I get so sick and tired of people obsessing about women’s bodies.
It seems like you can’t even glance at a health site without being bombarded with unwanted diet and weight loss advice.
Because healthy people are skinny people, right? Groan… You aren’t healthy unless you have six-pack abs, right? Sheesh!!!
Where do they make up this stuff?!
It’s yet another example of making the standards so impossible for women that no matter what you do you’ll always feel inadequate.
I have had some awesome and inspiring speakers on my show talking about body positivity and freeing yourself from the pressure to define your worth by your body shape. (Check them out – Summer Innanen, Rebekah Buege, Michelle Elman, Jenn Hand.)
But what I want to talk about today is more personal.
It’s about how pleasure came to define the way I eat…
And what I discovered about the role of pleasure in nourishing your body to look and feel great.
The Missing Link in Your Diet
Not many weight-loss gurus talk about pleasure.
That’s because they haven’t been trained in the psychology of eating.
It turns out there’s a missing link in what we’ve been told about nutrition.
We’ve been told that all you have to do is look at the nutrition facts on the label, and you’ll know exactly how many calories and vitamin and minerals you’ll get if you eat that food.
If that’s the case, though, how can two people eat the exact same thing…
And one person gains weight while the other person never gains an ounce?
(Doesn’t that make you so mad?)
Well, it turns out that there is a lot going on AFTER you put that food in your mouth…
That determines how much nourishment you’ll receive from it and whether it will end up stored as fat in the body.
Stress Sabotages Your Weight
Marc David is the founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating and the author of The Slow Down Diet.
His research focuses on how food is metabolized in the body.
And what he’s discovered are some pretty surprising things. For example, he writes:
You could eat the healthiest meal on the planet, but if you’re thinking toxic thoughts the digestion of your food goes down and your fat storage metabolism can go up. Likewise, you could be eating a nutritionally challenged meal, but if your head and heart are in the right place, the nutritive power of your food will be increased.”
Hard to believe, isn’t it?
But the research is there.
If your body is in a stress state when you’re eating—because you’re anxious, because dieting has made you obsessed with counting calories, because you worry that everything you eat will make you fat—then your body is not going to metabolize your food as well as it should.
But if your body is primed to experience pleasure from your food—because you enjoy what you’re eating, you’re relaxed and chill, you feel good about nourishing yourself—you will digest your food in a way that wrings every last bit of goodness out of it.
People who aren’t stressed out about food have an easier time managing their weight.
Yet so many diets and meal plans turn eating into a source of significant stress. You can’t eat what you want. You can’t eat what you like.
Perhaps it’s time to ditch the diet and enjoy the pleasure of eating again.
How You Eat is as Important as What You Eat
You may have seen this in your own life.
You have a friend who never worries about her weight and eats what she wants and enjoys her food, and her weight never changes.
While maybe you feel guilty every time you eat something you shouldn’t, and you’re always trying the next new diet, and food is a huge source of stress in your life…
And no matter what you do, those numbers on the scale go up.
Now, what you eat matters. Of course it does!
But as Marc David makes it clear, “what you eat is only half the equation of good nutrition. How you eat is the other half.”
The Power of Feeling Full
Many years before I discovered that research, I had already figured out this principle for myself…
Completely by accident!
All of my life, I had struggled with my weight.
I was born in a family of women who put on weight. The women in my family try to eat less, but there’s no point in a diet because their weight isn’t going to budge. Our body type is in our genes.
I fought my genetic destiny all through my teens and twenties.
I did not want to end up like the women in my family. So I pushed myself, and I ate too little, and I ended up wrecking my body.
It wasn’t until I turned 30 and I moved in with someone I cared about deeply that everything changed for me.
This guy ate forbidden foods like cheese and butter.
(I NEVER had cheese or butter in my fridge!)
And I told myself, “Okay, I’m just going to try this for a little bit. The honeymoon period doesn’t last forever. If I balloon up, I’ll just go back to the way I was eating before.”
And what I discovered was this crazy thing.
Eating like him meant I stopped feeling hungry all the time.
When I wasn’t hungry, I wasn’t thinking about food. I didn’t feel the urge to overeat. I could eat just the right amount and feel full.
It’s crazy to me that the one thing that finally allowed me to settle into a weight that felt good to me was the one thing I’d fought all my life.
I’d thought that the problem was the foods I ate.
I was sure that the non-fat no-sugar diet option was always the correct choice.
But in fact the problem was the stress I put myself under to micromanage my eating.
When I allowed myself to eat, food lost its power over me.
The Pleasure Diet
This is one of those curious applications of The Pleasure Principle that you wouldn’t expect.
The Pleasure Principle is the philosophy of going towards what makes you feel good, rather than away from what makes you feel bad.
It’s the subject of my book, and one of the great passions of my life.
We women need more pleasure in our lives.
Far too many of us spend our lives trying to avoid negative outcomes. We don’t want to gain weight. We don’t want to be rejected. We don’t want to fail.
So we fall in line, rather than taking the risk of choosing things that make us happy.
Food should make us happy.
I love food. I’m a bit of a food snob these days. I make the perfect cup of tea. If there’s something I crave, like sourdough bread or doughnuts, I will figure out how to make it myself and master it so that I get to enjoy it any time I want.
If the Pleasure Principle interests you, and you want to learn more, here are some articles to get you started:
- The Pleasure Prescription for a Longer, Healthier Life
- Too Stressed and Overworked to Date? Then Try a Dose of This
- Get More Energy by Doing What Makes You Grin
- How Pleasure Can Stop You from Getting Sick