"Pleasure eating triggers body’s reward system and may stimulate overeating." This finding is in a new study that, caught my eye and my imagination this morning after pleasurable tea party in my garden.
We need to appreciate this phenomena if we want to eat well and avoid obesity. Otherwise we'll get used to those rewards, seek them out and, most likely, misinterpret feelings that cue us to eat.
According to the study, if you eat something, like a scone or an ice-cream cone because the taste is appealing while your body does not need calories for fuel, your body emits chemical reward signals.
That means that you teach your body to reward you for unnecessary eating and eventually, for overeating. For you who follow my writings, you know I talk about kindness, self care, tenderness toward self as vital aspects of eating disorder recovery. The Palmiero Monteleone, MD, of the University of Naples SUN in Italy study shows us that giving ourselves genuine self care and pleasure is practical. We need to ignite reward systems within us in response to healthy pleasurable activities based on kindness, love and caring.
This morning I had a wonderful surprise. Two little girls who were my best friends 13 years ago and moved away, were in town today and wanted to see me. What a treat to see them as young women. We had tea and scones in my garden this morning, played catch up, shared memories and spent a lot of time beaming at one another.
When they left I had a tray in the kitchen holding a partially filled tea pot, empty cups, empty plates and one untouched cranberry orange scone. These scones are delectable.
I looked the appealing scone knowing that it would still be a taste delight. I thought about eating it. Here are my considerations:
- Eat for pleasure? No. If I ate for the pleasure of the scone the sensations would affect my feelings. I would lose some of the glow of happiness that came from being with these precious girls.
- Eat rather than waste? Nonsense. My body is not a trash bin. The scone either goes in the trash or in me. I don't save money, food or the planet by eating what I don't need.
- Eat because I'm hungry? No. I'm not hungry. I will be soon, but that will be for energy needs. I'll wait and have a nourishing lunch to fuel me for the afternoon. A scone won't do that. I don't need this scone.
I discarded the scone along with the crumbs and napkins as I cleaned up after our garden tea. I felt a pleasant feeling of pleasure washing the cups as I continued to think and feel about the girls.
The call to eat that scone for pleasure vanished. It was almost, now that I've read about the study, as if an inner reward system was ready to rise up within me when I ate that scone. But when that reward flooded up all else would drown. I would not have smiled and played with the images of those faces I love while I washed up the cups.
So..... we have to evaluate our situation in the moment, and we have to know when we need fuel. Recognizing hunger is part of the challenge. Recognizing our need for fuel is another. Now we know we deal with the challenge of recognizing how eating for temporary pleasure is followed by a chemical reward and that reward may block out pleasure and joy we want to linger with.
- When do you eat for pleasure?
- When does pleasurable eating not related to hunger take you away from valuable experiences?
- When do you believe the desire for that chemical reward has anything to do with physical hunger?