Recently, through individual work with a client, I noticed certain patterns regarding nutrition that lead to one conclusion:
"Eating for pleasure is not okay and if I'm doing it or I just crave it, something must be wrong with me."
How many times have we heard the saying that we should "Eat to live" - not "Live to eat", that food is only a source of energy, not pleasure, that people who constantly overeat, in fact, just enjoy food too much, and the like?
On the one hand, it is clear where all this comes from and the initial idea was good - to underline that food should not be used as a treatment for dissatisfaction, that it can be harmful to health. And that's okay.
But also, by substituting these theses, we can encounter a new problem - people thinking that something is wrong with them because they like to eat and enjoy food.
As is the case with most things we talk about, it depends on the context.
Certainly, excluding the pleasure segment to such an extent and labeling it as bad is not a good thing, because the fact is that today more than ever food is associated with enjoyment, hedonism, while on the other hand we are flooded with the opposite attitude - that food must not be a source of pleasure but only our “fuel.”
What happens then?
As in the case of my client, people feel bad because they have a need to enjoy food, they immediately think that they are doing something wrong, that something is wrong with them, and then paradoxically, they start to overeat. However, it is no longer a source of pleasure but a consequence of guilt.
All this together can easily lead to longer and more serious problems in your relationship with food.
WHEN IS IT NOT OKAY FOR FOOD TO BE A SOURCE OF PLEASURE?
Let's start with what "okay" and "not okay" actually mean.
Depending on the criteria, the category will also change.
But a general rule reads: "Everything that doesn't hurt you and doesn't endanger you is okay" and "Everything that hurts and endangers you is not okay."
When I say that something is not okay, I mean that something deeper is happening and that it would be advisable for you to seek the help of a professional (either a nutritionist or a psychotherapist).
Let's look at some examples…
It's not okay for food to be the ONLY source of pleasure.
It is not okay for food to be the primary way of dealing with stress and problems.
It's not okay to constantly overeat under the pretext that "you like to eat." In fact, this often has nothing to do with pleasure, although it is presented as such because a person eats much more food than it is the case with food one enjoys eating, and the feeling after overeating is not pleasant at all, neither physically nor mentally.
It’s not okay to eat sweets every day just because you enjoy doing it, even though you have diabetes and it makes you sick.
IT'S NOT OK IF IT THREATENS YOUR PHYSICAL OR MENTAL HEALTH IN ANY WAY.
What exactly this means for you - you will have to discover by getting to know yourself, your body, your behavior patterns, as well as the thoughts and feelings that accompany them.
Only you can know what your motives are when you reach for food - and there is a big difference among different motives, as well as their potential harmfulness - even when the behavior itself is the same.
WHEN IS IT OK TO EAT FOR PLEASURE?
When you make a cake for your friends and you enjoy it together.
When you have a pizza night, socializing and enjoying both the atmosphere and the food.
When you get a craving for a cookie that you like, buy it on the way home from work and eat it along the way.
When you had a hard day at work and you would really like to eat some French fries and ice cream from McDonald’s that you love.
When you simply love food and enjoy the meals you prepare and eat every day.
Frequency also plays a huge role. If every night, after a stressful day at work, you "comfort" yourself with sweets, then this is an indicator of a problem you need to work on.
However, occasionally doing something like this is totally okay.
Moreover, not eating something you crave can even be detrimental to your mental health and attitude toward food.
No one got sick or gained weight for eating something from time to time, people gain weight due to having a diet based on high-calorie foods that have no nutritional value, people who generally have unhealthy habits (overeating, not active, etc.).
Also, certain activities that are considered healthy and desirable (healthy diet, regular exercise), if they are done out of wrong motives, can be completely unhealthy and lead to an even bigger problem. But, we’ll talk about that on another occasion.
For now, you must remember that it is perfectly fine for food to be a source of pleasure, as long as it does not endanger your physical or mental health.
Until next time,