Is eating for pleasure the same as emotional eating? In the world of Victoria, no it’s different. In my experience, emotional eating is eating to change your emotional state. For example, you may feel stressed and so you reach for the cookie to calm you down. You may feel sad and have a date with B&J on the sofa. You may be totally overwhelmed and can’t face cooking or “being an adult” so order an XL large Domino’s pizza plus sides and dessert and zone out eating it all.
That to me is the definition of emotional eating. And you know what…? Emotional eating is ok! It’s not bad or wrong. If you try to stop emotionally eating, you’ll only emotionally eat more… its a bit like a Chinese finger trap… the more you resist and try to force your way out of it, the tighter it becomes!
What is Pleasure Eating?
Well, it’s exactly that, simply eating for the pure pleasure of it which I guess IS changing your emotional state but I see it as separate from the traditional “emotional eating.” Is there anything wrong with pleasure eating? Nope. Does diet culture brainwash you into thinking it’s wrong? Yep. On the contrary, do advertisements often link pleasurable eating to being “naughty” and encourage you to do it so you buy their products?.. Yep! Think of phrases like “guilty pleasure”.
Can you see why most of us have a fucked up relationship with pleasure in general, let alone pleasure and food?
Sex is pleasurable (well, it’s supposed to be 😉) but at the same time a lot of us were told it’s “dirty” and “shameful”… the same goes for self-pleasure.
Chocolate and desserts are pleasurable (to me) but we are made to feel guilty for eating them and we “must control ourselves around them”. We hear “I’ve been today as I had a slice of rocky road”.
We are literally made for pleasure
Pleasure is our birthright yet we’re told that when we allow ourselves to experience pleasure then it’s wrong or that we have to EARN it. Here’s another one for you… “You deserve to relax because you’ve been working so hard all day.” “You deserve the chocolate because you’ve been so good with your food this week.” “You deserve to have me pleasure you because you did that for me”.
Newsflash… We don’t have to earn anything as we are innately deserving and worthy of pleasure!
How does it feel in your body to imagine having a day full of just pure pleasure… without you having to do ANYTHING for it?
Do you feel excited at the thought… and then automatically guilty?
Guilty for what? Allowing yourself to receive pleasure?! What is it exactly that you’ve done wrong? Putting yourself first?
There’s only everything RIGHT about that, my love…!
When you put yourself first and fill your own cup up, you have way more to give to others. You’re a better mum, friend, wife, sister etc. You, just being in your pleasure (which means allowing yourself to receive pleasure), radiates outwards and has a positive impact on everyone you meet.
We are literally made for pleasure. We have been gifted our senses that enable us to experience pleasure (and pain of course). We get to listen to emotionally moving music or a life-changing podcast such as this one 😉. We get to see the beauty of nature and our children’s smiles. We get to taste the delicious flavours of all different kinds of food and smell them also. We get to feel silk on our skin, the touch of a loved one.
As women, we have a clitoris which is solely designed for pleasure. I mean, all these ways to experience pleasure and how many of us are actually allowing ourselves to? And if we do, how many of us are feeling bad about it? “I feel bad for sitting on the sofa in the middle of the day because I should be doing something productive“.
On my journey to food freedom and body love, I really had to take a look at my relationship with pleasure. Yes, pleasure with food but also pleasure in general. I didn’t feel worthy of pleasure unless I had earned it first. I had to work on that. A lot! Now I know that I’m worthy of pleasure just because I’m alive. I’ve opened myself up to receive more pleasure. More abundance. More joy. More money. More fun. More love. And you can too!
The inability to receive
There’s a great book called “The Big Leap” by Gay Hendricks which talks about each of us having an upper-limit problem…
“Good fortune is often followed by negative emotions that overtake us and result in destructive behaviours. “I don’t deserve this,” “This is too good to be true,” or any number of harmful thought patterns prevent us from experiencing joy and satisfaction.” Sound familiar?
Gay Hendricks calls the Upper Limit Problem, a negative emotional reaction that occurs when anything positive enters our lives. The Upper Limit Problem not only prevents happiness but actually stops us from achieving our goals. It is the ultimate life roadblock.
This book has been extremely helpful for me in realising that I was stopping myself from receiving what I said I wanted. For example, I wanted food freedom yet I wouldn’t allow myself to eat chocolate just simply for the pleasure of it. I wanted more money yet I would feel bad raising my prices and asking clients for money in exchange for my services. I wanted more time to relax yet I would feel guilty if I sat down in the middle of the day.
Once I worked on increasing my capacity to receive pleasure, love, money, joy, and abundance, and hold that without grasping it, is when everything started to shift for me. I had to sit with myself and show my nervous system that it was safe to feel pleasure. That pleasure was my birthright and it’s ok and actually necessary to allow myself to experience pleasure in all ways.
I chose to BE the type of woman who knew she was worthy of pleasure. I started acting from that place. Acting as if I could already hold and feel the amount of pleasure I wanted to feel. And sitting with the discomfort of that. Until the discomfort became comfortable. Until I could experience the pleasure without feeling bad about it. Until I could sit in the garden in the sun for 2 hours on a Tuesday just because I felt like it.
I want this for you too! Read the book and or hire a coach to guide you through this and choose pleasure. Choose YOU!
And so how does this all correlate to food and pleasure eating…?
Pleasure and food
Food is pleasurable. We get told to control ourselves around it otherwise we are greedy, glutinous, and weak. Or we don’t care about our health. That’s another conversation altogether and it’s also not true. When we’re in alignment with our true selves and connected to our bodies, it’s easy to eat what’s right for us. Everyone is different too. What is right and feels good for me won’t feel right and good for someone else. But we can only naturally arrive at this place when we STOP RESTRICTING.
We restrict the foods that are most pleasurable to us and then when we ultimately can’t restrict anymore and we give in, we eat those banned foods in excess until we feel sick. Then we tell ourselves that we are greedy and incapable of eating these foods “normally” and so we restrict them again. During this cycle, we are only allowing ourselves to receive around 50% pleasure from eating these foods.
Think about it. You’re in the supermarket getting groceries and you accidentally on purpose walk down the confectionary aisle. You see some chocolate on offer. You want it so badly. It’s not your favourite brand but it’s 2 for 1. You convince yourself it’s a good offer and you’ve been “good” all week and you’ll only have a bit. You buy it… pleasure block because you’ve not even chosen what you really wanted, you settled for the brand that was on offer.
You walk out of the supermarket feeling bad for caving in… pleasure block.
You don’t want to eat it in front of your partner because he knows you’re dieting and so you wait for him to go upstairs and shower before eating… pleasure block.
You hurriedly grab some and eat it hiding behind the cupboard in case he comes down… pleasure block.
Now you’ve got the taste you want more. You feel bad because you promised yourself you’d on;y have a bit… pleasure block.
You hide the 2 bars in your dressing gown and go upstairs. You eat them in secret on your office floor trying to muffle the sounds of the wrappers by coughing as you unwrap. It tastes great when you start eating, but regardless, you feel bad about what you’re doing.. pleasure block.
Afterwards, you feel guilty and ashamed… pleasure block.
Yes, you ate the chocolate bit how much pleasure did you actually get out of that experience?
Imagine instead if you chose to buy your favourite luxury chocolates just because you fancied them. You spent a decent amount of money because you know you are worthy of doing so (and are privileged to be able to do so).
You wait to eat them until you’re comfortable and relaxed. You prefer to be alone but that’s not due to shame, you just don’t want to share or be interrupted. 😉
You take each one (whether that ends up being 5 or 50, it doesn’t matter), and you smell the armour before putting it in your mouth. You take your time tasting the delicious flavours in each. You close your eyes (yes like in an advert, sorry!)
You eat until you feel like you’ve hit the spot and then you take a moment to feel gratitude for that pleasurable experience. You relish in the experience and you thank your taste buds for enabling you to experience that. You thank your body in advance knowing that it will digest them and use them for energy. You thank yourself for gifting yourself that experience.
Two completely different experiences. Which one would you prefer?
When we’ve been restricting ourselves for so long and denying ourselves the allowance of receiving pleasure from the foods we see as “bad” what happens is, when we start allowing ourselves those foods on our food freedom journey, it takes us a while until we are able to receive the full pleasure experience when we eat these previously banned foods.
This is due to restriction PTSD and the guilt and shame that comes up. These feelings need to be welcomed, felt, expressed and let go of in order to heal this. You also need to soothe yourself and remind yourself that is now safe and ok to eat these foods. It goes without saying that there is body image and self-love work needed to support you through this so that you’re not afraid of potential weight gain… and remember, being afraid of weight gain is not the same as actually gaining weight. You CAN re-wire your fear of weight gain. Your body WILL arrive at its own healthy and natural set point weight and will fight to stay there, regardless of how much you eat.
If you’re in a stress response when you’re eating you won’t be able to access the pleasure you are wanting. You’ll eat more in an attempt to get said pleasure. Not that there is anything wrong with any amount that you eat, it’s just an interesting observation.
A stress response looks like feeling bad or guilty for eating what you’re about to eat. Connecting potential weight gain or poor health to the thing you’re about to eat. Thinking that you’re eating too much and being afraid of losing control. This sits under what I like to call emotional restriction.
How to bring back the pleasure
If someone were in a stress response due to something unrelated to food, what would this person do if they had a healthy relationship with stress management?
Maybe take some deep breaths. Take some time out. Go look at a tree (just me then?). Close their eyes and feel the sun on their skin. Listen to relaxing music. Think calming thoughts. Practice mindfulness. Meditate. ETC.
Here’s the thing…
Relaxation is the gateway to pleasure.
When you notice you’re in a stress response or feeling bad about the food you’re eating or about to eat, I invite you to bring yourself into a parasympathetic state and back into rest and digest. I say “back into rest and digest” but unfortunately, most people LIVE in chronic stress and so actually only ever come down into rest and digest whilst they’re sleeping.
You need to be physically and mentally relaxed (the 2 go hand in hand because your thoughts create your feelings… you can’t be mentally relaxed and have a body in fight or flight). There is one exception to this actually and that is an automatic habitual trauma response in the body due to past chronic stress… but even when that happens, you still need to consciously do what I’m sharing with you now.
And so you need to relax physically and mentally. Tell yourself calm thoughts. Relax your body. Slow down. Change the tone of your voice and the speed of your thoughts and words. SLOOOWWWW. RELAAAXXXX. BREATHE.
And then you can focus on the food. Follow the scenario I played out with the chocolates if that feels good to you. ALLOW yourself to receive the pleasure of eating the food. Talk to yourself, saying things like, “It’s safe to be relaxed and enjoying this right now.” “This is so delicious.” “My body wants this and I’m so grateful I get to taste this.” etc.
It’s worth noting that you need to feel safe in order to be relaxed. You need to be relaxed in order to receive maximum pleasure. Just like during intimacy.
Food as your only pleasure in life?
If food is your only main pleasure in life, that’s ok. There’s nothing wrong with you. Food used to be my only go-to pleasure choice. I’d hear others choose a bath or a walk over eating to bring pleasure or joy but that just didn’t appeal to me. I wanted the pleasure of eating. And here’s the thing; those that have previously restricted food automatically turn to food for pleasure as their number 1 pleasure source over someone who hasn’t restricted food before. They generally turn to other things such as sex, porn, shopping, alcohol, nature, baths, self-care etc. Isn’t that interesting…? And the reason is obviously due to their past restriction. The denying of the food and the pleasure. The fear of lack.
If food IS your only pleasure I do invite you gently brainstorm how you can ADD more pleasure in general into your life. Not with the goal of eating less (that’s emotional restriction) but just because why wouldn’t you? When I re-wired my fear of weight gain and healed my body image, I actually noticed that the more sex I had, the less chocolate I wanted. It was just really fascinating to me. The more time I spent with family and friends doing fun things, the less desire I had to sit and chocolate.
I have created my life now to include lots of pleasure in different ways. Sitting in the garden in the sun. Reading a book. Spending time in nature. Being intimate with my partner Wouter. Asking for more cuddles and skin stroking. Massages. Facials. etc. Of course, I still get a lot of pleasure out of eating, especially desserts and chocolate (like you didn’t know that already 😂) and when I eat I take the time to eat mindfully with the goal of getting the most pleasure out of it. I’m eating it anyway I may as well get maximum pleasure and enjoyment right? Life GETS to be this pleasurable. This is the point in life, to love, laugh, and experience joy and pleasure. And everything in between. Life is polarity and impermanence.
Is it ok to eat simply out of pleasure?
YES! YES and YES! Allow yourself to receive pleasure in all forms. Take your time. Work on yourself. Read books. Hire a coach. Soak up everything life has to offer because you my love are here to create whatever you desire and experience it fully!
If you’d like support with this then please reach out to me. You are not alone in this. And everything I’ve spoken about IS available to YOU, even if feels a million lifetimes away… I got you.