Eating for pleasure is a huge part of what drives our eating. We all know how uninteresting eating becomes when we have a cold and we can’t taste anything. There’s simply not much pleasure in it. I remember reading an article about a woman who lost her sense of taste after a dental work disaster and she lost 20 pounds really fast. Eating became a chore and she completely lost interest in it. So sad.
There is no question that eating is pleasurable and it should be. There is great pleasure in coming together with friends and family and eating a delicious meal or enjoying the immense pleasure of food when we travel. Food is pleasure and we are pleasure seekers by nature. We turn away from pain and look towards pleasure. Sometimes, however, eating for pleasure can turn into eating self-sabotage.
When eating for pleasure becomes eating self-sabotage
The problem arises when we start looking for too much pleasure from our food, and we are getting too little pleasure from other things in our life. I see this every day in my work with clients and I think it’s a big explanation for our current obesity crisis.
“I am not hungry, but I want to keep eating because it takes so darn good!“
“These pretzels give me so much pleasure, I just don’t want to stop.”
“I look forward to dinner all day long, it’s the only real pleasure in my day.”
Life is stressful – food is a comfort
Life is stressful and hard for many of us, and sweet, soothing, comforting food is on every street corner and in every bookstore. We can nosh in our car, keep a snack in our handbag or desk drawer and nibble all day long. Food makes us feel better: sweets satisfy, crunchy soothes, and creamy comforts. We can easily use food to get through a difficult day. In our culture, we ask a lot of our food. Have you ever wondered if you are asking too much from your food? In our society we have imbued food with super powers to heal, comfort, numb, relax, and bring pleasure, yet food is just food. It’s neither good nor bad. It’s neutral.
The lens of deprivation
When all of our pleasure comes from our food, we must recognize that we are viewing the world through a lens of deprivation, always feeling just a little bit denied. Denied of love, denied of being heard, denied of fun, or denied of pleasure. Maybe we feel bored, unfulfilled, or unrecognized. Perhaps we are worrying about every little thing and can’t enjoy the moment. Often we feel that we do and do and do for others and then there’s nothing left for us. It’s easy to understand how food slides right in to fill this void in our lives.
Chips are short-term pleasure
When our children are difficult, our partner is aloof, or our job is mundane, it’s hard not to surrender to the bag of chips. We know it will bring us pleasure and comfort for an hour or so, guaranteed. Of course the problem arises later when the chips bring us extra weight, health issues, tight clothes and a strong sense of defeat.
The initial homework is to recognize how the pleasure from food has eclipsed our pleasure from anything else. Pleasure from food is still very important, but it must be balanced with hunger. Hunger and pleasure must be in sync. Sometimes spending a little time with our hunger is necessary. When we are hungry, the pleasure from food is heightened. As we get full, the pleasure diminishes. If we learn to tune into these signals, we can get hungry to enjoy the immense pleasure from food and then stop. Like yoga, it’s a practice. For those of us who have become deeply attached to that bag of chips, it takes a little work. Over time, however, the pleasure from better self-regulation replaces the pleasure from the chips. Do you find yourself relying on food for pleasure in your day? If so, let me know. Leave a comment. If you want more help, hop over to my website and get my free online 3-Lesson email course on ending eating self-sabotage.