Home => Newsletters => February 20, 2008 • Family Meals Focus #23 • Eating competence: Food Acceptance
February 20, 2008
Family Meals Focus #23
Interpreting the news and research about feeding and eating
introduced the concept of the Satter Eating Competence Model (ecSatter). This newsletter addresses one of the four components of ecSatter: food acceptance. It is excerpted from the second edition of
Secrets of Feeding a Healthy Family.
From the perspective of ecSatter, the key to nutritional excellence is variety growing out of genuine food enjoyment.1 Food acceptance attitudes and skills that support food enjoyment are more important for you than what you eat on any one day. Being able to be calm and relaxed in the presence of unfamiliar food: to experiment with it; to pick and choose from what's available, and to say yes, please, and no, thank you. ecSatter doesn't tell you what to eat, but instead, encourages you to take an interest in food and to eat foods you enjoy. Our research shows that people who have high overall eating competence scores, and particularly those who have high scores with respect to food acceptance, enjoy a greater variety of food and are more likely to plan and cook meals that include all the food groups.2
Enjoy your food. What an alarming notion! Surely, wonder the food cops as well as the eaters, if we are given license to enjoy food we will simply careen out of control, willy-nilly gobbling every morsel that comes across our voracious paths. In conventional nutrition practice, if appetite is addressed at all, it is from the perspective of ignoring and overruling it. We have come to fear that we are bottomless pits,that if we get encouragement to eat foods we enjoy, we will eat without stopping. And if we do that, we are bad-bad-bad!
In reality, appetite works for us, rather than against us. Appetite is a natural and life-giving inclination. The interest in eating based on its aesthetic and gustatory rewards is a powerful motivator for food-seeking. Even though appetite is compelling, it can be satisfied. Being an epicure,valuing and experiencing sensual pleasure,is a critical factor in becoming satisfied. It is normal to get enough and to stop eating, even of highly enjoyable food. If you pay attention when you eat, you will notice that at some point you lose interest. Food stops tasting as good. That might be a sudden or a gradual cutoff for you,it is very individual. As one of my patients put it, ''I am ready to stop when my mouth is finished as well as my stomach.'' Another called this subjective endpoint ''a feeling of nuffness.'' I can't improve on those descriptions. They were both saying that appetite is satisfied. But to satisfy appetite, you have to find the food appealing and it has to taste good. Eating a whole package of rice cakes won't satisfy you if what you really want is chocolate chip cookies,or vice versa.
Most of us crave pleasure from eating and will go to some length to achieve it, even if we have to cheat and play little mind games with ourselves. The problem is out-of-control virtue. Guard against it! Nutrition suffers when the rules get the upper hand over enjoyment. If you have to break your rules to eat what you like, you are being too strict and withholding. In the long run, you will come out behind, not ahead.
1. Satter EM. Eating Competence: definition and evidence for the Satter Eating Competence Model. J Nutr Educ Behav. 2007;39 (suppl):S142-S153.
2. Lohse B, Satter E, Horacek T, Gebreselassie T, Oakland MJ. Measuring Eating Competence: psychometric properties and validity of the ecSatter Inventory. J Nutr Educ Behav . 2007;39 (suppl):S154-S166.
Copyright © 2008 by Ellyn Satter. Published at
Copyright © 2012 by Ellyn Satter. Published at www.EllynSatter.com.
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