Every afternoon at the office I find my hands going into the bowl of M&M candies, my client tells me. But that’s not the most interesting part. I don’t even like them, she says.
We know that pleasure is an important, even critical, component of healthy eating as well as a healthy life in general. But women often draw a blank when I ask them what they most enjoy eating and why.
Maybe it’s a result of continuous restriction such that they couldn’t experiment with what they enjoyed. Or maybe the related guilt and shame that has gotten in the way of being present with the taste.
My client’s homework that week was to taste as many treats as possible and figure out what she likes. It’s not what she expected.
Some clients happily accept this tasty assignment while others express horror or terror. Either way it gives us another avenue for further exploration.
The problem isn’t the food.
A handful of M&M’s, especially the peanut ones, can provide some needed late afternoon energy. While it’s perhaps not the best snack from a nutritional point of view, it’s not going to wreck your health if you’re eating in an otherwise reasonably balanced way.
The problem is the lack of enjoyment.
If you don’t get the full pleasure of your eating experience you’re likely to keep wanting, and keep finding your hand in the candy bowl. Therefore, a good practice is to strive to eat as much as possible the foods that give you real pleasure.
Ask yourself what tastes, textures, temperatures, combinations do you look forward to. When there are no bad or good foods you’re free to explore and figure out for yourself what gives you the most pleasure in eating.
Make a list, and look for ways to incorporate these in your daily meals. When I realized that I enjoy all things coconut, I was able to expand my horizons further than pie. Now I have coconut shrimp, coconut smoothies, and fresh coconut as a snack, along with the occasional macaroon. What other ways can you enjoy peanut butter, lemon, or chocolate? What other foods can give you crunch? or spice? or creaminess?
Of course there are other reasons for unwanted eating including mindlessness, underlying emotional discomfort, and denial of actual hunger. But don’t overlook the pleasure factor.
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This week I’m reading The Truth About Food – Why Pandas Eat Bamboo and People Get Bamboozled by David L. Katz, MD. Dr. Katz can be counted on to think deeply about the controversies surrounding food. His book, although rambling and repetitive, highlights research backed arguments on both sides of various foods and ways of eating. He has a firm opinion which is clearly stated throughout and it’s generally supportive of non-dieting principles.
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