When did you last eat with enjoyment, for pure pleasure? When last did you eat something without obsessing about every calorie and micro-nutrient going into your body? There’s so much nutritional information in circulation, and often such a judgmental culture around what everyone’s eating, that most people struggle to eat without some element of guilt or anxiety.
Most people struggle to eat without some element of guilt or anxiety. But eating for pleasure is entirely possible.
And then there’s the phenomenon of comfort eating – which, as Nigella Lawson has pointed out in one of her cookbooks, is really discomfort eating. We use food as a form of self-medication, to swallow our feelings, often binging on foods that we mindlessly gulp down without pausing to check whether we’re really enjoying them.
Food is fuel, of course, but it’s also one of life’s greatest pleasures!
Can you even conceive of a kind of middle road where you can eat delicious food – with enjoyment, not anxiety – and still be healthy?
Are you discomfort eating? Are you even enjoying those indulgences you allow yourself or do you eat them riddled with guilt? Do you intend to have just two biscuits, and end up finishing the packet, or decide to have a scoop of icing and find yourself at the bottom of the tub? Is there a middle road where you can eat delicious food with enjoyment and still be healthy? What if you could truly learn the gentle art of moderation, and savour your meals instead of stressing about them?
I grew up with women and men who demonstrated how to enjoy each and every meal, so I know it’s possible to live this way and be healthy. And this is why Mireille Guiliano’s book, Why French Women Don’t Get Fat was such a global success – because it paves the way to this kind of eating, where food and eating are a happy part of life.
The French don’t starve themselves of the things they love and then fall into a downward spiral of binging. Instead, they give themselves ‘petits riens’ – little nothings of daily pleasure that bring some sweetness to life. And what that does, is to remove the ‘forbidden fruit’ problem. If you give yourself permission to eat three small squares of really good dark chocolate every day, for example, you’re far less likely to make a midnight trip to the garage and pick one of each type of chocolate bar off the shelf.
But they also honour the act of eating by presenting the food beautifully, setting the table properly, always eating at the table, and truly savouring the flavours on their tongues by being mindful and chewing slowly – not gulping down a sandwich at their desks or in their cars en route to the next thing. Instead they engage all of their senses, engaging not just in the sight, smell and sound of the food before them, but feeling the textures, and delighting in the crackle of crispy duck skin, or the brisk snap of a piece of chocolate.
And of course, many meals are accompanied by a glass of wine or champagne, to make each one feel like an occasion.
This way of eating is entirely possible – we explore exactly how to do this in my corporate and community workshops. There is a place where food is pure pleasure, and good for your body too – and we’ll be unlocking this secret.