Truly Enjoy Your Food Through Intuitive Eating

Photo: Thinkstock/littlehenrabi

“Enjoy eating food. Not too much — not too little. Mostly what satisfies you.” –Elyse Resch, MS, RD


As one of intuitive eating’s most important principles, satisfaction plays a key role in determining the amount of food we eat.

Satisfaction at meal times can be improved by thinking about what you really want to eat, making your environment more enjoyable, eating without distraction, not restricting any foods and giving yourself permission to eat unconditionally.  Lastly, but possibly most importantly, is minding your hunger and satiety cues. Just as eating raw veggies when you want a juicy burger will not lead to satisfaction, eating when you aren’t hungry won’t be satisfying either.

Worried that clients will have health issues and weight management challenges when they stray from their strict health regimens? No need — a growing body of evidence suggests increased mindfulness and intuitive eating have a neutral and sometimes inverse effect on body mass and portion size. Also, don’t forget that the French and Japanese, who place high importance on pleasurable eating, have the third lowest rate of heart disease and longest healthy life expectancy in the world, respectively.

After teaching a series of intuitive eating classes to 20 adults, I learned that many participants feel guilty when eating foods they like. For example, one participant recalled a story in which she craved ice cream, but chose to eat yogurt instead, followed by more yogurt. While she felt physically satisfied by the yogurt, mentally, she was not. Eventually, she ate the ice cream she wanted originally, feeling guilty and uncomfortable because she wasn’t actually hungry. After learning the importance of satisfaction, she reported craving dessert again, but this time put some mint chocolate chip ice cream in a bowl and sat at the table with it, guilt-free. She was amazed how delicious it was when she was actually hungry, and how little she needed to eat to satisfy her sweet tooth.

Eating unsatisfying substitutes leads to feelings of deprivation, which often leads to us eating the food we originally wanted anyway. So before you choose your next meal or snack, think about the textures, flavors, temperatures and aromas that would be most satisfying to you, and sit down with that food in a pleasing environment, with pleasant company, and really taste it.

Genna McCarthy
Genna McCarthy is a dietetic intern at Missouri State University. She is passionate about intuitive eating and avocados, and strongly believes that a fried egg makes everything better.