Ever notice how, when you're really satisfied after a good meal, there is very little urge for dessert? It's not so much that you're too full or can't imagine making room for anything else in your stomach. It's more a sense of fullness and contentment that no other edible item could possibly improve upon. In fact, to eat something else could also have an adverse affect on your positive feeling.
I used to have zero willpower and such a sweet tooth. My appetite for granola was particularly insatiable and, though as a child I ate like a bird, began to find all my meals and snacks growing in size and caloric total. At the time, I wasn't in the happiest of places, which I think owes something to my newfound ravenous behavior. There was always a sense that I wasn't quite satiated and so the thought that I was full and didn't need any more rarely crossed my mind.
This relatively brief period in my life didn't lead to excessive weight gain or health problems. In fact, I was probably healthier at that time than I had ever been previous because I was eating more on a daily basis and able to satisfy a lot of my nutrient needs. Nonetheless, my eating habits weren't particularly healthy because they weren't motivated by a sense of hunger or fullness.
I worry that far too many people have lost the ability to feel hungry, to feel full. These days I've got my diet back on track and only eat when I'm hungry. When I'm done, I feel satisfied and know that nothing in the pantry will make me feel better - in fact, eating any item within would inevitably make me feel worse. Part of this change I can attribute to my new attitude toward food. I avoid canned items, prepackaged meals, and processed ingredients as much as possible. Instead I opt for fresh produce, things that require little by way of preparation before purchasing and don't need a label to advertise their health benefits. I've found that, the more I listen to what my body really needs, the more I am able to feel satisfied when a meal is done.
I recognize that I have more freedom with my meals than most. True, I usually don't get home until 6:00 at night and am too tired to want to cook. But it's just me and my fiance who will pretty much eat whatever I put in front of him. I have a lot of flexibility and few limitations on my cooking. I don't have to worry about pleasing kids or adhering to strict dietary guidelines for health reasons - I can make whatever I want given what I have on hand.
At the same time, I do pose personal limitations, like those I've already stated regarding fresh items versus processed. I also try to think about balanced meals - ensuring that I don't go overboard with my meat or fish, that there are plenty of sources of fiber on my plate, that fats, carbs, and proteins are all accounted for. Though this can sound like quite a task, I've found that sticking to the produce section of my grocery store helps guarantee well-balanced, fibrous meals. If I've got tons of fruits and veggies on hand that have relatively short shelf lives, I've got to use them while they're fresh. Plus, they're tastier than their canned, shrink-wrapped, and bagged counterparts.
In effect, the way I shop influences the meals I prepare and the way I eat. Since I buy things that resemble their natural form as much as possible, I can prepare more satisfying and healthy meals, in turn reducing my desire to eat artificially flavored snacks and such which makes me a healthier person overall.
In this day and age, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer, and a whole host of other medical conditions are rampant and growing in severity and incidence. Plenty of people are at a loss as to how to avoid or deal with these issues. I've done a bit of reading on this because I find it particularly fascinating and nearly everyone (at least those unmotivated by corporate interests) agree - eating more fresh produce and less processed food will help make us healthier and less disease-ridden as a culture.
But I also want to argue that making the switch from factory-produced to au natural will make us also happier as a people. When our food is fresh, it tastes better and we want to eat more of the good stuff. We will feel physically better and have to deal with fewer diseases and disorders. We won't turn to the snack drawer for satisfaction because our daily meals will more than provide it. We will feel satiated after our meals and in continually better health - and I don't think anyone can argue that, in turn, we will be happier individuals.
I can still remember the days when Trader Joe's Trail Mix Granola was like a drug for me. Before going to bed, I'd have a couple healthy bowls of the stuff with milk, no matter how large my dinner had been a few hours previous. It was like those bottomless soup and salad deals where I was constantly re-filling an empty bowl. I won't blame this entirely on the fact that I had an unsatisfying dinner - there were other emotional and mental things going on at the time that probably contributed much more to my voracious appetite. But I will say that, nowadays, I don't even have the urge to look in the cabinet after dinner no matter what state of mind I may find myself in.
A steady diet of good real food can serve as a preventative measure against emotional eating and, in the process, nourish whatever it is that makes eating addictive. Food should be enjoyed, but there is no need to waste our daily meals on TV dinners or microwave meals. Truly enjoying food involves considerate preparation of fresh ingredients for maximum health, flavor, and satisfaction.