How to maximize pleasure in and beyond food

Pleasure in food. There’s no denying it’s there.

It can feel almost like off-the-charts ecstasy sometimes.

That carefully (& chemically) engineered “Bliss Point” in processed food is so aptly named.

When it’s not only pleasurable but one of the main sources of pleasure, food can wields even more control in your life

“It’s the only pleasure I get,” is a phrase I hear regularly.

Or something very similar, which may sound like,

  • “I need a treat.”
  • “I want something just for me.”
  • “I deserve this”
  • “I’m frazzled and run-ragged, let me feel good for a moment!”

We’re human beings. We want pleasure. We need pleasure.

Living with pleasure should be mandatory!

But, wouldn’t it be wonderful to experience pleasure without the downside that comes after an episode of bingeing or overeating?

This blog post is about finding more upside-pleasures and enjoyment. 

When there are lots of different opportunities for delights in life, the urgent desire for food to create a few seconds or minutes of rare pleasure begins to lessen.

The desire-reward pathways in your brain begin to rebalance. You revel in more and more enjoyment without a mental, emotional or physical food-hangover.

Sound good? Here’s how.

Two simple shifts to begin to rebalance the pleasure see-saw

The following two tools are sneakily effective. 

Sneaky because just holding the thought of each can change what you notice and how you feel.

Tool 1: Food for the Soul

So many small pleasures exist beneath our radar of awareness.

Our brains are extremely efficient filters—and they need to be to prevent overwhelm by the constant influx of sensory stimuli.

But what a shame to miss the opportunities for joy! 

Look out for what I call Food for the Soul and you can’t help but be a little enchanted by what you find.

The smile from your barista. A bird sitting on a nearby branch. The warmth of the sun on your face. Vibrant spring blossoms. A conversation with a friend. Laughter. The aroma of freshly cut grass. The snuggly warmth of your duvet. A bright moon. A toe-tapping song. A crackling fire. 

This first tool is about looking for and finding pleasure all around you.

Experiment with the following steps:

i. A couple of times a day—more if possible!—pause and look around. What do you notice? What feels special and warms your heart or makes you feel even more alive?

ii. Take 5 seconds to soak up and revel in every beautiful moment you encounter.

iii. As a bonus, take a photo on your phone—it’s a great way to become even more attuned and to have something lovely to reflect on. I save all mine in a Food for the Soul album.

Tool 2: Maximize Pleasure Bite-by-Bite

There is pleasure in food.

If you still want to be able to eat your favourite treats, this tool is perfect.

Bingeing and overeating can cause you to rush through and miss any pleasure from food altogether …

Follow this simple process to help you slow down and truly enjoy the food you’re eating—and it may be that some of those old favourites don’t turn out to be quite as pleasurable as you’d assumed …

Here’s how to do it:

Click here for a worksheet to guide you through.

i. Plan a time and a place to eat a portion of one of your favourite foods. Make sure you have enough time not to rush.

ii. Before you begin eating, spend a couple of minutes focusing on the food. Notice every detail of its appearance, texture and aroma.

iii. Take a bite and savour the taste, mouth-feel and experience of the food as you chew and swallow it.

Iv. Rate your level of pleasure from 0–10, where 0 is no pleasure and 10 is blow-your-socks-off-incredible pleasure.

v. Repeat steps iii. and iv. for every bite. Notice any changes in your levels of pleasure over time.

vi. When you no longer enjoy the food, stop eating it.

Click here for a worksheet to guide you through the process, bite-by-bite.

When I did this, I was honestly amazed.

The cake I thought I couldn’t resist wasn’t nearly as delicious as I’d assumed—and I left a couple of forkfuls on the plate, which had never (in my memory) happened before!

But please remember, this tool isn’t right for everyone. Sometimes avoiding trigger foods altogether is a relief and a release. If that’s you, follow your knowing.

In summary

Experiencing many diverse and nuanced forms of pleasure feels amazing!

And the world opens up a little more with every one.

Seek them out, in whatever way the idea of Food for the Soul makes sense for you. Find ways to create, anticipate and collect moments of everywhere.

The more non-food pleasure you bask in, the less bingeing or overeating will be relied on as your default option.

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