Today’s blog is all about pleasure, and the importance of bringing more pleasure and joy into our lives. Pleasure is a form of stress reduction, it makes life more enjoyable, it improves our quality of life and improves our mental health. Frequently, what I see when working with people in their weight loss journey, is that food is often their main source of pleasure, possibly their only source. People also often use food for stress reduction and self-soothing. So, for many people, at the beginning of their weight loss journey, it can feel very challenging because they’re reducing their use of the unhealthy foods that they have relied upon for comfort and pleasure. This is one of the reasons it becomes very important to have other experiences integrated into life that are joyful and pleasurable, aside from food. Having pleasurable experiences in other areas of life will not only reduce the urge to turn to food, but it ultimately makes life more enjoyable and fulfilling on so many other levels
Make Simple Activities A Source Of Pleasure
Last week, I was speaking with a friend of mine who runs an ayurvedic spa offering the most incredible facials and body treatments. She educates her clients on skin care using her wonderful all natural skincare products. In her skincare work, she focuses on the pleasure and the sensory experience of it all, not just the functionality of the products and steps. It truly is an attitude – you can make a very simple activity feel such as cleansing and moisturizing your face a very pleasurable fulfilling experience. For example, in a skincare routine, the regime is usually cleansing, exfoliating, toning, then moisturizing using oils/serums moisturizers. When you do this yourself at home it can be done quickly and be done in a very functional way, or, what as my friend would recommend, is that you immerse yourself into the pleasure of it by increasing the sensory aspect to it. For example, slow down, light a candle, use essential oils nearby, play beautiful music, do some deep breathing, slowly massage your face as you cleanse or moisturize it. Take your time to stimulate all your senses, sight, sound, smell, touch, and engage mindfully with every step and every breath. Now a very functional experience has become a heightened pleasurable experience. What do you think is truly more fulfilling – bringing more of these experiences into your daily or weekly life versus more “comfort” foods? The more pleasure we have, the happier we are, the more nurtured we feel and it removes the need to turn to food for pleasure. Another example of turning an everyday experience into something more fulfilling creating a beautiful atmosphere while simply sitting to read a book. You could just sit somewhere to read and not give it much thought which can be relaxing or you can increase the pleasure in this experience. Make a cup of your favourite tea and serve it in a beautiful special cup, sit in a very comfy chair with a cozy soft blanket, have an essential oil scenting your environment, light a beautiful candle, have some music in the background. With a little creativity, we can make these simple activities into much more pleasurable experiences.
To do this, it’s really just about slowing down and being more intentional with what we are doing rather than going through the motions while our mind is cluttered with distracting thoughts. It is all about attitude and intention. One of my favourite books is by Mireille Guiliano, past president of Champagne company Veuve Clicquot, called French Women Don’t Get Fat. In this book one of her key topics is on the subject of pleasure and what that is. She compares North American women and French women with respect to their relationship with food and pleasure. She was born in France, then lived in North America for a few years in her early 20s and eventually returned to France, so she had experienced living and eating in both cultures. In this book, she discusses that so much of what the French women do is focused on pleasure both including food and in other areas not including food. If the pleasure is going to be from food, even if they’re going to eat something on the “unhealthy” side, such as chocolate, they turn it into a fully sensory pleasurable experience. For example, her mother would eat one piece of chocolate every night after dinner – but this would be high quality chocolate, just one piece, and she would savour it, sitting quietly, creating somewhat of a meditative experience. Mireille and her siblings all knew to not bother their mother during this time while she experienced her chocolate. It was her way of creating a sensory, pleasurable experience. Compare this to an experience of stress eating a chocolate bar that you eat quickly between meetings or rushing home from the grocery store because you are tired and hungry. There is no comparison and that chocolate bar is just a quick fix but doesn’t really offer true stress reduction and a sustainable state of pleasure because it is generally followed by feelings of guilt and remorse afterwards.
She gives another example about going for a walk. You could go for a walk and be caught up in the busy-ness of your mind, just walking for the functionality of it. Or, you can take in the whole environment: the sights, the smells, the people walking by. The more we do these things, we become more present, which makes activities much more fulfilling. The result is that we turn to food less often as a source of immediate stress relief, and all of this creates a much healthier lifestyle. I actually often recommend this book to my clients when they’re moving into the maintenance phase of their weight loss journey, because that’s when they really need to find the balance between healthy eating and pleasure in their lives. For maintenance and long term lifestyle, I like to go by the 80/20 rule: 80% of the time, eat healthy good quality foods that are fresh and ideally local so they are naturally flavourful. Then, there’s that other 20%, where you can eat other more indulgent foods, but when you choose to do that, make it a fully enjoyable experience that is completely pleasurable and intentional. When done this way it is a much more fulfilling experience so you will be completely satisfied with a small amount and you will not feel the need to overdo it.
Nourish Your Soul This Valentine’s Day
Over the next little while, and with Valentine’s Day just past, ask yourself: what could you bring into your environment, bring into your life and your daily rituals, to create more joy and pleasure? Think of nourishing both your body, and your soul. In order to do that, your pleasure needs to come from areas other than food. So, what can you do for yourself to bring some joy and pleasure into your life? I hope you had a great Happy Valentine’s everybody and treated yourself well, not only this week but going forward. Tune in next week for my next blog where I will talk more about self-love and self-care.
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