Pancakes; my favourite childhood food. When I think what to eat for pleasure, I visualise my grandmother plating a huge stack with lemon and sugar. Classic flavourings for an offering beloved enough to receive a yearly celebration. It seems, the idea of eating for enjoyment has grown distasteful.
Our wellness obsession isn’t working
I restrict animal produce, I try to avoid processed food and ban fizzy drinks bubbling near my mouth. Only special occasions call for coke – usually with vodka. My stringent diet resembles me a health freak who visits Whole Foods like a savvy shopper hauling herself to Primark. Yet, never have I felt so much choice and freedom.
Last weekend, I devoured a vegan Oreo cake with dark chocolate. I endlessly sliced a vegan chocolate cake the following day too, and made banana bread to not waste the brown skins ageing in my fruit bowl. I happily munched and didn’t feel guilt. How awful, to eat “bad” food and not receive a good feeling. That’s like eating salad with no nutritional benefit.
I knew, once my cake intake vanished, I’d go back to nourishing my body in bowlfuls of oats, veg and spice ridden stir fry’s. Most of us contemplate diets and try to lose weight by saying no to sugar and carbs. The Western world has decades of experience in pushing wellness. Failingly, as new research reported by the Daily Mail reveals in Britain alone, “Nearly one in six deaths is now linked to unhealthy eating”
Eat for pleasure – quality not quantity
Most of us don’t know when to stop. It’s all good advising small portions and miniature bites, but how many of us have Hepburn’s ability to consume just a mere square of chocolate? In my years of dieting and body struggle, I’ve realised our associations towards food triggers what we eat.
It’s common to use food as a rewards strategy. Desserts and chocolate mesmerised as treats; vegetables dryly plated because they’re healthy. My parents embraced this notion. Once my carrots chomped down my gut, serenaded in mash potato, I’d rush to the cupboard and rip open my Galaxy block. What if we stopped focusing on good and bad, and viewed everything we ate as pleasurable?
Writing for Verily, Abigail Murrish shared her experience eating like a French woman. On the piece, food critic Michael Pollan said “eat with pleasure because eating with anxiety leads to poor digestion and bingeing.” Explaining how the French follow the rules of moderation – not overeating, Pollan also remarked that there’s no “French paradox”, “only an American paradox” of “unhealthy people” fixated on health.
Mixing pleasure and nutrition
I think there’s huge issues linked to how we promote healthy food. It’s discussed purely on a goodness value. Rarely do you read – “I’ve savoured every mouthful of my broccoli sautéed to perfection”. Instead of guilt and feeling as though we must justify temptation, why not celebrate and explore ideas to make our entire diet agreeable?
French people love cheese and wine, and onion soup and delicious vegetable stews. Indian food is recognised for adding flavour to dishes with spices, and Spanish olives slowly roasted in an oven with olive oil summarise a wonderfully healthy and tasty snack. If we emphasise trying to cook more from scratch, and learning the best techniques to enhance dishes, perhaps we can eat with pleasure again.
For years I’ve felt bounded; trapped by thin desire and stomach grumbles. Whenever I’d eat pizza or say yes to crisps on the weekend, I’d squeezed my stomach and picture the fat rising. Looking in the mirror at disgust for my weak self. How do others keep their abs on show, why can’t I?
Loving yourself enough to eat for pleasure
I do care about health. It’s important I wake up happy and go to sleep knowing my body has received adequate fuel. But I also know that bread at a restaurant takes me back to family holidays in Greece, where fresh bread was always served. Cocktails reminisce sunshine dates and summer evenings, and sugary pancakes make me remember my grandma.
Plus, they are delicious! I don’t want to spend my life hating myself whenever “treats” stand before me. I try to do whatever I can to make whatever I eat appetising. Perhaps 6 six different spices layer veg; a splash of red wine drizzles stews. If we look at food as a whole and health as a whole, wouldn’t we feel happier and actually live healthier – mentally and physically?
How often do you eat for pleasure? Do you feel guilty are a cheesecake, or do you simply indulge?