If you haven´t read my post regarding all of this Fifth Principle of Intuitive Eating, it is worth reading it first to get the full low down (or go here to go to the very start of my Intuitive Eating journey). Now I am reviewing it using my handy workbook with it´s very useful exercises (especially for this Principle).
First up to say this Principle is all about enjoying eating and eating what we find truly satisfying or pleasurable in that moment without any barriers in our way (e.g the food police!). If you are anything like me that I find it can be difficult to really be in tune with my food desires, particularly after many years of diets or rules (conscious and sub-conscious!) Allowing myself to choose a meal that will really satisfy me feels like quite an endeavour!
The book asks some very pertinent questions in relation to asking what foods we really want for a meal according to the following qualities:
- Taste – savoury, sweet, rich, spicy, bland or bitter for example?
- Texture – smooth, crunchy, flaky, hard, soft, thick, heavy or light?
- Aromas – are they appealing to you?
- Temperature – something hot, room temperature, cold or frozen?
- Appearance – something colourful or bland, how would I like it to look on a plate?
- Volume and sustaining capacity – something airy and light or heavy and filling?
I don´t think I have ever asked myself these kinds of questions as I tend to have fairly habitual patterns for breakfast and to some degree lunch whilst for dinner I tend to meal plan in advance based on a variety of factors (also bearing in mind to give our kids a varied diet of things they will willingly eat!). To ask myself so many questions feels a luxury, but also allows me to really think about what I fancy at a mealtime and make the most satisfying meal I can in that moment. I have been fortunate this last week that my husband was away in that allowed me to real focus on what I wanted for lunch, in particular. That said I might not always have what I want available to me or have the time to make it. But by tuning into my awareness more I can start to see patterns and then plan accordingly at the supermarket or by preparing things in advance.
Intuitive Eating also suggests we eat when we are moderately hungry, at about the 3-4 (out of 10) level on the hunger scale. Again this is interesting for me as I tend to eat when I am further up the scale which may result in eating more and more quickly which is not necessarily as satisfying.
On that note…..
Slow and mindful eating
Awareness or mindfulness is pretty central to eating from tuning to our body to see how hungry we are, what we want to eat to how much. This presence also needs to continue whilst we eat to hear our body´s signals.
There is a great exercise to try out that I did with our whole family several years ago that you can do with a raisin (or chocolate!).
You need complete quiet and presence to start and to really focus on each part of the exercise, you should allow a few minutes to do it.
- First you can observe the raisin
- Then you can touch the raisin and feel it in your fingers
- Next you can smell the raisin and note it´s aroma
- Then you can place it next to your ear and move it between your finger tips and listen for any sounds
- Then you can place it in your mouth and see how it feels in different parts of it and on your tongue
- Then you can very slowly start to chew it as many times as you can and really use all your senses to appreciate it
- What did you notice?
When we tried this we were surprised at how much we just mindlessly eat things without savouring each bite, plus we also really appreciated the flavour of the raisin and how long it could last for us to enjoy it.
Not a bad lesson to learn to apply to all our meals!
Intuitive Eating invites us to do this with each and every meal and there is a worksheet to practice this until we have fully integrated this into our lives and be present for all our food.
Sensory Specific Satiety (SSS)
Apparently this is party of the study of pleasure and can play a role in determining how much food we eat. Apparently stuides have shown that SSS occurs within two minutes of consuming a single food – when there has been little opportunity for it to be absorbed or digested. If we eat mindfully then we can notice when this SSS starts and that we are no longer enjoying or are desensitised from the taste. We can then move to another food or decide if we want to continue or stop completely.
By noticing this we are more likely to stop eating a food once we have noticed it is no longer satisfying us. I certainly have noticed this on a few occasions this week when I have focused on my meal and each bite. I have reduced the amount I have eaten on several occasions, but still maybe gone on to eat something else or just stopped completely. It is just quite alien for me to leave food on my plate at the end of my meal – always having been expected to clear my plate as a child and 95% of the time having adhered to this myself even in adulthood! I am obviously working to ensure that we don´t put this same pressure on our children, but it is very entrenched!
Again being fully present and in tune with our body helps us sense how hungry we are at the beginning of a meal but also when we have had enough. IE recommends we stop eating when we are about 6-7 on the level of fullness on the hunger scale. Again this was surprising for me as I would normally eat beyond that to think I had had enough and that I would keep satisfied until the next meal. That said when I have tried this, I haven´t noticed me getting hungrier much earlier or reaching for more snacks (just when I have been cold and tired as is my usual pattern!)
Again there are more worksheets in the workbook which really help with this, as they help chart how we feel before a meal, think about what we have chosen through to fullness and satisfaction rating. I don´t necessarily do all the exercises religiously in the workbook, but I did notice I was more mindful and intuitive when I have done them. It also forced me to really focus on my meal rather than follow my usual habits to check my phone, watch tv or read a book when I eat alone (I just find it so so hard to just sit there and focus on purely eating. Anyone else?) Obviously when eating with another person or the family it can be more difficult to eat mindfully as we get distracted, but we can still try to be present to each mouthful as much as possible.
The importance of where we eat is also discussed for us to really appreciate our meals and be fully satisfied. After all it will always make a difference if we eat breakfast grabbing a bite whilst standing in between making kids breakfasts and lunchboxes rather than sitting calmly at the table, with time on our side and in a relaxed environment. We may not always have the ability to have the best environment possible, but we can do things to tweak it to improve our satisfaction. This could include getting up earlier to enjoy breakfast before the kids get up, eating at the table instead of in front of the tv, enjoying drinking from your favourite glass and having a lit candle and posh napkin while you eat at the table. In fact, anything that adds to our satisfaction factor and enables us to be more present and focused on our meals.
This pleasant environment should also be without stress wherever possible – so refraining from arguments or confrontations during meals will benefit everyone and dealing with them afterwards instead (not always easy based on some of the table manners in our family!)
What are you favourites?
So, take a minute or two now to ask yourself the following:
- How hungry are you right now from 1-10?
- What would you consider are your favourite foods?
- Do you fancy any of them now or something else – bearing in mind taste, heat, texture, appearance?
- Who would you most like to eat with (Brad Pitt or Tom Cruise may not be available)?
- Where do you most like to eat – at home, outside, in a restaurant?
- Does presentation matter to you?
- How long would you like to take to eat your meal?
Starting to ask ourselves these kinds of questions helps us tune into our desires and really start to elevate our eating experience and satisfaction factor.
My observations this week
I have noticed this week that simple things can make a difference.
For example on a cold day when I had planned to have a salad I realised I didn´t want that anymore so I had scrambled eggs on toast which wasn´t exactly what I wanted (had no tomato soup to hand) but was way more satisfying than a salad. I also realised I had had enough after only a few bites.
For a family meal I had some leftovers to use up that I wasn´t that excited about so I added some fresh herbs, tabasco and cheese to brighten it up a bit and presented it as well as I could to make it far more appetising. It may not have been exactly what I wanted, but it was better than just making do.
On eating out one day I noticed that my SSS kicked in fairly early for some things so I just left those and ate what I wanted and took the rest home, but still decided I wanted to dessert and (tried!) to be ok with that.
When I have eaten chocolate I have tried to eat it mindfully as I can, but have noticed that my SSS for chocolate is not as sensitive as I might wish! That said I definitely haven´t been getting to the point of eating several chocolates and then craving something savoury as I have eaten too much sugar. So some small progress at least!
I have to admit I have been getting a little frustrated by how I feel I am doing with IE in terms of my body shape (the conditioning is real!). Admittedly I have been working hard to eat what and when I want and certainly have been policing myself less, but I have also been exercising a lot (all things I really enjoy – quite shocking for someone who never really classified herself as sporty). I expected my body shape to have changed a bit more than it has and, shock horror (!), I have succumbed to weighing myself this week to see if anything had changed on the scales. The only issue with this is that I never weighed myself at the start, but regardless I think I am a bit less than I have been habitually. But then, of course, I could see myself get back on the hamster wheel of judging and being in the whole diet and shame cycle. Anyway, at least I can see it clearly now!
One thing I have noticed actually (and only realised since I am typing this!) is that I have eaten more since then maybe my diet rebel coming out or just being frustrated with not noticing much difference in my body. Obviously this is not the end game for IE, but shifting the cultural layers and expectations of the ´perfect´ body and dieting is a difficult thing to fully shed. There will always been layers to this and learnings and I am trying to embrace them all with patience and self-compassion. That said, I think if we are truly listening to our bodies and really being satisfied with what we eat, then we are likely to change our body shape longer term.
Anyway, it is all part of an interesting journey, a jigsaw puzzle that I am slowly putting together, thank you for sharing it with me!
As ever, I would LOVE to hear your thoughts, questions, expereriences. Please send me a comment below, even if it is just to say hello!
What foods most satisfy you? Is it something you regularly consider before meals? How easy is it for you to tune into your hunger and fullness signals? Are you fully present when you eat?
Images: Morgane Le Breton, CA Creative, Nicole Herrero, Solstice Hannan.