Eating for pleasure is often said to be a guilty pleasure or something unhealthy and bad for us. But the truth is, if we don’t allow ourselves to eat for pleasure, we will often end up binging to the exact foods we’ve denied ourselves. So yes, eating for pleasure can be healthy!
I was out for lunch with a girlfriend not long ago, and she ordered a green salad.
She looked at me and said, “I’d rather be eating the steak wrap, but I’m trying to be healthy and avoid carbs.”
I didn’t lecture her, that’s not my style, and I wasn’t going to give her my unsolicited advice on her eating choices, but it did make me sad, and wonder how many ladies’ lunches were following the same narrative?
The moral tug of war with food
My friend is one of the many women who feel ashamed to enjoy their food. Held hostage by diet rules, and brainwashed into believing, “if it’s not green or tastes bland, then it can’t be healthy for me.”
I’ll tell you what I didn’t tell my girlfriend that day:
It’s OK to enjoy your food and feel pleasure from it.
Getting pleasure from food is a natural response and part of being human. In fact, the more you like and enjoy your food, the more satisfied you will be AND the more likely you will eat less over the day.
The reason eating pleasure foods is important to your health is that it reduces your chance of binging later. As humans, we’re not built for deprivation, yet your diet demands this of you. After a while, your body and brain will rebel and into an eating frenzy later.
If you eat the cookie when you crave it, and really enjoy and savor it, your body and mind will be calm, and not feel the need to binge on an entire box of cookies later. Ultimately by indulging in your pleasure foods every now and then when the craving strikes you will feel more satisfied, less deprived, and eat fewer calories overall by avoiding binges.
The diet culture sets us up for denial, which backfires on our health and weight and sends our mind to panic-mode, meaning we obsess over the foods we are denying ourselves, building up an intense craving until BOOM, the binge hits and we overeat the cookies, crisps or ice-cream. This is because you’re eating foods you should eat, not what you want to eat.
When you allow yourself to eat what you’re craving, without worrying about the nutrients involved, you’re more likely to savor and enjoy its deliciousness and feel satisfied on a much smaller amount, with no mental food drama. This is called intuitive or instinctive eating.
When we stop stressing about what we’re eating, we are more likely to find a balance between taste and nutrition.
Now, you might be worried that if you allow yourself to eat whatever you want when you crave it, that you’ll never stop eating chocolate 24/7.
This is not the case. Funny enough, you won’t succumb to a daily chocolate frenzy.
It may seem hard to imagine, but this actually doesn’t happen, because food not only delivers a party for your taste buds, but it affects how you feel physically as well.
Eat chocolate day-in and day-out, and you’ll probably have sugar crashes, feel bloated, get stomach-ache and feel pretty icky. Your body won’t crave this every day because of these feelings…but only when your mind knows that it’s free to eat it whenever it wants.
What that means is, when you let go of diet rules and feed your body what it wants, it will choose healthier, more nutritious foods most of the time. It’s when we deny ourselves certain foods that binges and overeating happens.
By getting to know what foods you like (and don’t like), regardless of their nutrient content, you can start to understand your taste preference (spicy, sweet, savory, mushy, etc.) that set you up to eat for pleasure.
Try to incorporate at least one of your forbidden foods into your pantry or fridge and enjoy it, without guilt, or shame. But…I want you to read the next tip before you eat it.
I want you to really savor that food, taste it, feel the texture, smell the flavor, roll it around in your mouth. This allows you to really focus on the food and ramps up your satisfaction, meaning you’ll likely eat less than if you’re eating mindlessly in front of the TV or scrolling your phone. If you would like a comprehensive guide to mindful eating, check out my Mindful Eating Journal, packed with helpful tools and tips to get started.
This tip goes hand-in-hand with the tip above. The more you’re focused on what you’re eating, the more you can focus on your fullness sensations. When does the taste become less interesting, when is your stomach getting fuller, how does that feel? These are all questions to ask yourself during eating so you can start to pinpoint when you’re satisfied and full but not stuffed.
The more variety you have in your diet, the more you can experiment with tastes and textures, plus the more likely you will be eating a range of nutrients. Be flexible with your eating, aiming to cook from scratch most of the time.
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The thing I learned on my journey to intuitive and mindful eating is that gentle nutrition (ie: having some flexibility around your eating), meant my brain finally relaxed around eating.
I ate nutritious food most of the time, and the food was satisfying, healthy, and fun!
If you would like to really knock your food drama on the head, and finally enjoy eating, without guilt, reach out to me for a FREE 45min coaching call, here.
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