3 Ways the Pursuit of Pleasure Isn’t Anti-Health

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I’m Sarah (she/her), a Toronto-based writer, anti-diet nutritionist, and Certified Intuitive Eating Counsellor. I teach folks how to have a healthy relationship with food and accept their natural body size.

Hi, I'm Sarah

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I’m not shy about talking up the benefits of pleasure — on the plate and otherwise.

Diet culture teaches us pleasure is something to be ashamed of, that somehow enjoying food makes us gluttons, immoral, uncaring, reckless, ugly. That deriving pleasure from food —savouring a slice of chocolate cake slick with buttercream icing, taking a spoon to a bowl of mint chocolate chip ice cream, twirling our forks through a plate of creamy pasta, sipping on a Mocha Latte topped with whipped cream and generally enjoying what we eat to its fullest extent without apology — is causing us harm.

From the cradle to the grave, we are indoctrinated into an apple-and-Eve belief system where loving food—a forbidden apple or cake or chip variety or who knows what—is bad — and where loving food makes us bad, too.

Part of diet recovery involves identifying these unhelpful and unsupportive food beliefs, dismantling them, and developing our own belief system derived from our own internal value system. While it makes so much sense that you don’t currently trust yourself around food and don’t believe you have the chops to eat according to your body’s wisdom, I want you to know that it’s very possible, with support, to shift into the driver’s seat.

As I explore in my book and will delve further into in my upcoming group coaching program, pleasure is not antithetical to health. It’s intrinsic to it.

1.        Pleasure — satisfaction — helps to regulate eating.

 You can get full on anything: a big bowl of fruit, a sandwich, plain chicken with brown rice and broccoli. Satisfaction is different. If you’ve been dieting or restricting your food for any length of time, there’s a good chance you find it difficult to feel satisfied. A lot of dieters feel like they would never stop eating their favourite foods, like macaroni and cheese or chocolate cake. I cover the reasons for this in my coaching, but for now just know that it’s tough to feel your fullness signals — and to walk away from food — if you’re not allowing for pleasure or sourcing it as best as you can at mealtimes.

2. Allowing for pleasure creates a gateway to finding pleasure in more foods.

Dieting teaches us to define and experience pleasure in extremely narrow ways. When we think of pleasure, we might think of “junk food” or take-out or our favourite restaurant meals. It’s tough to see vegetables or fruit as pleasurable when we’ve been told we should be eating it, need to eat it, or have otherwise turned eating produce into a responsibility. This is no one’s fault, of course, and if this resonates with you, it’s not yours, either. But know that it’s possible to find many foods pleasurable— even salads and fruit!—when you heal from chronic restriction and begin to hear and feel the needs of your body. When there are no more bad foods, there are no more good foods, either — which creates space to learn your own preferences and decide what’s satisfying for yourself.

Have you ever thought, “I wish I was one of those people who craved vegetables?”

Now, have you ever considered that perhaps you don’t because of that very mindset?

3. Pleasure helps to quiet the food noise.

How often do you think about food? Ten times a day? Most of the day? All day, every day?

You’re not alone.

When we’re preoccupied with eating as little as possible or always choosing the “right” choice, we’re probably ignoring some of our cravings and desires. We may not even know what our desires are, or what we really enjoy eating outside of the stereotypical options like pasta and pizza.

Quieting the food noise requires a few steps, but one of the most vital is being able to identify what you need and to get that need met. When we’re not just full, but satisfied, it’s possible to completely forget about food until the next time you get hungry.

What’s your favourite pleasure tip? Leave it in the comments!

eating for pleasure or just wanting to eat

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