Food is so much more than a collection of nutrients and calories – it marks celebrations, facilitates socialising, and brings happiness.
However, diet culture and its food rules tell us that enjoying food should only be restricted to ‘cheat days’ and special occasions.
This type of restriction often leaves us feeling completely unsatisfied, deprived, and guilty!
In this article, I explain how it is only when we are able to let go of restriction and shame related to eating that we can truly be satisfied after eating!
How restriction and food rules leave us unsatisfied
When we restrict the foods that we crave, we can be left feeling unsatisfied and deprived. As a result, we are likely to demonize the foods that we really want to eat, and when we do eat them we are left feeling like we have failed and need to work to make up for a mistake we have made.
Restricting food can also restrict us from enjoying experiences and moments with the people around us.
Overall, restricting the foods that we really WANT to eat has a significant impact on our quality of life, having a bigger impact on our health than any particular food or meal.
Let’s walk through three steps to let go of restriction and deprivation to discover true satisfaction after eating.
4 tips to feel satisfied after eating
1. Identify what you want to eat
Yes, we should be choosing a variety of foods from a range of food groups, aiming to meet our bodies nutrient requirements and needs – however, if we are able to let go of simple diet rules and embrace our bodies inner hunger cues and cravings, we are likely to desire a range of foods including those that are traditionally healthy and nutrient-dense, and those that are less so.
It is important to ask yourself – what do I feel like eating at this moment?
Consider flavours, textures, smells, and appearance of foods. Trust your body and give yourself permission to eat what you crave.
Jot down a list of foods that you really enjoy, whether it’s because of the flavour, texture, how it smells. This mindfulness can help you to think about what it is about particular foods that you enjoy which can help you identify what it is that you want to eat at that moment.
For example, I really enjoy eating cool, crisp, crunchy foods during Summer, rather than warm meals. If I was to try to enjoy a bowl of pasta on a hot summer’s day, I don’t think I would get true satisfaction from that. However, if it was a cold winter’s night, that would likely be much more appetising for me.
It’s important to remember though, that you’re likely to feel like different things every time you eat, so stay curious, reserve judgement and you’ll be more likely to truly recognise which food will provide the most satisfaction at that time.
I also acknowledge that there will be times where we don’t have the time to create a meal that we truly feel like and that is ok. Sometimes food will simply fill the need of suppressing hunger, but acknowledge the reasons for that – whether it’s because you’re in the middle of a busy workday, you’re driving kids to sport or you just can’t be bothered.
What’s important is learning to trust the signals your body is giving you and knowing that you hold the inner wisdom to what will truly nourish and satisfy you.
2. Assess sensations after eating
The pleasure of eating includes not only how we feel during the eating experience, but how we feel after the meal also.
When we eat to an extent that stretches outside of our fullness levels, we are likely to be left feeling overfull and unwell.
Further, certain foods that are high in less nutrient-dense food components may leave us feeling queasy or unsettled in our stomachs.
It is important to listen to our body when we feel this way and remember for next time.
While eating past the point of uncomfortable fullness is not something to be ashamed of, it impacts our level of satisfaction and can leave us feeling disappointed after a meal.
Similarly, sometimes after eating, we may be left still feeling hungry! Assess what it was that you ate. Was it filling enough? Sometimes lighter foods just won’t satisfy you and you may need to include something with more volume, whereas there will be times where a light meal will be perfectly satisfying!
3. Choose a calm, enjoyable environment
Feeling satisfied after eating can also be influenced by the environment we eat in – factors such as eating with loved ones, being in a relaxing setting without loud noise or distraction and sitting in a way that is comfortable are all factors we should aim to achieve to increase our satisfaction with eating.
Satisfaction may also come from choosing variety in the foods we eat.
Eating a range of foods helps us to meet our bodies biological needs, it also helps us to feel satisfied and interested in food as we are able to try many different flavours, textures, aromas and discover what we may (or may not!) enjoy.
4. Eat mindfully
Slowing down, savouring your food and staying truly present during the mealtime experience can help increase the satisfaction factor.
My tips for eating mindfully:
- When you’re about to start eating reduce distractions – turn off the tv, put away phones and laptops
- Sit at a table rather than standing in the kitchen or at a desk
- Take a couple of deep breaths before you start eating to reduce your heart rate if you’ve been buzzing around. This can help to calm you and get focused.
- Chew and eat slowly. All the flavour sensations are in your mouth, so the quicker you eat the less time you have to enjoy all the flavours!
- Put your cutlery down during the experience to help slow down your eating
- Pay attention to your fullness levels. It won’t feel as satisfying if you eat past of the comfortable fullness.
The key to feeling truly satisfied after eating is to honour your taste buds! But I acknowledge it can be hard to do after years of diet culture telling us eating what we feel like is treated as a cardinal sin.
If you are looking for support in learning how to discover the satisfaction factor, make an appointment with me today.
Practice my four tips above and remember that this is not something that you have to get perfect. Simply starting to pay more attention to our body cues is the best way to being able to eat and feel satisfied afterwards.