Perhaps you’re thinking right now – What do you mean, Nina, of course eating is a pleasurable experience for me, that’s probably why it’s all I think about!

At least that’s what I used to think. I thought I loved food way too much and eating was a huge pleasure for me – like, biggest pleasure of all.

It turned out, I was wrong. You see, I was using food to meet/forget unmet needs I had in other areas of life, like self-worth. Or as a reaction to food restrictions and diets.

Eating wasn’t a pleasure at all, it was simply a coping mechanism, and/or my body’s natural reaction to extreme hunger – as it happens to people dieting. I didn’t know any better than to stand in front of the fridge with that ice-cream package and eating until it was empty. I thought I’m eating so much because it’s delicious. Because I enjoy it.

But that wasn’t the case.

What I was left with afterwards, though, was a disaster;  being uncomfortably overstuffed, feelings of failure, disappointment, shame, guilt and promises that tomorrow “I’ll be good and start a new diet”.

Was that pleasurable? I don’t think so.

Compare that to a lovely meal in a beautiful restaurant with your loved ones. Where you’re feeling absolutely amazing and eat till you’re comfortably full. Then leaving your fork aside and continuing a pleasant conversation, laughing, enjoying your evening. Knowing that more food is available if you want it.

Another great example of a pleasurable eating experience is what I’ve learned from my daughter – if it doesn’t look inviting, she won’t eat it. If she’s not hungry, she won’t eat it. If she’s holding food and feels that she’s no longer hungry, she will leave the food and go back to playing. Even the chocolate. By doing all of this, every eating experience she has is awesome. Learn from children, they’re a great teachers.

That’s what I call a pleasure.

What I’d like for you is to call pleasurable eating experience into your life as often as possible.

We’ll eat multiple times a day for the rest of our lives. Therefore, it’s only logical to make it an enjoyable experience, instead of a dreadful one.

Do you remember that gorgeous restaurant your boyfriend/friend/the whole family took you to on your birthday?

The table was perfectly set, the decorations on the table were amazing. Candle light brought its own magic to the table. Vividly colored flowers added even more magic. Art on the walls was beautiful. View from the window was breathtaking.  Music was silent enough to enjoy a wonderful conversation, yet absolutely beautiful. Conversation you had with your loved one(s) was light and fun. You remember the jokes and you remember how you couldn’t take the smile off of your face.

You also remember how amazing you felt; like it’s the best evening of your life.

Time disappeared. All that mattered was that moment and your attention was 100% there, in that moment.

Food was a magnificent addition to the mix.

Then the food came. You remember the smell taking over the whole table. Bright colors on the gorgeous plate. It was almost too pretty to eat. You took a moment to enjoy the view, the smell.

Then you ate it, feeling the texture, the different tastes and how they combined, making a firework for your taste buds, right there in your mouth.

You remember that first bite and how you savored it. And every other one.

After the meal, you were not only comfortably full, but also completely satisfied. Because you were present in the moment, you had a wonderful time.

You thought to yourself, I wish I had this every day.

How can you have more of that in your everyday life? How can you make every meal a pleasurable one?

1. Pick the foods that you absolutely love

Pleasurable eating experience starts way before you actually dive in. It starts, like everything else in life, with a thought. Thinking about what will you buy when going grocery shopping.

Pick foods that will nourish and satisfy you. Foods that are fresh, vibrant. Foods you know you enjoy eating. Pick seasonable and local veggies and fruits, to make sure you get the most nutrients. Choose foods that will satisfy you. Foods that will spark creativity in you.

Make it a ritual, something you absolutely look forward to.

When you know you’ve chosen a bunch of amazing foods for the next week, you’re instantly adding a joy factor into your eating experience.

It feels much better knowing that you took ownership of your choices and that you picked the foods you love, which will help your body being healthy, satisfy your taste buds and give your body fuel to carry you around – letting you experience all of life.

Whenever possible, make sure to honor food and body congruence; eating is more pleasurable when it tastes good, but also feels good in your body.

2. Set aside at least half an hour to enjoy your meal

If we allow it, we can all become so busy that we don’t have a single moment to relax and breathe, let alone eat. We think if we’re busy, we’re getting more stuff done. If we’re busy, we’re making progress. Only when we’re busy, we’re being useful.

If we allow it, everyone will take a piece of our time; your spouse, children, friends, clients – there will always be someone who needs something from us. That’s exactly why we’re resposible for the time we allow to give away vs. the time we claim as ours.

Being busy is a choice, and not the best one.

Making time for yourself is also a choice. Perhaps you can’t take an hour or two to relax and be fully present with your every meal, surrounded by the people you love, but you can for sure set aside half hour to eat your food.

Make yourself a priority. If you want to have a beautiful relationship with food, you need to take resposibility for it. It won’t happen alone. You need to make it happen, by being mindful about it. It is your life, and food is something you’re gonna be doing a whole lot in your life. Therefore, treat it as something important – it definitely is.

However, remember that life ebbs and flows, and we need to ebb and flow with it. Sometimes, all you have is a quick, 3min snack time – and that’s okay. Enjoying a healthy relationship with food doesn’t mean making every single meal the best meal of your life. If we add such pressure to our eating world, it becomes stressful. And you know I always say: when it’s stressful, it’s no longer healthy.

3. Environment

Ok, now that you have your gorgeous food and you decided to give yourself time to enjoy it, lets take a look at the environment.

Make a place where you eat pretty. If you can’t have it all super romantic, it’s totally fine. But you can always take care of the details.

If you have a choice of staring at the wall when eating or looking out of a window, seeing the beautiful sky – turn your table to the window.

Choose a nice tablecloth. While you’re at it, pick an interesting plate you look forward to use. Beautiful napkins are super easy way to enhance your eating experience. Do I even need to mention candles? They’re amazing, include them when possible.

Have a phone? Put on some lovely music. Music is one of the best ways to add to a pleasant atmosphere.

Also, people we love are a great addition to our eating experiences. Sharing a meal with loved ones is the best practice when it comes to eating experiences. Make sure that your conversations are enjoyable – you do NOT want to fight while eating or discuss some crazy hard topics, like politics. Make it fun, laugh, joke, share daily experiences.

4. Meal

Arrange the meal on the plate so that it looks inviting. You got yourself all these gorgeous foods, it would be unfair to them to just drop them on the plate like they’re nothing. Make the plate look vibrant, veggies are a great way to add color to the plate. Pick a few that you love.

When you’re in a good restaurant, meal looks so good it’s almost a shame to eat it. Aim for that.

Great way to add color, diversity and flavor to your meals are various herbs and spices. Use as much as you want. I know every time I see my plate packed with parsley, I can’t wait to dive in. It’s just so gorgeous. And they add tons of nutrients, so it’s a win win.

You’re worthy of having magnificent meals. Be your own chef. Play with it – eating should be fun!

If you don’t have time to cook every day (and who has?!), utilize batch cooking. It’s a wonderful way to make sure you have gorgeous food available all the time.

Then just pick from you pre-cooked foods & add some fresh veggies & you’re good to go.

5. Eating

Having that gorgeous meal in front of you definitely calls for a bit of mindfulness. Be present with your food. Savor every bite. Feel the texture. Smell the smells. Take a moment just to look at it and be grateful for the magnificent meal you’ve made for yourself. Be grateful for making a choice to nourish and love yourself with that beautiful food.

You took aside half hour to eat – use it. Chew your food well; aside from making it easier to know when you’re full because it gives you a moment to tune in, chewing helps digestion.

Somewhere in the middle, take a moment to reflect – how do you feel? Are you full? Still hungry? Satisfied? Do you love the taste? Was the first bite better than the last one you took?

Being in tune with our hunger/fullness signals takes practice and time. Especially if you’ve spent years dieting and taking the pleasure out of your eating world. It’s often the case that we have no idea what being hungry or full even means. Often, we know only starving or superstuffed.

For the sake of healthy relationship with food, it’s important to try reflecting on our hunger/fullness. On a scale 1-10, check in with yourself, before the meal, in the middle and after.

Aim to eat when you’re at 3 and end when you’re at 6-7. Of course, sometimes is won’t work out perfectly, especially in the beginning, but be kind to yourself & keep on trying.

Do so without judgement – the scale is not here to become your new “hunger scale diet”, it’s simply a tool to help you assess your hunger levels. Sometimes, you’ll be able to eat at 3 and end at 7, other times you won’t. And it’s okay.

6. After the meal

As said above, check in with yourself. On a scale 1-10, how full are you? Was the meal delicious? Are you satisfied? Or do you crave more?

Also take a moment to relax – after the meal it’s important just to relax. In the world of Mediterranean cuisine, people often take a nap after lunch. This is a great choice, but not the one always available. So, work with what you have. Perhaps you don’t have time to take a nap. However, you can always take time to be still for a minute or two. Or go for a walk around the block. Or just stare out of the window for a few minutes.

What I love doing in just taking half hour to lie down and read or watch an episode of some show, with my daughter or alone. Then I love going for a walk. Light activity is great to keep digestion moving.

Closing thoughts

Eating should be a beautiful experience. But it’s only gonna be as pleasant as we choose. We cannot expect to have a joyful eating experience if we’re choosing to eat take-out crap, out of the box, alone in the car, while listening to new disasters that hit the world on the radio & scrolling through social media.

We must actively pursue pleasure – as in life, so in eating.

You don’t expect to enjoy the party if you go there feeling sad and spend the night sitting in the corner staring at your phone. The same goes for eating – you cannot expect to enjoy your meals if you choose not to.

Pleasure and joy are choices. You’re the captain of your ship – you’re the only one who can choose your joy. Claim your power & choose it. For every meal. You’re worthy of enjoying your meals.

All that being said, please remember to be compassionate and gentle towards yourself. Yes, having beautiful eating experiences is wonderful, but, as I’ve said earlier – life happens. One of the greatest things about intuitive eating and weight neutral approach to health is flexibility. We ebb and flow with life, and sometimes we can do more to make a meal feel special, while other times that’s not available.

It doesn’t mean we’ve failed, or we’re doing anything wrong. You will be having many eating experiences, one single meal doesn’t matter that much. 


What do you choose to do to enhance your eating experiences? Do you actively pursue pleasant eating experiences?

What are your favorite practices to make every meal joyful? Let me know!

Loved this? There’s more where this came from:

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