Diabetes Self-Management Blog

Two weeks ago, I discussed the “Tastes Good” diet. My entry proposed that eating for pleasure, taking your time, and enjoying your food could lead to better health. But now I want to amend the diet — the “Tastes Good” diet is good, but the “Feel Good” diet is even better.

Of course, tasting good is part of what makes food a pleasure. But, according to The Diet Survivor’s Handbook, by Judith Matz, LCSW, and Ellen Frankel, LCSW, how food feels in your stomach, and how it makes your body feel, might be even more important. What you want is food that’s good in your mouth and in your body.

Several readers agreed with the “Tastes Good” approach and took me one or two steps further. Sarah said it’s about planning: “If you plan meals… those meals become a much more satisfying experience.”

Katherine sets the scene for pleasurable eating: “I make it a rule to set the table — I use a place mat or a tablecloth and cloth napkin, put out candles if I feel like it, and treat myself as well as I would any guest who dines with me.”

In the blog entry, I had written, “Feeling satisfied isn’t just about being full. It’s also about getting enough pleasure. If you eat enjoyable foods, and if you take your time eating them, you will probably need less to feel satisfied.”

CalgaryDiabetic took that idea and ran with it. “[What if I] take my favorite Breyer’s ice cream in a reasonably small amount and add some chopped smoked almonds from Costco?” he asked. “This would be a pure joy food. If the purpose of eating is endorphins, and we overeat because of the pleasure factor, then this should be a diet food.” He mentioned an experience with a sirloin sandwich that tasted so good he wasn’t hungry for six hours, a rare experience for him.

This idea is not as crazy as it might sound. Food can raise our endorphin and serotonin levels, reducing anxiety and making us feel at peace. Or it can do the reverse, if we’re stressing out about every bite. It may be that, by dividing foods into “can and can’t,” or “good and bad,” we’re setting ourselves up for anxiety, which causes us to eat more than we want.

Take Time for Pleasure
Reader PAMIG commented, “If you take the time to enjoy and savor whatever you are eating, you will get more satisfaction from it and be less likely to eat too much.” I would say, pay attention to the flavors and textures, but also to how your body is reacting. Are you feeling more relaxed, happier, and more comfortable? Then you’re probably benefiting from that food.

Nicky posted another possible reason to eat slowly. “For Type 2s,” she wrote, “often our leptin/ghrelin response — how full we feel — is out of whack. I lost 25Kg on a low carb diet following diagnosis, and was completely amazed to discover a ‘full’ feeling. I’d literally never believed people who turned down treats because they were too full — until it happened to me for the first time in my life!”

If your fullness sensation is damaged by poor leptin response or some other reason, might it take longer to realize you’re full? In that case, taking your time and savoring the food could allow fullness to kick in. Maybe if we treat eating as meditation; if we say a prayer beforehand, relax, and breathe deeply between bites, stop for a drink of water to cleanse the palate, and learn to focus on the tastes and the sensations in our bodies, we can start to detect satisfaction and fullness.

Dean Ornish, MD, author of Eat More, Weigh Less, calls this the “shift from fight-and-flight or eat-and-run to eating more peacefully, with joy and awareness.” We might also get more nutritional benefit from the food, as this study shows.

The eating-for-pleasure plan probably only works if you are relaxed about it. Don’t tell yourself, “Oh my God, I can’t eat this. It doesn’t taste good enough! ” Or “I’m eating too fast; I’ll never get this right.” That would just repeat the same stresses we’re trying to get away from. Sometimes you might just grab something because it’s available, or because your blood glucose is low, and that’s OK. When we relax, we can hear our bodies’ signals better.

And pay attention to how you feel in the hour or three after eating (which could include a blood glucose check, if needed.) The point of the “Feel Good” eating plan is to feel good.

If you wanted to embrace the “Feel Good” diet, what would you eat? What would be your feel-good foods? Feel free to send recipes. Extra points for foods low in refined carbohydrate.

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