Taste and SatietyPosted: January 20, 2015
The more I learn about cooking, food production, and my own relationship with food I am a food traditionalist. Simple, real ingredients. Animals raised in a bio-mimicry environment (e.g. pasture). Produce sourced from as local as possible, preserved (if necessary) in the most nutritionally dense form (cellaring > dehydration > freezing > canning).
I’m not a dietician, biologist, food scientist, or anyone with alphabet soup credentials. I’m a cook, a gardener (an aspiring future farmer), and a parent. I go with what tastes good, but like my last post, we can make an important distinction:
- How does this taste to me?
- How do I feel when having eaten this food?
Lots of things can taste good by overloading our biological wiring. Sweets. Industrial ‘junk’ food. But if we connect the intake sensory input with the output sensory input, it tells a very different story. There’s a reason junk food is called junk. It’s not because it has high fat, high salt, or any other thing. It’s junk because our body can barely run on it. It’s like putting watery, low-octane gasoline into a finely tuned race engine.
Eat what makes you feel good. Ideally, eat what tastes good and makes you feel good afterwards. What makes me feel good? Pastured meat. Even the fat lines on these animals are delicious. My body feels how satisfying it is. Good produce. A smoothie containing greens like spinach and kale with enough whole fruit to provide sweetness, palatability, and their own vitamins can provide fuel for hours despite having relatively few calories. In this case, nutrient density trumps raw energy. In the Western world, calories are in vast surplus but nutrients (especially trace minerals and vitamins) are not.
Let your hunger response catch up to your digestive system. This can be challenging. We’re taught to eat until we’re not hungry anymore. But no one tells us when we’re supposed to feel full. Full while eating. Full half an hour later? Just like the personal finance challenge of evaluating what is ‘enough’, it takes time to re-connect with your body. You might feel ravenously hungry but eat a small meal, wait, and then the hunger disappears. The immediate hunger response of “eat now!” is turned off primarily by raw volume. That’s why drinking large volumes of liquid can (sometimes) aid in dieting. But nutritionally worthless inputs do nothing to satisfy long-term hunger. On the other hand, even if we continue to feel hungry after eating something, giving the body time to uptake the nutrient load may turn off the hunger over the long-term. When snacking, I’ve found it helpful to eat a small helping of something packed with nutrition like fresh produce or nuts, but in small amounts, then wait at least a half hour to see if the hunger disappears. Quite often it does. My body didn’t need much in the way of calories, but was craving some other macro or micro nutrient.
Understanding satiety is one key to a deep, dynamic mind/soul/body relationship. Maybe you’re already in good health. Keep up the good work! Remember that life only thrives with disturbance. Continue to push yourself. Continue to feed your body the best possible inputs you can get. Maybe (like me) you have room for improvement. Starve your body just a little bit on raw calories, but make sure you’re feeding it the most nutritionally dense foods possible. Dark, leafy greens. Produce sourced from as locally and as in-season as possible. Pastured meats free from toxins and with good omega-3 to omega-6 balance. Nuts and seeds. Only then while it thrive. If you’re morbidly obese, hey, I’ve been there too. Use the same strategy as the mildly overweight person with the added element of patience. If necessary, practice mindfulness meditation to replace the mental association of junk food’s immediate sensory reward with the longer-term crappy feeling it gives you. This has helped me become significantly stronger in reducing the temptation of junk food, but it’s even better to eliminate the temptation.
Plus, it saves you money! Real, honest food is cheap. It’s amazing what will happen to your grocery bill if you stick to raw, whole ingredients instead of pre-made food, whether full meals, snacks, drinks, etc. Learning to eat seasonally (and thus locally) will naturally increase the nutrient density, which means you’ll need less to trigger long-term satiety. Sure, local food can be expensive. Pastured meats are definitely more expensive than factory-farmed meat, but you need so much less to feel full, because it’s so much better for you. If you have trouble seeing this, as frugal as I am, I didn’t see it until recently either. Consider tracking in detail your grocery spending along the lines of what I did last month.
It’s only until I broke “food” into diverse categories that I saw the true relationship of dollars to nutritional value.
My categories are as follows, but adapt them as necessary for your dietary needs and desired clarity:
- Nuts (a handful of raw or toasted nuts makes a fantastic snack, and DIY nut butter is easy).
- Baking (raw dry ingredients)
- Dairy (it can be hard, but keep it rBGH free at minimum, and ideally pasture-based)
- Eggs (free range or homegrown, for health and humane handling)
- Meat (strictly pasture-based, for health and humane handling)
- Fats (I put butter here instead of dairy, pasture lard, and then good olive/grapseseed/canola oil).
- Prepared food (rare purchases these days other than pasta)
- Non-alcoholic beverages
Even when (like now in the dark of winter) produce seems expensive on a per pound basis, think of what else you’re buying that’s a ridiculous financial cost when put in terms of nutritional value. And the longer you live this lifestyle, the better you’ll get at growing your own food or sourcing it in season, then preserving it (when cheap yet high value) against the lean season. Expect plenty of preservation posts from me as 2015 warms up 🙂