The Key to Successful Intuitive Eating for a Healthy Vacation


Intuitive or Mindful Eating on Vacation

Intuitive and Mindful Eating I just returned from a week’s vacation that included plenty of meals out with all the trimmings. Perhaps it’s needless to say, but my pants are a tiny bit more snug than when I left.  So if I’m an accomplished intuitive eater, why did this happen?

According to intuitive eating “rules,” I shouldn’t be eating more than my body needs if I’m listening, right?  Right, at least on a consistent basis.  But vacations present several situations that shed a different light on successful intuitive eating.

New Foods May Delay Satiety

First, vacations often don’t last long enough for one phenomenon that’s important to intuitive eating to occur.  It’s called sensory specific satiety.  In our everyday lives, we’re subject to that.  We get used to eating the same foods, even if we generally include a wide variety.  When we’re hungry, we look forward to eating those foods, but we often reach the point where we’re satisfied just a little bit earlier in the game than if the food is new, as it usually is on vacation.  When everything is new, it may take a few more bites to achieve satisfaction (if it’s tasty food).  If we continued eating these foods, then we’d likely find them less interesting eventually, and find our stopping point sooner.

Eating Out Means More Choices And More Courses

Second, vacations generally mean eating out a lot.  When we eat out, we usually have a lot more courses than we might have at home.  Sensory specific satiety can play a role here, too, because with each new flavor, we often want to eat until we’re satisfied with that flavor.  That doesn’t mean eating a lot if we’re intuitive eaters because other factors that stop eating are more powerful.

For example, if we’re getting too full, then we stop because we don’t want to be uncomfortable, even though the taste might be something we really like and would like more of.  Still, we may often eat just a few more bites than we would at home when we don’t have as many choices, or again, when we have the choices as often as we like.

Social Settings And Portion Sizes Affect Intuitive Eating

There’s also another phenomenon with eating out that’s not well understood, but it has to do with portion sizes.  Studies show that when we have larger portion sizes, we tend to eat more.  And of course, restaurants – especially American restaurants — are generally known for larger portion sizes. In theory, this shouldn’t affect an accomplished intuitive eater, but because eating out is generally a social occasion, it could have an impact.

Studies suggest that we eat more when we eat in groups than when we eat alone.  Probably has to do with not listening as closely to our cues, and the social role that food plays in our lives.  It’s a good time, but at the end of such an event, we might find we ate a bit more than we really wanted to.

The Key to It All is Trust

So it makes sense all that can add up to tighter fitting pants when we return home.  What to do about it?  Nothing, really.

Read This Related Article:
Mindful Eating: Portion Control and Enjoying Dessert

If we return to our usual intuitive eating or mindful eating behaviors, our bodies will take care of any extra energy (calories) we’ve stored from vacation.  We won’t be as hungry as usual, and will find ourselves eating a little less – maybe not noticeably less  but it will be less – until our bodies normalize at their healthy weight.  It generally doesn’t take more than a week or so.

What’s implied in all this is that we trust — in our bodies and in intuitive, mindful eating.

Now that’s something to come home to!

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About the Author

Marsha Hudnall, MS, RDN, CD

If you’re looking for an embodiment of dedication disguised as obsession, look no further. Marsha is a registered dietitian who has spent the last four decades working to help women give up dieting rules and understand how to truly take care of themselves. Her mission in life is to help women learn to enjoy eating and living well, without worries about their weight. She encourages women to embrace their love of food, which you might call being a foodie. If so, it’s appropriate because being a foodie means you pay attention when you eat. That’s a recipe made in heaven for eating well. Marsha is the President and Co-Owner of Green Mountain at Fox Run.

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