Contributed by Lori Reamer, RDN
Nutritionist @ CMC:Berkshires
Eating should be a source of pleasure. If you eat something and you are not satisfied, you find yourself thinking, “That was boring, what else can I find?” until you hit the sensory qualities in food that bring a smile to your face and to your taste buds. In essence, if you zero in on the foods you find satisfying early on in your eating experience, you may, in fact, eat fewer calories in your pursuit for pleasure.
Happy eaters can experience easier digestion. If you eat under stressful circumstances, your body produces different neurotransmitters and hormones than it does when you are happy. And, trying to avoid negative associations with food is important to your long-term relationship with food. If eating at the dinner table always reminds you of fighting with your family, try to “table” the conflicts for another time.
An older study that looked at iron absorption in Thai and Swedish populations noted that iron absorption was greater when each of these groups ate culturally familiar food than when they ate the food from the opposing culture. One theory is that the culturally familiar food was comforting to each group which contributed to their happiness and the ability to absorb nutrients.
So, if being happy on fewer calories, enhanced digestion and greater nutrient absorption interest you, I encourage you to ask yourself if you are a happy eater. And, if you’re not, what changes can you make to become one?
Consider some of the following suggestions to enhance your chances of being a happy eater:
- Make time for eating as it is very challenging to experience joy with any activity when feeling rushed.
- Start your morning routine early enough to have breakfast. Separate yourself from your desk and work at lunch and allow yourself enough time to have a rewarding lunch.
- Identify what characteristics you like in food – creamy, sweet, crunchy, savory – and then consider all the foods that satisfy those sensory characteristics and build the healthiest options into your routine.
- Make a list of your favorite foods.
- Have healthy favorites on hand at home and at work for easy go-to eating. For less healthy favorite options, create a strategy for including them that identifies particulars such as how much and how often to help manage their presence in your diet so they don’t interrupt your health and weight goals. For example, if you love ice cream, consider not tempting yourself with a half-gallon of your favorite flavor at home, but rather going to an ice cream shop once per week for a single scoop of your favorite flavor and enjoy it sans guilt.