisfaction with food is a fundamental practice of self care. Learning to find satisfaction with food from a non-diet perspective is one of the most important pieces in chronic dieting recovery.
So how do you figure out what you're truly hungry for - especially if you've been told by diet culture for many years that certain foods are off limits?
It all starts with 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, volume of food...a little or a lot can trigger desire or rejection in your minds eye.
All of these and including the environment you're eating in (are you distracted?) - have an impact on whether or not you'll feel satisfied with your eating experience.
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 judgement, 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 one to make your food choice.
A quick word about hunger and fullness, because they will also play a big role in your meal/snack satisfaction.
If you're mildly hungry, you're more likely able to walk through those sensory cues above, asking yourself what sounds good. If you aren't hungry at all, you're less likely to even notice the 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.
On the other hand, extreme, ravenous hunger sensations will overshadow your ability to objectively figure out what sounds good. At that hunger point, your body is in a primal state of, "feed me now, anything and everything!"
NOTE: this is exactly what happens when you've been on a chronic diet of food restriction and then find yourself bingeing on foods that have been off-limits. It's a primal chronic dieting backlash response. Frustrating to go through, but 100% normal, expected, and necessary to eventually heal your relationship with food and your body.
One last bit of advice...go slow. Learning to find satisfaction with food or even figuring out what foods sound desirable and satisfying takes time. Remember, you've been on a date with the food police for a VERY LONG TIME. Those judgy food thoughts aren't going to go away overnight. This is a practice that involves vulnerability as much as trial and error.
If you take a bite and don't love what you're eating, you have NO OBLIGATION to continue eating that food. If you grew up being told to "clean your plate 'cause there are starving kids in Africa," (a form of food policing by the way), let me just say, those kids aren't gonna want your leftovers by the time they get all the way to Africa!
So, skip the guilt. Share what you don't want with a dinning companion or compost it (if you live in an area that does such a thing) or garbage disposal it. At this point, your recovery from chronic dieting matters more than the environmental impact of tossing your unsatisfactory leftovers!
If you're someone who'd like to test drive their food satisfaction cues on a new recipe, I invite to give this one a try. It's got creamy, crunchy, savory, richness, and bold flavors all rolled into one easy casserole.
Recipe for Mac'n Cheese with a twist...inspired by The Sarno Bros
Let me know how it goes over on the Facebook Page @alpinenutrition 😊