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Intuitive Eating and Pleasure

Saturday, June 15, 2019

OK, this is emerging as a key insight for me. I underline, for ME. May not make a whole lotta sense to anyone else. May be a huge DUH for lots and lots of people.

But: here it is.

Intuitive eating is based upon the principle that I can eat whatever I want whenever I want, to the point of mild fullness and satisfaction. And then stopping. Because I can eat again whenever I want and whatever I want. So long as I stop when I'm full. Keeping in mind, of course, that healthy food like fresh raspberries and sweet cherry tomatoes is always actually more pleasurable than cheap manufactured chemical food . . . those salty greasy potato chips are actually more compelling conceptually than in actual consumption . . .

Which means: Eating beyond the point of mild fullness does not contribute to greater pleasure.

And more than that? Eating beyond the point of mild fullness DOES contribute to sharp diminution of pleasure.

I'm all about the pleasure. Human beings are addicted to those hits of dopamine from pleasure. I'm a human being.

Eating is pleasurable.

In the past, I ate too much because I did not want the pleasure of eating to end.

But . . . guess what. The pleasure of eating DOES end. When I'm full. Whether I pay attention to the cessation of that pleasure or not.

Mechanically shovelling in more food because I've planned to eat the food and I've weighed and I've measured the food and I've counted the calories and the fat and the protein and the carbs and the vitamins and the minerals and because I've exercised vigorously and burned calories and I'm "entitled" to the food --- doesn't create pleasure..

Yes, I had used the Spark nutrition tracker pretty obsessively for almost a decade, since 2009. Yes, I have been counting calories off and on since I my first diet when I was about 12. I "know" the calorie counts for hundreds of foods. Yes, I had been especially rigorous about counting calories since 2000-2001 when I lost "all the weight": that 90 pounds or so that brought me down from my all-time high of 240 to about 150. Rigorous to the point of obsession.

Why? I counted calories and ate ALL my allocation every time because otherwise I was fearful. Fearful that I would become hungry before the next allowed meal. "Hunger is not an emergency," I told myself.

I'm not telling myself that any more. Genuine hunger IS an emergency!! Radical thought!! And when I get hungry again, whether it's "meal time" or not, I can ask myself what I want to eat. And eat it. So long as I treasure the pleasure of the food. Attend to approaching fullness. And stop.

Because that's when the pleasure stops.

Eating beyond the point of mild satisfaction and fullness means that the food no longer smells good. The food no longer tastes good. The textures of the food no longer feel good.

It's not pleasurable. And feeling over full??? Gahhhhhhh. Stuffed feels terrible!! Eating myself into a coma, till my eyeballs squeak -- as I regularly did at my highest weight? Means I cannot experience the pleasure of anything else at all.

Sure, I've always known "intellectually" that there are many other sources of pleasure in my life. Beyond food. But: I've still over-valued "eating pleasure". Beyond the point of pleasure!

This morning I walked around the wet garden and picked fresh flowers for the kitchen table. Some white ivy geranium. Some mauve dame's rocket. One last deeper purple allium. Some buttercups.

I've got most of the way through the laundry -- enjoying the scent of the detergent and feeling good about hanging up the shirts in my fresh laundry room on the hanging rack as they come out of the dryer and putting away my clean undies for another week.

I've read most of the Saturday paper with interest and attention and pleasure.

I've chatted with DH -- such a nice man! -- who has headed out to the golf course for his Saturday morning game with his guy friends.

I'm going to the gym -- have chosen my "after my workout" Saturday outfit!! including some silly flare denims and new blue suede espadrille mules -- and then the library and then probably picking up a few more plants for my garden.

Wrapping some gifts . . . which I shopped for last evening. Yup, got those new shoes for me too!

Groceries -- including ingredients for a vegan birthday cake for my "Father's Day" daughter who will be coming for supper tomorrow. A double celebration . . . .

All good stuff.

Maybe as a little person there were not a lot of pleasures in my life. Lots of fears. The food on offer was not particularly pleasurable and there was quite a bit of control around what food I was "allowed" but . . . there was food. (There were birds and flowers and books and music and art and sports and my sister and friends and other kind adults too . . . important to remind myself of that! Life saving, for sure. )

Now in the present, there are STILL all those childhood life-saving pleasures, and many other pleasures in my life: beyond food. There have been for many decades. Thankfully. I am consciously aware of those pleasures. I don't suppose I will ever cease to be aware of those pleasures.

But I'm realizing, with greater calm and confidence than ever before, that eating beyond mild satisfaction is in fact NOT pleasurable. Not pleasurable in and of itself. And effectively subtracting from all the other pleasures present in my life in abundance: for the noticing and for the enjoying.

My breakfast this morning was, again, delish -- a smallish omelette with a sprinkle of minced fresh basil on top and fresh ground black pepper.

But: even though I'd made a smaller serving, still more than I needed or wanted. And I stopped eating.

My exercise post-bronchitis has been gentle: gradually stepping back up. It's been several weeks since I've felt well enough for a strength training workout. I will take it easy and stop when I've had enough and enjoy it. Enjoy it much more because -- I'm not starting from a place of feeling over full.
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    You are doing so great! Thanks for sharing your insights. You are right. Overeating is not pleasurable.

    I am sorry for the lack of pleasure, perhaps the pain and the disappointments you experienced as a child. It isn't easy to overcome those negative early experiences. You have done a very good job to become aware and maximize the true pleasures in your life.
    122 days ago
    I think remembering that eating more will NOT bring more pleasure is am important key. Also, feeling o.k. with leaving food on your plate - not eating it just because your have already measured, weighed, and tracked it - is something I am working on. Thanks for the push towards the center and balance.
    122 days ago
    Bullseye! I have found myself eating until satisfied instead of full. It is a big deal since you feel so much better. Eating more slowly sure does help!
    122 days ago
    Welcome to the NOT clean plate club!!!!!
    122 days ago
    What a lovely blog so happy and content with life :) thanks for sharing :)
    122 days ago
    YOU are doing great … you are doing what I had found and want back … desperately.

    Continue to show the way.
    122 days ago
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    122 days ago
    Spot on. I find that the pleasure is really, for me, in the first 2-3 bites. Then it's time to listen to the body's hunger (and full) signals.

    Isn't it nice that, even after all these years, DH is still a nice man. Mine, too! emoticon
    122 days ago
    Such a heartfelt message! Thank you for sharing!

    I will continue reading and practicing! I intellectually know something about what you’ve mentioned here, but I still need work on recognizing and mostly, trusting, my intuitiveness. I never really believed that hunger is not an emergency, but I have developed a liking of that “sweet emptiness” when I give myself enough time to get hungry for my next meal. So, lesson being learned. We have learned many helpful, healthful things over this last decade here on Spark. I’ve found strength and determination for sure. But I can’t help feeling just a little bit sad that I haven’t yet learned to trust myself...still learning.

    I agree with all that has been said here. You have learned many good lessons along your way to this point. This “aha” is another step in the right direction. I am so happy for you that has brought you some wisdom not only about food but life in general.

    Wishing peace and happiness!
    122 days ago
    How descriptive.
    122 days ago
    I'd sure love for you to add some photos of your flower gardens! They sound so wonderful!!
    122 days ago
    "But . . . guess what. The pleasure of eating DOES end. When I'm full. Whether I pay attention to the cessation of that pleasure or not." BINGO!!!

    Like you, I dislike being full. NOT pleasurable … AT ALL! As you said … "Gahhhhhhh. Stuffed feels terrible!!"

    "But I'm realizing, with greater calm and confidence than ever before, that eating beyond mild satisfaction is in fact NOT pleasurable. Not pleasurable in and of itself. And effectively subtracting from all the other pleasures present in my life in abundance: for the noticing and for the enjoying." emoticon

    MOST important … key insights for some of us, not necessarily all of us. Experiments of one. emoticon
    122 days ago
    This is such a wonderful blog... pure happiness! You hit on so many points that I've come to value about my own journey. This is brilliant: "The pleasure of eating DOES end. When I'm full. Whether I pay attention to the cessation of that pleasure or not." Enjoy your day!
    122 days ago
    Oh, yes! You are savoring not only the food, but savoring life. I really appreciate your sharing this branch of the journey with us.

    My name finally made it to the top of the library waiting list for The Book, and I'm just beginning Chapter 5, "Reject the Diet Mentality." While I haven't tracked my food for at least six months, I do still write down WHAT foods I eat (including noshes of cheese and random spoonfuls of peanut butter) in a week-at-a-glance calendar, which is very helpful when the scale nudges up or down. I had a little epiphany (for me) about a month ago, when the thought playing in my mind over several days was that maybe where I am is where I'm supposed to be for now. It's no coincidence, I think, that the book was in my stack of holds last week.
    122 days ago
    Stop before you overdo applies to exercise as well, I have found. When it's time to recover, it's time to recovery. Same with food, when it's time to digest, it's time to digest. And sleep, when we're done sleeping, it's time to wake up!

    Balance, moderation, sufficiency... it's pretty elegant, when you think about it.
    122 days ago
  • PHOENIX1949
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    123 days ago
    I am so glad that you have learned to live your life fully present and finding joy everywhere.
    Your life is good!

    Thank you for sharing!
    123 days ago
    So true about eating no longer is pleasurable after a point.

    123 days ago
  • MWARNER211
    I struggled the same way with "eating it all because I had weighed & measured it all" I love the insight you have posted here. 😃
    123 days ago
  • NANCY-
    " "entitled" to the food --- doesn't create pleasure.. "
    What you posted makes so much sense.
    123 days ago
    Makes me wonder how we originally lost our intuitive eating. Surely we had that as baby? Are our mothers & fathers the blame? At one age do we learn compulsive comfort eating? Thank God we never stopped learning and [perish the thought] we don't succumb to the pleasure of denial! Thank you!
    123 days ago
  • GABY1948
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    123 days ago
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    Bravo! You absolutely nailed it! The pleasure principle, working for you instead of against you. Enjoying your healthy food, savoring it, but not going beyond a mild fullness, because we all know eating too much is NOT a pleasurable experience. Its especially hard to do eating out on those rare occasions, the old savory food, not to go beyond fullness, that its okay to take home left overs or even not.

    Keep up the great work, and enjoy your weekend!
    123 days ago
  • DESIREE672
    I think different strategies work at different stages of the journey. Your self-discipline until now probably helped you to learn to feel full earlier than you would have many years ago.
    123 days ago
    Wise deductions! emoticon
    123 days ago
    You’re sounding so together here! Love your thought process! Thanks for sharing!
    123 days ago
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