You’re hungry and need to eat. And then, the battle begins. “I could eat a salad,” you think. “But, I’m hungry and really want something more substantial. Maybe, I’ll order the chicken sandwich and fries. But, ALL THOSE CALORIES! ALL THAT FAT!” And, the battle goes on and on. You end up eating a meal you don’t enjoy – the salad – while wishing you’d ordered the sandwich and fries. It is time to finally end the food battle and enjoy food – right now!
The Real Enemies
The media and the food and diet industries are the real enemies – not food. These three groups constantly deliver mixed messages about enjoying things – especially food. We’re told that enjoying things means we’re “bad” or evil. We’re told that to be “good” we need to not do things we enjoy, restrict our food or only eat food that is “good for us” (i.e. food that tastes bad).
Then, the food industry puts out all the commercials telling you to “treat yourself”, “you deserve it”. These ads are always accompanied with decadent photos of the foods – like the ooey, gooey, chocolate cake or the pizza with the cheese stretching a yard long (the only time pizza does that is in the ads because they’ve doctored it up to do that – it isn’t real, edible pizza).
What are you supposed to do? What are you supposed to eat? If you’re like a lot of people you throw in the towel and try to “eat good” and end up not satisfied and searching for a snack later.
What is Satisfaction and why is it important?
The definition of satisfying is: giving fulfillment or the pleasure associated with this. With this definition in mind, think back to your last meal. Was it satisfying?
Satisfaction when it comes to food can be hard to pin down. When I ask my clients what makes a meal satisfying, they don’t know. Most have never thought about it. Have you?
A satisfying meal or food:
- Satisfies hunger
- Provides mental satisfaction
- “Hits the spot”
- Satisfies the senses (smell, visually, taste, texture, sound, etc.)
The experience of a meal, not just the food, can also be satisfying. When you plan a romantic dinner do you only think of the food? Nope. It is about the experience – the location, the environment, the music, who you’re with – all of the parts of that experience.
Having a satisfying eating experience is important because if you’re satisfied at the end of a meal you’ll be done eating for a while. If you’re not satisfied, you’ll be on the hunt for food that will be satisfying shortly.
Imagine you want a chocolate brownie. The chocolate brownie vs. rice cake battle ensues. The rice cake wins! You eat a rice cake. After eating the rice cake, are you done eating? Nope. You’re still thinking about that chocolate brownie.
If, on the other hand, the chocolate brownie won the battle and you ate that. Would you be wanting the rice cake? Nope. All thoughts of the rice cake are magically (or not so magically) gone. (You may want another chocolate brownie – or the whole pan – but that’s an article for another day.)
Six Steps to a Satisfying Eating Experience (AKA How to Enjoy Food)
While six steps may seem like a lot, you can decide to focus on one, two or all of them. You can start with one, work on it, then add another. This isn’t an all-or-none thing.
Step 1: Decide what you want to eat
If you don’t know what you want to eat, you won’t be satisfied. Taking a minute or two to think about what you want to eat. Consider all of your senses – taste, texture, smell.
A lot of people don’t know what foods they like. Or, they can’t decide what they want to eat. If you’re feeling this way, decide to experiment and choose something to try.
Step 2: Make the experience enjoyable
How can you make the experience one that you’ll enjoy? One way to do that is to eat when you’re “pleasantly hungry” vs. starving. If you’re like most people when you eat when you’re starving you don’t even taste the food.
How can you make the setting enjoyable? Are there special plates or glasses that you look forward to using or make you smile?
Can you take the tension out of time at the table? Eating when angry or stressed doesn’t make for a pleasurable or satisfying experience. If you find yourself feeling stressed or rushed, stop and take a couple of deep breaths before starting to eat.
Step 3: Use all of your senses
Being satisfied isn’t just about taste. A satisfying eating experience absolutely includes flavor. And, that isn’t the only sense you want to bring to the table.
How does the food look? A well-known adage among chefs is, “you eat with your eyes first.” Take a couple of seconds and look at the food. How does it look? Does it look appetizing? Is there anything there you don’t recognize? What part are you going to eat first?
How does the food smell? Can you smell it from the plate? Or, perhaps you need to get a bite on your fork and take a quick whiff and see what it smells like.
What are the textures? When you take that fist bite, what textures do you notice? Is it crunchy, sticky, chewy, creamy? How do the textures (and flavors) change as you chew?
What does it sound like? If it is crunchy and crispy does it make a sound when you chew it?
What is the food like when combined with other foods on the plate? Often when you eat at a restaurant, the chef has composed the foods on the plate to compliment each other in terms of flavors and textures.
Then, you can decide if you like the food or not. Or, maybe you like some things about the food and not others. The information you learn about what sensory qualities you like about foods can help you figure out what you want to eat in Step One.
Step Four: If you don’t like it, you don’t have to eat it
Just because you have the food in front of you, if you don’t like it you can stop eating it and get something else.
I hear the outrage! “OMG! You’re telling me to waste food?” Yes, I am.
If you’re focusing on having a satisfying eating experience, eating food you don’t like isn’t satisfying. You can choose to throw it out, give it to someone else, or compost it. You don’t have to eat it.
If you do like or love it, you can spend some more time with the sensory qualities and focus on why you like/love it. Do you love the taste, flavor, texture or all of that?
This also gives you more information to consider when you ask what you want to eat. You know you don’t want to eat that. Knowing what you don’t like is just as important as knowing what you do like.
Step Five: Check In
Usually the first three or so bites are the ones we enjoy the most. After the third bite, our mind says, “OK, I know what that is. On to think about something else.”
Every so often, stop and check in. Ask yourself if you’re still tasting the food. And, do you still like how it tastes? How full are you? One of the ways to know when you’re full is when the food stops tasting good.
Step Six: There are times it can’t be perfect
If your life is anything like mine, you’re busy. You can’t always stop at lunch and create the perfect ambiance – put a tablecloth on the table, get out the candles and light them, pull out the china. You’ve got things to do! And, this is OK.
If you don’t have time to make everything perfect, ask if there is just one thing you can do. Maybe you take a couple of deep breaths before you eat. Maybe you decide to focus on the first three bites. Or, maybe you decide you just need to get some food in your body and get on with it.
That is all OK. Just remember the next time you eat, you have the opportunity to have a perfectly satisfying eating experience. You have another opportunity to enjoy food.
The next time you eat, think about these six steps and see if you can incorporate one or more into your eating experience. If you want to talk about how to incorporate this into your life set up a call with me.