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The Pleasure Principle

Figure out what makes you breathless with delight. Stop reading for a minute, close your eyes, and consider what brings you comfort, gratification, sheer delight. It may be the sunrise over the ocean, the soft down on your baby’s cheek, an afternoon matinee, walking barefoot through the morning dew, the curve of a lover’s shoulder, the sound of rain, a hike in the forest, an afternoon nap, your favorite band, the smell of freshly mowed grass, dancing until midnight. The list can go on, and on. See how many things you can list, that don’t involve food.

Related: 29 Simple Pleasures

Decide if you’re hungry before you snack. The next time you feel like having a nibble or nosh, stop before you indulge it, and ask yourself, “Am I really hungry?” You might be; if your meals are lacking in fat, protein or caloric value, you may physically need food. Or, if you’re eating according to a regimented diet that excludes foods that you find delightful, you might need more pleasure from the food—even if it’s nutritionally sound. You should enjoy your meals. That’s why we have taste buds.

Related: Why Am I Always Hungry?

Choose another pleasure. If you’re truly not hungry, why do you need a snack? Most of the time, it’s because you really need a hit of pleasure; mainline a little sugar, and get some endorphins on board, and you’ll feel better, fast. Is there something else you can do, besides eat when you’re not hungry, to fulfill your desires? And again, if you’re not getting any pleasure from your meals, find ways to add gratifying foods to your diet. Unless you’re diabetic, allergic or on a sugar-restricted diet for a very specific condition, a bit of chocolate—or whatever food is gratifying to you–can go a long way to adding pleasure at the end of a meal.

Related: Banish Compulsive Eating

Get physical. We have so many outlets for mental pleasure—movies, music, entertaining blog sites, telephone conversations. Physical pleasure is harder to come by, but our bodies require it. Where can you get it? Massage works. So does movement. But not exercise. I don’t exercise; I tried for years, and hated it immensely. Finally, I cancelled my gym membership and started moving my body in ways that bring me great pleasure: yoga, dance, martial arts, hiking, biking. From the outside, it still looks like exercise. Inside, my motives are different; I finally stopped hauling my body to the gym, dragging it from machine to machine. Yes, I know, it’s a matter of semantics. But it’s also a lateral shift in thinking that involves looking at movement from a different perspective.

Related: Get Physical!

And above all, don’t fear or hate your desire for pleasure. Remember that, like cats and penguins, you’re built for it. Find a way to indulge it authentically.

Read more: Health, Inspired Eating, , , , , ,

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Lisa Turner

Lisa is a chef and nutritionist with more than 30 years of professional experience and formal training in food, nutrition and product development. She’s written five books on food and nutrition and is the creator of The Healthy Gourmet iPhone app, and has been a featured blogger for many national sites, including Huffington Post and Whole Foods Market. Lisa is a faculty instructor at Bauman College of Culinary Arts and also teaches food and nutrition classes and workshops to individuals and corporations. She's a black belt in Ninjutsu, an active volunteer in the Boulder Valley school lunch system, and an avid wild food forager.

74 comments

+ add your own
4:53AM PDT on Oct 25, 2013

Now I'm wondering what cheese doodles are.

1:51PM PST on Dec 2, 2011

Thanks

11:07AM PDT on Oct 9, 2011

Thanks

6:29AM PDT on Sep 15, 2010

Nice.

4:11PM PDT on Sep 10, 2010

Thanks for the info.

11:47PM PDT on Sep 8, 2010

Great info.

11:03PM PDT on Sep 7, 2010

I agree fully with Jonathan's comment. I would also add eating while being distracted with something else (work, demanding conversation, stressful thoughts). You eat a piece of chocolate and don't register the expected pleasure, so you have another piece and the next thing you know - the whole bar is gone.

9:14PM PDT on Sep 7, 2010

Thanks

7:03PM PDT on Sep 7, 2010

The tips are helpful, but I feel maybe Freud should get a nod given that he was the one who coined the terms "pleasure principle" and "reality principle" - as you described them.

2:21PM PDT on Sep 7, 2010

I suspect that much of the issues with overeating are not coming from the pleasure principle.

Instead, I think that the inability to register pleasure or pain may lead to overeating, because of a loss of connection with your own body, due to medication, toxins in your system, or illness.

If you hit satiation point with food, under normal circumstances, eating becomes actually unpleasent or painful, and can even induce nausea and vomiting, if continued beyond the capacity of the stomach.

If you cannot register that you are full, and do not feel the pain of overindulgence, you may be experiencing a numbing effect.

This numbing may be due to illness, or toxicity of the body from too much processed foods, and additives and artificial sweeteners, or medication that is disconnecting you from the body feedback that you need to feel your body.

Like the person who has lost nerve sensitivity, and damages his feet from walking on a foot sore, the overeater may just not be able to feel satiation, and overfilling, which is unpleasent or painful to regular people.

I avoid aspertame and sucrulose whenever possible, due to the fact that they seem to block my ability to sense body signals of satiation.

I also try to limit my food intake when I am sick, or running a fever, or using pain killers, since I cannot register my satiation as well, and can overeat in those situations.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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