As an eating psychology Coach and Personal Trainer, I have seen many people, including myself, go on diets or exercise programs that they don't really enjoy all in an effort to achieve the optimum weight, health, energy, etc. While this may seem rational if you have a "no pain no gain" mentality, it's actually counterproductive to our goals, especially when it comes to the way we eat and optimizing healthy nutrition on every level.
To look at nutrition as a whole, we must look into the psyche and the life of the eater as well as what a person is eating. The foods we choose on a daily basis and the way those foods are digested and assimilated throughout the body directly reflects how we digest and assimilate life.
One area that Eating Psychology looks at is the importance of eating in a way that brings pleasure and how it can optimize health, performance and increase nutrient absorption.
As human beings, we are designed to seek pleasure and to avoid pain. The first interaction we have with pleasure is when our mothers fed us after we were born. From then on we would always associate eating with comfort, connection and pleasure. As time goes by we seem to lose our healthy connection with food when it becomes distorted from either pain, trauma, hurt or loss. We manipulate food because food is the one variable we can control in life when everything else seems to be out of our control.
Our relationship with food becomes even more dysfunctional when we go on strict diets or unsustainable meal plans that we believe will help us achieve the body and relationship with food we desire. Dieting puts stress on the body and psyche when it forces us to follow calorie restriction or unrealistic methods of eating for prolonged periods of time. The stress caused from dieting and eating foods we don’t really enjoy turns on the stress response where digestion and assimilation of nutrients will be hindered.
In order for us to have a healthy relationship with food, we need to eat in a way that promotes pleasure while still consuming nutritious food. It’s important to eat whole foods that are sustainably grown and raised, but it’s just as important to be eating foods we actually enjoy. For example, if you enjoy eating pizza but feel you need to substitute every ingredient that a traditional pizza would consist of just to match whatever diet you’re following, are you still deriving the same pleasure you’d get from eating a regular pizza? Would it not be more advantageous to just buy quality ingredients and make the real thing yourself?
Pleasure produces relaxation in the mind and the body. When we are relaxed we can fully digest, absorb and assimilate the nutrients and get the most out of what we eat. If you go on diets or meal plans that bring you little enjoyment or pleasure, you are going against what your body, mind and spirit need to be fully satiated and able to perform at each level. Don't get sucked into the trap of eating foods that will never satisfy you like: low fat processed foods, diet foods, processed/mass produced foods or even certain foods that may be healthy for you but you may just not enjoy them. Eat nutrient dense, whole foods that are as close to their natural state as possible and food combinations that you truly enjoy. Eat in a way that promotes pleasure and you'll unlock your ability to digest and assimilate and absorb what you put in your mouth efficiently. This is key in optimizing weight, energy, immunity and your overall health.
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