Learning how to eat

One of the things that always amazes me is that I don’t really know how to eat.  Or maybe, the more correct term would be I don’t really know how to taste.  Or maybe the most correct idea is that I don’t know what really satisfies me.  Let me use an example of the hot chocolate I made on Friday night.

Normally, I make hot chocolate from scratch.  My ingredients are:  2% milk, sugar, Hershey’s Chocolate Syrup, a little bit of cinamon.  This makes a good hot chocolate, don’t get me wrong.  But it’s not rich.  I can drink a whole mug of this and not have a problem.  The hot chocolate I made Friday night had whole milk, heavy cream, Ghiridelli 60% bittersweet chocolate, and a little bit of cinnamon.  The original recipe said it made 6 servings, so I made 1/2 recipe and had three servings (one for Conall, MiL, and me).  It was so rich and satisfying, I couldn’t finish my serving.

And a serving was only about 5 ounces (about a half the amount of my normal mug). 

NOT that I’m counting calories (because believe me, I’m not) but for comparison of the two hot chocolates I just did it.  The hot chocolate on Friday night was about 1/3 fewer calories than the chocolate I usually make and drink (if I drank the whole serving which I didn’t).  And yet, I was much more satisfied with what I made Friday night than my usual drink.

One of the things that gets to me about intuitive eating is that I don’t really know what I want.  I’ve eaten low calorie/low flavor fake-food for a very long time.   It’s like the saying, “I don’t even know the questions to ask,” where taste and satisfaction in food is concerned, I don’t know what questions to ask.

When I get a craving for or want a pop tart (for instance) is it because it is comfort food from when I lived with my grandparents, or is it because I really want a danish from the local bakery but don’t really know that’s what I want because I’ve hardly ever had a real, fresh made danish with real ingredients (butter, flour, sugar, eggs, milk, etc)?  I know I want my homemade yogurt more than the store bought yogurt (the stuff I make has whole milk, which I buy in half gallon containers and use all up to make a batch, and no preservatives or additives).  Is that because whole milk and no artificial flavors is just that much more satisfying?

You would think I’d get used to this by now, but it still surprises me.   A small handful of Triscuits (TM) with some good quality swiss cheese satisfies and fills me up so much better than twice as many saltines and american cheese food. 

I’ve often heard it said of French Food (the cuisine that is notorious for full fat sauces filled with butter and heavy cream and rich cheeses and more), that the reason the French don’t have an “obesity epidemic”* is because they don’t eat a lot, even though what they eat is so rich.    Maybe it’s that they don’t eat a lot becausewhat they eat is so rich.  It’s filling in smaller portions, it hits a mind/body satisfied level a lot faster than foods we eat that are trying to fool us into thinking we are satisfied.

I don’t know, I’m just rambling here. 

As far as not knowing what satisfies me, or know knowing how to taste, my eyes were opened up on Friday.  Even though I’ve not been keeping myself away from certain foods, I’ve not actually been looking for those foods either.  I wonder what real macaroni and cheese would taste like if I give myself permission to make a morney sauce out of whole milk and high fat cheddar cheese, instead of using a box.  I wonder if it would be as eye opening as the hot chocolate was.

And I wonder how I learn what questions to ask, to really know what it is my body is wanting at any given moment.  Do I really want the box mac and cheese because I really want it?  Or do I want it because I don’t know something out there might be more satisfying? 

I think this week, since I’m having to do stove top cooking anyway, I might make a morney sauce and make mac and cheese that way.  I won’t be able to bake it with bread crumbs on top, but I think it’ll be okay anyway.

*I absolutely do not believe there is an obesity epidemic either in the US or anywhere in the world.  I know the statistics can be skewed, and have been skewed where obesity levels in the US are concerned.  I just wrote it that way because that’s how I’ve heard it said in the past.

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11 Responses

  1. […] Erik wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerpt One of the things that always amazes me is that I don’t really know how to eat.  Or maybe, the more correct term would be I don’t really know how to taste.  Or maybe the most correct idea is that I don’t know what really satisfies me.  Let me use an example of the hot chocolate I made on Friday night. Normally, I make hot chocolate from scratch.  My ingredients are:  2% milk, sugar, Hershey’s Chocolate Syrup, a little bit of cinamon.  This makes a good hot chocolate, don’t get me wrong.  But it’s not rich.  I can drink a whole mug of this and not have a problem.  The hot chocolate I made Friday night had whole milk, heavy cream, Ghiridelli 60% bittersweet chocolate, and a little bit of cinnamon.  The original recipe said it made 6 servings, so I made 1/2 recipe and had three servings (one for Conall, […] […]

  2. I have a digestive intolerance to anything derived from corn, so processed foods are off-limits to me. In the two years that I’ve been eating foods made from whole, fresh ingredients, I’ve found that my body more than adequately lets me know when I’ve given it too much rich food.

    I literally crave vegetables and fiber if I don’t get enough. I literally spit out rich foods if I’ve had too much recently. Obviously, your mileage may vary. Most people don’t spit out their food if they choose the wrong thing. Really, that’s pretty rare for me, but it has happened when I wasn’t sure what I wanted and my body was sure it didn’t want THAT.

    Generally speaking, it’s been a lot easier for me to figure out when I’m satisfied and what my body needs since I started eating “real” food.

    There are certain processed foods that manage to be corn-free enough for me. I don’t eat them very often because they throw off my body’s signals unless I have them with a good serving of something “real”. That isn’t always possible if I’m far from home and didn’t pack adequate snacks or didn’t get home as soon as I anticipated. The signals are usually only “off” for a few hours, but those are very hungry hours and my next meal tends to be larger than usual.

    It’s all trial and error, but you’ll figure it out. Bodies are pretty easy to figure out when you stop ignoring them.

  3. “Real” macaroni and cheese, made with a white sauce and good sharp full-fat cheddar (or whatever cheese you like), IS far more satisfying than boxed macaroni in “cheese” sauce. It’s also something of a pain to make (in my lazy opinion), so I make do with not quite as real macaroni a lot of the time.

  4. Oh cool! I think you’re entering a really fun phase of intuitive eating… the part where you realize you haven’t even tried or considered lots of stuff, so now you get to play!
    I used to eat all low-cal stuff too and usually didn’t feel satisfied, of course. It has been so freeing to no longer be afraid of full fat milk, butter, full fat ice cream, full fat cake, etc. I find the quality versions far more satisfying, as well… and I am far less likely to overeat on them as I was to overeat on all my low-cal and diet versions of foods.
    I also found myself craving a more balanced diet once I stopped chaining myself to the low-call/diet versions of foods. I think what changed is that my body was finally getting what it needed, so it stopped focusing so much on making sure I was at least eating the minimum of calories I needed… and started throwing me cravings for carrots, soup… and a wide variety of things that are not sour patch kids or chocolate (all I ever craved before I went on my full fat ventures).
    Enjoy the journey! It can be truly lovely.
    Regarding realizing you don’t even know what questions to ask… I hear you. I’ve been there. I remember reading some famous quote that said when you realize you know nothing, you have truly begun to become wise… or something like that.
    I started by thinking of things my non-diety friends ate. Did any of those things sound good to me? Was there any other way of eating that I had seen that I would like to test-drive? Or, even simpler… what full-fat things would I like ot try?
    In some cases, I still prefer the low-cal/low-fat stuff. Like… I am totally addicted to diet coke. I prefer skim-milk most of the time, because I can’t process much lactose… and I prefer low-fat cheese (as long as they aren’t full of weird ingredients) for the same reason. Low fat cookies are fun sometimes. I eat full fat ones just about as often, though. My point is… I went on this journey and it has helped me find out what AGR really likes to eat… rather than defaulting to one certain kind of food for some external reason.
    I wish you all the best on your journey!!!!!

  5. I’m with you on this. Sometimes I get mad when I think about how much the “food/diet programming” has meddled with my native ability to taste, discern, enjoy… I’m hoping that the process of re-learning will be fun–as it sounds like your hot chocolate “awakening” was! Of course, just as I was starting to really get into HAES and relearning how to taste, I got pregnant. Needless to say, the bizarre aversions and cravings have set me back when it comes to this learning process. But I hope that once the baby comes in June, I can really get serious (and playful!) about discerning my own tastes and desires when it comes to food. I don’t want to raise my kid with the same kind of food programming I had. Thanks for a thought-provoking post.

  6. So much of food is personal preference. My husband and son, who are otherwise lovely human beings, would choose blue-box mac and cheese over my homemade mac and cheese any day, whereas the boxed mac and cheese makes me want to gag. But, I’ve also discovered that homemade mac and cheese tastes just as good with 1% milk as with whole milk. So, I make it with whatever I happen to have the most of, and it’s good either way.

    Realizing that no food is off-limits was like the dropping of a huge burden for me. I can make brownies, and I can eat one without feeling guilty. Hell, I can eat six without feeling guilty, if that’s what I want. But, as I think most people eventually realize, when the brownies aren’t off-limits, I rarely want more than one brownie, and I never want six. We’ve had ice cream get freezer burnt in the fridge because it sad there for so long, and chips go stale. This was a totally new thing for me, because in the past when you got “bad” food, you ate as much as you could as quickly as you could, because starting the next day you were never, ever, ever going to do that again.

    It’s very freeing to be able to have some homemade mac and cheese with whole milk if you want, and to have some tofu and grilled asparagus if you want, and to not assign any moral judgments to either choice.

  7. Oh cool! I think you’re entering a really fun phase of intuitive eating… the part where you realize you haven’t even tried or considered lots of stuff, so now you get to play!

    Oh, this, this, this. Adventuring is really exciting and you get to discover all sorts of amazing things. Some stuff you’ll love and some stuff will be horrible but I’ve found that I like way more things than I dislike. Enjoy this and give yourself permission to have the box mac and cheese if that’s what you think you want (it’s SUCH a total comfort food for me) and the “real” mac and cheese if you wind up loving that and THAT’S what you want.

  8. I’ve been finding it very liberating to eat the occasional full on dessert, I no longer eat fake stuff, or lite stuff (except for my 1-2% milk, since I’m used to it, and it’s mainly just for coffee). At this point, my eating is produce heavy, and it feels odd to eat very rich non-fibery food, and a little really goes a long way. I remember being able to eat many of those nasty Snackwells brownies, now things like that taste way too sweet, not much depth. I can’t say I eat brownies very often, but I might have a few bites when I come across them. Intuitive eating not only means eating whatever your body desires, it also means not eating what you don’t really like or want, just out of habit or whatever.

  9. What AGR said. This is where you start to play, and where you find out whether you like the blue box because it’s what you’re used to, or because it’s what you truly like.

    Now would be a good time to go to your local bookstore (or your own bookshelf, or a couple good recipe sites online or watch showa on the Food Network) and browse the cookbooks looking for things that make your tastebuds or stomach sit up and take notice. Take a little extra time at the grocery store and see what looks or smells like you might want to try it. The next time you go to a restaurant, try something you’ve never had on that menu.

    You’ll probably discover that there are things that looked or smelled good, but they don’t get along with your tastebuds. It happens. It’s not even a bad thing, because every time you find something you dislike, you’ve learned something just as much as you have when you’ve discovered something that you want to eat forever.

    Once you realize that food is something to be enjoyed, it opens up such amazing vistas…this is the time to play and to experiment. The good news is that once you learn how to do it, you never, ever forget. And that only makes food more fun.

  10. Intuitive eating not only means eating whatever your body desires, it also means not eating what you don’t really like or want, just out of habit or whatever.

    And, I found a huge thing for me was realizing that I didn’t have to eat something “bad” that I normally like just because it was there.

    I can think of so many times when, for example, I had the “Cheesecake is bad. Must not eat cheesecake!” message in my head, and then I’d be confronted with cheesecake. Whether I actually wanted the cheesecake at that moment of not, I would eat it, because maybe next time I came across cheesecake I’d be a better person and wouldn’t eat it. It might be my last chance ever to eat cheesecake!

    When I began to turn down foods I actually do enjoy a great deal–like cheesecake–because at that moment I didn’t want it, and I knew that next time I really wanted cheesecake, I could have it so I didn’t need to eat it now, that was a big change for me. I don’t take it so far as, say, turning down birthday cake because I’m not hungry, because I think eating for social reasons has a place and I’ll take a small piece of birthday cake to celebrate somebody’s birthday even if I’m really not at all hungry, but my eating habits have changed a lot since I realized that you can turn down a food you love just because you aren’t hungry or don’t want it just then. And then, you can eat it another time, when you do want it.

    I think I’d always felt like the only valid reason for turning down food you loved (especially if it was “bad” food) was because you were being “good.” If you were being good, you didn’t eat the ice cream, and if you weren’t being good, you did eat it. Whether or not you actually wanted the ice cream at that moment played no role in it. It’s kind of ridiculous now when I think of it, but that’s really how I saw eating for a long time.

  11. This is a fascinating post. I had the same experience as julie when I started eating more fresh produce and healthier (whole) food instead of processed stuff. Gradually, I didn’t crave the junk and then, just almost without realizing it, I enjoyed the really good stuff a whole lot more!

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