Principle #6: Discover the Satisfaction Factor

Principle #6 of Intuitive Eating sort of goes along with the last principle of Feel Your Fullness.

This one is:

Discover the Satisfaction Factor.

But… fullness and satisfaction are not necessarily the same thing. 

You can be physically full, but if you’re not satisfied, you’ll still be thinking about food. You’ll still need something to fulfill the craving or desire you have.

This can happen for a number of reasons.

In short, your body isn’t dumb. If you try to fulfill a craving for ice cream with frozen fruit, you’ll keep going back for more in an attempt to fill that unsatisfied void. If your meal is missing a macronutrient (carbs, protein, or fat), you’ll likely not be satisfied until you finish that missing component.

The entire eating experience—eating the food that you want, appreciating the taste and texture, and being in a pleasing environment—should bring pleasure. Understanding what feels good and what doesn’t is the key to feeling satisfied and being able to move on after a meal.

To regain satisfaction in eating, here’s a few things to do:

Step 1:

Ask yourself what you REALLY want to eat.

And then, give yourself unconditional permission to eat it.

Be willing to try new things, and don’t allow yourself to have any foods that are “off-limits”.

Step 2:

Pay attention to the sensual qualities of food.

Taste, texture, aroma, appearance, temperature, and volume or filling capacity are all things that can contribute to satisfaction. Ask yourself questions such as:

  • What food aroma might appeal to me?

  • How will the food taste and feel in my mouth?

  • Do I want something sweet, salty, sour, or bitter?

  • Do I want something crunchy, smooth, creamy, soft, fluid, etc.?

  • Do I want something hot, cold, or moderate?

  • Do I want something light, airy, heavy, filling, or in-between?

Step 3:

Make your eating experience more enjoyable.

In this step, it’s helpful to practice the three “S’s” of satisfying eating described in the Intuitive Eating book:

  • eat slowly

  • eat sensually

  • savor every bite

Also, eat in a calm environment without distractions. Distracted eating makes it more difficult to be in tune with your body and find pleasure in eating. Sit down and enjoy your meal, with another person if you can, rather than standing in front of the fridge or scarfing down some food.

Step 4:

Don’t settle.

You’re not obligated to finish food you started eating.

As it’s put in Intuitive Eating, “If you don’t love it, don’t eat it, and if you love it, savor it.” However, that does not mean to just not eat. Find something else, order a different dish… be sure that you still feel satisfied when you’re finished.

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Step 5:

Check-in throughout the meal to see if the food still tastes good.

The closer you get to reaching fullness and satisfaction, the less appealing food will be.

I mentioned that fullness and satisfaction are not the same thing, so let me explain a little bit. Satisfaction makes it much easier for you to stop eating when you reach comfortable fullness. They both play a role in regulating when you decide you’ve had enough to eat, but you can feel full without feeling satisfied, and you’ll continue looking for food to eat.

Think of fullness as being a physical sensation, while satisfaction is more of a mental feeling. Satisfaction is actually a better indicator for deciding when your body is ready to stop eating; it’s a very powerful regulator. When we deny ourselves what our body really wants, we end up eating more and enjoying it less.

Let me try to give you an example:

You’re craving ice cream. Real, dairy ice cream. Instead of honoring that craving, you tell yourself that ice cream is “bad”, “off-limits”, and there’s no way you’re going to eat it. To try and trick yourself, you decide to make some “nice cream” (AKA frozen bananas blended up). You eat it, but guess what. You’re still not satisfied. Your body knows you didn’t eat ice cream.

You had that craving for a reason. Your body needs a certain nutrient, and since you tried to fulfill it with a substitute, you’re still thinking about food. Ice cream, specifically, whether you want to be or not. You go for another “healthier” substitute… maybe some popcorn.

You’re still not satisfied, and you won’t be until you eat what your body is asking for. If you would have had a scoop or two of ice cream first, you most likely would have ended up eating far less food yet feeling much more satisfied.   

When you let yourself eat what you want, the pleasure that you feel helps you to decide that you’ve had “enough” much sooner than if you had chosen to eat something you though was “good” or that you’re “supposed” to eat. 

Eating should bring pleasure and satisfaction. Think about how the food is making you feel, not how you are feeling about the food. When we eat what we truly want and eat enough to be full, our bodies can trust us and we can trust them to lead us to the right foods and the right amounts.

Especially if you’ve been a chronic dieter or have struggled with disordered eating habits, it may be difficult to find what foods are most satisfying to you. As with the whole intuitive eating journey, be gentle with yourself, keep practicing, and have grace. It will get easier the more you honor your body, and you’ll begin to feel more confident in yourself and your choices.

And with that, stay tuned for the next principle!