Eating Healthy for Pleasure
Of course, humans are programmed to seek out pleasure and steer clear of pain. This is the most primitive trait of the nervous system. When it comes to food, you are seeking pleasure and avoiding hunger pains. So, is eating healthy for pleasure possible? With studies showing that less than 3% of Americans live a healthy lifestyle, it may seem like it is against our intuition to eat healthy foods. However, here’s the trick: eating healthy for pleasure is possible to do. You just need to change your mindset.
In an article posted in Appetite magazine, Professor Simone Pettigrew from the School of Psychology and Speech Pathology at Curtin University in Australia notes that most people grow up thinking healthy food is not pleasurable because it is never labelled as a “treat” during childhood. Parents do not tend to celebrate raw fruits and vegetables like they do processed cakes and chips. If healthier foods are normalized during childhood and celebrated as being flavorful and colorful at an early age, children can grow up finding pleasure in eating healthy foods.
Studies show that eating for pleasure as opposed to for hunger activates reward signals in the brain that prompt people to continue eating, even if they are no longer hungry. This is closely linked to BMI and may also be a contributing factor in the rise of the Western world’s obesity rates.
Researchers call this hedonic eating, as the brain’s reward mechanisms activate the body’s positive response to pleasurable foods. In their study, researchers gave eight healthy adults their favorite foods until they were satiated. Later, the subjects were given a less-pleasurable food with equal caloric and nutrient value. The subjects’ levels of positive response hormones increased while enjoying their favorite foods, but did not when they viewed the food as being less enticing. This helps to show that the brain’s chemical reward system is able to override the body’s feelings of hunger and can lead to overeating.
If people are able to change their views on which foods give them pleasure, they will be more likely to live a healthier lifestyle. Once someone is on a healthy diet and their body is getting the nutrition and supplements it needs through both vitamins and minerals, they will feel better overall, which will likely lead them to want to continue eating healthy foods.
It is also a good idea for people to supplement their healthy diets in areas that are lacking. Using supplements is a great way to give your body the extra boost it needs if there is a certain health concern or you need an overall vitamin to make sure that your bases are covered.
Once people are able to learn how to eat healthy foods for pleasure, the obesity epidemic will be able to fall and there will be less chronic disease worldwide. While it may seem impossible, healthy food can be full of flavor and very enjoyable to eat and celebrate.