Have you ever finished a meal and found yourself rummaging through the kitchen for something to eat 30 minutes later, even if you aren’t physically hungry?
Or maybe you wanted to eat chips with your lunch, but opted for carrot sticks instead? You were left feeling less than enthused about your choice and ended up thinking about chips all afternoon.
You’re not alone!
We’ve all felt unsatisfied with a meal at one point or another, especially if we restrict the types of foods we eat, the amounts allowed, or the timing of meals and snacks. The lack of satisfaction we feel as a result of restriction is one of the primary reasons restrictive eating plans just don’t work.
In this post, I’ll talk about the four reasons the satisfaction factor is key to a good relationship with food. You’ll learn how embracing satisfaction increases joy and pleasure, reduces overeating and food obsession, and improves mood and focus.
Let’s jump in!
The satisfaction factor is at the center of Intuitive Eating
At its core, Intuitive Eating is all about listening to your body and responding compassionately to what it needs. It’s a way of life that helps you break free from the cycle of yo-yo dieting and achieve a healthy, balanced relationship with food and your body.
And one of the most important concepts in Intuitive Eating is satisfaction. It is not only one of the ten principles, Discover The Satisfaction Factor, but additionally, satisfaction is the hub of the wheel that connects all of the principles of Intuitive Eating.
Simply put, the satisfaction factor is the degree to which a food satisfies your hunger, helps fill you up until your next meal, and meets your taste preferences. Pleasure, flavor and satiety are key here.
When you’re eating intuitively, you’re looking for foods that will give you the most bang for your buck in terms of satisfaction. In other words, you want foods that will make you feel good both physically and emotionally.
When you are in tune with how food makes your body FEEL, food rules, the food police, and the diet mentality don’t have a say in what satisfies you. You choose foods that answer your hunger’s call and help satisfy your fullness. You’re respecting your body’s needs.
You’re also tuning in to whether your food choices fuel you well for movement and meet your nutritional needs. Satisfaction is where all ten Intuitive Eating principles intersect.(link to my article on 10 principles)
Why is the satisfaction factor important?
Here are the top four reasons the satisfaction factor is important on your Intuitive Eating journey:
- Food is one of the pleasures in life that can bring you satisfaction and contentment.
- Avoiding satisfying foods due to fear of eating them uncontrollably actually encourages overeating later.
- Satisfaction and satiety after a meal allow your mind to focus on something other than food.
- Choosing foods you love that satisfy your taste buds can actually improve your mood.
Let’s explore each one of these reasons a bit.
1. Getting more satisfaction and pleasure from eating
During college I lived in Spain for a year. Every day at lunchtime, businesses closed for about 2 hours, kids were released from school and workers took a long break to return home (if possible) and enjoy a meal.
Meals were an experience, savored slowly. They were shared with family and friends and filled with conversation and conviviality. Spanish meals were utterly satisfying socially, emotionally, and physically.
How can we emulate this wholly satisfying eating experience??
We can start by paying attention to our eating environment and the pace at which we’re eating. Are our surroundings pleasant or distracting? Are we focused on eating or work? Are we alone or do we have a meal companion? All aspects of the meal can increase or decrease satisfaction.
Second, it helps to ensure that you’re actually enjoying your food. When was the last time you slowed down to ask yourself how much you like what you’re eating? Do you like the flavor, texture or aroma? How about the temperature, taste or the feel of the food in your body?
Third, how hungry are you when you start to eat? How full are you halfway through and at the end of your meal? Meals are more satisfying when we’re hungry for them and when we stop eating when pleasantly full rather than overstuffed.
There are few things more miserable than eating a meal that you don’t enjoy. On the other hand, there’s nothing quite like sinking your teeth into a plate of delicious food and knowing that you’re going to enjoy every single bite.
2. Avoiding satisfying foods encourages overeating later
Think about what happens when you want potato chips on the side of your sandwich, but you opt for veggie sticks. Then, unsatisfied, you eat a few crackers. Then a rice cake. And so on, all in an effort to avoid the chips, when, in fact, you would have eaten less and been more satisfied by eating the dang chips!
Choosing foods that take the place of what you really want to eat sets you up for overeating.
If you are trying to swap the food you really want for a food that is “allowed” according to diet culture or food rules you have (macros, calories, points…), you’re bound to feel dissatisfied.
Even if the “permitted” food fills you up physically, you still keep thinking about the food you really wish you could have eaten. This mental restriction causes you to obsess over that food, increasing cravings even more.
This leaves you with two choices – break the rules and feel guilty or play by the rules and be deprived. Either way, you can’t win.
Instead, choosing foods that satisfy you and savoring every bite generally allows you to meet your body’s needs without guilt or deprivation. Additionally, knowing you’ll choose satisfying foods regularly, you often find yourself satisfied with less of the “forbidden” foods when foods you love aren’t off limits.
3. Satiety and satisfaction reduce obsessive food thoughts
Finally, leaving a meal truly satisfied and satiated lets you move away from constantly thinking about food. Feeling pleasantly full and satisfied after meals takes your mind off of food and lets you focus on the other things that matter.
But not all foods are created equal in terms of satiety. Some foods tend to digest quickly, leaving you feeling hungry again shortly after finishing your meal. Other foods take longer to digest, keeping you feeling full for longer periods of time.
Meals and snacks with a combination of complex carbohydrates (yes, I said carbs), protein, fiber, and fat increase satiety. This balanced combination creates staying power in your meals and tends to keep you fuller longer. That’s satiety!
So when you give yourself unconditional permission to eat foods with a high satisfaction factor— rich in complex carbs, protein, fiber, healthy fats, and so on—you’re more likely to feel satisfied after eating them. This helps move food out of your thoughts so you can focus your energy on work, play, family, friends or whatever.
4. Choosing satisfying foods improves mood
Ever notice how eating a food you love changes your whole mood for the better? You suddenly feel happier and more relaxed—almost as if you’ve been given a little gift. Food lights up the pleasure centers of our brain, just like music or playing with babies can.
Additionally, many foods even contain the precursors – biochemical ingredients – to make more serotonin or dopamine in the body. These brain chemicals make you feel happy, contribute to good mood, and affect how well you sleep. All of this increases overall life satisfaction, too.
By choosing foods that you know will taste good, you can ensure that your meals contribute to your whole well-being rather than just filling the void with foods you think you “should” eat.
Final thoughts on the satisfaction factor
As you can see, the satisfaction factor is an important concept in becoming an intuitive eater. Satisfaction is at the core of all ten Intuitive Eating principles.
By choosing foods that are both satisfying and enjoyable, you can really enjoy your eating experiences while preventing out-of-control eating.
Eating foods that bring you pleasure and satisfaction reduce food obsession with the added bonus of improving your mood.
So next time you sit down to eat, take a moment to think about whether or not the food you’re about to eat will meet your needs in terms of hunger, taste, satisfaction and satiety. If not, consider trying something else that will really hit the spot. : )
For more help on your Intuitive Eating journey from a registered dietitian and Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor, contact me for a free inquiry call.
Hello there! I’m Britt, a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor. I can help you find freedom from life-long dieting, disordered eating and eating disorders. When I’m not writing about ditching diet culture, joyful movement or improving body image, you can find me hiking in Vermont’s Green Mountains, eating pizza, making modern quilts or sipping a hot cup of tea. Let’s connect!