Enjoy Your Food

I want to share a blog post from health writer Emily Phares titled, “The Food Enjoyment Equation.” (copied below as it is no longer available on her blog)  It describes such a simple, but powerful idea about enjoying our food.

To a binge eater, the idea of enjoying food can seem foreign. When I was bulimic, I often feared food because there were so many foods I thought might trigger binge eating, and many more foods that I labeled “too fattening” to eat as a part of my regular diet. I may have taken the advice to “enjoy your food” as  justification for continued binge eating, because the binges were extremely pleasurable in the moment.

But as you’ll see in the article I shared, enjoying your food is the opposite of the empty, fruitless, fleeting pleasure of binge eating. Binge eaters experience no true enjoyment, because the act makes you feel so awful – physically and emotionally.

One of the reasons you may fear recovery is because you fear giving up the temporary gratification of binge eating. You may think that once you quit, you’ll have to view food as fuel only and no longer take much pleasure in eating. I believe it’s the quite the contrary: when you give up binge eating, you open yourself up to learning how to truly enjoy your food. You stop overindulging because “tomorrow starts a new diet,” and learn to take real, satisfying pleasure in food in normal portions. You can stop obsessing about weight and calories, and end the guilt that comes after binges; and start enjoying the way you feel after having a good meal.

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“The Food Enjoyment Equation” – by Emily Phares
You may wonder how I can espouse a view of no-rules, enjoy-your-food freedom, and subsequently launch into the world of nutrition science to examine optimal diets.
The two ideas are not mutually exclusive.
Enjoying your food is of the utmost importance. Nutrition is hugely important as well. But the big-picture view of health includes so many factors, in varying degrees of importance, that it’s not an easily defined black-and-white issue. Add to that that health is a highly individual matter, and it gets more complicated.
My simplified take is this:  Enjoy your food.  And that means looking at what that actually means.  I define the notion of enjoying food as follows:
food enjoyment = how does it taste? + how does it make me feel?
This is my way of accounting for food quality when discussing the principle idea of food enjoyment. Many people would say they “enjoy” regularly eating fast food and candy bars, but if they assessed how they felt afterward, would they say eating low-quality foods on a regular basis actually made them feel good?
Conversely, someone adhering to a strict diet of high-nutrients foods might feel good physically, but are they stressed and anxious all the time?  If so, it’s not an enjoyable way of eating.
Balancing these two aspects of enjoyment is key. If you’re in a social situation and being served a type of food you’d prefer to avoid, sometimes it’s more enjoyable to focus on having a nice dinner with friends than to worry about the food that’s being served (barring any serious food allergies, of course).
By the same token, if eating a certain item will make you feel ill, it’s probably worth it to speak up. I tend to think that the healthiest option is the one that maximizes enjoyment by making me feel good mentally (low stress) & physically, and that tastes good.
Nutrition is an important part of this equation because high-quality, whole foods tend to make us feel good. In this way, eating healthy foods that taste good (and there’s usually a strong correlation between the two) is a truly enjoyable way of eating.
A few summers ago I studied abroad in Italy; it was a nutrition program through NYU, and one of my favorite moments was when, during lecture one afternoon, our professor said:
Food should be one of the greatest joys, not a technical breakdown of “Should I or shouldn’t I eat this.”
It highlights one of the most fundamental aspects of eating: That food is meant to be enjoyed, not fretted over.

 

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11 thoughts on “Enjoy Your Food

  1. Hey there, I just stumbled across your blog and this post is great for me to read
    I am trying to recover from anorexia/bulimia
    Purging is my nemesis
    I just can’t seem to get it under control
    And yes, I am worried that if I stop purging I won’t allow myself to eat the foods I enjoy as I consider them ‘binge foods’
    This post gives me hope and I really need some hope right now
    Recent health problems have made my recovery more urgent
    I long for the day when I am purge free

    Thank you x

  2. Hey Kathryn!!! I have a question I hope you can answer. I typically never have any junk food in fear of binging. So when I do have access to junk food, whether at a party or friends house, my mind has a party and I go insane. Should I reintroduce those foods into my house so that I learn to live around them?

    1. Hi Monica,
      I truly apologize that I’ve taken so long to get back to you. I hope you are doing well.

      I do think that learning to eat all types of food in moderation is helpful, but the decision of what to bring into your house should be based on what you are most comfortable with.

      There seems to be a divide in the eating disorder community with the majority of eating disorder experts saying that we should not omit any foods, but other treatment groups – like Food Addicts Anonymous, and Overeaters Anonymous – saying that eliminating problematic foods is necessary for recovery.

      Quite simply, I don’t believe that the types of food you eat or don’t eat (or the types of food you do or do not keep in your house)cause binge eating – the urges to binge cause binge eating.  
      Might keeping some junk food in your house lead to urges to binge? Absolutely. But, *not* keeping junk food in your is also triggering urges to binge when you are away from home. That’s why I think it’s important to focus on learning how to disregard the urges, instead of worrying about trying to alter the situation.

      That being said, if you don’t yet feel comfortable in your ability to disregard the urges, then it might make sense to practice moderation in situations where you aren’t likely to binge. Then, when you are comfortable, you can try keeping some of your previous binge foods in the house.

      I hope that makes sense and helps somewhat.

  3. Hi Kathryn,
    I have just finished your amazing book that helped more than my doctors and eating disorder cliniques did for me in all this years. Im a roumanian girl living in Germany now and found the book as ebook on Amazon. Thank you sooo much.

    When u find time maybe u could help me figure something out: how could i manage my workout time ? I mean I was never a sporty person but now i wanna keep my body shape that resulted from working out …. it was though a measure not to get fat . My question is how should i make a balance and how will i know whenn my lower brain comes with escuses not to workout at all because in the past i did to much ….and how i recognize my true self that needs to move in order to stay healthy?
    I wish u a wonderful life and ….you re awesome.

    Mădălina

    1. Hi Madalina,
      Thanks for your kind words about my book. I’m so glad it’s helped you.

      About exercise…here is what I wrote on the FAQ section of my website.

      “How much should I exercise?
      At the time I recovered, I exercised about 5-6 times a week for 20-30 min. Now, I still exercise for about 20-30 min at a time but only 3 or 4 times a week (sometimes less because I’m so busy). I don’t think exercising more or less than that is a problem, and like eating, it’s highly individual. I was so burned out on exercising after spending years exercising for hours and hours to purge that I didn’t want to devote much time to it anymore. I think any enjoyable exercise that helps you feel strong and healthy is a good choice. Rememeber that whatever exercise routine you choose, it’s vital that you eat enough to support your activity level.”

      I hope this helps! You can experiment with different exercise routines and see what works for you. There is no right or wrong answer:-)

  4. Hi Kathryn,
    I don’t know if I’m late to your website because most of these posts are from 2013, but the article you suggested is no longer available. Do you know any other links that would allow me to read it?

    Thank you,
    Shannon

    1. Thank you so much for bringing this to my attention. I had not realized the link was no longer current. I could not find the article, so I contacted the author and she sent me the text to post here (she revamped her blog and the older posts are no longer online). The article is at the bottom of this post now. Thanks!

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