I'm really happy that next week is Valentine's Day and that 50 Shades of Grey is coming out because........
The 6th principle of Intuitive Eating is "Discover Your Satisfaction Factor."
One of the most radical concepts of eating intuitively is learning to embrace how your body feels about food. This includes pleasure.
No offense to puritans, but American puritanical beliefs around sexuality also extend to our overall experience of pleasure, including food. Many of my clients express a fear of overeating should they indulge in the food that they actually enjoy. They fear that they'll eat like some kind of voracious, wild animal that can't seem to stop when it's appropriate (ironically, many wild animals show wonderful control around their appetites).
In Caroline Knapp's book, Appetite, she opens the book discussing the depiction of women in a Renoir painting. She writes,
"This is an image of bounty, a view of female physicality in which a woman's hungers are both celebrated and undifferentiated, as though all her appetites are of a piece, the physical and the emotional entwined and given equal weight. Food is love on this landscape, and love is sex, and sex is connection, and connection is food; appetites exist in a full circle, or in a sonata where eating and touching and making love and feeling close are all distinct chords that nonetheless meld with and complement one another."
I could write a 10 page paper on this quote, but the essence of what Knapp is getting at is this:
For Caroline Knapp, this an ideal. Male or female (Knapp finds the female body especially relevant), our physical beings should be sanctified. One's connection to one's body interplays with one's relationship to food, to sex and other people. She emphasizes that by honoring our bodies, we find more love and connection. That connection exposes a harmony in our lives. This idea is not that different from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition's philosophy on primary food (I will definitely have another blog post about this topic). My coaching practice aspires to bring people who have fought with their bodies and their desires for a long time to become connected again, to take care of their bodies again, and to listen to their bodies.
Sexual appetite provides a mirror into understanding how we interact with our bodies with regard to food.
For some, sex is only a means to the end of making children but even the most devoutly religious often find pleasure in the process. Likewise, for chronic dieters, food is a means to an end: sustenance or weight loss. For most people, even chronic dieters, sex is mostly a means to the end of pleasure. When we give in to our desire for pleasure and reallllly enjoy it, we feel satisfied (unless we're not. That happens.) Sometimes that satisfaction is enough to keep us for a while - days, weeks, months.
Married lovers tell us a tale about pleasure and satisfaction. When you first start to have sex with someone whom you find desirable, you might enjoy them in "excess." Over time, the desire becomes less overwhelming and we either form a romantic connection with that person or we move on.
We can see this pattern, too, in food that we eat. The first time you eat cheesecake, it might be divine but have it every night for a week, and you'll likely get sick of it. If not, you might still love it so much that you don't want to get sick of it so you save it for special occasions or to make a Wednesday night a little more exciting. Maybe you marry cheesecake but you want to make sure cheesecake has a life outside of you and you have a life outside of cheesecake so you also pick up racquetball.
It's something I've mentioned before; habituation is programmed into your body. It's the reason that drug users need to up their dose to get the same high.
If you're listening to your body and taking care of your body, I promise you will not die of an oreo overdose.
Pleasure is not an enemy to be avoided. It is something to be fully experienced. It is something we need to pay attention to, especially when it comes to food.
So, for now, I just want all of you to make plans to really enjoy Valentine's Day.