Satiation is the physiological sensation of “fullness” we experience just after we’ve eaten. You know, that feeling you get that tells you to lie on the couch and unbutton your jeans after a big lunch? It has been scientifically proven that the most satiating macronutrient is protein. So, as long as your meal has a healthy dose of protein, you shouldn’t feel the need to eat for a while after, right? Well, technically, yes! But, what about those days when you’re “full” from eating a substantial meal, but you still crave that little something extra – maybe a sweet treat, or some hot chips? This occurs when you’re not feeling satisfied, even though you may very well be satiated. The fact is, humans don’t always just eat for satiation – if that were the case we’d all be the perfect weight! Humans also eat for the emotional experience; we crave certain tastes and textures and that warm fuzzy feeling that our mum’s Spaghetti Bolognese gives us every time we return home.
Within my practice, I encourage my clients to ensure all of their meals are made up of protein, fat and fibre. I believe that this is the perfect recipe to ensure long-lasting satiation. However, eating something simply because it ticks all of the ‘nutritional boxes’ doesn’t necessarily make it the perfect meal – particularly if it causes us to continue to pick at other foods and snacks afterwards. It would be so easy to recommend all of my clients to simply eat grilled chicken and broccoli or tuna salads on rotation for the rest of their lives in order to stay slim. But, I know for a fact that this wouldn’t achieve anything, because soon enough they’d start to feel unsatisfied and then the cravings and binges would take over again, leading them right back to square one.
So, how can we ensure that our meals are satiating and satisfying all at the same time, to avoid the desire to binge straight after eating?
Think about what you feel like eating
The most important thing is to eat what you feel like eating. This can be as simple as channelling your senses; do you feel like something hot or cold, creamy or crunchy, mild or spicy, and then go from there. And remember, this isn’t a case of choosing between a healthy option and an unhealthy option! On the days you feel like something fresh, you may go for a salad or fresh rice paper rolls, while on the days you feel like something a little warmer you may go for a soup or a spicy vegetable stew
Make small adjustments
There is no need to completely rethink your lunch – the difference between satisfaction and dissatisfaction may just be a small change or addition to the meal you’ve already made. This could be a handful of crunchy nuts through your yoghurt or a honey-mustard dressing to add some creamy sweetness to your salad. Adding a few extra calories to your meals in this way may save you from a big calorie-filled binge later on in the day
Mixing it up will not only ensure your meals remain exciting and emotionally pleasing, but it will also introduce you to many different flavours and textures that you may realise you love! This is particularly true for herbs and spices – the perfect way to slightly alter the flavour and heat of a dish while also enhancing the nutrient value
Understand your cravings
Take a moment to recognise your cravings and consider what may be causing them. This will help to identify exactly what you’re after so that you can satisfy your cravings as quickly as possible, in the healthiest way possible. For example, you may be dreaming of a sugary ice block, but if you delve a bit deeper and understand this is a craving for something sweet and refreshing, you may find that a fresh orange could do the trick just as well! Similarly, sometimes we can mistake hunger or cravings for thirst. Whenever you feel hungry directly after you’ve eaten a meal, have a big glass of warm water and wait for 10 minutes before reassessing whether you really need that extra snack
Consider your mindset
Since satisfaction stems from our emotional relationship with food, always consider your mindset. If you are craving chocolate non-stop, and no amount of chocolate can satisfy you, then this may be an issue that goes beyond a lack of satisfaction from your meals. If this is the case, further intervention could be required. Simple activities like meditation, walking, yoga or some quality time with a friend may help you to reset your mindset so that you are less likely to turn to food for that emotional comfort