We can all agree that food provides necessary fuel for our bodies, but some of us forget about or ignore the true pleasure derived from eating the foods we love. This is especially common for chronic dieters, who are taught to view food as the enemy and to deny themselves opportunities for pleasurable and satisfying eating experiences. But why are we so afraid to love our food? Many people worry that if they allow themselves to choose meals and snacks they enjoy, it will lead to uncontrollable food cravings. This, in fact, is the exact opposite of the truth! When we deprive ourselves from our favorite foods, that restriction usually creates intense desires for these foods, which can ultimately lead to bingeing.
Here’s an example of how unsatisfying eating experiences can backfire. Have you ever eaten a big garden salad when you were actually craving macaroni and cheese? If so, did you want more food shortly after finishing your meal? Wonder why? The answer is simple – although you may have been physically full, you weren’t psychologically satisfied by the food you chose. Yes, you ate food that fueled your body, but it wasn’t the food your body wanted in that moment. By allowing yourself to eat what you want, you’re much more likely to feel content and satiated at the end of your meal, and won’t need to turn to additional foods to achieve satisfaction.
Here are five steps that can help you regain your pleasure in eating, as described in Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Anti-Diet Approach:
Ask yourself what you truly want to eat. What are you in the mood for? What sounds good to you at this moment? Figure out what you want to eat and allow yourself to eat it in an enjoyable and calm atmosphere.
Find the pleasure of the palate. Focus on the here and now when you are eating. After taking a bite of food, try to be aware of the taste. Is it sweet, salty, or bitter? How is the texture? What is the aroma? Does the food look appealing to you? Focusing on your eating experience will help you to savor and appreciate your food.
Improve your eating experience. Make time to sit down at the table and enjoy your food. Take a few deep breaths before you start eating to center yourself, so that you can be fully focused on your food. Eat slowly throughout the meal to enhance your eating experience. Your taste buds are in your mouth, not in your stomach, so taking the time to chew your food will allow you to really taste it and enjoy the different flavors. Check in with yourself in the middle of your meal to see where your fullness level is, as discussed in previous blog posts. Try to savor each bite!
Don’t settle for unsatisfying food. You might taste a food that you expect to be delicious, but then realize you don’t like it. Maybe you continue eating it simply because it’s in front of you; however, you should never feel obligated to finish a food just because you started it! Instead, try to find something else in the refrigerator or order something else at the restaurant. If that’s not an option, eat the parts of the meal that you do like. One of the advantages of being an intuitive eater is that you have the ability to set aside food that doesn’t taste good to you, and know you can always have the foods that you want.
Check in with yourself. Throughout your meal, ask if the food tastes as good as it did when you started eating. If it doesn’t, it may be time to stop eating until you feel hungry next. Remember that you can eat appealing foods again in the future anytime!
It is important to note that intuitive eating is not black and white, and does not involve rigidity or perfectionism. Some days it might be easier to eat intuitively than others, and that’s normal! Sometimes you might be in situations where you can’t choose to eat what you want, and that’s totally okay. You will survive! Be patient with yourself and you will regain your ability to truly enjoy food again.
Here at Restore Family Therapy, we have dietitians and therapists who specialize in Intuitive Eating and can help you start your journey of becoming an intuitive eater. If you are interested in learning more about the different treatment options that we provide, please reach out for a free consultation at restoreft.com.