Elisheva remembers how birthdays were celebrated in her high school: on your big day friends would leave birthday gifts on your desk – homemade happy birthday signs, a balloon or two, and always an aluminum pan of home-baked cake, which much of the time was a fat-free concoction of flour, applesauce, and artificial sweeteners.
Did you know American cheese cannot legally be called “cheese”? It has to be called “cheese food” because it lacks the defining properties of cheese. If the FDA got a hold of this fat-free “cake” they might mandate it being labeled as “scouring sponge.”
While the friendship and love that went into these diet cakes were undeniably special, the taste, unfortunately, was not. The naturally intuitive eaters would decline a piece every time and the diet-conscious would use the cake’s fat-free sugar-free designation as permission to have a piece, or two, or ten; but irrespective of the quantity consumed, these bitter, mealy brown squares never hit the spot.
If you’ve ever spread tomato sauce and Tofutti on whole wheat bread as a stand-in for pizza, or tried to savor a red velvet cake-flavored energy bar in lieu of the real thing, you’ll know that satisfaction is not easily won through imitation.
The Real Deal
The simplistic interpretation of Intuitive Eating as “eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re full” is inaccurate because it does not account for the Satisfaction Factor. As much as the diet books would like you to believe you can optimally function with a precise balance of macronutrients fed to you at precise measures during the day, G-d created us with psychological food needs that must be met in addition to our physiological ones.
Tribole and Resch list five ways to regain pleasure in eating.
Step 1: Ask Yourself What You Really Want to Eat
If you want cake, no amount of flour baked with applesauce will cut it! Get yourself a bona fide piece of apple pie, or whatever else you may have been craving, and savor every bite.
Step 2: Discover the Pleasure of the Palate
Experiment with taste, texture, aroma, and appearance of the food. Ask yourself what you will enjoy most, and make the effort to prepare yourself food all your senses will delight in.
Step 3: Savor Your Food
Don’t trim the edges off your kugel and pop them into your mouth while standing! You deserve a calm eating experience in which you can fully relish your food. Make your dining experience worthy of a five-star restaurant.
Step 4: Don’t Settle
“If you don’t love it, don’t eat it, and if you love it, savor it.” Treat yourself like you would a guest – set high standards for the foods you will eat. (No finishing your child’s leftovers!)
Step 5: Check In: Does it Still Taste Good?
Stop halfway through eating and ask yourself how your enjoyment of the eighteenth bite compares with the first. Often, especially with desserts, it’s the first few bites that offer the most intensely delicious experience. If you are no longer savoring the food, remind yourself you can save it for another time, or throw it away if it cannot be reused.
Tu B’Shvat – Enjoying G-d’s Abundance
G-d created the natural world with a menagerie of foods and flavors, and He created us with a finely nuanced system of senses to revel in them. The Yerushalmi in Kiddushin states that when a person gets to the Next World, he/she will be asked to give an accounting “for all that you saw and did not eat.”
This Tu B’Shvat, let us celebrate the birthday of the trees, not with imitation applesauce cake or other pseudo-foods, but with an appreciation for authentic taste, genuine pleasures, and a quest for what will satisfy us — both spiritually and physically.
Have a question about Intuitive Eating? Email Rena Reiser at rena@mindovermunchies. Your question may even be featured in an upcoming column!
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The Ten Principles of Intuitive Eating
Adapted from Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch
Reject the Diet Mentality
Honor your Hunger
Make Peace with Food
Challenge the Food Police
Respect your Fullness
Discover the Satisfaction Factor
Honor Your Feelings without Using Food
Respect your Body
Exercise – Feel the Difference
Honor your Health
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Rena’s Tool of the Month
Food as a Tool for Connection
Did you ever think sweets could improve your shalom bayis?
Rena’s husband, Rabbi Reiser, remembers Rabbi Noach Orlowek advising his shana rishona students to buy a treat for themselves before coming home at the end of the day. Take a few moments to calmly savor the chocolate, pastry, or goodie of your choice, Rabbi Orlowek instructed, and use it to infuse yourself with joy so that you can walk into your home with a smile on your face. When used as a tool for growth, even eating a candy bar can be used towards avodas Hashem!
Satisfaction can never be reached when we eat with inattention and compulsion. When we eat intuitively, however, with an awareness of the goal toward which we are using food and an honest look at our needs at that moment, we can learn to feel satisfied and be at peace with our eating.
This month, discover how to more successfully use food as a tool.
For example, do you find yourself bingeing on ice cream after the kids are in bed? If you do this without proper awareness, you may end up finishing the entire carton without feeling satisfied! But if you realize you can use the ice cream as a tool for self-care, and sit without distractions and slowly savor it, you may find a few spoonsful just enough for the nurture you need.
P.S. Food can be used as a method of self-care if you do it with awareness, but there are other ways, too! We’ll discuss that next month with Principle #7, “Honor Your Feelings Without Using Food”.