June 2, 2010
I keep coming across this strange idea that food is not something to be enjoyed, but rather something to be consumed strictly for caloric needs. Food is perceived as nothing more than fuel for the body - not a means to entertain the mind or amuse our taste buds.
But I have to ask, is it really so wrong to enjoy a beautiful, healthy meal while still feeling comforted and nourished on more than a purely physical level? And is it productive to suppress our natural desire to experience pleasure from eating?
Like sex, food is an inherent drive for pleasure. This biological mechanism is built in for a very good reason. It is nature’s way of reminding us not to forget to nourish our bodies, ensuring our survival. Nature calls us to eat through desire, and rewards us with pleasure! What a brilliant and beautiful concept. (Not to be confused with the behavior of using food to reward ourselves.)
The pleasure experience is biologically designed to reinforce and encourage repeated behavior. This is true as it relates to both sex and food. Otherwise there would be little incentive to procreate or to take time for sufficient calorie replenishment throughout the day.
Why else would nature create such a variety of vibrant, colorful and flavorful foods, if not to delight the senses and keep us coming back for more? Nature intended for us to enjoy and take pleasure in eating by biological design. It’s all very beautifully orchestrated to lure us in for nourishment.
We enjoy food outside of simply satisfying our hunger, much in the same way we enjoy sex outside of just procreation. Cravings for food and sex are natural; we shouldn’t be so quick to suppress these desires! If anything, we should embrace them with admiration, as they serve a very unique biological purpose.
To say that eating for pleasure and comfort is somehow wrong is like saying that sex is a sin. The trick is not to engage in these behaviors in access or in a destructive way. Giving ourselves the freedom to express and enjoy these desires in a moderate, healthy manner is what makes or breaks it.
As long as the foods we indulge in are healthy, who says it is wrong to feel pleasure and comfort? Sure, pizza and chips don’t count, but a healthy, comforting bowl of raw chili, minus the guilt, certainly does! If we can stay present, why not soak up the pleasure and comfort? It only turns destructive once we start eating out of boredom, or to fill an emotional void. Seeking healthy alternatives for cravings is far more productive to our overall well-being, than living in a constant state of self-imposed deprivation.
Ideally, we should aim to enjoy healthy foods that also satisfy our taste buds and desires. One way this can be achieved is by embracing nature's infinitely delicious variety. In doing so, we naturally start to gravitate toward whole, natural options as we create a positive association with food.
Health is not just about how we fuel the body or the calories we take in; it is equally about creating a beautiful, healthy and sacred experience. It’s about enjoying and savoring the moment, rather than punishing ourselves with strict dietary rules and guidelines. So give in to nature's sweet perfection, and indulge once in a while. It really is okay!
For thoughts on how this relates to emotional eating, see my article Emotional Eating in Purely Delicious Magazine, Spring 2010 Issue!