Do you feel guilty about eating certain foods? Do you manage what you consume throughout the day in order to reduce any anxiety, and maybe have a treat in the evening? A guilty pleasure? Well the good news is – you can make every meal one you enjoy: all food can be pleasure and guilt-free.
It may be just a hangover from my Irish, Catholic upbringing i.e. basically that any pleasure is a sin! I can’t do much about the former but I’ve reformed my relationship with the Catholics in many ways, especially in relation to food. My layperson’s theory is that if you feel guilty about what you eat (and drink), of course it’s going to stay on your hips! Feeling guilty reduces the overall pleasure experienced in eating; consequently disrupting efficient digestion and elimination making it an overall, worrying experience. Give it up now I say!
Life is short, there are few pleasures that we can enjoy every day, so let’s get out of the guilt-trap and introduce pleasure into the equation. Think about it. If you enjoy eating, your body is getting good vibrations at the start of the digestive process, the endorphins are released in the brain and the pleasure principle comes into being. Consequently you are likely to feel full, not overeat, be able to indulge in a little of what you fancy when you fancy it and life can actually be sweet without having to raid the biscuit tin or empty the ice-cream tub – especially if it’s the children’s favourite!
Finding this all a little hard to swallow? Try it. You could start with something as basic as tea and toast. Simply be mindful (i.e. tell your body) that it’s going to have a tea and toast experience! It will be wonderful, this food is going to nourish you and you’re going to taste the different elements; the creaminess of the butter, the tart of the marmalade or sweetness of the jam, the crunch of the peanut butter. I’m trying not to dribble now! But the message is simple: taste the food, feel it nourishing you and know that it is getting to where it needs to go in your body.
It would be naive to apply this principle if you only eat large amounts of high calorie foods every day, but I am talking about a reasonably well-balanced diet – whether that’s incorporating the Government latest 5 or 7, or is it 9-a-day fruit and veg intake in your diet?
Similarly if you’ve just opened a bottle of say, Sauvignon Blanc to have with a meal. It’s a favourite grape of mine (though I do have a penchant for all grapes). But the Sauvignon: grassy and citrusy and gorgeous, it might even have a slight seltzer, giving the tongue a delicious tingle as you start to drink it. Consuming the whole bottle might not be very good for you on a regular basis, but deciding that you’re going to enjoy every sip may very well mean that you are satiated sufficiently to enjoy and appreciate the wine without having to overdose on it.
Previous research (Pettinger, 2006 and Rozin, 1999) indicates that attitudes to food may be a predictor in the content and amount of food consumed, and there is no getting away from how our attitudes are shaped by the social influence of the media. Surveys carried between the English and the French attitudes to food revealed that we rely more on pre-prepared and take-away meals as well as energy-dense snack foods such as crisps. Whereas the French were more likely to follow a regular three meals a day pattern and more often cooked from raw ingredients.
How much do these culturally defining habits contribute to the statistics? The <a href=”http://www.oecd.org/health/healthataglanceeurope.htm” target=”_blank”>OECD 2012 ‘Health at a Glance’ Report</a> indicated 26.2% of UK women were recorded as obese compared with 12.4% in France. Might it have something to do with the ‘French paradox’ i.e. how to enjoy great food and stay slim?
Could you give it a go? Even for one meal? Just put the emphasis on the <b>enjoy</b> word. If you sprinkle a little pleasure in there, really enjoy and appreciate what you’re eating (even if it is tea and toast) it might ease any guilt, put a pep in your step and contribute to your overall pleasure of life.
First published on Platform505 in June, 2014