Eating for Pleasure

By Barbara L. Holtzman, MSW, LICSW

It’s summertime – a time of barbecues, ice cream and corn on the cob. So, are you enjoying your summer treats?

Last week, I went biking at an old favorite place on the other end of Rhode Island. It’s only an hour from my house but by Rhode Island standards, it’s too far to visit often! I hadn’t been there in years and since we passed by one of the best known and beloved ice cream shops in Rhode Island, I couldn’t resist having a cone. Several minutes later, I looked at my half-eaten cone and realized that I wasn’t enjoying it that much. The first few licks were very good but now it was just “pretty good.” But I had spent $3.50 for it! How could I just throw it away?!

Why didn’t the ice cream taste as good as I remembered? For one thing, it wasn’t a hummer. (We’ll talk about hummers later in the newsletter.) I hadn’t had a great desire for ice cream at that particular moment. I was reacting to an external stimulus – it was there and available and I didn’t know when I’d get that particular ice cream again.

Also, I had reached the point where the ice cream stopped tasting as good – I had reached my satisfaction point (officially known as “sensory specific satiety”) This happens naturally, although we don’t notice it if we’re not paying attention. The problem was – there was more ice cream in the cone and I didn’t know when I’d be in the neighborhood again. So, I did something called “chasing the flavor” – I kept eating the ice cream, trying to get back the wonderful flavor of the first few licks.

Finally, I reminded myself that, especially since it was a treat, it wasn’t worth eating it unless it was fabulous and I was really enjoying it. So I gave myself permission to eat the best ice cream I could find the next time I really wanted it – which made it easier to throw the rest of my cone away.

This was not easy to do – even for someone like me who has been practicing and teaching conscious eating for many years. But I can’t tell you how good I felt at not making myself a garbage can.

For other tips on making peace with food and your body, to learn about or purchase my workbook & guided-imagery CD, “Conscious Eating, Conscious Living” or to find out more about my new series of workshops this fall (see column on left) called “The Path to Conscious Living (which includes new workshops “Overcoming Emotional Eating with EFT” and “Conscious Spending; Making Peace with Your Money “), please visit my website:

Getting Satisfaction from your Food

How do you choose what to eat?

Because it’s available?
Because this is what you always eat?
Because if you don’t eat this special food now, you might not get it again?
Because someone else made it for you and you don’t want to disappoint them?
Because it is cheaper – or healthier – than the alternative (which is what you really want)
Because you’ve been so “good” (whatever that means to you) that you deserve a treat?
In earlier newsletters, we talked about how to discern whether we need food nourishment or some other kind of nourishment like rest, companionshp, breath, stimulation or fun. Now that we’ve decided we want food – whether it’s to fill a physical hunger, an emotional hunger or just for fun – how do we choose what to eat?

What if you were able to find the perfect match – one that would fill you and fulfill you so you felt totally satisfied and satiated. This is called a “hummer” – a food experience that simply hums!

When we don’t pay attention to what we truly desire and choose what to eat from habit or impulse (because we’re passing a bakery, for example or, in my example above, a homemade ice cream shop), the food may taste good but we’re just as likely to be somewhat disappointed. Interestingly, it’s harder to stop eating the less -than -satisfying food – we keep hoping that the next bite will give us what we’re looking for!

Hummers: A hummer is a whole body experience. It satisfies us on many levels – the taste, the texture, the aroma, the way we’re eating it (licking an ice cream cone, nibbling through an ear of corn, sipping the hot coffee or cocoa as we smell the aroma). When we are mindful and enjoy the experience on all these levels, it is so much more satisfying and pleasurable. You may even find that it takes much less food to satisfy you when you choose your hummer -of-the- moment and savor it.

Finding your Hummer: When you’ve decided that you want to eat, take a pause and ask yourself what you really want. Try to get an exact match.

What flavor do you want? Sweet? Salty? Spicy? Bland?

What texture do you want? Chewy? Smoothe? Liquid?

What temperature would feel satisfying? Hot, cold or room temperature?

Try to picture an exact match and imagine eating it. Check with your taste buds, your olfactory (smell) sense, your belly. Is this it? Is this what would satisfy me most right now? If not, see if you can tweak it to find the right match. Maybe the burger would taste even better with grilled onions. Maybe chocolate came to mind but it is not quite a match. You would really love something juicy right now. A peach? Check in. Yes, that’s it! You may be disappointed if your mind wanted to indulge its desire for chocolate. You may be surprised or disappointed to find that sometimes your hummer is for something very ordinary, even healthy.

If you are able to get a good match – and you allow yourself to eat it slowly, savoring it, paying attention to when you’ve had enough (when you’ve reached your satiation point.), see if you can give yourself permission to throw the rest out or wrap it up and take it home. You will find it much easier to stop if you know you can have it again whenever you really want it.

Not only will you have had a fabulous eating experience, but you will be able to trust yourself to know what you want and take care of yourself. Formerly forbidden foods will not be frightening. And since you won’t need to overeat (since we tend to overeat when the food is less than satisfying or we haven’t given ourselves permission to have it again whenever we truly desire it), you won’t be gaining weight from the excess food you’ve been eating while trying to find satisfaction.

Sounds like a win-win to me!

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