Have you ever been full and still been hungry? If so, you could be missing an important piece to eating: the satisfaction factor, or the pleasure of eating. The truth is, we can eat anything and feel full, says Health Coach Lauren Hansen. However, fullness is only the physical sensation of satiety. Satisfaction, on the other hand, is the mental sensation of satiety and some would argue, the most important.
The satisfaction factor is an important principle of intuitive eating, which Be Nourished defines as the tradition of making food choices without guilt. The body-compassionate and weight-inclusive organization identifies an intuitive eater as someone actively working to honor their hunger, respect their fullness, and enjoy the pleasure of eating.
I’ve been intuitively eating the last few years as a part of my recovery from an eating disorder. Having been caught in the vicious throes of diet culture before choosing recovery, I know it takes conscious effort to put something like the satisfaction factor into practice.
I used to be the girl who would bring her own “safe” foods to group activities and holiday gatherings.
I used to be the girl who weighed herself multiple times a day to try and meet the ideal image of beauty.
I used to be the girl who disregarded any cue from her body and followed every weight loss tip on Google.
Looking back, these are never things I wanted to do, yet the monsters in my head convinced me that if I followed these rules, I would be good, worthy, safe, and loved.
What some people don’t know is this way of thinking isn’t unusual and many of the rules we have around food and our body have been introduced to us by the system of beliefs—also known as diet culture—which worships thinness by equating it to both health and mortality. For a simple example:
If you avoid snacking and only eat whole foods, you are good.
If you gain weight and go up a pant size or two, you are bad.
Here’s what Lauren Hansen has to say about diet culture:
It excludes so, so, so, many people. Not just people in larger bodies or bodies that fit outside of the stereotypical “norm,” but it also excludes folks with chronic illness by assuming that health is accessible, attainable, and most emphatically, controllable for all people which…it’s just not. It promotes certain protocols and rigid ways of eating and then profits off of it because those protocols that they promote are destined to fail. Basically, the diet industry profits around 70 billion dollars a year by convincing you you’re not good enough.
Diet culture can be sniffed out across the internet on websites like Medicine Net that tell you to, “Eat the smallest portion that can satisfy hunger and then stop eating.” It will tell you, “Healthy snacks are OK in moderation and should consist of items like fruit, whole grains, or nuts to satisfy hunger and not cause excessive weight gain.” Just monitor everything you eat, exercise to compensate for those foods, read labels on the back of packages like it’s your job, and whatever you do, don’t give into your cravings.
Diet culture completely ignores the satisfaction factor and rarely takes the pleasure of eating into consideration. It’s all about curbing or suppressing your appetite with foods you aren’t even excited about until the point of fullness. And what fun is that?
What diet culture doesn’t tell you is that it’s okay to eat past fullness. Not only that, but it’s okay to eat for comfort. When we emotional eat, our brain releases dopamine…and not in an addictive way. As Hansen said, hugs also release dopamine and they aren’t addictive. Emotional eating can in fact, be a beautiful self-care practice.
For these reasons, you should avoid listening to the advice of other people on what you should be eating and how much you should be eating if you’re trying to live a more intuitive life. Instead, we need more Body Trust, a radical revisioning of what it means to occupy and care for your body.
Through my recovery I’ve found how incredible and smart our bodies are. They will tell you exactly what you need and when you need it. One of the ways to stop listening to the lies of diet culture and to start hearing what your body is saying is to put into practice the satisfaction factor. When you do, you will find that you have everything you need and your body isn’t going to lead you astray.
You can cultivate Body Trust at whatever size you are. The only requirement is that you nourish and celebrate who you are and who you have the potential of becoming. Be Nourished says this about body trust:
Body Trust work is a process of reclaiming our bodies after they’ve been harmed by stigma, diet culture, shame, difference, and othering, and then further distanced by our attempts to mitigate that harm by trying to control the size, shape or appearance of our body.
To begin your Body Trust journey, start by tuning out the health advice of unqualified individuals and ask yourself before eating, What sounds good? If the answer is a grilled cheese, honor that. If it’s a salad, honor that too. The key here is remembering there is no “good” or “bad” food. Food is fuel, yes, and that includes all food. In addition to what sounds good, ask yourself also, What food would taste good right now? And, How do I want to feel when I’m done eating?
What some people forget is when you go after the salad when you’re actually craving the grilled cheese, your body is going to know what you are doing. And even if you’re full, it’s going to continue telling you it’s hungry until you give it what it needs or wants.
This used to make me feel so out of control during my eating disorder. I’d wonder, “Why am I so hungry when I just ate so much food?” Some nights I’d ruthlessly search the cupboards for every “healthy” snack I could find to avoid eating the ice cream in the freezer. And then once I finally did treat myself to the ice cream, I couldn’t stop eating it. My body would go into Fight or Flight mode because it didn’t trust me anymore and could tell that I was moving from a scarcity mindset and not one of abundance.
I have to remind myself that me and my body are on the same team and it’s for me, not against me.
Evelyn Tribole, the original intuitive eating pro, talks about the satisfaction factor as a way of eating that tastes and feels best. “When you eat what you really want, in an environment that is inviting, the pleasure you derive will be a powerful force in helping you feel satisfied and content.”
Although the messages from diet culture are clear at their root, they are—as Hansen said—convincing. Meaning, diet culture is sneaky and will tell you lies that are almost the truth. A good rule of thumb to keep in your back pocket is this:
“If it looks like a diet, tastes like a diet, feels like a diet—it’s probably a diet and not intuitive eating.”
Practices like the satisfaction factor will help you transform your relationship with food if you let it. If you are caught in a pattern of restriction or disordered eating, you will especially be impacted as you learn to trust your body, tune into your intuition, and become more whole and aligned with who you’ve always been meant to be.
For more on eating disorders and eating disorder recovery, check out my new book, Good Enough: Believing Beautiful through Trauma, through Life, through Disorder. In it, I discuss topics like diet culture and intuitive eating, as well as the comparison plague, body dysmorphic disorder, trauma, forgiveness, and more.
You can also check out my website for more information on these topics, follow me on Instagram using the handle @believingbeautiful, and get in touch with me on both platforms. I’d love to hear what you thought of this article and answer any questions you might have.
Until then, stay curious and don’t stop pointing out the lies diet culture cleverly tells you. Go within and experience the reward that comes from trusting your body and becoming its friend. Eat for both fullness and pleasure. You got this. These things take time; be patient with yourself and most of all, loving of yourself.