When was the last time you really sat down and paid attention to how satisfied you are with a meal? Does it actually taste good? Do you have time to enjoy it or are you in a rush? Distracted?
In our ongoing series of Intuitive Eating Principles, comes one of the most important: Discover the Satisfaction Factor. The pleasure found in food satisfaction is really the hub of Intuitive Eating because if you’re not satisfied or not finding pleasure in the food you are eating – everything else will fall apart.
From the wise words of Evelyn Tribole (the co-creator of Intuitive Eating!)
“If you don’t love it, don’t eat it. And if you love it, savor it”
If you don’t reach full satisfaction, then you’ll find yourself in a constant cycle of wanting more. Which we know leads to feelings of deprivation that can manifest in feeling out of control around food or shame if you eat a “forbidden food” (check out this blog on principle #3 for more on this).
Am I Eating What I Want? In the Amount that I Want?
It’s important to take inventory and assess where you are right now when it comes to satisfaction level with food. Are you actually eating the foods that you want or choosing the second best thing because you think it may be “better” for you or what you “should be eating?”.
We are not a machine who needs “x” amount of calories or carbs a day, and sometimes it can feel like that’s what your daily job is when you’re pregnant. Hyper-focusing on getting “x” amount of nutrients/vegetables/etc can take away from you intuitively listening to your body’s true needs and cravings. Let me say it again, you are not a machine. You are a human.
You are already designed to know what you are craving and desire – the hardest part comes with listening to that and giving it what it wants! This might be scary if you’re new to Intuitive Eating or are used to hitting a specific number of carbohydrates per meal or day – but as you learn to trust your body and make peace with food (Principle #3!) this will become easier.
Remember that there are no morally “right” or “wrong” foods – understanding this will allow you to tap into what you really want and be able to build meals and snacks with satisfaction in mind. What about balanced nutrition you ask? That’s coming in Intuitive Eating Principle #10. If you have gestational diabetes you want to focus on balanced meals AND satisfaction so eating is more than just balancing blood sugars.
If you haven’t already gone through principles #1-#4, this may be more difficult so I encourage you to go back and read those before you move forward:
How to Know If Your Food is Satisfying
Actually giving your body what it wants and needs can decrease the craving or overwhelming desire for foods later! Notice these key elements when thinking about what you want to eat:
- Texture – Do you want crunchy, soft, smooth, rough, dry?
- Temperature – What sounds good: hot, cold, room temperature, lukewarm?
- Flavor – Are you craving sweet, salty, spicy, simple, complex, earthy, fresh, sour, bitter, tart, savory?
- Aroma – Is it appealing? Is there an ingredient that is turning you off to the food?
- Appearance – What would make it colorful, interesting, beautiful, etc?
- Volume – Do you want something that will feel like it fills you up a little bit? More?
You can also ask yourself these questions:
- Is this what I wanted?
- Am I enjoying it?
- What would make this more satisfying?
- Halfway through the meal – does it still taste good?
Noticing all aspects of your food (appearance, smell, volume, etc.) has a lot to do with overall satisfaction. Being able to notice or change the meal to your liking will also help you naturally get the nutrients your body is craving. For example, if you’re in your first trimester and you have an aversion to the temperature, taste and texture of raw vegetables – some cooked vegetables may be more satisfying than a big leafy salad.
Mindful Eating for Pregnancy
Mindful eating also comes into play to connect to the experience of eating. Being mindful when eating allows you to notice satisfaction. Incorporate mindful eating by using your senses. What does the food sound like? Feel like in your mouth? Smell like? Is this something you would want again? You may notice you really enjoy a food and be able to savor it. You may also notice that you don’t actually like a food and you can choose to stop eating it.
Your eating environment is also important. Are you allowing yourself time to eat and pay attention to the eating experience? Eating while distracted, while driving, in a meeting, making snacks for a toddler, etc. may lead you to feeling disconnected to the food you are eating and the experience of eating it. Pay attention and notice what different environments do for your satisfaction of eating!
Think about ways you can make the eating environment more enjoyable so you can eat without distraction and really tune in. Many people find it helpful to eat at a table that isn’t their desk. Perhaps you like silence or some gentle music. Eating off of plates and using real silverware might enhance the experience for you. I’m looking at you parents….compare eating off an “adult” plate versus a “kids” plate. Or even a plate versus the storage container your leftovers came from. Notice a difference?
Discovering the Satisfaction Factor
Discovering the Satisfaction Factor is all about tuning into your personal food preferences, in general and in the moment. It’s about creating meals and snacks that are delicious for your tastebuds. And those taste buds change a lot during pregnancy, so get ready to keep tuning in and being surprised about what you discover.
If you’re having trouble navigating intuitive eating and feel nervous to focus on satisfaction while pregnant or navigating gestational diabetes, I’m here to help. As a registered dietitian and doula who specializes in gestational diabetes I know the unique fears and challenges you may be facing right now, and I also know it is possible to navigate them with ease and confidence (when you have the right support). To learn more about me and my services, click here. I look forward to chatting more.