Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Joy of Eating

I'd like to do a little informal poll. Here is a statement: "Food is just fuel for your body. I don't eat for pleasure; if I want pleasure I get it from other sources." Before you read on, please think about your reaction to the statement (and post it in the comments, if you're willing -- on this one, I actually invite people who are anti-fat and stumbled onto this post for some reason to please chime in). Does it apply to you? If not, do you aspire to it? Do you think it is a mainstream view?

OK, now the context. This statement is something that my trainer at the gym told me. He used to be fat (he was 300 lbs., and I think he's about 5'7") -- now he is more like 200 lbs. and very lean. He doesn't lecture me about losing weight (if he did, I'd tell him off and/or quit working with him), so this kind of indirect parable-type thing is the only way I've ever heard his philosophy on the subject. He said he hasn't eaten any cheese in probably 3 or 4 months. I'm not really asking if he is "right," since I don't think there is one right way to think about such things (it is surely obvious to my regular readers how I feel about it, but I'm not arguing for my own view here). So I'm not asking whether a person "should" eat for pleasure. But I do wonder how common a view it is, and whether people who are fat-haters would agree with it or not. I actually have conflicting expectations about this. On the one hand, I can imagine that it's a common view among bodybuilders, and a lot of fat-haters are bodybuilders (or claim to be bodybuilders, when they're posting nasty comments on people's blogs). On the other hand, a common uncharitable claim about fat people is that we do not know how to really eat for pleasure, we just cram as much cheap, low-quality food as possible down the gullet in as short a period as possible. So this would lead me to expect that the fat-haters would argue that you "should" try to get pleasure out of eating.

On another note, I have an update on the last post. I got a very nice response from the person I emailed. It still seems like we disagree about some things, but she seems open to talking about it. Also, it turns out that some of the materials they are using in class are about the physical and psychological damage that can be caused by dieting. I am not sure how she is reconciling these things with the CDC slideshow that, as I pointed out, feeds into the "obesity panic" which in turn puts more pressure on people to diet. But I was happy at least to know that the students are getting some materials that challenge the pro-diet view.

One last thing. The Admiral sent a link to this article on why Sanjay Gupta should not be Surgeon General. I agree, not only because of Gupta's views on single-payer health care, but for these additional reasons.

14 comments:

maggie said...

i absolutely get joy from eating! i even have a "happy food dance" that i do when i am eating something yummy or even anticipating something yummy. heh.

but i am all about enjoying the physical pleasures of life. food, touch, knowledge, discourse... everything! we have this life now, abstaining from everything seems like such a waste.

Tiana said...

Does it apply to you?

Almost but not quite. I don't seem to get as much pleasure from eating as other people do, I don't know what a "sugar rush" is supposed to be and I seriously do not understand why people say chocolate makes them happy. Perhaps I have weird brain chemistry.

On the other hand, I do enjoy the smell of good food just as I would enjoy the smell of a scented candle, I do enjoy cooking just as I would enjoy any other hobby, and I do enjoy eating because dammit, not being hungry any longer feels nice and some things just taste yummy!!

I don't think it is anything one should aspire to feel, or to not feel. We're all unique and that's a good thing!

Shhh said...

I live to eat. As if you didn't know...

Gina said...

I do not orgasm over any food that is remotely delicious (like I see women on [Japanese] TV do all the time), but I do generally choose foods that I expect to enjoy. If you got no pleasure from eating, it would really, really suck to have to eat enough calories to fuel your body for a day, acquiring food that you don't even like (no intuitive eating there) and then spending time eating it, and you're not even allowed to wolf it down as fast as possible, because that's bad.

But I wouldn't say I get the sugar rushes or chocolate happiness Tiana mentioned, either. I do get a mood improvement sometimes when I have gone too long/done too much without eating, but the pleasure I get from food is the taste, smell, and maybe texture. (Wow, admitting that food gives me pleasure feels really dirty. No wonder I am fat?)

I don't know if I'd qualify lack-of-hunger as pleasure; hunger makes me think "Hey, I'd like such and such sort of food right about now," and then imagine how delicious it would be, which can be annoying if I can't eat for a while, but lack-of-hunger is a nothing, like lack-of-being-stabbed-with-rusty-forks, which I consider more essential than lack-of-hunger but wouldn't list under pleasures. Eating while hungry is more pleasurable in proportion to how hungry you are, but it's the eating, not the lack-of-hunger afterward.

Katrina said...

I've been reading your blog for a while and enjoyed your reference in a previous post to lattes as "spiritually satisfying." I think you can apply that phrase to many foods--the fueling of the body itself should be a pleasurable experience. People tend to disconnect themselves from their bodies so that anything considered "pleasurable" is deemed unnecessary, but in my opinion, the only way to treat your body well is to listen to its needs and desires. That includes enjoying a cream puff if it asks for one. So to answer your question, I delight in just about every type of food I eat because I feel it's a way to express gratitude for the earth and for the ability to experience a multitude of tastes and sensations.

Mary said...

Thanks for the great comments, everyone! Keep 'em comin'.

@Shhh: LOL!

Blopes said...

Hi! Just found your blog through a link, and it is very interesting.
About the joy of eating, I do try to make my meals as enjoyable as possible, while still keeping them healthy and stuff.

and ugh, i hate sanjay gupta! What is some (probably unskilled) plastic surgeon doing as Surgeon General? I bet he doen't even know the first thing about health.

chris M said...

"Food is just fuel for your body. I don't eat for pleasure; if I want pleasure I get it from other sources."

I eat for pleasure and for fuel. And I eat 6 times a day (at least) so I get a lot of both.

I am not anti-fat. I like fat, it makes breasts swell and gives curves sensuous movement. It melts in your mouth and it burns consistently in your muscles.

But I cannot stand sustained excess. Too much food for pleasure or fuel makes me feel filthy. I have the same sentiment towards too much fat or gold or muscle or too little fat...

Balance. But when the Doctor asks you how far you can walk before you get tired, you say 'Forever'.

Becky said...

I don't think that I eat as a means to seek pleasure, but I definitely enjoy eating. There are some foods that just make you feel good, and there's nothing quite like cooking a great meal and enjoying it with your family!

Anonymous said...

I eat because I like the food and it makes me feel good, and I know if I eat too much of the same thing, I won't feel good. "Good" in this case means satisfied, energetic, and relieved. I often eat to satisfy food cravings, but then, I get cravings for radishes, peppers, spinach, oatmeal, bbq (even though I'm vegetarian, I'll eat meat if I feel like I must), dark red fruits, tea and COFFEE.

I almost never have cravings for chocolate and don't buy it. I also don't understand chocolate rushes, since I've never experienced them. The first time I had a desire for an alcoholic drink, in my late 20's, I was surprised. I almost never drink either because it doesn't make me feel good. I just don't get a lift from alcohol. Now coffee, on the other hand, is my lifeblood.

I think this question is interesting. I spent 2008 following Michael Pollan's advice: eat food, not too much, mostly plants. I paid particular attention to how full I felt and realized that I tend to overeat to fill the time allowed, not because I didn't feel full. When I cut back, I felt better - less lethargic. But, I only eat really good quality food (organic, fresh) and don't eat out.

Interesting question.

Ada said...

Oh I definitely get some joy from eating! Sometimes I feel guilty about what I eat, but mostly I figure if I think it tastes delicious why I should go ahead and eat it then. And so I do.

Deborah said...

I definitely eat for pleasure; it's one of the great joys of life. I don't believe that weight control and food enjoyment need be mutually exclusive. :-)

Random Girl said...

I just found your blog and I love it!

Not enjoying eating is like not enjoying sleeping or sex. It's not the only reason to eat, but good food is fantastic and yummy cheese is amazing.
I cannot imagine not having any joy from eating food. Yum!

Jen said...

I enjoy eating but I don't eat for pleasure. I do eat to fuel my body and pretty much limit it to that...probably because when I eat just for the joy in it, I gain weight and feel yucky.