One of my favorite parts about being an intuitive eater is that when I set down my fork and walk away from the table, I no longer am thinking about food. When I was dieting and dealing with disordered eating, I felt like food was the only thing I could think about. I never felt satisfied, and constantly felt “snacky,” like I wanted to keep eating even if I’d just finished a large meal.
I hated that feeling. I wanted to eat more, but I also didn’t want to want to eat more, if that makes sense. Feeling hungry when I’d just eaten was one of the main reasons I believed it would be impossible to ever trust my body. “How,” I thought, “Could I ever trust my body if I am still hungry when I’ve just eaten?”
Well, there’s a lot more that goes into feeling satisfied after meals than just eating something. In order to feel satisfied so that our bodies stop giving us the hunger signal, we need to actually eat enough in terms of frequency, amount, and macronutrients. On top of that, we also need to eat foods we actually enjoy. Let’s dive in to the details…
3 Ways to Make Meals More Satisfying (so you can actually trust your body)
1. Feel Satisfied by Eating More Food
Most of the women I work with clinically who report feeling unsatisfied at meals simply aren’t eating enough. Even if they eat “enough calories” throughout the day (though many of us significantly underestimate the amount of food we need), eating many small meals throughout the day tends to be less satisfying than three large meals and a couple snacks.
Satisfaction signals are mechanical (stretching of the stomach) and chemical (hormonal signals released due to the types of foods we eat.) If our stomachs aren’t stretching enough because we are eating a very small volume of food, we won’t feel satisfied because our stomachs won’t stretch out enough to send a signal to our brain. Likewise, if the nutrient density of our food is too low (i.e. eating only a salad) we won’t feel satisfied because we won’t trigger the release of hormones, telling our brains we’ve eaten enough energy. (Vegetables are mostly water, so as far as your brain can tell, a bowl full of lettuce is no different than a glass of water.)
2. Feel Satisfied by Adding More Protein and Fat
Truth be told, we need all macronutrients in a given meal in order to feel satisfied. That means protein, carbs, fat, and fiber in every meal. However, feeling hungry shortly after finishing a meal (less than 90 minutes) is often due to the fact that the energy is released into our blood stream too quickly, and used up too quickly. This often results from not eating enough protein and fat in a given meal.
Even though the lie that “fat is bad” should have died a long time ago, many of us still are haunted by it in the back of our minds. However, I guarantee that if you are binge eating in the evenings or constantly snacking because your meals don’t satisfy you, adding more fat to your life is only going to help you, not hurt you.
My favorite ways to add fat to meals:
- buttered bread, potatoes and vegetables
- cooking vegetables in avocado oil
- adding cheese
- putting almond butter on fruit, oatmeal, or yogurt
- drizzling extra virgin olive oil over my meal
- using full-fat dairy products
My favorite ways to add protein to meals:
- putting nuts and beans on salads
- adding another scrambled egg
- drinking a glass of milk or cooking oats in milk
- a little more meat and a little less of something else
3. Feel Satisfied by Choosing a Dessert (or Snack Food)
If you’ve ever wanted a cookie but not eaten the cookie, you know that a) you either end up thinking about the cookie all day and/or b) eating the cookie anyway.
I hate thinking about food when I am not at a place in my day where I’m prepared to eat. It’s probably the number one annoying distraction that I have. So, I am extra keen to make sure that when I’m stuck thinking about a certain food item, to eat it at my earliest convenience.
However, I also know that if I eat certain foods on an empty stomach, I end up feeling awful soon afterwards. This is especially true with eating low-fat protein foods without carbs, or when I eat carbohydrate-rich foods without any protein. I find that most people, myself included, feel best when they eat carbs and protein together. Knowing this about myself, I try to avoid eating desserts and snack foods (like cookies or crackers) on an empty stomach. Crackers are a little easier to pair with cheese, for example, as a snack, but I sometimes find myself hitting a wall when trying to figure out how to pair protein with apple pie.
So, what I do instead is choose the dessert as my source of carbs in any given meal. I do this all the time, for virtually any meal. If I’m at a barbecue, I skip the bun on my sandwich and grab a cookie as a side dish. I don’t have anything against buns, and often keep the bun, but I know that if I really want a cookie and eat to the point of fulness before dessert, I’m either going to feel unsatisfied from the lack of cookie or end up overeating because I ate the cookie anyway. Neither of those scenarios feels very good to me.
Here are some other ways I include desserts/snacks as a meal:
- Scrambled eggs with apple pie for breakfast
- Crumbing cookies or pie into vanilla yogurt
- Lunch meat rolled up with cheese + baby carrots + salt & vinegar chips
- Celery dipped in cottage cheese with pepper + chocolate chip cookies
- Cheesy chicken & cauliflower + pretzels
Whatever the food is that I’m craving in a given moment, I just look for sources of the other macronutrients that the particular food is lacking and build a meal around it. If I’m craving fried chicken, I look for a carb and a fiber. If I’m craving cookies, I look for a protein and a fiber. It’s pretty easy once you get the hang of it, and 100x more satisfying than trying to ignore cravings and spend the rest of the day thinking about food instead of everything else that makes life fulfilling.
I explain more about building satisfying meals and cultivating trust with our bodies in my new book, Fulfilled. In addition to my own experiences, I explain exactly how I walk my clients through the process of surrendering a life of dieting and cultivating a healthier relationship with food, exercise, and your body. Fulfilled is available for pre-order at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, IndieBound, my publisher’s website, or any online or retail shops where you usually buy books!