If you’re an overeater or a binge-eater who’s learning the rules of “normal” eating, you may be a little worried about missing out on the pleasure of eating. In fact, it may be so difficult for you to conceive of not eating foods you love the way you do now that you end up eating more of them just to prove you can have them. Looking for something to “get” in return for “giving up” pleasure? Read on.
First off, you don’t give up pleasure when you say no to food when you’re not hungry. Au contraire. Because food tastes best when you’re moderately hungry, your taste buds should perk right up if you’re hitting them at just the right hungry moment—and eating slowly and mindfully. In which case you’ll be extracting lots of pleasure from your food because you’re hungry, more than when you’re snarfing down large quantities in secret or so quickly that you can’t possibly taste it. Perhaps what you mean by giving up pleasure is the heady feeling you get from eating foods you enjoy in unbridled amounts.
Even assuming that you’re giving up a sensation you call pleasure, if you believe you get nothing in return for not engaging in unwanted eating, then all you will feel is loss and deprivation. But, truth is, you do get something in return for honoring your appetite and respecting your body. It’s called pride. Pride is what happens when you deny yourself gratification in the moment because it’s not good for you in the long run. Pride is what happens when you choose true self-care over everything else.
Children trade in pleasure for pride as a part of the socialization process. They become toilet trained, learn to eat with utensils, avoid screaming at the top of their lungs in public, sit still, and do what adults tell them to do in many instances because they seek pride more than pleasure. Except for people who purposely deny themselves pleasure (among them, people with anorexia), most folks don’t go out of their way to give up sensory delight. We’re pretty insistent as a species about holding on to what rings our chimes and floats our boat. In fact, the only reason we voluntarily give up pleasure is for our greater good or because we want to feel proud of ourselves.
In terms of food, you can’t have both—the hedonistic gratification of mindlessly misusing food and pride in your ability to provide yourself with excellent self care. The two are mutually exclusive. So, when you get stuck in a craving rut and tell yourself that you can’t stand the thought of saying no to pleasure, remember that you’ll be getting another kind of far more valuable pleasure in return—pride. What more can you ask for?