It’s an indisputable fact – food, and the act of eating, is meant to be pleasurable. There’s a reason eating can be such an enjoyable experience. It’s not just about getting the nutrients we need. It’s about what feels good.
What feels really good to you? Do you find that most (or even all) of the answers you come up with are tinged with a dirty edge of guilt, embarrassment or shame? What feels good… to eat a big piece of cheesecake (guilt), to take the day off work and wander around the city like a tourist (guilt), to spend all day Saturday in your pyjamas watching bad television (embarrassment), to run around in the rain like a kid (embarrassment-shame-guilt), to leave your kids at home with your partner and go out with the girls (guilt), to buy yourself those beautiful and really expensive shoes you’ve been coveting even though money is tight (guilt)…
We’ve come so far from ourselves that we seem to discount pleasure as a valid reason for doing anything. We learn early on that part of “growing up” is to start ignoring the impulses to do things because they make us feel good. We must instead start doing things that move us towards some other, less agreeable goal, and must also learn to view these new externally-imposed goals as being more honourable pursuits, more worthy of our time, more important and valuable than simply chasing pleasure and joy. The pursuit of happiness becomes a second-rate goal, somewhat frowned upon.
So when you choose to eat something because it makes you feel good, people around you may judge you. And likewise – if you choose not to eat something because eating it would make you feel bad, people are equally unforgiving. So we start ignoring our bodies, ignoring our instincts, and ignoring the goal of feeling good.
“Exercise” falls under the same blanket of bland purposefulness – you do it because you must, and only crazy people find it enjoyable. I guess that explains why small children look so miserable when they are running around outside exploring their environment and testing their physical capabilities. We were made to move, our bodies are built for it, and it is meant to feel good.
Is it then a surprise that so many of us DON’T feel good, so much of the time?
We need to start paying attention again. If we just paid attention, which when we were kids was instinctive and automatic, we would start getting real feedback from our bodies again and start understanding how to live with pleasure and enjoyment – rather than saving it for the weekends/holidays/some point in the distant future. All the things that are good for us are meant to feel good. It’s how we are wired, it’s supposed to be our motivation.
What would it take to start listening to your instincts again? To stop suppressing those impulses that tell you to run across that beautiful green grass with your shoes off, to jump around in the surf with your 5 year old, to join that adult dance class, to feed yourself according to how food makes you feel?
What would it take to remember that to feel pleasure, to enjoy life, is reason enough?
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